Archive for January, 2012
The dead of winter is the time for the greatest vigilance in your home-maintenance routine. The most important job this month is to head off damage to your home from water and dampness from a number of sources:
• Groundwater and rain seeping into your home.
• Leaky pipes inside the walls.
• Pipes bursting from freezing and thawing.
Take a tour
After a winter storm, get outside as soon as you can. Walk around the house, checking for damage from wind and broken tree limbs. User binoculars if you can’t see your entire roof. Scan for loose or missing shingles.
Give special attention to vulnerable pipes — indoors and out — that are exposed to the cold, including hose bibs, pipes in outside walls, garden sprinkler lines, swimming pool pipes and pipes in unheated attics, basements and garages. A frozen pipe needs only a one-eighth-inch crack to leak as much as 250 gallons a day, according to this State Farm Insurance video, which demonstrates how to shut off your water and insulate pipes.
Take these steps to safeguard against damage from frozen and bursting pipes:
- If practical, insulate any pipes exposed to the cold. Ask hardware-store personnel for the best materials for the job.
- Seal any leaks that are letting cold air in, especially around dryer vents and pipes and where electrical wiring enters the house.
- Search for un-insulated water supply lines in the attic, garage, basement and crawl spaces and in bathroom and kitchen cabinets adjacent to outside walls. During a cold spell, open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathroom so the home’s heat can reach them. (Reminder: Put harmful household cleaners out of the reach of children.) Keep doors shut tight in the garage and outside closets and cupboards during freezing weather.
- When temperatures drop below zero, open both hot and cold faucets a trickle to relieve pressure in the pipes.
- Locate your home’s water shut-off valve; learn how to turn off the water quickly in case a pipe bursts.
- If you’ll be gone in freezing weather, even overnight, ask a friend or neighbor to check on your house for broken or leaking pipes. Show him or her how to shut off the water.
- Keep temperatures inside the house at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or above, night and day, even when you’re gone.
- Promise yourself that when the weather improves you will add to the installation in the basement or crawl space and attic.
Install small, battery-powered individual leak alarms, also called flood alarms, under the refrigerator, kitchen and bathroom drain pipes, dishwasher and laundry appliances and behind toilets. Cost: around $10-$15 each.
Check to make sure your sump pump is operating properly. If it has a battery backup, unplug the pump from the wall and test it.
Look for pests seeking shelter
Cold weather drives mice and insects into the walls of your home. Even unheated parts of the house invite these pests. Insects need only a crack to enter, and mice can get in through a dime-sized hole. Houseflies, particularly, pose a health risk because they can transmit disease.
- Seal any cracks where pests enter.
- Empty compost and garbage frequently.
- Keep food covered and put away; keep counters clean.
- Fix leaky pipes quickly.
- Pour boiling water down bathroom and kitchen drains monthly, preventing the buildup of bacteria-laden sludge; scrub removable drain covers weekly.
- Check basement, attic, crawl spaces and the back of cupboards and cabinets for mice droppings or holes. If you find evidence, install traps immediately or call a pest-control service.
- Pick up and dispose of outdoor pet waste promptly; turn compost piles frequently.
Make an inventory
While you are putting away holiday gifts, seize the opportunity to make a quick home inventory. An inventory is a record of your home’s features, conditions, furnishings and valuable possessions. If your home is damaged or destroyed by fire, flood, mudslide or other disaster, you can use the inventory to substantiate your insurance claim to get the maximum replacement value for what was lost.
Your inventory doesn’t have to be fancy. You can get started and add to it later. Supplement your record with photos or video. The Insurance Information Institute has free software for making a room-by-room home inventory. Download it here and watch an instructional video here.
Save receipts for valuable home purchases and for work you have done to upgrade the interior or exterior of your home.
Keep a copy of your inventory in a bank safe-deposit box or on a hosted server online, so you can get it even if your computer is destroyed.
Here are a few more winter tasks:
- Check the labels on the switches in your electrical circuit-breaker panel and make new labels if necessary.
- Check your furnace filter monthly in the winter to see if it needs replacing.
- Use a vacuum-cleaner tool or a long-handled brush to clean under and behind the refrigerator, including the coils.
- Clean lint from under laundry appliances, especially the dryer, carefully work the cleaning tool down into the lint filter; outdoors, clean the dryer vent outlet, reaching as far as possible into the pipe.
- Gather product documents and warranties into a folder. Go through the contents and discard outdated materials.
