Make it a practice to inspect before you buy

Make it a practice to inspect before you buy

NEW OLEAR BANNERYou’ve spotted a “for sale” sign in front of a house that you really like, and suddenly you have the urge to talk to the homeowner or listing Realtor. But before you go knocking on the door, take a few minutes to pay close attention to the exterior of the home. Why the exterior? Because exterior repairs can be expensive.

First, take note of how the home is positioned on the lot. Is it flat and at an elevation that’s comparable to the neighbors, or does it appear to be sitting low or high? Does it appear that moisture will flow away from the foundation?

Next, take a look at the roof and compare it’s condition to other homes in the neighborhood. Are shingles curling up or missing? If so, that should be a warning sign for potential trouble.

While your eyes are looking high, what’s the condition of the chimney? Can you see any loose bricks? How about the downspouts and gutters? Are they properly positioned? And what about the electrical service cable? Is it cracked or frayed?

Finally, turn you attention to the windows and driveway. Do the windows appear to be newer and low-maintenance, or are they decades old? As for the driveway, is it flat and smooth or cracked and heaving? If you’re still interested in the house, remember that a licensed home inspector can be key to helping you discover any additional issues or problems. 

The moral of this story: Look carefully — and ask questions — before you buy!

5 Low cost upgrades, with potential High returns

When putting your house on the market, it is vital to have it shown in its best possible light. The key however, is figuring out how to achieve this without breaking the bank. Consumer Reports provides the following agenda, for finding that perfect balance.

  1. Freshen up the bath: $300-$1,000
  2. Paint the rooms- selectively: $100 (DIY)-$1,000 (Pro)
  3. Clean up, clear out; smells and clutter: $0 (DIY)-$2,500 (Pro)
  4. Enhance the exterior: $150-$7,500
  5. Spruce up the kitchen: $300-$5,000

For complete descriptions on each, as well as potential returns, check out the following link from Consumer Reports here.

Home Security Tips for Vacationers

Home Security Tips for Vacationers

With summer wrapping up and kids heading back to school, August is traditionally a big vacation month.  With parents driving college students back to school or heading on one final vacation, homes are often left alone for a few days.  Here are some tips for keeping your home safe while you’re away:

1.  Ask for neighbor’s help: if you can, have someone house sit.  If that isn’t an option, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to stop by periodically.

2.  Watch out for water: a burst pipe could cause serious damage to your home.  Shutting off the main water valve means or the valves for major appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator) decreases the chances that you’ll have water problems.  Also, checking on your sump pump could help save your basement from flooding.

3.  Notify the post office to stop delivery of mail for the duration of your trip, or ask a neighbor to collect your mail for you.

4.  Make sure your security system is on.

5.  Consider buying motion sensor lights for the front and back of your house.

6.  Place lights on electric timers in various rooms throughout the house.

Incorporate Summer Style Without Breaking Bank

Incorporate Summer Style Without Breaking Bank

While redecorating for each season can be exhausting and expensive, designers are finding new ways to update homes without being costly.  For summer, designers at have suggested these easy room updates that will make your home feel like a summer retreat:

1.  Bring in the outdoors: Natural materials and textures make a room feel more organic.  Wood, woven pieces, floral prints, and sheer fabrics will make your home feel cool and airy.

2.  Add coral: Coral is bright but natural, so it will brighten up any space.  What color should you pair it with?  Coral looks great next to natural reflective finishes, like lacquered wood or mirrors.

3.  Affordable Accents: Bringing in seasonal accents through pillows or art will keep your space up to date.  You can find these things for little at local department stores and can save them for next summer.

Four Eco-Friendly Energy Projects for Your Home

Four Eco-Friendly Energy Projects for Your Home

Green energy is becoming increasingly popular with homeowners as it saves them money on monthly energy costs.  Changing your home’s energy source can be costly at first, but helps make your home smarter and more sustainable in the long term.  Here are some up-and-coming energy sources that help the environment and your wallet:

1.  Solar energy: The most common way to bring the sun’s energy to your home is through solar panels or tiles.  These tiles absorb energy from the sun, and depending on where you live, can power your entire home by themselves.

2.  Geothermal energy:  Simply speaking, the system works by pumping a carrier fluid (usually a mix of water and antifreeze) through pipes buried underground. During cold weather, the liquid absorbs heat from the ground, which is then extracted and used to heat the house. In warm weather, the system is reversed, with heat from the house pumped into the ground and cooler liquid used to cool the house.  These systems can save homeowners 30-70% of energy costs.

3.  Wind energy: While you won’t see anything as large or impressive as GE’s wind turbines on anyone’s front lawn, residential turbines are becoming more and more popular.  Wind power is reliant very much on wind patterns where you live and does not promise to always be there.  Turbines are designed to pick up winds between 10-25 MPH, so this energy source works best if you live somewhere breezy.

4.  Hydro energy:  If you live on a property close to a river or stream, using micro-hydro energy can be a great option.  Residential micro-hydro power systems usually involve diverting some amount of water from the flow of a stream or river through a turbine of some sort and then back into the source farther downstream. As long as the source of water is relatively constant even a small stream can provide a significant amount of power.

Creating Your Own Dream Closet

Creating Your Own Dream Closet

Professionally organized closets can be one of the most beautiful rooms in your home– but bringing in a closet “decorator” can be costly.  Here are tips for creating your own dream closet:

1.  Declutter: Get rid of unwanted or unworn clothing.  If you haven’t worn it in the last year, chances are you won’t wear it again.  Don’t be afraid to part with used clothing: you can sell or donate it.  Getting rid of the old means more space for new clothes!

2.  Plan a layout: Plan which season’s clothes will go where.  If you can’t figure out an effective layout, you can buy closet organization systems at Wal-Mart or Target that will help you figure things out.  Having something to make organizing easier will also make keeping things organized more likely.

3.  Organize Accessories: Clear tubs can hold out-of-season clothes and shoes, while shelves and over-the-door hangers can hold belts and ties; consider buying a shoe rack to help get your shoes in one organized place.

4.  Put It All Together: Once everything has been organized, it’s time to put everything together.  Place lesser-used items on higher shelves and your favorite clothes at eye-level.  Sort your wardrobe by season, color, or clothing type to save time in the morning.

5.  Hang It Up: Invest in hangers!  Use padded hangers for delicate fabrics, plastic hangers for shirts, and wooden hangers for suits and pants.  Get rid of wire hangers– clothes could snag on them.  Also, loose the dry-cleaning bags because they restrict air flow and retain chemicals in your clothes.

6.  Keep It Up: Don’t let your closet fall into shambles a few weeks or months down the road; do a yearly cleanout of old clothes and accessories.  Daily, make sure you put things back where they should go.  Keep your closet organized and avoid morning stress!