On February 2nd Punxsutawney Phil stated we can expect an early Spring this year. This means it is the perfect time to get your home and garden ready for sunny days and warmer temps. We’ve all heard the term “spring cleaning,” and this month’s blog is going to give you a few tips on what you can do to make your home look and feel summer-ready.
In the Fall Maintenance blog, we shared some ideas on how to get your home winter ready. Many of those same tasks should be done in the Spring as well.
1. Clean the gutters
Make sure they don’t have holes and all the downspouts are still attached and taking water away from the house. Clogged gutters can also cause mosquito infestations, mold and mildew from decomposed leaves and other problems. Cleaning the gutters is an easy job that you could tackle yourself.
2. Get your air conditioner system ready
Change or wash your filters (which should be done monthly). Clean the coils and wash the condenser outside. Trim away any bushes away from the unit and make sure the drainage line isn’t clogged. The last thing you want is for your A/C unit to quit working on the hottest day of the year. Many HVAC service companies offer plans allowing them to come out and perform maintenance on your system periodically to help keep it running for a long time.
3. Power wash driveways and walkways
This is a chore that you can easily do yourself. You can rent a power washer at your local home improvement store and even borrow from a friend if you don’t have one. Power washing your home helps wash away discoloration and mold and mildew. Be careful before washing your wood deck as the force can strip away wood fibers.
4. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
You should change the batteries in your smoke and carbon detectors at least twice a year (changing them when the time changes makes it easy to remember to do) and you should run a test monthly to make sure everything is running properly. This is not something you want to take for granted.
5. Fertilize your lawn
Investing in a push fertilizer spreader and some fertilizer will allow you to quickly and efficiently fertilize your lawn. This will help keep weeds and crab grass from ruining your green lawn during the summer.
6. Plant flowers for summer blooms
Planting seeds and bulbs in the spring will ensure bright beautiful blooms in the summer. Check out this website for tips when and what to plant in North Texas.
Spring is the perfect time to declutter and organize your home. Go through your closet and donate clothes and accessories that you have not worn in at least 6 months (or a year for seasonal). Take the time to organize by color to ease the stress of getting ready in the morning. Tackle that junk drawer(s) once and for all, and clean out your purse.
8. Deep clean and freshen
Your comforter and mattress pads need to be cleaned 2-3 times a year. While everything is washing, take the time to give your mattress a little TLC too by vacuuming the crevices with your vacuum attachment, spot clean any spots with some vinegar and baking soda and spray down with Lysol®. Curtains also need to be freshened up a couple of times a year. Always check the labels before putting anything in the washer machine.
These few chores will help make your home feel fresher and ready to enjoy during the lazy days of summer. For more ideas on spring cleaning your home, check out these websites:
It is already January 20th! It is said that 40% of people ditch their resolutions by January 17th and 80% by mid-February. Have you already given up on yours? Did you just not make any this year for fear of failure, again? Here are a few tips to help you get back on track or maybe to begin:
Don’t start on a particular day/date
You know how it goes, “I’ll start on Monday,” or The first is next week, I’ll start then.” Don’t wait until a specific day or date to start working toward your goals. Start today! It’s too easy to keep putting off a goal until the next week, month, year, or even decade. Once you decide what you want, start immediately before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve actually been eating a hamburger and fries while talking about eating healthier. I laugh at myself and think “here I am eating junk food while talking to my companion about the importance of healthy eating.” That’s a tad hypocritical. That’s when I decide right then that I will begin at the very next meal. If that meal is breakfast – great! If it’s dinner – that’s good too. I just have to get started.
