Homeownership

6 Tips to Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze

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With Spring comes a lot of great things, warmer weather and outdoor activities to name a few. And, of course, the always-dreaded Spring-cleaning craze.

Of course, Spring-cleaning is a vital part of any healthy and orderly home. But sometimes, knowing where to begin is so overwhelming it can be difficult to find the motivation to get started.

Today, we’re going to discuss 6 tips to streamline and simplify your Spring-cleaning to ensure that when it comes down to it, you can spend more time outside and less time organizing and scrubbing your home.

  1. Organize Your Closets

Closet organization should be one of the first areas you tackle during Spring-cleaning. Rid yourself of unused clothes and accessories and organize the rest according to use or another system that works for you to streamline your daily routine as well.

  1. Clean the Furniture

Winter means messy stains on rugs and furniture alike. To clean your furniture, place a plastic bag or liner between the cushion and fabric to protect the cushion from the stain. Then, use cold water to blot the stain as best you can or use a spot cleaner to remove the stain more quickly.

  1. Clean Your Carpets

Typically, you’ll only have to clean your carpets twice a year, especially in high-traffic areas. However, there are preventative measures you can take to prevent visible dirt and odors on your carpet.

Removing shoes and wearing socks instead of bare feet prevents oils on your feet from attracting dirt on the carpet. And, when you use a top-load vacuum, you can pull the dirt inward and remove pollutants that would otherwise remain on your carpets.

  1. Clean Tiles Throughout Your Home

Whether in your bathroom or in the kitchen, cleaning tiles should always been done with a cleaner with a neutral pH. Or, you can simply mix baking soda and water to clean grout regularly and prevent deep, permanent staining.

  1. Clean Area Rugs

Unlike carpeting, area rugs must only be cleaned every four or five years, or possibly even every 10 years if located in an area of your home that isn’t frequented often. You can treat stains at home with club soda but if you have deep, set-in stains, it’s best to call in an expert.

  1. Clean the Rest

You already know that cleaning is vital, but deep cleaning is even more important. Clean everything from light bulbs to windows and even your silver, making sure that everything is spic and span! Then, kick back and enjoy the warm weather to come!

Spring-Cleaning Provides Regular, Vital Maintenance to Your Home

Spring-cleaning isn’t’ just for your family and your health, it’s for vital maintenance that will keep your home looking great for years to come! And, come time to sell your home, you’ll be glad you took such great care of it come every Spring!

Are you ready to sell the home you’ve loved and cleaned every year? Contact us today to get started!

Show Your Home Some Love With Regular Maintenance

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    Love Your Home

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You go to the doctor, dentist, and other health professionals regularly to give yourself a routine check-up and your home’s needs are no different. In fact, routine maintenance is a vital component of keeping your home in tip-top shape regardless of the season or reason.

Of course, maintenance can be costly depending on what you’re doing. However, the risk of not showing your home some love with regular maintenance is much more expensive in the long run.

So, what kind of regular maintenance should you be doing to your home to make it as livable and sellable as possible? You’ll find the answers you need below!

Monthly and Seasonal Maintenance is the Key to Any Loved Home

There is an endless list of common maintenance practices you can do for your home, but who has the time for that?

If you want to show your home the kind of love it deserves as easily as possible, there’s going to be monthly and seasonal maintenance you’ll want to do.

On a monthly basis, you should:

  • Clean the Furnace – Dust can build up in the furnace, forcing it to work harder and costing you more money in electricity bills.
  • Check the Water Softener – Most water softeners won’t need salt every month. However, it’s important to check so you can replenish levels as necessary.
  • Clean Faucets – Mineral deposits can build up on faucets and showerheads rather easily, causing decay. Regular cleaning can eliminate this problem.
  • Run Water and Inspect All Tubs and Sinks – By inspecting tubs and sinks for debris, you can eliminate clogs before they become problematic. And, by running the water in guest bathrooms or other areas of your home you don’t frequent, you can prevent issues with your water.

