November 29, 2013

Inexpensive Ways to Fix Drafty Windows

If you're concerned about a drafty window, it doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be replaced. It doesn't even mean to have to wait until the spring to fix it. Keep reading for a number of ways to quickly and inexpensively fix drafty windows at any time of the year. 

Apply V-seal weather stripping. This is a plastic stripping that costs only $5.50 per window. You can attach it along the sides of window sashes (which often shrink with age). Windows will still open and close regularly. 

Add rope caulk. For nearly the same price ($5/30 feet), rope caulk can be applied to window cracks. The puddy-like material can be molded into any shape and be easily removed in warmer weather. Watch the video below on how to apply rope caulk:

Apply shrink film. Yet another budget friendly solution (at $2 per 42 by 62 inch window), this clear, plastic shrink film can be applied with double sided take. The film will shrink when heated with a blow dryer to ensure maximum insulation. When you remove it in the spring, use rubbing alcohol to help release the tape while preserving paint. 

Fill cracked panes. How? Nail polish! Nail polish will stabilize window glass until a more permanent solution can be addressed in the spring. Costs vary from roughly $2-7.

Add a draft snake. For $6/window, you can purchase a foam-and-fabric draft snake fit. It will consist of a 36-inch foam tube that can be cut to the appropriate length. Next, slip the washable cover over it and place it on the window still. Shut the window to seal the foam. 

If you're interested in permanently solving draft problems, you can wait until spring to 1) replace loose or missing glazing, 2) rejuvenate storm windows, 3) add interior storm panels, or 4) replace the window altogether. Click here for more information. 

November 27, 2013

Flooring 101

Choosing a floor you love is a big task. You should consider price, comfort, and durability when selecting floors that are right for you and your home. Below are various types of flooring and a few key points on each.

Hardwood--classic floors that look great and can be used in nearly any room. Softer woods such as pine show more wear and tear than harder woods like red oak. You can get wooden floors that look brand new, or ones that look antiqued and distressed. You can also choose board width and color. Wood floors, however, are susceptible to water damage and can be difficult to repair.

Laminent--this budget friendly option can look like wood, title, or stone. It's a durable floor that's easy to clean. It's also more environmentally friendly than true hardwood floors. One downside to laminent is that it cannot be refinished or sanded--once the floor has run its course, it must be replaced.

Tile--tile is very versatile and looks elegant with its clean lines. It's appropriate in most rooms, and can be installed in virtually any pattern. Although cold to the touch, tile is durable and environmentally friendly. 

Vinyl--Like laminent, vinyl floors can look like wood, title, or stone, but at a much less cost. It's a low maintenance floor that's soft underfoot and warmer to touch than real tile. Due to new printing techniques, vinyl has more depth and texture than ever before.

Concrete--concrete floors are a stylish trend. When textured and unfinished, they give an industrial, modern feel. They can also be colored or stained and made to look glassy. Concrete floors are water and fire resistant, very durable (they don't scratch), and easy to clean. They have made their way into the lower level of many newly built homes. Concrete floors do require regular resealing.

Carpet--It's nothing new that carpet feels great to walk on. But did you know that it can reduce energy bills? According to HGTV,  it's fibers hold heat, and can insulate up to 17 times better than other surfaces! The downside to carpet is that it can be a pain to clean, and will not stay in good condition forever. Choosing bold carpet colors (think dark green or bright red) may hinder someone selling their home.

Cork-Althought they can fade over time and scratch more easily than other floors, cork floors are contemporary, eco friendly, and comfortable to stand on. Because cork is a natural  insulator, it muffles sound and reduces energy bills. It's very versatile from a design perspective, and is increasing in popularity. Try cork in your kitchen--dropped dishes won't break like they will with concrete floors.

Linoleum--this is a great all-natural alternative to vinyl (but costs slightly more), and is making a comeback. It's extremely durable (even fire resistant) and lasts for decades. It, too, is environmentally friendly. The down side: it may expand or contract due to moisture.

