Home Maintenance

Prepare Your Home for Winter

Now that the weather is only turning colder, it’s undeniable that winter is upon us. And just like you take steps once spring arrives to prepare your home for warmer months ahead, you should do the same now for the cold winter that’s about to set in.

But, what steps should you take as you prepare for cold weather? There are important measures for both your home and lawn to ensure everything is in top condition once warm weather returns, all of which we’re going to reveal below. Let’s get started!

Get Your Home Ready: 5 Important Tips

Curious what steps are most important to take as it begins to get cold outside? These 5 are a great place to get started:

  1. Inspect Your Heating System – Heating systems tend to break down on the coldest days of the year! You should pay a technician to inspect your furnace or heat pump well ahead of the cold weather. This can identify any preexisting issues and ensure your system is in tip-top shape.
  2. Inspect the Roof – Missing or damaged shingles can leak and cause issues as snow accumulates or melts. Be sure to check your roof before it begins to snow to ensure you’re prepared!
  3. Inspect the Chimney – If you live in a home with a fireplace, an inspection is in order! Get the chimney and vents cleaned to prevent fires or carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
  4. Caulk Around Windows and Doors – If there are any gaps in caulking wider than the width of a nickel, you should reapply caulk. Use silicone caulk for exterior use because it won’t shrink and cause future gaps (or be affected by the elements).
  5. Clean Gutters – Leaves or other debris in your gutters can block water and cause damage to your roof or siding, not to mention cause ice dams. Clean them yourself or pay a professional to clean and inspect them to ensure they’re functioning properly.

Get Your Lawn Ready: 5 Important Tips

Now that you’ve handled preparation inside your home, it’s important to turn your attention to the lawn! Here are 5 additional tips to follow to ensure it’s healthy when the snow melts:

  1. Mulch Leaves Instead of Raking – Drop the rake! Mulching dry leaves in your yard is better than ranking because the small pieces will fall amidst grass blades and nourish your yard over the winter.
  2. Mulch – Mulch protects plants against cold temperatures. Use it around trees and shrubs after the first freeze by piling it between two and four inches deep around important plants in your yard.
  3. Clear Decaying/Dead Branches – Do any of your bushes or trees have decaying or dead branches? It’s important to remove them to keep all of your plants healthy.
  4. Remove Annuals and Mulch Perennials – Annuals will die as temperatures drop but perennials won’t! As such you should remove annuals but mulch perennials after the first freeze as they will often survive and regrow in the spring.
  5. Turn Off Exterior Faucets and Drain Sprinklers – Exterior faucets should be turned off and drained to prevent water in the pipes from freezing and bursting. You should also call a professional to drain your sprinkler system if you have one.

Are You Getting Ready to Sell Your Home?

If you’re currently preparing to sell your home, taking the steps above to winterize your home is a great selling feature for buyers!

If you want to take advantage of a professional team and decades of experience in home selling across the country, the team at United Real Estate can help! Contact a member of our team today to discuss your unique buying or selling needs!

The Skinny on Home Warranties

Your furnace goes out. Now what? It’s a costly repair that can really take a toll on your pocketbook.

Do home warranties protect your new investment?

Do home warranties protect your new investment?

There are many people that rely on home warranties to repair their appliances. Home warranties are service contracts that are designed to cover appliances and other items that can break within the home. However, the age old question is – are home warranties worth it?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between a home warranty and home insurance. A home warranty typically covers repair and replacement costs for appliances – with a service fee. Home insurance covers appliances, but normally won’t cover them unless damage occurs to the house – for example, a fire, flood or theft.

The Pros – For sellers, home warranties that are included on a home they are selling can be a big bonus. According to a recent survey by a large home warranty provider, homes that come with a warranty sell 11 days quicker and make an average of $2,300 more that those that do not. Buyers can have the reassurance that their appliances are covered and possibly save up to thousands of dollars.

The Cons – Many consumer reports argue that home warranties aren’t worth the cost – $400 to $600 a year. One complaint is that many claims are denied because it is determined to be a pre-existing condition. Claims are also denied because the appliance hasn’t been maintained properly. Other problems included no coverage on more expensive items like leaky roofs or basement moisture and extra charges for things like plumbing and heating.

If you’re ready to purchase a home warranty, here are some tips to consider:

  • Check out multiple providers. Just like with any purchase, review your options. Also, make sure the company has the proper licensing and other requirements to provide a home warranty.
  • Review the contract carefully. As mentioned, there are many reasons a claim can be denied. There are also many appliances that could possibly not be covered under your plan. Read the contract carefully, including the fine print.
  • Create a budget. Add in the payment to your monthly budget. Include a possible service charge – which could range from $50 to $100.
  • Talk to your real estate agent. Keep your agent in the loop about your search for a home warranty. They may have a good relationship with a company and know who to watch out for.