Give yourself some grace
One of the biggest challenges in keeping resolutions is what to do once we fail. I know I have had the mindset that once I messed up, I may as well just quit. I can’t do it. I ate that donut (or three) for breakfast at the office, or I bought an expensive coffee drink when I’m trying to save money for a house. I guess I’ll never lose weight or move out of my apartment. Whoa Nelly! Since when did three donuts or a coffee drink determine your entire future? Give yourself a break. We all make mistakes, we all fail, it’s how we proceed afterwards that determines the outcome. Okay, so you ate the donuts, no biggie. At lunch maybe go for a big veggie salad instead of the grilled chicken sandwich and baked sweet potato fries. The important thing is to start back immediately on your journey. Just remember on every road trip you are bound to go over some pot holes.
Ask for help
One of the hardest thing for people to do is ask for help. No matter what goal you are trying to accomplish, it’s always easier (and usually more fun) to get there with help. The internet is a wonderful thing with groups, chat rooms, blogs, vlogs, and websites that enable you to meet other people going for the same thing you are. Accountability is paramount in success. Friends and family want to see you success, ask for their support. Talk to them about your resolution and what you need from them to make it work. If they are not ready to help and be supportive, perhaps distancing yourself from them for a while until you are seeing results and finding other means of accountability.
Starting resolutions always seem so easy in our minds; it’s keeping them that can be difficult. Just remember to take it slow and be kind to yourself. It’s up to you to reach that goal. Are you up for the challenge? If so, start now!
Winter has arrived! The temperatures have dropped and Christmas is only days away. So one may wonder is this a good time to buy a home? The answer is a resounding YES!
Buying a home during the winter may seem like a fool’s errand, but it is actually a clever time to buy. Here are a few reasons why:
Even though there is less inventory, there are also less buyers. Everyone knows that Spring and Summer are the best times to buy a home. It is warmer and those with families or are planning to start one, begin looking at school districts and wanting to get into the best neighborhoods. This also means that even though you may find your dream home so have a dozen other potential home buyers causing a bidding war that you may not be prepared to fight. During the colder times of the year, fewer people are looking and fewer people are selling. This can be great news for you as you may not have quite so many cash buyers and those willing to pay over the asking price.
Thespruce.com tells us all the low activity in the winter will result in sellers being far more motivated to sell. Real estate agents know that the slow winter months are when sellers are more willing to negotiate, whether it is on selling price, closing costs, closing date or even terms of the sale, including what household appliances and items are included in the sale. And these are all the very reasons that many real estate agents recommend that their clients delay listing their homes till at least the spring. The winter is not a great time for sellers, in general.
Winter is also the perfect time to take a look at how the house looks and feels in harsher climate. During this time you can check the windows to see if they are drafty, how warm does the house feel with the furnace running, are there ice dams on the roof (if you live in a colder climate than Texas), and is the home still aesthetically pleasing with bare trees and bushes?
Anyone who has purchased a home before knows that during peak real estate months, you must work around your lender’s schedule for your closing. At the end beginning of the year home sales drop 25-30% hopefully allowing you to close on your new home quicker.
Speaking of having to wait, did you know that it is easier to hire movers during cooler months as well? Since the moving busy season tends to be during late Spring to late Summer, hiring movers can be daunting to say the least. Sometimes you may even get lucky and get a break in price because moving companies need the work.
Many people may feel that searching and buying a home during the winter months isn’t ideal, but with a little knowledge and open mind, you could be sitting by your new fireplace in less time that you thought possible.
The signs of autumn are quickly approaching. School is back in session, the days are getting shorter, and the temperature is beginning to cool down. This is the time of year to begin getting your home ready for cold wintery weather. Here are some things that you can do yourself to winterize your home.
1. Clean out the gutters – Once the leaves have fallen is the perfect time to clean out your gutters. If the gutters are clogged with leaves and debris, water has no place to drain and can back up into your roof causing leaks. Ask for assistance if you are uncomfortable on a ladder or contact a local company to clean them for you.
