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It’s Time To Give Your Home Its Spring Tune-up

Oftentimes, homeowners really only pay attention to the less obvious maintenance and upkeep at their homes if they are thinking of selling. We’re here to tell you that regular preventative maintenance is actually better for your home in the long run, and often helps head off expensive repairs that can come when a buyer conducts a home inspection.

Regardless of your real estate intentions, after a long winter it’s great to have a checklist of things to look for and have serviced regularly.

Inspect your HVAC system
Schedule your yearly heating and air conditioning checkups as you emerge from winter to make sure you are covered for the upcoming year. This may prevent costly repairs that can creep up over time. By maintaining your systems, you are in a good position to prevent small repairs from becoming large headaches over time.

Test your well water
It’s easy to forget about this crucial item especially if there is no noticeable change in the taste, smell or color of the water. But just because you don’t see a change, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Many hardware stores offer basic at home test kits, but for a more comprehensive test including items like radon, arsenic and uranium, it’s important to contact a professional. Our bodies are 70% water and these compounds can build up in our systems over time, so testing your water every year or two is an easy way to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.

Pump your septic
With average use it is recommended that you have your septic tank pumped every two years to keep it in tip-top condition. If you are planning on selling your home and your septic is on the older side, it may also be advisable to do a pre-inspection, especially if there are no records as to where the leaching fields and tank are located. This will help preempt any surprises later on.

Clean the gutters and downspouts
Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the trim and eaves to rot resulting in costly repairs. If you don’t like heights, getting on a regular schedule with a reputable gutter cleaning service makes the job hassle free and ensures that the water keeps flowing freely throughout the year. The company will also alert you to any changes in your gutters that could compromise their efficiency and result in damage to your house or foundation.

Inspect your roof
Winter storms and high winds can take a toll on the roof. Look for loose shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing, or anything that doesn’t look right. If your roof has mossy build-up or discoloration, contact a roof and gutter professional to do a “soft wash” to protect the shingles and get the most life out of your current roof. If it’s time for a new one, there are many new choices, so talk to a professional about what kind of roof best suits your needs and budget.

Check the exterior for wear and tear
Ice and snow can wreak havoc on concrete patios and walkways, as well as asphalt driveways. Take a walk around and make note of any repairs that need to be patched, repaired, replaced or repointed. It’s also important to make small touch-ups to the exterior paint yearly where it may be chipped or peeling in order to avoid repeated weather related damage. Even if you don’t plan to repaint the whole exterior, keeping the trim and siding in good shape will go a long way towards ensuring the woodwork stays healthy for years to come.

Karla’s Musings On A Snowy Day

Happy New Year!

And what a way to start 2018.

While watching the “bomb–cyclone” bury us in inches of snow yesterday, I started to make lists in my head about regular maintenance issues that are often overlooked until they present an issue. Things like: what is the condition of the systems in my house? When did I last get the chimney cleaned? Are the gutters susceptible to ice damming? And so on, and so forth.

It’s easy when we purchase a home to feel overwhelmed with all the maintenance and upkeep associated with it, and as such miss key milestones required to keep it in tip-top shape. And the same can be said for the complacency we project if we’ve been homeowners of the same property for quite some time without issue.

As a quick reminder, here are a few items you might want to schedule now and put in your calendar in order to keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter and healthy throughout the year.

Furnace or Boiler
Ideally scheduled for September or October, before you really need to depend on it, a routine check-up is key to keeping things running smoothly. Think of it as an investment in the health of your heating system, much like a yearly physical.

Air Conditioning System
While AC is pretty far from your mind while the temperature sits in the teens outside, yearly maintenance slots for AC units book up fast. Call your provider now to lock in an ideal slot in April or May and keep your cool as the temperature heats up.

Septic System
Unless you live in town and are fortunate enough have a town sewer, you will definitely want to get on a plan to inspect and pump your septic every two years. Septic systems can be costly to replace, so finding small problems early – such as invading tree roots or cracks in tank lids – and correcting them early, can save you in the end.

Gutters
Truly an integral part of home maintenance, clean gutters prevent ice damming in the winter, and foundation and basement flooding in the spring rains by making sure water is directed away from the house. Many landscapers make gutter cleaning a part of their spring and fall clean-up, as well as additionally handling excess leaves according to your property. It’s also easy enough to get on a four time-a-year gutter cleaning program if you don’t have a landscaping company. With most companies, you don’t even need to be home – they just come and take care of it and then give you a heads up!