Of course, there are also steps you should take to prepare for winter in the fall, including:

  • Exterior – Raking, aerating, inspecting the roof, powerwashing windows and siding, cleaning out gutters, draining exterior plumbing, repairing missing siding, and mending cracks in exterior walkways or driveways can help prevent damage during the winter.
  • Interior – Inspecting your heating system, checking the fireplace, sealing off doors and windows, and replacing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will prepare you for the winter ahead.

When the long winter is over, there’s some regular maintenance for the spring as well, including:

  • Exterior – Inspecting the roof, refinishing the deck, cleaning out gutters, hanging the air conditioner filter, cleaning windows, and powerwashing windows and siding is essential for spring maintenance.
  • Interior – General spring cleaning, replacing the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, inspecting and pumping the septic tank, inspecting bathrooms for calking issues or general deterioration, and vacuuming lint from the dryer vent are interior measures you’ll want to take in the spring.

United Real Estate is Your Resource for the Best Home Maintenance Tips

When it comes time to sell your home, the maintenance you’ve shown your home over the years truly shines. And, by following the simple tips above, you can keep looking great for years to come.

Ready to sell the home you’ve loved and maintained? Contact us today to get started!

Information from: http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/advice/maintenance-repair/home-maintenance-checklist/

Out with the Mold

We’ve got a quick guide on how to handle this homeowner nightmare without losing your cool. Depending on the severity, clean-up could range from a quick DIY cleaning, to something a professional must handle.

What it is:

Mold is a fungus that can be found both indoors and outdoors – the exact number of species is unknown but its in the range from 10,000 to 300,000 plus.

Bathroom mold

Don’t let mold take-over your home.

As you likely know, mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions. Mold sources include a variety of household ailments such as flooding, leaky roofs, backed-up drains, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, house plants, shower steam or leaks, and even wet clothes drying indoors. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that typically do not support normal mold growth – this is why through clean-up is so essential.

Depending on your sensitivity, reactions can range from nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation to fever or lung disease. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

The general rule is, if you can see it or smell it, it needs to go.

What to Do:

Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will quickly return if the infected area becomes wet again. After you’ve corrected the source of the problem, arrange for removal.

If the moldy area is less than about 10 sq. ft., you can handle the job yourself by following the guidelines put out by the EPA. Guidelines for acceptable levels of mold have not been established, varying from person to person. If you are hiring a professional, be very through in your vetting process.

Porous materials such as drywall, carpet and ceiling tiles need to be cut away where the mold is growing; mold can grow inside the material, not just on the surface. Bag and dispose of any materials that have mold residue such as rags, paper or other debris.

What Not to Do:

  • Mold does not need to be tested (per the CDC); any visible mold should be eliminated
  • Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands
  • Do not get mold or mold spores in your eyes
  • Do not breathe in mold or mold spores
  • Do not items that can’t be cleaned – get rid of ‘em. This will likely be anything porous – carpet, wood, clothing, rags, etc.

Once the mold has been removed, continue to keep an eye on the situation. Was the source of the problem effectively corrected? If hidden mold is discovered, it is time to go back to the drawing board. Additional remediation will likely be needed. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate mold is to eliminate the moisture causing it.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html

Is Your Fireplace Safe to Use?

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If you’ve recently moved into a new home, or never used your fireplace, follow our quick checklist to determine if building a fire in your fireplace is a safe idea. As a general rule, chimneys should be cleaned annually so if you don’t know the last time yours was cleaned, you’ll likely want to hold off on building a fire.

Before lighting your fire, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Check Outside –  If possible, climb up to your roof and examine the chimney cap to make sure it is present and in good repair. The metal cap keeps animals, rain and snow out of the chimney, while also preventing sparks or hot embers from landing on your roofing. If you don’t have a chimney cap, installing one is a good idea.

If you have a multi-story home or a steep roof, play it safe and use a pair of binoculars to check the chimney cap from the ground. Make sure there isn’t a bird nest, tree limbs or other debris, on or near the chimney. Also make sure that the mortar and bricks are not in good condition and rise at least two feet above where it exists the roof.

