home maintenance

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

 

 

 

 

Increase Your Home’s Value in Five Easy Steps

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When it comes to one of the most important investments you’ll ever make, where you put your money matters. If you’re looking for smarter ways to spend your dollars and increase the value of your home, we’ve got five easy steps to get you started on.

Tip 1: Paint

It’s a tried a true method for a reason – it works! You’ve probably heard this many times over, but that’s because it’s one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to add value to your home. You can update the look of your house in a weekend and gain real value for very low cost – a gallon of paint only costs around $25. on average! Paint can do wonders to the look and feel of your home, making it feel fresh and new — a definite value add– so what are you waiting for?

Tip 2: Kitchen Updates

Most people see dollar signs when they hear the word kitchen, but you don’t have to spend a lot to add real value to your home. Stainless steel items such as a new microwave, kitchen sink, or toaster will instantly update the look of your kitchen for very little. You can even replace kitchen cupboard knobs and drawer handles with stainless steel alternatives in not time at all. If your countertops are looking tired, there are some great faux granite options that you can easily DIY over the weekend.

Tip 3: Carpet 

Dirty carpet can ruin the entire look of your home. Keep it looking fresh by hiring a carpet cleaner. It’s relatively inexpensive and a hard to beat quick fix. If your carpet has done it’s time but you’re not ready to replace it yet, try smart area rugs to give your floors an update.

Tip 4: Landscaping.

Your yard is the first part of your home that people see so it’s important to create a positive first impression.  Simple weeding, lawn mowing, and planting low-maintenance shrubs are all that’s necessary to boost your home’s curb appeal.  Even it you’re not into gardening, a few shrubs will go a long way towards increasing the value of your home.

Tip 5: Bathroom Renovations.

Adding some minor updates to your bathrooms can drive up the value of your home with little effort on your part. To create easy wins in your bathrooms, start by replacing old faucet handles, showerheads and toilet seats. To keep your tub and shower looking fresh, consider re-grouting the tile for an updated look. A pedestal sink is easy to install and can drastically improve the overall appearance of the bathroom.

Increasing the value of your home doesn’t always equal expensive renovations and lost weekends. Try one of these tips and you’ll be well on your way towards increasing your home’s value with time to spare.

If you’re looking for more information on how to increase the value of your home so you can make the most of your upcoming home sale, contact the team today for a confidential discussion.

Sources:

http://www.eceee.org/all-news/columnists/Harry_Verhaar/Bulbs

http://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/30-tips-for-increasing-your-homes-value

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/money-guides/10-cheap-fixes-to-boost-the-value-of-your-home-1.aspx#ixzz3YVaA3LtQ

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/

10 Quick Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Sale

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How does it sound if you could sell your home for top dollar and do it more quickly than you thought possible? For most homeowners, it sounds like a dream come true and with proper preparation, it can happen for you as well.

Below, we’re going to share 10 quick tips to ensure your home is ready for sale and that once it is, you’ll get the most money possible for it.

  1. Disassociate Your Attachment to Your Home

Whether you’ve raised your kids in your home or have other associations making it difficult to let go, the first step in preparing your home is to take yourself and your family out of the equation. This will make it easier to prepare if you’re able to view it as just a house rather than your house.

  1. Pack Up Everything Personal

Have photos of your family everywhere? Some priceless family antiques that you love showing off? If you do, know that while you love them, potential buyers won’t. You want all buyers to envision themselves in your home so getting rid of everything that’s personal will help them do just that.

  1. Cut the Clutter

If you haven’t moved before, you’ll quickly realize how much you have in your home that you don’t need or use. If you haven’t used something in over a year, pack it up, donate it, or throw it away. This includes collectables, random items on countertops, books, and more.

  1. Rearrange and Reorder Your Cabinets and Closets

Let’s face it: buyers are going to look in all of your cabinets and closets to see not only what kind of space you have, but to snoop as well. And if your cabinets are a mess, it might leave the wrong impression. However, a quick reorganization and reordering can fix that.

  1. If Necessary, Put Some Belongings in Storage

If you have a lot of furniture cluttering up your space, it’s often best to remove some of it and put it in a storage unit. Not only will your space appear larger, but it will show better as well.

  1. Remove Anything You Want to Take With You

If you’ve hung your grandmother’s chandelier in the entryway and want to take it with you, you don’t want to leave it in place and have a buyer fall in love with it and get hung up on it in the final negotiations. This means that if you know you want to take something, it’s best to remove it early so you don’t run into any issues.

  1. Make Any Necessary Minor Repairs

Minor repairs can add up to one more significant negative impression. By making quick fixes like patching holes, replacing cracked tiles, painting walls neutral colors, and fixing faucets and drawers, you can prevent buyers from developing any doubt as to why they should want your home over others.

  1. Clean, Clean, Clean!

No buyer wants to walk into a dirty home, they’ll assume this is how you’ve taken care of it for years! Make sure the whole house sparkles from the windows to the sidewalks, carpets, grout, rugs, and even the towels on display in the bathroom.