Chimney Clean Out or Gas Fireplace Servicing
Don’t ignore this – it can literally kill you. Carbon monoxide is an issue with an improperly functioning gas fireplace, and chimney fires caused by a build-up of creosote can be deadly. If you haven’t already, put this on the list of must-do’s immediately!

Stay safe and stay warm. Here’s to a great 2018!

15 Features That Help Listings Sell Faster

According to the National Association of Realtors, some renovations pay off more than others -both in the time a home takes to sell, and in the money you can recoup.

“That means a quick transition into your dream home,” advises Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research at the National Association of REALTORS®. But which renovations are the best?

Hardwood flooring remains the biggest draw among buyers of all generations according to an analysis of popular home features. Listings with hardwood floors have appreciated 14.8 percent since 2015.

Realtor.com® looked at 40 of the most common home features and analyzed applicable listings to find which homes sold in the fewest number of days. For this study, researchers used days on market as an indication of demand for a home feature. The following were the top features uncovered in the survey:

1. Smart-home features (smart thermostats, refrigerators, and locking systems)
2. Finished basements
3. Patios
4. Walk-in closets
5. Granite countertops
6. Eat-in kitchens
7. Hardwood floors
8. Laundry rooms
9. Open kitchens
10. Front porches
11. Dining rooms
12. Energy Star appliances
13. Two-car garages
14. Fireplaces
15. Security systems

To see the full report and learn more about each of these features and why they’re great for resale, visit realtor.com

Remodeling Seen As A Good Investment For 2018

As homeowners gain more equity, they are expected to continue heavily investing in home improvement projects and repairs through the third quarter of 2018, according to the latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The LIRA index projects annual gains in home renovation and repair spending of 6.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2017 and up to 7.7 percent by the third quarter of next year.

“Recent strengthening of the U.S. economy, tight for-sale housing inventories, and healthy home equity gains are all working to boost home improvement activity,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “Over the coming year, owners are projected to spend in excess of $330 billion on home upgrades and replacements, as well as routine maintenance.”

For homeowners looking to remodel for resale, the National Association of REALTORS® publishes a report looking at the costs of some of the top remodeling projects. Take a look at the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report.

As Realtors, we see the impact of a good remodel all the time.  Painting the interior and exterior of your home in modern, transitional colors is a fairly quick and inexpensive way to make an immediate impact, as is removing heavy drapery and letting your windows shine.  Upgrading bathroom vanities, tile and shower doors, as well painting or replacing outdated kitchen cabinetry, backsplashes and countertops is also a big hit. Decluttering – although not a remodel – goes a long way towards making your home feel fresh and new. If you want to learn more about how to get your home ready for sale, contact us for a consultation.

Kitchen Remodels Offer Big Paybacks at Resale

According to Realtor.com, homeowners looking for a remodeling project may be smart to tackle a kitchen renovation if they’re looking for projects with the strongest buyer appeal and high returns on their investment at resale.

Kitchen renovations and upgrades are among the top remodeling projects most likely to add value to a home at resale and most likely to appeal to home shoppers, according to the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. The report takes a look at the cost of the most common exterior and interior remodeling and replacement projects and gauges how much appeal they have to buyers at resale.

Fifty-four percent of REALTORS® surveyed reported suggesting to sellers that they complete a kitchen upgrade before attempting to sell. Twenty-three percent of real estate pros also said a kitchen renovation helped to close a sale.

The Remodeling Impact Report estimates that homeowners stand to recover 57 percent—or $20,000—of the $35,000 or so of the cost to take on a kitchen upgrade. The kitchen upgrade might include adding new energy-efficient appliances, sink, faucet, and vinyl flooring; repainting the walls and ceiling; and refacing cabinets with white paint/veneer and new hardware.

Kitchen upgrades don’t just offer the potential for some bang for your buck at resale but also have been found to make homeowners more happy. Eighty-one percent of remodeling consumers surveyed said they had a greater desire to be at home since completing their kitchen upgrade project, and 81 percent felt a major sense of accomplishment after the renovation.