2.  From the Inside – First, use a flashlight to inspect the flue damper, making sure it opens, closes and seals properly. With the damper open, check the flue for combustible material such as animal nests or other foreign objects. You should be able to see daylight at the top.

Inspect the area around the fireplace, making sure there are no cracked bricks or missing mortar. Damage inside the firebox is serious and should be looked at professionally.

3. Making the Fire – Be sure to stay safe while the fire is in the fireplace too – making sure to keep the fire at a moderate size and always using a metal grate. Clear the area of books, furniture, newspaper or anything else that might catch fire or be damaged by embers; two feet of distance is a good rule. Using kindling is always safer than starting the fire with gas.

Gas fireplaces are lower maintenance but that doesn’t mean they still don’t need occasional attention. If you have a gas burning fireplace, check that the gas logs are in proper position and that the glass doors are secure. Turn off the gas at the shut-off valve and test the igniter. After igniting the fire, check for clogged burner holes.

Ultimately, use common sense. Don’t burn items such as garbage or plastic and don’t start fires with gasoline. Always make sure the fire is out before going to bed or leaving the house and when in doubt, contact a professional to have your chimney checked for safety concerns. Stay warm and enjoy your home this winter.

The Challenges Facing First Time Home Buyers

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In 2013, 38 percent of home buyers were first-time buyers. Because first-time buyers can face unique challenges that other buyers may not, Supreme Lending and United Real Estate have partnered together to assist more people in achieving the dream of home ownership.

The statistics on first-time home buyers.

First-time home buyers tend to be young adults with an average age of 31. Around 56 percent of first-time buyers are married and 30 percent are single. The majority of first-time buyers, 59 percent, don’t have children. They tend to purchase homes around 1,570 square feet, and they have an average income of $64,400.

Specific challenges first-time home buyers face.

Did you know:

  • The average age range for first time home buyers is 25-35, which also happens to be the age group hardest hit by the recession. This means that they may still be building their careers or do not have the employment history that older buyers do.
  • Credit scores can also be a challenge for first-time home buyers because they may not have the long, established credit histories lender look for.
  • Down payments can be a problem for first-time home buyers. Some lenders require first-time buyers to put down 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price of the home, which can be difficult to come up with when the buyer might be just starting in their career.
  • Many buyers in this age group are also dealing with paying back substantial student loans. Having student loans can significantly impact the approval and even size of a home loan.
  • It’s their first time. Many first-time buyers are simply overwhelmed by the home buying process. This can result in them agreeing to a term or percentage without really knowing what it means for them or giving up the process entirely.

What you can do:

  • Make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Buying a home can be an emotional experience, but it is important to try to put emotions aside and focus on finding a house that has what you’re looking for AND you can afford.
  • Take ALL of the expenses into consideration when deciding on your budget. Don’t forget to add in utilities, cost of commuting, insurance and other fees.
  • Read the homeowners association contract before you put in an offer. It could have conditions that make or break your decision.
  • Ask for help! You don’t have to go through the process alone. Make sure that you choose loan officers and real estate agents who are dedicated to making the process as simple as possible.

Sources: https://www.discover.com/home-loans, http://www.realtor.org, http://blakesloanradio.com

 Questions for us?  Email info@supremelending.com or call (877)316-0296

Supreme Lending
NMLS ID #2129
14801 Quorum Drive, Ste 300
Dallas, Texas 75254
www.gregorylaywell.supremelending.com

Disclaimer

How to Keep Your House Safe During the Holidays

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The month of December is definitely a time for celebration. With parties, vacations and lots of fun events, keeping your family and home safe shouldn’t be left off the list. Take a few extra steps this month and you can ensure you make it through the season without any snafus.

Find a Friend (Or Neighbor)

Find someone you trust to drive by your house a few times while you are gone. From taking in packages or newspapers, to clearing snow, it’s always good to have an extra set of eyes looking out for you while you’re gone.

Alert the Police

If you are going to be gone for more than a week, it’s not a bad idea to alert the police of your absence, especially if you live in a small town or suburb. Police officers can do courtesy drive-bys to verify everything is okay and steer away criminals who may be scoping out the area.

