October 31, 2013

All About Fireplaces

With the first snow behind us, it's a good time to start thinking about preparing your fireplace for the winter. At least half of all American households have at least one fireplace. However, they are not to be taken for granted--they can be dangerous if improperly maintained. The National Fire Protection Association cites at least 12,000 U.S. deaths from residential fires each year. Creosote--a highly flammable byproduct of combustion that builds up in chimneys of wood-burning fireplaces, is often responsible.

Cleaning your wood-burning fireplace: It's all about the chimney. The Chimney Sweep Institute of America (CSIA) advises annual inspections by a certified chimney sweep. This way, homeowners can identify potential problems earlier, saving them the costly and timely maintenance fees that would result should the problem go unnoticed. Click here to find a CSIA approved certified professional. After cleaning, ensure that wood is adequately dried and prepared. When you start a fire, don't forget to open the chimney flue, which will enable smoke to exit.

Cleaning your gas fireplace: check burning equipment (i.e, logs) to search for damange. Remove the gas log inserts in order to vacuum or dust them with a dry rag. Use a window cleaner to wipe both sides of the glass, and finish by wiping the exterior using a wet cloth. When all is said and done, sit back and enjoy your evening!

October 29, 2013

Winter Vacation Escapes

Nigel Maynard wrote about the top 5 snowbird vacation destinations in his article published by At Home Magazine. The term "snowbird" refers to residents from cold states who annually migrate south for the winter. Often times, retirees with second homes in warmer places or people with easily transportable businesses fit this description. Some without second homes choose to travel in their RV. Interestingly, when snowbirds go south, they also ramp up their quality of life. But where exactly do these people go?

No 1: The Florida Panhandle. Nearly 1 million people migrate to Florida every winter. The Sunshine State is noted for its beaches, fishing, and golfing.

No. 2: Galveston, Texas. South Texas is a great option for snowbirds. Galveston is a costal area, while Austin offers a vibrate music scene and outdoor recreation.

No. 3: Joshua Tree, California. Southern California also has a lot to offer. The Coachella Valley (Near Joshua Tree National Park) and desert resort cities are popular among snowbirds. For great weather and world-class golf, go to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or Indian Wells.

No. 4: Yuma, Arizona. The state's average day time temperature of 70 degrees often draws people to Western Arizona. Yuma offers casino and RV parks, while Quartzsite provides low cost or free public camping areas.

No. 5: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque sees over 300 sunny days each year. New Mexico appeals to snowbirds because it offers the best of both worlds: someone can spend a warm day in the lowlands then head over to a nearby ski resort!

Fall Cleaning

Sometimes, Spring cleaning isn't enough. While you've been gone on vacation, dust and cobwebs have accumulated in your home. The answer? Fall cleaning.

Why? Fall cleaning often reduces the stress of spring cleaning. Cleaning outdoor furniture and grills before they are put away for the winter means that you no longer have to clean these items in the spring. Experts say that fall cleaning is actually just as important as spring cleaning, as it's crucial for the general upkeep of a home. 

Where to start: take inventory of your cleaning supplies and where they can be found. Buy any products you know you will need, but do not have. 

What to do: power-wash windows, clean gutters, refresh your dishwasher with baking soda, clean (or replace) your humidifier(s), steam clean carpets, and clean your oven, refrigerator, and kitchen cabinets. 

Think this list is lengthy? It's only a small sample! For a more complete list of recommended fall cleaning activities, click here.  Below is a brief video on how you can inexpensively clean your oven without using harsh chemicals. 

October 23, 2013

What to Keep: Tips on Sorting Your Belongings

Cleaning out your home is a big job, and it's often tedious, time-consuming work. Below are some tips that will help you decide what you should keep and what should be put out by the curb.

First, go through your closets and other storage spaces in your home and throw out things that you have no desire to keep--things that are broken, have been replaced, or cannot be repurposed. This is called decluttering. Oprah's organizing guru, Peter Walsh, shares a few insightful tips on how to declutter your home and decide what to keep:

On kitchen drawers: Empty the contents of kitchen drawer(s) into a bin placed on your countertop. Over the next month, place what you use back in the drawer. By the end of the month, toss what's left in the bin--you don't need it if you don't use it.
On things you have many of: Apply the ratio rule. For every three or four books you keep, throw one out, until your items fit into the space where they belong. This tactic works well for magazines, DVDs, CDs, and books.
On clothes: Arrange your closet so that all hangers are facing the same direction. When you wear something, change the direction of the hanger when you hang it back up. After a month or so, donate the clothes that you have not worn (those with the hangers still facing the origional direction). Like the kitchen drawer method, this is designed to help you identify what you use and what you can do without. Click here for the full news clip on Peter Walsh. 