2. Winterize your landscaping – Before the ground begins freezing or the temperatures dip into the 30’s, make sure to blow out your sprinklers and turn them off. Blowing out the sprinklers will remove any left over water in the pipes that can burst during a hard freeze. The same goes for hoses and exterior faucets. Wrap up your hoses and store them away and cover your faucets to keep them from freezing up. This time of year is also a good time to feed your lawn. There are many choices of feed and seed at your local home improvement store. Feeding your lawn in the fall will help make your lawn grow lush and green in the spring.
3. Walk around your home for damage – Take a long look at the exterior of your home and assess any damage to siding, railings, roof, windows, etc. Damage to the structure can cause leaks or wildlife to take up residence in your walls or attic. Fill in small holes and use heavy duty hardware cloth to block larger gaps.
4. Add weather stripping to windows and doors – Weather stripping will seal gaps keeping cold air out and will save energy keeping your home warmer and your energy bill lower.
5. Schedule a chimney cleaning and heating system maintenance – Making sure your chimney and furnace or boiler are cleaned, maintained and in working order before you need to turn on the heat is an important safety measure. And be sure to add a chimney cap if you don’t already have one — it will stop critters from crawling down your chimney!
6. Spring is not the only time for a good deep cleaning – Autumn is the perfect time to clean bigger appliances like the dryer vent, refrigerator and vacuum the coils, oven, and degrease the stove and hood. Staying indoors more will give you more time to scrub tile grout, wipe down smaller appliances, wipe down baseboards, and give light fixtures a good cleaning as well.
Taking the time to care for your home will allow you to rest easy knowing that your home and yard are ready for winter.
Buying a home today can be a daunting task. There are so many choices to consider: condo, townhome, single family home, HOA, school districts, commute, the list goes on and on. Add to that the type of mortgage you should get and you may feel like quitting before you even get started. While I can’t help you decide on the type of home you should consider in a blog (I’m better at that in person), with the help of payoff.com I can help you learn the differences between the different types of mortgages to help you make an informed decision.
The Basic Types of Loans
1. CONVENTIONAL / FIXED RATE MORTGAGE
Conventional fixed rate loans are a safe bet because of their consistency — the monthly payments won’t change over the life of your loan. This is your standard, plain-vanilla mortgage.
They’re available in 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40-year terms but 15 and 30 are the most common.
2. INTEREST-ONLY MORTGAGE
Interest-only mortgages give you the option, during the first five or 10 years, to pay only the interest portion of your monthly payment instead of the full payment. You aren’t required do this. This slows down your repayment time but can be useful in a pinch. Afterward, the rest of the mortgage is paid off in full like a conventional mortgage.
3. ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE (ARM)
There are many different ARMs. The basic idea is that their interest rate changes over time throughout the life of the loan. The rate changes reflect changes in the economy and the cost of borrowing money. A common ARM is called the 5/1 loan — the interest rate stays the same for the first five years and then is free to change for the remaining 25 years.
Special Assistance for Certain Groups
4. FHA LOANS
These are mortgages guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. They come with built-in mortgage insurance to protect against the possibility of not being able to repay the loan. The required down payments are smaller with these loans.
5. VA LOANS
These loans make it easier for veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and sometimes their spouses, to buy homes. They don’t require a down payment and are guaranteed by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
More Exotic Types of Loans
6. COMBO / PIGGYBACK
The combo occurs when you put a down payment of less than 20% and take two loans of any type in combination to avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance.
On a balloon mortgage, you pay interest only for a certain period of time — five years for example — and then the total principal amount is due after this initial period.
Jumbo refers to a mortgage that’s too big for the Federal Government to purchase or guarantee. Currently, the limit is about $700,000. This means that the borrower wouldn’t get the lowest interest rates available on smaller loans.
Now that you have a basic idea of what kind of mortgages are available, you are in a better place to work with your mortgage broker in finding the best type of loan for you. Once you are pre-approved you can begin shopping for your new home with confidence and excitement.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) collects data from a variety of sources to provide information and analyses on the status and scope of the fire problem in the United States. Based on their research, in 2017 there were over 1.3 million fires in the United States. Of these 3,400 people died and 14,670 were injured with a total cost of $23 billion in loss. The question is: how can we protect ourselves and our homes from fire?