The following interior projects REALTORS® ranked highest to lowest as remodeling projects that would appeal to home buyers (listed along with project estimate costs and the potential return on investment at resale):

1. Complete Kitchen Renovation
Cost estimate: $65,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 62%

2. Kitchen Upgrade
Cost estimate: $35,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%

3. Bathroom Renovation
Cost estimate: $30,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $15,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

4. New Wood Flooring
Estimated cost: $5,500
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 91%

5. Add New Bathroom
Cost estimate of project: $59,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $29,750
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

6. Hardwood Flooring Refinish
Estimated cost: $3,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $3,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 100%

7. New Master Suite
Cost estimate: $125,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $65,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 52%

8. HVAC Replacement
Estimated cost: $7,475
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 67%

9. Basement Conversion To Living Area
Cost estimate: $40,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $25,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 63%

10. Closet Renovation
Estimated cost: $3,750
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $2,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

11. Insulation Upgrade
Estimated cost: $2,100
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $1,600
Percent of value recovered from the project: 76%

12. Attic Conversion To Living Area
Estimated cost: $75,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

New Trend – Living Rooms Are Heading Upstairs

After years of hearing the buzzwords “open concept”, homes are starting to see a bit more compartmentalization with additional cozy places to retire becoming more common.

As such, upper-level living rooms are becoming a sought-after space among homeowners, The Wall Street Journal reports. Homeowners are finding these second-floor lounges can be more informal spaces than living areas on the first floor—and can offer more privacy, too.

The idea behind these spaces are nothing new. Historic homes often have included an upstairs “retiring room” for mothers nursing children or for resting midday, says T. Jeffrey Clarke, an architect in Philadelphia, and Karla Murtaugh Homes has a few homes on the market right now that embody these qualities.  You can check out 321 Main Street, 22 Oak Knoll Road, 285 West Lane and 258 Black Rock Turnpike, just to name a few.

Upper-level living rooms—sometimes labeled “pajama lounges”—are usually located right off bedrooms. They may include comfy sofas, a kitchenette, a television, and even a nook to work from. Architects are removing long hallway spaces upstairs to make room for these central living spaces upstairs.

The lounge area is intended for “the bedrooms [to] spill out, and the family can have a space to assemble,” says Kobi Karp, an architect in Miami who recently designed an upper-level living room in one of his projects. “It’s where you go on a Sunday morning and wait for the rest of the house to wake up.”

Upper-level living rooms tend to be more casual than their lower counterparts. They also tend to have recessed lighting instead of chandeliers and favor cozier seating areas over larger sectionals.

As families create new functions for classic spaces, it’s nice to see a trend recognizing the value that an antique home’s architecture and design brings to a modern world.

Source: “The Living Room Moves Upstairs,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 23, 2017)

Staging Your Home Is A Good Idea

According to the National Association of Realtors, sixty-two percent of listing agents say professional staging decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, while 40 percent of buyer’s agents say their clients are more willing to walk through a home that has been staged, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging.

Thirty-one percent of respondents to NAR’s survey say staging increased the dollar value of a home they sold by 1 percent to 5 percent; 13 percent of respondents say it increased a home’s dollar value by 6 percent to 10 percent. Agents on both the buying and selling side agree that the living room is the most important part of a home to stage, followed by the master bedroom, kitchen, and outdoor space.

While these results are self-reported and at the agent’s description, we would have to agree with the findings. Buyers have a lot of choice and we are still in a buyers market. It’s important for a seller to take advantage of every tool they can in order to entice buyers to take the next step. Sellers who staged are also more likely to get top-dollar for their home.

Just like the proliferation of professional and aerial photography, more and more agents are seeing the inherent value of staging and those Realtors who don’t stage will be left behind. The consumer is increasingly comparing apples to oranges online before they even make an appointment with a real estate agent, so a seller’s home needs to be enticing from the get-go.

See the Full Report to compare the buyer and seller perspectives or click to read about our Staging Services.

Gray Is The New “It” Color

Gray walls are becoming the modern, neutral choice for interior spaces as painting experts sum up the trend by saying “gray is the new beige.”

But you need to find the right gray for your home.

“Although the color gray is commonly associated with cooler, cloudy days, there are both ‘cool grays’ and ‘warm grays,’” the paint company Sherwin Williams explains. “Cool grays have more blue undertones, while warm grays are grounded in yellow and brown – similar to ‘greige,’ a combination of gray and beige.”