  1. Scrutinize and Double Check Your Work

Once you’ve done steps 1 through 8, it’s time to take a step back. Put yourself in your buyer’s position. Ask yourself questions like: would you want to enter your home? Would you be impressed with each room as you enter? Do rooms pull you in? If the answer is no to any of these questions, do your best to identify problems and correct them.

  • Do Your Part on the Outside, Too!

Curb appeal matters. This means it’s time to clear the sidewalks, mow the lawn, paint faded trim, trim your bushes, and ensure your house number is clearly visible.

Looking for Assistance Selling Your Home?

Preparing your home is only half the battle when it comes to selling your home.

And, when you’re looking for consummate professionals that can work with your home preparation to sell for top dollar, United Real Estate can help. Contact us today to get started!

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

  • Love Your Home

    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/

Home Repairs That Reap Rewards

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When most homeowners hear the words “home renovation,” they immediately think to gut and renovate their kitchen or one of their bathrooms. After all, this is what buyers want and what will produce a higher price tag come time to sell, right?

Perhaps, but these types of home repairs surprisingly aren’t those that generate the greatest return on investment.

Of course, your home repairs might be different depending on the age of your home and any renovations you’ve already made. However, the five home repairs discussed below are those that you should keep in mind whenever you’re considering selling your home or making some updates and getting a return on money well spent.

Home Renovations Designed With ROI In Mind

The best home renovations are those that are low-maintenance, high-quality, energy efficient, and competitively priced. With that in mind, the following five repairs are those you can count on for years to come to generate valuable rewards when it comes time to sell your home:

  1. Steel Front Doors (101.8% ROI) – A steel front door does more than just add to your home’s curb appeal. In fact, it also adds to your home’s energy efficiency! The best part is that any of these doors can be easily painted to match the rest of your decorative scheme, making it both a beautiful and functional investment.
  1. Wood Deck Addition (80.5% ROI) – Not only does a wooden deck increase your living space, but it also promises an impressive return on investment! Better yet, you can enjoy your time relaxing, entertaining, and dining on your deck until it comes time to sell your home.
  1. Converting Your Attic (77.2% ROI) – Picture your attic. Is it just sitting empty, wasting space? Probably. By converting your attic into an additional bedroom or any additional space, you can add serious value to your home without having to rearrange its current layout.
  1. Replacing Garage Doors (82.5% ROI) – Just like a new front door, a new garage door significantly improves curb appeal while generating an excellent return on investment. Choose from countless styles and finishes to add extra appeal that matches your home’s exterior and enhances its overall appearance.
  1. Replacing Your Siding (84.3% ROI) – By replacing your current siding with fiber-cement siding, you’re making an investment that looks great and resists termites, moisture, rot, and fire, all while promising excellent stability. This small investment is of a great quality too, meaning you can expect to get most of your money back when you sell your home.

Need Additional Selling Advice for Your Home? United Real Estate Can Help.

If you’re considering selling soon and aren’t quite sure where to invest money to generate the greatest return on investment, United Real Estate can help.

As a national leader in the real estate industry, we have the experience and expertise to assist with all of your needs. Contact us to sell your home, today!

NOTE: Statistics from http://www.houselogic.com/photos/home-improvement/best-home-improvement/slide/steel-entry-door/#wood-deck

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.

Clean Up Your Mess

  • Is your home welcoming?

    Is your home welcoming?

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If you’re selling your house, don’t forget this easily missed step. Wedding photos, utility bills, over packed closets and even pet supplies can give potential buyers a little too personal look into what living at your property would be like. Don’t scare off buyers with tchotchkes, clutter and personal affects.

Before you list your house, do these 10 quick things:

  1. Pretend your home is a hotel room – remove the extraneous items you wouldn’t find in a hotel room. Photos, clothing, books/magazines, excessive décor etc.
  2. Look at the space from a buyers eyes – what can you remove to make the space look bigger?
  3. Find the hottest trends. Take a look at style magazines and see what the latest décor trends are, see if you can integrate a few of these techniques into your home.
  4. Consider buying or renting furniture. If you don’t have the appropriate furniture for renting, considering investing in it for a better showing.
  5. Clean up. Make sure the house smells as good or better than it looks. Odd smells or pet dander can be a turn off for many buyers.
  6. Neutralize it. If possible, eliminate polarizing colors, prints and even furniture. The more distinct your style, the less likely it will match with the buyers.
  7. Mow your lawn. Make sure your yard is in the best condition it can be. You don’t want to eliminate buyers before they even enter.
  8. Cars count as clutter too. If you have extra vehicles or unusable garage space, move the vehicles while showing the home.
  9. Invite buyers in. Adding flowers, fresh paint, wreaths or seasonal décor to your home’s entrance will give buyers a pleasant welcoming.
  10. Get rid of garbage. Empty your trashcans, recycle your newspapers and remove anything that could leave a bad taste in buyer’s mouths.

While there are hundreds of things you can do to make showing your house easier or more successful, this list should give you a good start. Remember, create an environment the buyer can picture themselves in.