I have listed the most common causes of house fires and some tips to prevent it from happening to you.
Pots and pans boiling over and faulty appliances such as a blender or toaster can cause a fire. Never leave a hot stove unattended while cooking. If you must leave the room, have someone come in a take over for you until you return. It is also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher somewhere in the kitchen (I keep mine under the sink). Different sizes are available at your home improvement store. Never throw water on a grease fire. Always cover the flames with a lid.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home electrical fires cause about 51,000 fires annually. These can be caused by frayed wiring on appliances, overloaded and overtaxed power strips, and lack of maintenance on larger appliances such as the clothes dryer. If you notice fraying on electrical cords, replace the item immediately before it has a chance to spark. Do not overload power cords or fuses. It’s wise to contact an electrician to add more fuses to your electrical box so keep it from getting overloaded as well as add a whole house power surge protector. Be sure to clean your dryer lent tray after every load and a couple times a year, clean out the dryer vent. For tips on how to maintain your dryer click here.
Smoking is not only bad for your health it can be bad for your home. Did you know that 73% of all house fire fatalities are caused by a cigarette? If you must smoke, make sure the cigarette butts are completely out because they can stay lit for hours. If you use an e-cig, make sure to monitor the battery when it is charging and do not put batteries in your pocket. They can spark and explode when in contact with other metal objects, such as keys, coins, etc. For more information on how to avoid vape battery explosions click here.
For many burning candles is a no brainer in regards to accidental fires. If you love the ambiance candles create, consider switching to battery operated LED candles or flameless candles. For scents, try an electrical scent warmer or diffuser. When only real candles will do, make sure to keep them away from anything flammable, and never leave them unattended.
Winter will be here before you know it. Portable heaters accounted for 1/3 of all house fires between 2007-2011. To ensure your space heater will keep you toasty warm all season long, make sure to have it inspected and maintained annually, keep everything at least three feet away from it, always turn off the heater when leaving the room or going to bed.
Okay, smoke detectors don’t cause fires, but the lack of them can cause a fire to go on longer than necessary. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends a smoke detector outside of every sleeping area and at least one on each floor. Having one close to the kitchen (but not too close – cooking can cause false alarms) can deter large cooking fires. When installing follow the manufactures directions, test the alarm once a month, and replace batteries at least once a year or when it starts beeping indicating low battery.
Of course we can’t forget our four-legged friends.
For more tips on fire safety click on the links below:
Technology is amazing! You can order groceries, clothes, appliances, even cars just by pointing and clicking on your computer. So it’s understandable why people ask why they need a real estate agent to help them buy or sell a home. I am happy to provide five reasons why you should hire an agent.
Buying and selling a home is considered one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Real estate agents understand this and are skilled in easing any worry in order to insure the next chapter in your life begins with a smooth transition.
Education and Experience – In this fast paced world we are all looking for ways to save time. Real estate agents have the education and experience to help with your home buying/selling needs. Every state requires hours of education and an exam in order to secure a license. Doesn’t it make sense to hire an agent with the education and experience to guide you through one of the most stressful stages in life?
Objectivity – One of the best things about hiring a real estate agent is their objectivity when it comes to school districts, neighborhoods, and local amenities. Because they work locally, they know the areas that will cater to your wants and needs. They take your wish list and are able to suggest areas that will fulfill those desires saving you time researching it on your own.
Networking and Marketing – A great perk of having a real estate agent on your side while you are selling or buying a home is their network of other agents, past clients, family members, and friends. Having a network at their fingertips keeps them in the loop with new listings or new clients who may just fall in love with the property you are trying to sell. Along with professional networking, real estate agents also market your home by placing it on the MLS (multiple listing service), marketing it on the internet, holding open houses, and sending out mailers in your neighborhood.