To find the right gray, painting experts suggest looking at the flooring, cabinetry, lighting, and wood trim in the home. The undertone of such interior elements should match the undertone of the gray home owners opt for in their home. For example, brushed nickel often pairs better with cooler gray paint colors. Brick and gold, on the other hand, tend to pair better with warmer undertones, such as beige.

Gray can also be used to add dimension into a home’s space, Sherwin Williams suggests. For example, for more impact, paint the ceiling gray too, but make it a shade two or three lighter than the wall color. The painted ceiling can give a smaller room a more spacious feel. For high ceilings in a large room, select a darker gray paint to make the space feel more cozy.

“Whether you choose gray on the walls or on the ceilings, it offers a crisper, cleaner look than beige,” the paint company notes. “And because gray paint is offered with many different undertones, it can either be the most neutral hue possible or give dramatic dimension — another great reason to add it to your palette.”

Source: Realtor.com

What to Expect From a Home Inspection

A home inspection is a lot like a test-driving a new car, only better. Instead of just punching the accelerator and a few dash buttons to see what they do, during a home inspection you’ll have a knowledgeable professional along with you, pointing out details and potential problems you might not notice otherwise.A thorough home inspection when you’re buying a house can save you thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs — or from unwittingly buying a money pit.

What a home inspector does

A home inspector will take two to three hours or more completing a detailed walk-through of the home you’re looking to buy. It’s a top-to-bottom review of the physical structure, as well as its mechanical and electrical systems — including roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows and doors. The inspector will check that major appliances are functional, scrutinize the heating and air-conditioning system, examine the plumbing and electrical systems and crawl up into the attic and down into the basement.

All the while, the inspector will be taking notes and pictures and, if you’re tagging along, commenting on what he sees. Most importantly, the inspector will provide an objective opinion on the home’s condition, detached from the emotional roller coaster you’ve been on during the entire homebuying process.

What a home inspector doesn’t do

A home inspection is a general checkup, not an X-ray exam. Although inspectors should have a keen eye for detail, they won’t be able to detect the unseen. That means hidden pests, asbestos, and mold or other potentially hazardous substances might go unnoticed. Those sort of issues can require specialized evaluations, perhaps even a geologist or structural engineer.

An inspector might have a thought or two on child safety issues found in the home, but again, that depends on the inspector’s experience and competencies. And a home inspector doesn’t necessarily determine whether your home is compliant with local building codes.

The goal of the inspection is to uncover issues with the home itself. Inspectors won’t tell you if you’re getting a good deal on the home or offer an opinion on the sale price.

An inspection is not a pass/fail exam. But you’ll learn much about your potential new home and gain confidence in the decision to move into your new address — or find out enough to pass on the purchase.

The home inspection report

A good home inspection report is extensive, containing checklists, summaries, photographs and notes. It will estimate the remaining useful life of major systems and equipment, as well as that of the roof, structure, paint and finishes. The critical information you will gain will include recommended repairs and replacements, too.

Ask any potential inspector for samples of prior reports and note whether they’re simply completed checklists or extensive reviews. That way you’ll know whether you’re paying for a stapled 10-page report or for a three-ring binder of detailed information. Home inspections aren’t cheap; they can cost $300 to $500 or more, so you want to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.

How to find a home inspector

Home inspectors aren’t federally regulated, and they’re not even licensed in all states. You’ll need to seek out recommendations. Friends and work colleagues may have some good names to share.

You can also search the databases of professional associations, such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Such organizations usually require members to pass an exam, honor a code of ethics and complete continuing education.

It’s a best practice to interview candidates before making a decision. That’s when you can find out about experience, training and areas of expertise. For example, if you’re considering a fixer-upper or looking at an older home, you’ll want an inspector who has expertise and knowledge regarding renovations of historic structures. In some areas, home inspectors are affiliated with the state real estate commission and must be licensed and comply with state regulations and procedures.
And get references from prior clients, especially homeowners who have been in their home for at least six months. That way you can determine whether any issues popped up that were unreported in their inspection.

Be a part of the process

It’s a good idea to join the inspector on his home tour. You don’t have to climb into the attic with him or crawl under the porch, but follow along where you can and take notes. He may make some great home improvement suggestions along the way — as well as point out peculiarities and unique features.

Although inspections can turn up serious defects, every house will have its imperfections. You might choose to think of many of these as simply endearing beauty marks.

**This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.