- Walk around inside the house with a screwdriver, pencil and paper. Tighten any loose knobs and attachments and list repairs to tackle later.
- Examine the ducts of your forced-air furnace and seal any leaks with duct tape.
Article from realestate.msn.com, view original article here.
Here is one of the great floor plans by Cotner Building Company!
You can get more information on Rockwell Village, located in Nampa, Idaho, by clicking here.
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Go to www.facebook.com/FitchandCompany to enter now!
Smart consumers interview potential real estate agents before deciding on whom to hire. Just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too. Be wary of agents who don’t ask you questions and probe for your motivation. You wouldn’t work with just any agent off the street, and good agents are just as selective about their clients, too.
1. How Long Have You Been in the Business?
The standard joke is there’s nothing wrong with a new agent that a little experience won’t fix. But that’s not to say that freshly licensed agents aren’t valuable. Much depends on whether they have access to competent mentors and the level of their training. Newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you. Some agents with 20 years of experience repeat their first year over and over. Other 20-year agents learn something new every year.
2. Do you sell homes part or full time?
The real estate industry has its share of part-timers hoping to stumble onto a few home sales a year. If you’re considering hiring a part-time real-estate agent, ask yourself: Am I confident this agent has tracked local activity closely enough to understand today’s unpredictable market? Will he or she be able to give my home sale the time and attention it requires?
3. What is Your Average List-Price-to-Sales-Price Ratio?
Knowing the agent’s average ratio speaks volumes. Excluding sizzling seller’s markets, a good buyer’s agent should be able to negotiate a sales price that is lower than list price for buyers. A competent listing agent should hold a track record for negotiating sales prices that are very close to list prices. Therefore, listing agents should have higher ratios closer to 100%. Buyer’s agent ratios should fall below 99%.
4. What is Your Best Marketing Plan or Strategy for My Needs?
As a buyer, you will need to know:
How will you search for my new home?
How many homes will I likely see before I find a home I want to buy?
Will I be competing against other buyers?
How do you handle multiple offers?
Do you present offers yourself?
As a seller, you will need to know:
Specifically, how will you sell my home?
What is your direct mail campaign?
Where and how often do you advertise?
Will you show me a sample flyer?
How do you market online?
5. Will You Please Provide References?
Everybody has references. Even new agents have references from previous employers.
Ask to see references.
Ask if any of the individuals providing references are related to the agent.
Ask if you can call the references with additional questions.
6. What Are the Top Three Things That Separate You From Your Competition?
A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and will be ready to fire off why she is best suited for the job. Everyone has their own standards, but most consumers say they are looking for agents who say they are:
Honest and trustworthy
Available by phone or e-mail
Able to maintain a good sense of humor under trying circumstances
7. May I Review Documents Beforehand That I Will Be Asked to Sign?
A sign of a good real estate agent is a professional who makes forms available to you for preview before you are required to sign them. If at all possible, ask for these documents upfront.
As a buyer, ask for copies of the following:
Buyer’s Broker Agreement (is it exclusive or non-exclusive?)
As a seller, ask to see:
8. How Will You Help Me Find Other Professionals?
Let the real estate agent explain to you who she works with and why she chooses these professionals. Your agent should be able to supply you with a written list of referring vendors such as mortgage brokers, home inspectors and title companies. Ask for an explanation if you see the term “affiliated” because it could mean that the agent and her broker are receiving compensation from one or all of vendors, and you could be paying a premium for the service.
9. How Much Do You Charge?
Typically, real estate agents charge a percentage, from 1% to 4% to represent one side of a transaction: a seller or a buyer. A listing agent may charge, for example, 3.5% for herself and another 3.5% for the buyer’s agent, for a total of 7%.
10. What Kind of Guarantee Do You Offer?
If you sign a listing or buying agreement with the agent and later find that you are unhappy with the arrangement, will the agent let you cancel the agreement? Will the agent stand behind her service to you? What is her company’s policy about canceled agreements? Has anybody ever canceled an agreement with her before?
11. What Haven’t I Asked You That I Need to Know?
Pay close attention to how the real estate agent answers this question because there is always something you need to know, always. You want an agent to take her time with you — to make sure you feel comfortable and secure with her knowledge and experience. She should know how to listen and how to counsel you, how to ask the right questions to find out what she needs to know to better serve you.