Negotiation Skills and Confidentiality – Top producing agents negotiate well. They remove the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they know the market, they can negotiate a win-win. It’s part of their job description. They are professional and trained to present their client’s case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.
Paperwork – Buying or selling a home requires a lot documentation in the form of disclosures, contracts and amendments before you get to the closing table. This is by far one of the best things about hiring a reputable real estate agent. They have the knowledge to be able to complete and present a contract that has your best interest at heart. They will handle all the paperwork that is needed for the transaction so the only thing you have to do is sign on the dotted line.
If you are planning to purchase a home you know you must have homeowner’s insurance in order to apply for a mortgage. But what about a home warranty? A home warranty is not required when you purchase a home. Homeowner’s insurance and a home warranty are two very different things. Homeowner’s insurance covers the structure of your home in the event of a fire, flooding, storms, or other unforeseen tragedies. A home warranty covers certain appliances in the home when they breakdown due to normal wear and tear.
What is covered under a home warranty?
Each home warranty company offers different plans to suit your needs and budget. Much like insurance, you can choose a higher premium in order to have a lower service call amount or deductible and vice versa. Many companies also offer a variation of what the plan covers. One plan may cover only one appliance, another could cover all appliances, and another could cover only plumbing and electric. Sometimes multiple warranties are necessary if you want to cover something extra like a swimming pool.
What if I have a new build?
Most home builders will warranty the structure for a year after purchase, and the appliances generally come with a manufacturer’s warranty. However with any large purchase, always check the fine print and make note of when the warranties are due to expire so you can add or update a home warranty just before expiration.
Can I get a warranty even if my home is older or I have lived in it without a previous warranty?
Absolutely! A home warranty can be purchased at any time no matter the age of the home or the appliances within.
Should I purchase a home warranty when I sell my home?
Yes! Having a home warranty in place when you put your home on the market can give the buyer peace of mind and save you the expense of a post-sale conflict.
What if the home I’m buying does not offer a home warranty?
No problem! Ask your Realtor® for information on a home warranty provider or turn to the internet or friends and family for recommendations. Many companies will offer free quotes so feel free to check with a few to find the one that works best for you. Always read the agreement carefully and make sure everything you want covered is at the agreed upon price.
A home warranty is not a requirement for any homeowner it is simply an added layer of peace knowing you are covered when the hot water heater needs replacing or the A/C has to be serviced. With the stress of everyday life, a little peace of mind can go a long way.
Summer is quickly approaching which means more time in the sun with family and friends. Spending time outdoors is great for your health. The sun allows you to build up your Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), the fresh air helps relieve stress, and who doesn’t look better with a bit of a tan?
Too much a good thing can be hazardous. It’s important to keep in mind some simple summer precautions that will ensure a happy and healthy season.
Tip #1: Make sure to wear sunscreen.
Spray-ons are great for kids and teens compared to lotion/oily sunscreens. Always check the SPF (sun protection factor) when choosing sunscreen. According to the American Dermatology Association, always choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection, SPF of 30 or higher, and water resistant. They also recommend re-applying every 2 hours when outdoors, seek shade whenever your shadow is shorter than you are, wear lightweight clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
Tip #2: Protect yourself from bugs.
Everyone hates mosquito bites and it doesn’t help that mosquitoes can carry diseases such as Lyme and Zika. To protect yourself and your loved ones from getting eaten up this summer, be sure to wear bug repellent that contains DEET. Other tips include staying away from standing water, avoid being outside at dusk/dawn, and wear light colored clothing (bright and floral patterns attract wasps and bees) that covers arms and legs.