Keep the Details off Social Media

No need to announce to the world that you’ll be gone for the whole week, away in Florida. If you are going to share in Florida, limit the details. It might be easy to rant about your delayed return flight but that can also remind people you won’t be home for another day.

Keep the Lights On

While keeping lights on while you are gone isn’t a bad idea, purchasing a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule is even better. Criminals who are keeping an eye on your neighborhood will notice lights flipping on and off and will assume someone is doing the flipping. Another great idea is setting two timers, each with different times, so that the switching seems more sporadic.

Pull the Plug

Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from becoming a potential fire hazard. It’s also a good way to save power since many appliances use power even when their turned off.

Remove Your Spare Key

If you have a spare key hiding on your porch or in your yard – bring it in before you leave. Depending on the traffic in your neighborhood, people may have seen you retrieve the key from the spot on occasion. Even if you do have a sneakier hiding spot, you’re likely not to have been the only person who’s thought of something similar.

Lock it Up

Make sure your doors and windows are locked every time you leave the house, even if it is just for a few minutes.

If the worst happens, make sure you have an up-to-date home inventory of the make, model, serial numbers and other detailed product descriptions of valuable items. This inventory should be kept somewhere safe, preferably electronically.

Listing Your Home in the Winter

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    Winter home

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With less foot-traffic, weather and the holidays as barriers, many sellers think that the winter months aren’t ideal for selling a home. But if you’re looking to relocate – whether across the country or across town – don’t despair. Many buyers have been turned off by the competitive busy season. Younger buyers won’t be concerned about school districts or having their children change schools during the school year. The traditional buying seasons have been turned upside down in recent years, as markets recover and grow at different paces. Still thinking you need to wait before listing your home? Think again.

Motivated Buyers
Buyers are often highly motivated and willing to pay more to get their desired home. There are less homes on the market and sometimes job transfers or ailing family members can’t wait until the spring.

Less Competition
It’s likely that if you list your house in the fall or winter, you won’t experience the same completion you might find in May or June.  Without 15 similar houses on the market, homebuyers might not look at your home with the critical eye they would in summer months.

House Performance
The winter months give your home a chance to show off its durability. How has it withstood during freezing temperatures, snowfalls and ice? If it shows as cozy and warm, it will be easy for potential buyers to picture themselves living there.

This doesn’t mean that your process will be seamless; there might be snow to shovel and holiday interferences. But don’t despair, it’s likely that you can sell or find your dream home any time of the year.

Fortify as You Beautify with Safety-Oriented Landscaping

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When it comes to home landscaping design, beautification is only the beginning. Judicious use of landscaping can also make your home a safer and more secure environment. Sound landscaping techniques can reduce your risk for a variety of safety and seasonal hazards. A well-maintained lawn also sends a message to criminals – specifically, that the owner is attentive to everything that goes on around the property and won’t present an easy target. It’s common sense that also has the backing of scientific research.

If you’re a safety-conscious homeowner who’s also into landscaping, here’s a list of topics for you to consider:

Lighting
Any security-oriented landscape design should make lighting a critical part of the plan. Well-lighted pathways will particularly benefit homeowners who enjoy entertaining at night, and their guests will certainly appreciate the consideration. For areas with little foot traffic, consider installing motion-activated lights as a deterrent to burglars and trespassers.

Surfaces
Paved walkways should be built with textured materials to reduce the risk of slipping. Avoid materials that are prone to crack, such as concrete, since the resulting uneven surfaces can cause a tripping hazard. As attractive as it is, leave ceramic tile for indoor use. Sturdier materials like stone, pavers or decking are better suited for outdoor structures.

Plant life
As any knowledgeable landscape designer can tell you, some forms of plant life are pretty to look at but ugly on the inside. The list of toxic or poisonous plants includes many garden staples such as oleander, rhododendron, and azalea. Homeowners with toddlers and pets who could ingest one of these plants should proceed with caution. Also be mindful of plants with thorns or spines, since they have the potential to cause injury.