Second, keep in mind that your storage needs, along with the sentimental value of your belongings, change over time. If your kids are full grown, you can most likely throw out their summer camp arts-and-crafts projects. Or, you could tell your children you are cleaning out the house, and ask that they assume responsibly for their childhood mementos. If you struggle with giving away years of a child's art or schoolwork, keep a few of the most memorable items. You could also take picture of items that you need to throw away. That way, you have the memories and the space! Regardless, invovling family members in the process is a good idea. Children could go with you to donate their unused toys, which will help them part with their belongings. Another incentive for younger family members to get rid of some of their things is to hold a garage sale in which each family member gets to keep the money from the sale of his/her objects. If you are cleaning out the home alone, and wonder if one member of your family wants to keep something--ask. Many personal items are irreplaceable.

After your initial cleaning, and keeping in mind the criteria above, go through closets once more to determine what should be thrown out, repurposed, kept, and donated. Tackle one closet at a time, so as not to be overwhelmed. Once done, every item should have earned its place in your home. In other words, storage areas should not be places you carelessly place junk you've accumulated and will soon forget about. Items you are keeping should be neatly organized or proudly displayed.

It's a good idea to clean out your home regularly (think "spring cleaning"). If you have lived in a home for many years and are planning on selling, it's best to start cleaning way before you list your home. If your home sells quickly, or you find the perfect new home soon into your search, you want to be ready to go. It's amazing how much stuff can accumulate in a home over time!

October 18, 2013

Life After Listing

Curious about what happens once you list your home for sale? It's always best to be prepared. Below please find some quick facts about the process that comes between listing your home and selling it.

After you list your home, your Realtor with enter it into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which feeds to hundreds of websites such as Realtor.com. You can expect to see a "for sale" sign in your yard and a lockbox on your door, which grants Realtors access to your home when showing it to potential buyers.

During open houses and scheduled showings, its best to be out of the house. This way, the people looking at it can better picture it as their own. Also, it allows them to make open comments about the home. Your agent may hold an open house for Realtors right away, followed by one for the public on the weekend. Thus, it's important that your house is show-ready when you list. This means clean, uncluttered, depersonalized, and photogenic. For ideas on how to stage your home, read my previous blog post, here.

Most people who view your home will do so in the first two weeks. Still, in a normal market, you can expect a home to sit on the market for 60-90 days. In today's housing market, this number is lower. Ideally, you should see interest in the first six weeks. If not, work with your Realtor to discuss strategy, pricing, and home improvements that will help market your home. If a buyer requests to see your home multiple times, that's a great sign!

Ready to list? Contact me. ... and congratulations!

October 15, 2013

Common Mistakes When Hiring a Realtor

Selling your home should be a stress free, exciting time of your life. But often, homeowners find the process overwhelming. One critical aspect of the home selling process is choosing the right Realtor. Knowing some key mistakes many sellers make when choosing a Realtor can help you avoid the same issues when selling your own home. Five common mistakes are:

  • Not hiring a Realtor. Some people try to list their homes "For Sale By Owner" in order to save on commission. However, there are many downsides to this practice. You can only "show" your home when you are there, you cannot market your home on the MLS, and paperwork and negotiations will be dificult without understanding the legalities behind real estate. In the end, the commission fees are well worth preventing the trouble and headache that result from tackling such a complicated endeavor alone. 

  • Hiring a Realtor because s/he is a family member or friend. Look into ANY Realtor's history of selling homes in your area. If you and your Realtor are friends and you disagree on selling tactics, it could put a strain on your relationship. 

  • Not trusting your instincts when selecting a Realtor. You know your home better than anyone; trust your gut when it comes to personal decisions. If your Realtor advises you to do something (for example, add another bathroom, or update your kitchen), know that you don't have to do so. Find a Realtor who understands your style, beliefs, and needs.

Following these guidelines will help you find the most suitable Realtor for you. Once hired, that Realtor  can take care of many other common mistakes when selling your home, such as pricing your home based on desired profit and letting emotions interfere with negotiations with buyers. Looking for a Realtor in the Central Ohio area? Contact me. My knowledge of today's unique market and my competitive pricing and marketing plans ensure clients are in the best possible hands. I work to get sellers the best price in the shortest time without being pushy or demanding. 

For more information on how to select a REALTOR, click here.

October 11, 2013

Attention Home Buyers: Have you Considered...

It's easy to get sidetracked when searching for your next home, since emotions play a very large part in this process. Below are some tips to help ensure you're making the right decision in buying a particular home.

