Homeownership

5 Easy Steps to a DIY Home Energy Audit

  • Making sure your home is well insulated can make your home more efficient - and decrease your energy costs.

    Making sure your home is well insulated can make your home more efficient - and decrease your energy costs.

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Making energy-efficient upgrades to your home is a great way to add value, but you should figure out what changes are actually necessary before you make any significant improvements. A home energy audit can give you an idea of what improvements can give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Follow these steps to conduct your own energy audit:

  1. Check for air leaks. Inspect your home for air leaks, which can waste up to 10 percent of your home’s energy. Seal any obvious leaks, such as those around windows or baseboards, with caulk or weather stripping to ensure your hot and cold air isn’t just blowing outside.
  2. Perform a pressurization test. Not every leak will be easy to find. For the smaller energy-wasters you’ll need to conduct a pressurization test.
  3. Examine your insulation. Since heating and cooling your home represents more than half of your energy expenses, adding insulation can provide a nice return on investment. Check to see whether you have adequate insulation by using a thermographic leak detector. The detector uses colors to show hot or cold spots in your home. Any irregularities could mean there’s not enough insulation.
  4. Inspect your ductwork. Make sure your heating and cooling is moving through your system as efficiently as possible. Inspect your ductwork for dirt streaks, which can be a sign of air leaks. Seal obvious problem areas with duct mastic or invest in a professional to examine the ducts more thoroughly.
  5.  Think about replacing your appliances. Calculate the energy consumption of your appliances and compare them with newer models. You may be able to save on energy costs by upgrading.

Kitchen Remodeling a Lucrative Selling Point for Sellers

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    kitchen III

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For many home buyers, the kitchen is one of the most important deciding factors in whether or not to purchase a home. If you’re thinking of selling in the near future, doing some kitchen remodeling is a must.

Use the following tips to help you figure out how to spruce up your kitchen:

  • Invest in high-quality countertops. A lot of buyers like granite countertops, but you don’t have to get those if they’re not within your budget. Consider other materials that are just as appealing, such as quartz. Ideally, your countertops should be durable and easy to maintain.
  • Open up your kitchen. Having an open kitchen with a free flow to it is one of the best changes to make. Many buyers appreciate being able to cook and chat with others at the same time. This can be a costly project, though, depending on your current layout, so make sure you can afford it.
  • Update your cabinets. Paint your cabinets white, especially if yours are dark wood cabinets. This is an easy fix that goes a long way toward appealing to buyers.

Want additional help preparing your home for sellingCall United Real Estate, and stop by our Facebook page.

Condo Buying: Investing in a Condo Over a House

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    Lincoln Park

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When you’re determined to purchase your own home, it doesn’t have to be a single-family house. Condos make great investments and offer several advantages over other types of residences.

These are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy when buying a condo:

  • Access to amenities. You don’t have to pay for separate memberships to a local pool or golf course. Living in a condo means that you’ll be able to use the amenities your condo community offers, such as clubhouses, pools and fitness center.
  • Low maintenance. When you live in a condo, you only have to maintain your living space. You’re not responsible for maintaining the building, grounds or common areas.
  • Financial incentives. Owning a condo gives you a chance to build equity, and you’ll also be able to use tax deductions on property taxes and mortgage interest payments.
  • A sense of community. Living in a building that has a lot of other units occupied by owners, rather than renters, means that you’ll have a good sense of community. Some of these also offer planned community events.

Need additional information on buying a condoContact United Real Estate, and follow our Facebook page.

Prepping Your Home For Potential Buyers: Tips for Sellers

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    house III

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Spring is typically the busiest time of year for home sellers. If you’ll be putting your home on the market this season, you’ll have to make sure it’s in ideal shape in order to attract buyers and hold their interest.

Improving curb appeal when selling a home is one of the most important steps to take. You can do this by power washing your home’s exterior, doing some landscaping and fixing up your porch or entryway. In addition to working on curb appeal, you should also do the following to prepare for buyers:

  • Give your home a good cleaning. Make your home as spotless as possible to impress buyers. Plan on dusting, scrubbing and steam cleaning carpets, as well as clearing out piles of clutter.
  • Put personal items away. Store your collections, and replace personal photos with some simple artwork. Keeping your home looking too personal makes it tougher for buyers to picture themselves living there.
  • Schedule an inspection. Have a home inspection done before putting your home on the market. Taking this step can ease buyers’ fears about buying a home with undisclosed problems.

Need help selling your homeContact United Real Estate, and stop by our Facebook page.

Thinking of Listing Your House? Selling in the Spring 2014

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Spring tends to be the busiest time of year for sellers. If you’re debating whether or not to put your home on the market, there are some factors to consider.

Here are a few reasons for selling in spring 2014:

  • Beating the competition. Selling earlier in the year means you should have an easier time selling and getting more money for your home.
  • Upsizing or downsizing. Save yourself unnecessary stress by finding the right size home, whether you need a bigger family home or a smaller one.
  • Avoiding maintenance issues. If you’re in an older home, you can expect to shell out considerable money for repairs. If you can’t afford this, consider moving to a newer home.