Bamboo--A bamboo floor looks like hardwood, but is more sustainable and earth-friendly. On the other hand, it absorbs more moisture than hardwood. Bamboo's natural beauty and sturdiness have made it a popular floor choice.

Read more about flooring here.

Left: concrete. Center: bamboo. Right: cork.

November 25, 2013

What to Look for in a Neighborhood

Many Realtors will tell you that location is everything when it comes to choosing a home. When evaluating location, neighborhood is key. Consider the following factors when determining if a certain neighborhood is right for you:

Priorities. Determine what exactly you're looking for during your home search. What's more important: the house or the community? Chances are, budget restraints may leave you no choice but to compromise on one or the other. Be realistic about finding  a home with desired qualities in the best location based on your budget. Would you like to live in a city, suburb, or rural area? What amenities are most important to you? For example, how would you prioritize a neighborhood gym, pool, restaurants, shopping, or nightlife?

Schools. Everyone knows that, for those who have children, living in a highly ranked school district is favorable. What everyone doesn't know is that school district is also important to homebuyers who don't have kids. Why? they maintain higher value. Americans pay $50 more per square foot for homes near a top-ranked school than for home near average schools, according to a research study completed by Redfin Real Estate Company in 2013.

Transportation. Test your commute to work from various neighborhoods you're considering moving to. Note how close you are to public transit options and town centers that feature restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Similar to school district, transportation is important for resale value. In other words, even if you don't mind being far from amenities or transit, future buyers will likely value properties close to such features more so than those that are far. Unfortunately, you can expect to pay more for homes that are close to the city center and/or public transportation. If such a location is important to you, be prepared to compromise on the size, age, or condition of your home.

Finally, visit the neighborhoods you're interested in at different times of day, during different days of the week. Take note of home maintenance and community gatherings. If possible, talk to people about what it is like to live there. Realtors are qualified to help you find the best location based on your wants (and your budget). For those looking at homes in the Central Ohio area-contact me. I can help!

November 21, 2013

Cutting Moving Costs

An interstate move of at least 1,220 miles costs, on average $5,630. In state moves cost an average of $1,170, according to the American Moving and Storage Association. Buying and selling a home is the exciting part; moving is the necessary evil. Read about six ways to cut moving expenses, below:

1. Do it yourself. You can rent a truck and pack your belongings yourself. Not comfortable driving large moving vehicles? Some companies will let you pack and load your own moving truck, while providing drivers. You can also outsource some of the moving (larger items such as futons and big screen TVs cannot easily be personally transported) and do the rest yourself (smaller items such as clothes and kitchen supplies can be packed in boxes and transported in your own car).

2. Request price quotes. Contact at least three moving companies and inform them of the weight and number of items you need to move. Include the number of miles between your old and new home in order to get accurate quotes. Check resources such as Angie's List and Yelp to read reviews of various moving companies and value for price. Also look for coupons and discounts. For a quick quote, click here.

3. Schedule your move for a non-peak time, if you can. Most people move in the summer, at the beginning or end of the month. Moving at another time can lead to better deals. Be sure to thoroughly plan your move.

4. Check your insurance policy. Some homeowner's and renter's insurance policies cover your items during your move. If not, insurance to protect your belonging during your move can be purchased for an additional fee.

5. Save on moving materials. Go to big box stores, gas stations, and grocery stores and ask for their leftover shipping boxes. Ask family, friends, and coworkers for their spare boxes. There is no need to spend $20 on a specialty TV box! Use newspapers and T-shirts to safely pack you items.

6. Use tax deductions. People who move for work can be eligible to deduct moving expenses from their taxes, especially if moving 50 miles or more away. Get more information about moving-related tax deductions here.

