homeownership

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.

Helpful Hints for Holiday Home Sales

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During the winter people are often preoccupied with family, gift buying and avoiding the cold, which can make selling a home during the holidays difficult. Since purchasing a home is often not at the forefront of most people’s minds during the month of December, it is all the more important to market your home appropriately.  Although home buying is often in the decline during the holiday months, keep your spirits bright with these holiday home selling tips!

  1. Hire a photographer to take impressive photos of your home.  Most buyers will start their search for a home on the web, year-round. But this rings even more true during the winter months, as buyers are trying to avoid the cold weather. Give a great first impression of your home with photos that will entice buyers to come visit your home in person.
  2. Decorate for the holidays, but don’t overdo it. Keeping decorations simple will help avoid looking tacky.  Avoid offending potential buyers by displaying general winter decorations, rather than those that pertain to a specific religion. Outdoor wreaths are a nice way to welcome people into your home.
  3. Provide welcoming treats for guests. Help guests feel cozy in your home by providing treats like cookies, coffee or hot chocolate when they enter from the cold. Homebuyers who can picture themselves in a home are more likely to make an offer.
  4. Market to motivated buyers. Those buying a home in the winter typically have a reason to be doing so – job relocation or military placement, those looking to purchase before the tax deadline or college students/staff. Even though traffic may be lighter, the buyers are likely more motivated.
  5. Price your home competitively. With fewer buyers looking to buy home during the winter months, it’s likely that there will be more buyers than sellers. Price your home competitively to help keep your home at the top of customer’s minds.

Need help selling your home? We’ve got agents around the country who can help you with buying or selling your home. Contact us to get started.

Get Your House Ready for Fall

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    fall house

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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.

Investing in Home Renovations: Five Things Most Buyers Hate

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    wallpaper

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Remodeling your home can be a great way to boost its value, but only if it’s done right. When it comes to investing in home rennovations, keep future buyers in mind. There are certain features that are considered deal breakers.

Here are some renovations to avoid when fixing up your home:

  • Tinted bathroom fixtures: It’s fine to add some color to your bathroom floor or walls, but don’t choose a colorful toilet, sink or shower. Stick to white or beige instead.
  • Wood paneling: Avoid this retro look at all costs, and replace it if it’s already in your home. Wood paneling gives rooms a dark, stuffy look that buyers don’t like.
  • Popcorn ceilings: This trend used to be highly popular a few decades ago, but it’s no longer a desirable feature. Buyers prefer smooth ceilings.
  • Shag carpets: This 1970s staple has shown up again in the form of area rugs, but don’t invest in unsightly wall-to-wall shag carpeting.
  • Wallpaper: Most buyers prefer painted walls instead of wallpaper, especially if it’s metallic wallpaper or one that has a gaudy design.

Ready to start the selling or staging processContact United Real Estate, and visit our Facebook page for more selling tips.