These are a few reasons for staying put:

  • Boosting your home’s value. If you have enough for repairs, consider fixing up your home to increase its value.
  • Being in a good spot. If you’re happy with where your home is, you might want to think twice about selling now.
  • Getting higher equity. You’re better off not selling if your home’s equity will be rising.

Leaning toward selling your homeCall United Real Estate for help, and follow our Facebook page.

Backyard Appeal: Considering the 360-Degree Look of Your Home

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Making sure your home has curb appeal is essential when selling it, but what about the rest of your home’s exterior? While you’re getting your home ready for the market, don’t forget about backyard appeal.

The way the sides and back of your home and property look are just as important as the way the front looks. Having an impressive front yard and entry way won’t go far if buyers are put off by the rest of your property’s appearance. In addition to keeping your backyard mowed and making sure all sides of your home’s exterior are in top condition, you can also make the following improvements:

  • Choose one type of siding: Instead of having brick or stone on the lower part of your home or just on the front, use it all the way up and on all sides.
  • Add windows: Have a couple more windows installed on the sides of your home, if possible, or have a row of windows or a large picture window installed on the back.
  • Build a covered porch: This extra porch will give your home’s backyard more appeal.

Need more help selling your homeContact United Real Estate, and follow us on Facebook.

Five Ways to Bring Spring into Your Home

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With spring right around the corner, it’s a great time to freshen up your home, especially if you’re putting it up for sale. From giving your home some extra color to doing a thorough cleaning, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season.

These easy home upgrades will have your house ready for the warmer weather and potential buyers:

  • Get rid of clutter: Go through one area of your home at a time, and cut down on clutter.  Toss out or sell things you don’t want anymore.
  • Use slipcovers: Give your living room a lighter look and feel by placing white or light-colored slipcovers on your furniture.
  • Buy bright accents: Buy a few brightly colored throw pillows to give your living room and bedroom some extra color.
  • Change your wallpaper: Cover an accent wall with wallpaper that has an eye-catching pattern or bright color. This adds visual interest without being overwhelming.
  • Update your table: Choose napkins, placemats and other table linens with a colorful spring pattern to give your dining room or kitchen table a fresh look.

Getting ready to sell your home? Contact United Real Estate, and visit us on Facebook for more selling tips.

Maintain Your Home: Start Spring Cleaning Now

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Making plans to put your home up for sale this spring or summer? Then it’s time to start working on making it as clean as possible for potential buyers.

Here are some easy cleaning tips and home upgrades you can do to get your home ready:

  • Bathrooms: Vacuum and wipe down the ceiling and walls to get rid of grime. Wipe down the mirrors and the insides of windows. Use a strong cleaner on the toilet, shower walls, tub, sink and floor, then it soak for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
  • Bedrooms: Wipe down the walls and ceilings, then dust off the tops of dressers and other surfaces. Remove the covers from beds, and open the windows for a few hours to air the rooms out. Clean the windows, steam clean the carpets and wash all linens.
  • Kitchen: Give the fridge and freezer a thorough cleaning, then remove grease from all cooking appliances. Wipe down the cabinets and counters, then mop the floor.
  • Other rooms: Wipe down all walls and ceilings. Clean your upholstery, dust electronics and clean the windows.

Need more tips on selling your home? Visit United Real Estate, and follow us on Facebook.

Five Ways to Show Your Home a Little Love

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Whether you’re getting your home ready for the market or planning on fixing up your new home, you don’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of simple and cost-effective ways to do home upgrades.

Here are five easy and inexpensive ideas for making some changes to your home:

  • Install stair brackets. Make the outside of your staircase visually appealing by adding wood brackets. All you need are nails and an adhesive.
  • Put up crown molding. Get some Trimroc molding, a handsaw and joint compound to install molding that instantly boosts your home’s appeal.
  • Refinish your cabinets. With some cleaner, sandpaper, paint and a paintbrush, you can give your kitchen cabinets a fresh new look. This works best if your cabinets are in good shape already.
  • Paint the floor. Instead of investing in a new floor, grab some floor paint and give your floor a whole new look. This is a much less expensive and time-consuming option.
  • Give your bathroom fresh caulk. Update the caulk around your tub and sink for better protection against moisture.

Ready to start the buying or selling process? Visit United Real Estate, and stop by our Facebook page.

Budgeting Tips for New Homeowners

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    mortgage calculator

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The costs associated with buying a new home add up quickly. That’s why it’s crucial for you to make sure you have a budget in place. Otherwise, your new home could end up draining your finances.

Use the following tips on budgeting for new homeowners to ensure that you spend your money wisely:

  • Set aside money for repairs: Make sure you can afford to take care of minor maintenance issues before they become larger ones. You also never know when major problems will come up, such as a burst pipe.
  • Hire professionals: Look for qualified and reputable contractors to do repairs on your home instead of attempting to do them yourself, which could end up costing you more money.
  • Limit spending on decorating and remodeling: Take your time filling your home with new furniture and having things replaced or fixed up, so you won’t overspend right after buying your new home.
  • Hire an accountant for taxes: This helps ensure that you’ll include all of the homeowner deductions you’re entitled to, which helps maximize your refund.

Ready to begin looking for a new homeContact United Real Estate to speak to a local agent, and visit us on Facebook.