Article from about.com
When you show your home, you want to engage the buyer emotionally because the decision to buy is based more on emotions, and less on logic. Give the buyer permission to say, “Yes, I want to buy this home,” by staging, accentuating your home’s positive attributes, and do not draw any attention to the negative aspects.
Check the Temperature. Now is not the time to worry about your utility bill. If it’s cold enough to wear a sweater to stay warm, turn on the heat. If it’s warm outside, turn on the air conditioning.
Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don’t spray the air or plug-in air fresheners.
If you have seasonal photographs showcasing flower gardens, leaves bursting in color or a snow-covered lawn twinkling from street lights, then display them in a prominent position.
Open all the window coverings to let in light. Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. Brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spot lights on the floor behind furniture.
Leave doors slightly ajar.
The best way to entice buyers to linger and notice even more details about your home is to offer them food. You don’t need to cater a lunch, but finger sandwiches, cookies, soft drinks, water, desserts, all are welcome.
De-Personalize. Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts, and you don’t want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls.
De-Clutter! Clean off everything on kitchen counters. Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets. Neatly stack dishes.
Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.
Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
Line up shoes.
Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage. Since your bookcases are now empty, store them. Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger. Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around.
Remove/Replace Favorite Items. If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now. Pack those items and replace them, if necessary.
Consider painting your walls neutral colors. (Don’t give buyers any reason to remember your home as “the house with the orange bathroom.”)
Make Minor Repairs. Replace burned-out light bulbs. If you’ve considered replacing a worn bedspread, do so now!
Make the House Sparkle! Clean out the refrigerator. Vacuum daily. Wax floors. Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures. Replace worn rugs. Hang up fresh towels.
Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors are a no-no.
Plant yellow flowers or group flower pots together. Yellow evokes a buying emotion. Marigolds are inexpensive.
by Carla Hill
If you’ve been on the fence about homeownership, now is the time to take a leap! Don’t let the negative press deter you from one of life’s greatest joys.
Take a look at five short and sweet reasons that homeownership is great!
1. Equity. When you pay rent, you never see that money again. It is lining the landlord’s pocket. Yes, buying a home may come with some hefty initial costs (downpayment, closing costs, inspections), but you will make that money back over time in equity built in the home. Historically, homes appreciate by about 4 to 6 percent a year. Some areas are still experiencing normal appreciation rates. For the areas that have seen harder times since the recession, experts feel that the housing market will recover. Homeownership is about building long-term wealth. A home bought for $10,000 in 1960 is most likely worth 10 times that in today’s market.
2. Relationships: Renters tend to see their neighbors come and go quickly. Some people sign year leases while others are in the community for much shorter terms. Apartment complexes also tend to have less common shared space for people to meet, greet, and socialize. Homeowners, however, have yards, walking trails, or community pools and clubhouses where they can get to know each other. Neighbors stay put much longer (at least three to five years if they hope to recoup their closing costs). This means more time to develop relationships. Research has shown that people with healthy relationships have more happiness and less stress.
3. Predictability: Well, as long as you have a fixed-rate term on your mortgage it’s predictable. Most people buying homes today know that a fixed-rate is the way to go. This means your payment amount is fixed for the life of the term. If your mortgage payment is $500 today, then it will still be $500 a month in 10 years. This allows for people to budget and make solid financial plans. The sub-prime crisis meant many homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages saw their monthly payments rise and then rise some more. Homeownership, though, generally comes with a predictable table of expenditures. Even the big purchases are predictable. You know most roofs last just 15 years (or so). You know that each year you’ll need to pay for the gutters to be cleaned, and so on.
4. Ownership: Okay, this is a given. Homeownership means you “own” your home. That comes with some incredible perks, though! You can renovate, update, paint, and decorate to your heart’s desire. You can plant trees, install a pool, expand the patio, or do holiday decorating that would rival the Kranks (if the HOA allows!). The bottom line is this is your home and you can personalize it to your taste. Most renters are stuck with the same beige walls and beige carpet that has been standard apartment decor for 20 years. Now is your chance to let your home speak!
5. Great Deals: It’s a great time to buy. Interest rates are at historic lows. We’re talking 4.0 percent instead of 6.0 or higher. This means big savings for today’s buyers. Home prices have also taken a dip since the recession, which means homes are more affordable than ever. If you have steady income and cash for a downpayment, then be sure to talk to your local real estate agent about what homes in your area could be a fit for you.
Homeownership can be a real joy. It’s time to get off the fence and into a home that is right for you!