November 19, 2013

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

According the the Environmental Protection Agency, the average household spend over $2,200 on annual energy bills. This can partially be attributed to our inefficient homes, which often feature leaky windows, under insulated attics, and outdated AC units. The U.S. Green Building Council discusses five areas that can help make your home more energy efficient--thus saving you money in bills and creating a more comfortable home. The first area deals with insulation, used to keep warm air inside during the winter. Seal air leaks around baseboards and the edge of flooring. Seal attic space by adding extra insulation. Second, install double or triple-pane windows for best results. Adding a tint to your windows is a less expensive way to make existing windows more energy efficient. Third, upgrade older appliances with Energy Star appliances. Fourth, replace the furnace--especially if it was built prior to 1992. Furnaces build before than probably have a standing pilot, which wastes 35% of the fuel it uses. Finally, swap incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent lamps and LEDs. These can reduce electricity usage by 75%!

November 13, 2013

Everything you Need to Know About Painting

Painting is a relativity inexpensive project that many home owners tackle themselves. However, successfully creating an accent wall may prove tougher than you think. Here’s some fast facts about painting as highlighted in HGTV magazine:

You should dip your paint brush one third of the way into a paint can. Many people over-submerge, and waste paint.

Pull off painter’s tape right away. If you wait longer, you could pull off some paint and forgo the opportunity to wipe off any misplaced paint.

The best way to unclog the nozzle of a spray paint can is to flip the can upside down and pray for five seconds. The can will spray compressed air, thus clearing the nozzle. Two cans should be bought to spray paint a medium sized side chair.

Ceiling paint is NOT the same as wall paint. Ceiling paint is formed of white paint that streaks less and covers better than wall paint. If you want a dark color on your ceiling, you may have to use wall paint.

At the end of the day, if you’re not finished painting, wrap your brushes with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Leaving the brushes in water could saturate them and dilute the paint. Leaving them in a paint can lets in too much air and may dry the paint out.

Skim coat your walls if they’re uneven. Applying a thin layer of compound to even out the wall before its painted can prevent a bumpy finish.

A good exterior paint job should last 8-12 years. 100% acrylic exterior paint with a long-term warranty is your best bet. Don’t use latex paint over something previously painted with oil-based plaint. This could cause your paint to bubble and crack once it’s dry.

Buy low VOC (volatile organize compounds) paint. These chemicals can cause headaches and irritate eyes.

Canvas drop cloths are better than plastic drop cloths for covering floors. Plastic is slippery and not very durable; it’s better used for protecting furniture and fixtures.

You need about a gallon of paint per 400 square feet. Also consider layers, doors, and windows. The paint calculator at is a good resource.

Finally, when you’re shopping for paint, you may wonder why some are more expensive than others. This is most often due to the fact that they’re made with high-quality, concentrated pigments, which make colors look rich on walls but contain pricy ingredients.

For a detailed demonstration on how to paint a wall, click on the video below. 

November 11, 2013

Experts 'Okay' Retiring with a Mortgage

According to Jim Weiker’s article in The Columbus Dispatch, experts claim that carrying a home loan into retirement is not all the bad. An increasing number of people are keeping a mortgage longer than a job, and the amount of retirees holding a mortgage has skyrocketed from 26.4% in 1989 to 65.7% in 2012 for homeowners 64+. Likewise, the average mortgage debt held by people between 65 to 74 of age nearly tripled from 25,900 in 1989 to $70,000 in 2010, according to the federal Survey of Consumer Finances. Theories on the topic vary. Some claim that these statistics reflect “people living beyond their means and failing to save for retirement.” Others argue that debt is “simply a fact of life, not something they expect to end.” The survey revealed additional noteworthy statistics: 36% of those surveyed expect their debts to succeed their assets following retirement. Recently low interest rates support peoples’ decisions to purchase home they may be unable to finance. Senior analyst with Bankrate, Greg McBride, mentions that there is no incentive for retirees to pay off their mortgage. Paying off a low-rate, often tax deductible debt is not most people’s top priority (whereas credit card, for example, is).

The bottom line: if you have enough cash flow to support the mortgage payment, it’s perfectly fine to hold a mortgage after you stop working. But if you don’t have the necessary income to support the mortgage during retirement, it’s probably a good idea to sell your home. If you’re in this position, please consider letting me be your real estate agent. I’m very experienced with senior homeowners, and would be glad to help you sell your home.