United Real Estate is here to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.  If you are ready to get started on the home buying process, or if you have questions about buying, contact our support team.

 

Sources:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/09/why-you-should-avoid-home-warranties/index.htm

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-lew-20140511-story.html

Increase Your Energy Efficiency in 5 simple steps

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Increase your Energy Efficiency in Four Simple Steps

Increasing your energy efficiency is a great way to cut down housing-related costs and make your home more desirable to potential homebuyers.  There are quite a number of tasks to tackle in the name of saving energy; here are four tips to get you started on increasing your energy efficiency:

Get an energy assessment. The easiest place to start is with a home energy assessment. An energy auditor will come into your home and determine the spots where your home is wasting the most energy. To find an auditor, go to resnet.us (link to: http://www.resnet.us/directory/search#), it’s highly recommended by the US Department of energy and provides a reliable and certified network of auditors in your area.

Once you’ve got your assessment, you will have a good idea of where to start. You will be able to prioritize based on what improvements are most important to you.

Find your leaks. It may seem obvious, but inspect your doors and windows for leaks. Left unchecked, they could be letting cold air seep into your house. Check these, along with attics and basements, and then get going by getting yourself some draught strips. Make sure to cut draught strips to size before placing adhesive on doors and windows. With this simple fix, you’ll be well on your way to minimizing those heating bills.

Insulate. Did you know that about half of the homes in America are under-insulated?  The type of insulation you use depends on the room, so make sure to do your research. Make sure to seal any leaks and perform necessary repairs before installing. With a little bit of research and DIY determination, insulation can keep your home cozy and energy efficient in every season.

Install a programmable thermostat. This is probably the easiest change you can make to increase your energy-efficiency. Installing a programmable thermostat can save you around 10-percent on heating and cooling bills, according to the president of the Alliance to Save Energy.

This is a no brainer for most folks, but make sure you buy a thermostat that works for your home and your schedule.  It’s worth a quick visit to your local home repair store to ensure you’re choosing the right thermostat for your home.

Now that you’re starting to see all the different ways you can increase your energy efficiency, you’re bound to find a few changes that make sense for your home. Adjustments will help to decrease your overall energy costs and make a positive impact on the environment. If you’re looking increase your energy efficiency to make your home more attractive to homebuyers, we’d love to help you discover all the ways to make your home a true standout. Contact our experts today to start the conversation.

Sources:

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/where-insulate-home

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/professional-home-energy-audits

http://mspplumbingheatingair.com/blog/3-must-know-tips-for-buying-a-programmable-thermostat

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-energy-efficient-home-improvements/1

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/guide_to_energy_efficient_windows.pdf

 

 

 

 

Landscaping 101

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Landscaping is a great way to add value to your home while also taking advantage of unused space. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to start a vegetable garden or you need space for the kids to run around?  Whether you’re just starting out our looking for ideas to spruce up the outside of your home, we’ve got some great tips to make your next landscaping project as smooth as possible.

Prioritize wants vs. needs.  While you may want a rose garden and a fountain, you may need a sizeable place for your kids and your pets to run around in. Make a list of what you need for your backyard first.  Think about what functionally makes sense and then and then make a list of your wants – those extras that would be nice to have. Weighing the pros and cons before you ever pick up a shovel means you’re more apt to feel satisfied with the end result.

Plan it out. Once you decided on what’s necessary and what is not, make a rough outline on paper. Don’t worry about making a magnificent sketch, remember this is only meant to be a guide. After you’ve mapped out how you want your new space to look, create a to-do list and decide which project you want to start on first. This will allow you to create many small wins, ultimately adding up to a complete  yard!

Do your research. Investigate sun and wind patterns. Does the back of your house lack natural sunlight?  Once you know the sun and wind patterns you can plan around them to avoid making a rookie mistake.

Research plants  to find out how much water and sunlight they’ll need. Do you have water restrictions in your area? This will help you determine what types of plants make sense for your yard and where exactly you should plant them.

Decide what’s worth your time. Think about how much time you’re willing to invest in the upkeep of your yard. If you don’t want to devote your time to planting every year, then stick with perennials. Larger patches of grass mean more time mowing your lawn. Having a diverse backyard can definitely be rewarding, just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you go the whole nine yards.

With a little planning, you can create an outdoor space that is both functional and pleasing to the eye.

Most landscaping projects will add value to your home and are a great way to get your home ready for to sell. If you’re looking more expert ideas and assistance in getting your home ready for sale, United Real Estate can help. Contact us today to get started!

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/landscape-basics/landscape-design-for-beginners/