Water
Although water features often bring a sense of beauty and tranquility to your landscaping design, they also come with a few safety-related downsides. Disease-carrying mosquitoes can breed in pools of standing water. (A timer-operated pump set to run at least once a day offers some protection against the insect problem.) You should also be mindful of the fact that ponds create a potential drowning hazard for small children. If you’re set on including a water feature in your landscape, consider something that’s kid-safe, like a pondless waterfall.

Fire safety
If you live in a region prone to drought or seasonal wildfires, your landscaping design should definitely take these factors into account. Start by choosing hardwood trees and fire-resistant shrubs – examples include trees such as maple, cherry and oak and shrubs such as California lilac and lemonade berry. You’ll need to trim branches regularly, especially on trees standing close to your home, garage and other structures. To prevent ground fires from climbing upward, avoid putting smaller plants underneath larger ones. Strategically positioned stone walls and brick pavers can create unobtrusive fire barriers.

Security Cameras

Many homeowners rely on security cameras to help eliminate blind spots around their property. If you go with a camera from a professional alarm monitoring company, you can also enjoy added protection against burglary, carbon monoxide leaks, fire, and other threats. Be sure to do your research to make sure you’re choosing the right kind of camera for your needs, though, as there are Wi-Fi enabled, motion-activated and CCTV cameras for home security. And if you’re worried about aesthetics, bear in mind that most of today’s cameras are compact, sleekly designed devices that have substituted wireless signals for the unsightly clutter of thick cables.

This post is brought to you by Michelle Smith, a real estate guru and freelance writer. She enjoys writing about anything and everything related to real estate and home remodeling. Michelle encourages your feedback via email.

Pre-Qualified vs. Pre-Approved: What’s Really the Difference?

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As a first time homebuyer, getting a mortgage might seem a bit daunting. As you navigate the approval process, don’t be confused, a pre-approval is much different than being pre-qualified.

Here’s the skinny:

Pre-Qualified

This term refers to a general review of your finances and a recommendation of what you can afford. In a conversation with a banker, you would review your income, debts, desires etc. and s/he would be able to identify an approximate mortgage amount. Pre-qualification can be done quickly over the phone or internet and does NOT include a review of your credit report. Just because you are pre-qualified for a mortgage does not mean you’ll actually be granted a mortgage.

Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved is a more in-depth process, requiring a review of your credit history and a verification of your income and debts. After reviewing you finances your loan would be submitted to underwriting – and ultimately you’d be provided with a pre-approval letter that you can use when making an offer on a home. Pre-approvals are normally good for 120 days so it is important to make sure you have this documentation when presenting offers to home sellers.

Ultimately, there is no harm in getting pre-qualified but to have a good chance at getting a home and a mortgage, you need to be pre-approved.

Interested in more in-depth information about getting approved for a mortgage? Contact our lending partner, Supreme at (877) 316-0296 or visit www.UnitedHomeMortgages.com.

Radon: Do you Really Need to Test for It?

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In a word, yes. Testing for radon is critical to the home buying and selling process.

According to the EPA, testing for radon is non-negotiable, estimated at causing about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. The tests are simple and inexpensive and as a homebuyer, it will give you an irreplaceable peace of mind.

Quick Overview

Radon is a gas that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted – but its’ estimated to cause thousands of deaths per year. Breathing air with randon can cause lung cancer and the Surgeon General estimates that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., with smoking causing the most cases.

Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil rock and water and permeates the air you breathe. The gas gets into your home through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and through the water supply. It can be found in all types of buildings but homes are the most worrisome, as you spend the most time there.

Ultimately, home repairs will need to be made if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or pCi/L or higher.  Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be more easily reduced.

Testing

You can test your home through a ‘DIY’ kit but if you are selling your home, you’ll likely want a qualified tester to do the testing and provide recommendations for you. A list of qualified testers is available by contacting your state radon office.

As a home seller, there are many ways to mitigate radon that has already managed its’ way into your house. Sometimes solutions are as simple as adding a vent fan or better sealing of foundation cracks. Newer homes are often built with radon resisting features.  A full list of solutions are available from the EPA here.

The home buying and selling process is full of nuances, to get assistance with the process or advice on your situation, contact us. We’re happy to help.