Do some research. Research recent local news, talk to neighbors about the pros and cons of the area, and get a home inspection and detailed records on home improvements that previous owners have conducted. This will expose potential problems such as an unsafe or unfriendly neighborhood, the exposure of radon gas or lead paint, and what home projects will need to be addressed when.

Don't underestimate location. Visit the home at various times of the day to get a feel for natural light exposure and noise. Close to a school? That's not a big deal in the summer, but could be unfavorable during the rest of the year. Also consider your view: do your neighbors have respectable homes? Does the neighborhood have restrictions about what neighbors can build there? Houses that look like tear-downs may be replaced with larger homes that block your view and limit natural light. Finally, explore the surrounding area. Are you close to railroads or airports that may be too loud? Does your neighborhood back up to a less desirable part of town, or commercial area? Are you close to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or other highly trafficked places? They say that real estate coms down to location, location, location!

Be conscious of expenses. Remodeling can be more complicated than it seems. While painting a wall is quick and inexpressive, adding bathrooms and other more complicated projects could get messy and pricy. Ask for utility bills so that you can consider these expenses when debating whether or not to buy a certain home. Also ask the seller for taxes, focusing on the amounts for several recent tax bills.

These are just a few things a buyer can do in order to make the best informed decision. Having a knowledgeable Realtor is an invaluable resource. Contact me to see what I can do for you.

October 8, 2013

Keys to a Successful Open House

One great way to attract potential buyers to your home is by hosting an open house. Your agent is responsible for hosting the event; however, there's a number of responsibilities that fall to you as the homeowner. Read these three tips below to have a more successful open house.

1) Declutter. Put away kitchen appliances that take up counter space, heaps of books on end tables, and excessive personal mementos such as pictures. This will make the space look cleaner and bigger. It will also help potential buyers picture the home as their own. Consider storing extra furniture where it can't be seen, but don't stop there. It's best if you are out of sight during the open house. This will make potential buyers feel more comfortable and more willing to ask questions and spend time in your home.

2) Spend some money. It doesn't have to be a fortune, but hiring a cleaning service, buying new towels for your kitchen and bathrooms, and making minor repairs (fix leaky facets and replace burnt out lightbulbs) will show potential buyers that your home is well maintained.

3) Set the stage. You want potential buyers to get the best impression of your home. Take a few minutes to set the table, bathe pets and shampoo carpets to neutralize odors, and mow the lawn and pull the weeds in your front yard to enhance curb appeal. Curb appeal is incredibly important, as it informs a  potential buyer's first impression.

Looking for a Realtor who is experienced with open houses and other home-selling techniques? Contact me.

October 4, 2013

Tips to Enhance Curb Appeal

The first impression someone has of a house is based on its curb appeal. Follow the tips below to ensure that your yard is looking its best.

1) Create a path to your front door. This will eliminate confusing about which entrance to use. This also means guests won't have to walk across your driveway. Walkways help anchor a house to its landscaping. For an extra touch, consider lining the walkway with bushes or planting beds.

2) Enhance landscaping. Mix a variety of different colored and textured evergreens and and flowering shrubs. Laying plants that are grouped by height is also very visually appealing. Don't forget that your plants don't have to hug your house--you've got a whole front yard to work with. If you have a new home, landscaping is especially important, as builder-isssued landscape is often scare or nonexistent. Trimming shrubs and plants is also a good idea. Remove dead plants and break up clusters of perennials. Overgrown plants can block light from a home and may give the impression that the owner does not take pride in his/her home.

3) Create a focal point. Water features, benches, and patterned hardscapes are great for initially grabbing someone's eye.

4) Highlight the main entrance. Use planters, urns, or a symmetrical element by the door (such as stone pillars) to make your home more inviting.  Lighting features also help.

5) Upgrade walkways and driveways. Having a quality hardscape is a great way to enhance curb appear--especially because driveways take up so much space. Dress up your driveway by forgoing traditional concrete and instead using brick or stamped concrete.

6) Add a hedge or fence. This helps distinguish your yard and protects from unfavorable views,  your neighbor's unkept lawn.

October 1, 2013

How to Avoid Buyer's Remorse

Jim Weiker, writer for The Columbus Dispatch, shares some survey results that could provide valuable lessons to buyers. A Trulia survey was issued this spring to 2,130 Americans. Here are the results:

52% of those surveyed expressed some regrets about their current residence
34% wish they had bought a bigger home
27% wish they had done more remodeling
22% wish they had known more about the home before deciding to buy it
18% wish they had put more money down
16% wish they had been more financially secure before buying.

Concerned about buying the right home? Contact me to see how I can help!