home maintenance

Fortify as You Beautify with Safety-Oriented Landscaping

  • View post

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.

Radon: Do you Really Need to Test for It?

  • View post

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.

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.

    View post

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.

Get Your House Ready for Fall

  • fall house

    fall house

    View post

It’s the perfect time of year to take care of a few little projects at your house – before the cold weather arrives.

1. Clean out your gutters
Remove leaves and other debris from your drainpipe and gutters to prevent clogging and other future damage. If left untreated, clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams that prevent your drainage systems from working properly and possibly even leaks into your home.

2. Freshen your filters
Clean or replace your furnace filters to prevent unwanted pollen and debris from polluting your air. Sediment build-up can cause your system to work less efficiently or potentially become a fire hazard.

3. Clean your chimney
Keep your family safe by checking your fireplace for soot or creosote build-up. Discard old ashes and ensure the damper is open to allow air to freely move through the chimney. Even better, do a chimney sweep or hire someone to make sure your chimney is clean.

4. Get your light right
With less and less daylight, make sure you protect your family’s safety with lighting. Since outdoor lights are generally left on for an extended period of time, make sure to buy energy-saver products. For even more energy efficiency, look for products that come with automatic shut-offs and motion sensors.

Thinking about putting your house on the market in the next spring? Take pictures now. Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year and this will help you ensure you are prepared whenever you are ready to sell your home.

Kitchen Remodeling a Lucrative Selling Point for Sellers

  • kitchen III

    kitchen III

    View post

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.

Prepping Your Home For Potential Buyers: Tips for Sellers

  • house III

    house III

    View post

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.

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

  • patio

    patio

    View post

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

  • bedroom II

    bedroom II

    View post

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.

Sure Sale: Highest ROI Projects for Your Home

  • front door II

    front door II

    View post

Giving your home some upgrades is a necessary part of making sure it’s ready for the market. When deciding which projects to do, you should focus on which ones will give you a high return on investment (ROI). This will help you recoup a significant amount of the cost of each project.

These are a couple of the highest ROI projects for your home:

  • Getting a new front door. Replacing your current entry door and jams with one that’s made of 20-gauge steel is a moderately priced project with a very high ROI. You’ll spend a little over $1,000, but you’ll recoup about 96 percent of that cost.
  • Getting new siding. This will cost you more upfront, but you’ll get a lot of the money back. Replacing your siding with fiber-cement siding that’s factory primed and painted will cost more than $13,000, but you’ll get about 87 percent of the cost back.

What should you avoid? The project with the lowest ROI is home office remodeling. This costs about $28,000, and you’ll only get about 48 percent of that back.

Ready to start the selling process? Contact United Real Estate, and follow us on Facebook.

Maintain Your Home: Start Spring Cleaning Now

  • bathroom II

    bathroom II

    View post

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.