Tip #3: Practice proper water safety.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, at least 148 children under the age of 15 drowned between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2018. 163 children under 15 drowned in swimming pools or spas. Texas tied (with Florida) having the most number of drownings in pools or spas last year – 21. A few things to remember when spending time around water:
1. NEVER leave a child unattended near or in the water
2. Teach children to swim and learn to swim yourself if you don’t know how
3. Do not drink alcohol before or while using water crafts or swimming
4. Know CPR for children and adults. You never know when you may be able to save a life.
Tip #4: Avoid a heat-related illness.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying indoors in air-conditioning and limit outdoor exposure during very hot days. If you find yourself getting overheated, the CDC offers these steps to help cool you down.
1. Drink more liquid (non-alcoholic) than you think you need.
2. Wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat
3. Replace salt from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks
4. Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, 11am – 3pm
5. Wear sunscreen; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself
6. Pace yourself when you run or otherwise exert your body.
If you feel you may be getting overheated or think someone else is, call 911 immediately, and try to move indoors where it is cooler. Cool wet towels placed around the neck will help allow the body to begin cooling down, but always listen to the 911 operator on what to do while waiting for paramedics. Heatstroke can be fatal if not addressed right away.
Summer is a great time of year to enjoy longer days spent outside surrounded by nature and those you enjoy most. Please take the necessary precautions to ensure that this year will be the best one yet.
When you are searching for a new home, chances are you have been to at least a few that are a part of a homeowners association or more commonly known as an HOA. HOA’s may offer great amenities; community pool, children’s playground, fitness center, etc., so it is easy to gloss over the realities of living within the guidelines of the HOA.
What is a Homeowners Association? A homeowners association is an organization founded by a real estate developer in order to manage a community of houses, townhouses or condominiums. According to the New York State Attorney General’s website, this association “is given the authority to enforce the covenants, conditions, and restrictions as well as manage the common elements of the development.” In order to belong to a homeowners association (and, subsequently, live in the community it oversees), you pay dues. Depending on the community, the dues can range from $100 a year to over a $1,000 a month or more. You need to consider if the amenities and benefits are of value to you and whether you are comfortable with the rules associated with that particular development.
The association fees are included in the mortgage lender’s assessment of your monthly mortgage payment, so it is important to confirm that your credit score and debt-to-income ration will support the home development that you choose. Credit scores can be checked for free at credit.com.
Why pay a monthly association fee to abide by rules that potentially do not support your lifestyle or support the cost of the amenities you are unlikely to use? Listed below are some advantages and disadvantages of homeowners associations.
The HOA maintains the landscape in the common areas as well as community pools, tennis courts, fitness areas, etc.
The HOA can be utilized to help with conflicts between neighbors such as unwanted vehicles parked in front of your house or unkempt landscaping.
The HOA can reduce your responsibilities such as snow removal or maintenance you would normally have to pay for yourself.
Often, HOAs promote a strong sense of community. Friends can gather at the clubhouse or common areas, people get to know their neighbors, and there are usually social functions planned year round.
There may be rules or regulations in the HOA documents that will dictate what color you can paint your house, or what type of holiday decorations are acceptable.
The HOA may put restrictions on residents wanting to rent out their home. The association may require potential renters to be screened and approved by the HOA board, how much you charge for rent could also be regulated along with the duration of the rental. Some HOA’s ban rentals altogether.
An HOA can foreclose on your home.
Texas Homeowners Association recommends before purchasing a property within an HOA or condo community it is very important that you find out how the association is run, how much the monthly association fees are, what the fees cover and how much money is in the reserve fund to cover any large expenses such as replacing a clubhouse roof. Always get a copy of the rules and regulations before you purchase so that you are completely aware of what you can and cannot do within the community. For example, if you purchase within a condo/townhouse community where there are zero lot lines, more than likely you won’t be able to touch the landscaping outside your home. If you are an avid gardener then this is definitely something you will want to consider before purchasing.
I am available to answer any questions about homeowners associations or any other aspect of buying and selling a home. Feel free to call me at 970.393.3424 and please take a moment to make sure you follow me on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest for continual market information.