Real Estate Blog
Tuesday, December 11 2012
Regular home maintenance is key to preserving the value of your house and property.
“It’s the little things that tend to trip up people,” says Frank Lesh, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and owner of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Chicago. “Some cracked caulk around the windows, or maybe a furnace filter that hasn’t been changed in awhile. It may not seem like much, but behind that caulk, water could get into your sheathing, causing mold and rot. Before you know it, you’re looking at a $5,000 repair that could have been prevented by a $4 tube of caulk and a half hour of your time.”
Maintenance affects property value
Outright damage to your house is just one of the consequences of neglected maintenance. Without regular upkeep, overall property values are affected.
“If a house is in worn condition and shows a lack of preventative maintenance, the property could easily lose 10% of its appraised value,” says Mack Strickland, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, Va. “That could translate into a $15,000 or $20,000 adjustment.”
In addition, a house with chipped, fading paint, sagging gutters, and worn carpeting faces an uphill battle when it comes time to sell. Not only is it at a disadvantage in comparison with other similar homes that might be for sale in the neighborhood, but a shaggy appearance is bound to turn off prospective buyers and depress the selling price.
“It’s simple marketing principles,” says Strickland. “First impressions mean a lot to price support.”
Prolonging economic age
To a professional appraiser, diligent maintenance doesn’t translate into higher property valuations the way that improvements, upgrades, and appreciation all increase a home’s worth. But good maintenance does affect an appraiser’s estimate of a property’s economic age—the number of years that a house is expected to survive.
Economic age is a key factor in helping appraisers determine depreciation—the rate at which a house is losing value. A well-maintained house with a long, healthy economic age depreciates at a much slower rate than a poorly maintained house, helping to preserve value.
Estimating the value of maintenance
Although professional appraisers don’t assign a positive value to home maintenance, there are indications that maintenance is not just about preventing little problems from becoming larger. A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that maintenance actually increases the value of a house by about 1% each year, meaning that getting off the couch and heading outside with a caulking gun is more than simply a chore—it actually makes money.
“It’s like going to the gym,” says Dr. John P. Harding, Professor of Finance & Real Estate at UConn’s School of Business and an author of the study. “You have to put in the effort to see the results. In that respect, people and houses are somewhat similar—the older (they are), the more work is needed.”
Harding notes that the 1% gain in valuation usually is offset by the ongoing cost of maintenance. “Simply put,” he says, “maintenance costs money, so it’s probably best to say that the net effect of regular maintenance is to slow the rate of depreciation.”
How much does maintenance cost?
How much money is required for annual maintenance varies. Some years, routine tasks, such as cleaning gutters and changing furnace filters, are all that’s needed, and your total expenditures may be a few hundred dollars. Other years may include major replacements, such as a new roof, at a cost of $10,000 or more.
Over time, annual maintenance costs average more than $3,300, according to data from the U.S. Census. Various lending institutions, such as Directors Credit Union and LendingTree.com, agree, placing maintenance costs at 1% to 3% of initial house price. That means owners of a $200,000 house should plan to budget $2,000 to $6,000 per year for ongoing upkeep and replacements.
Proactive maintenance strategies
Knowing these average costs can help homeowners be prepared, says Melanie McLane, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Williamsport, Pa. “It’s called reserve for replacements,” says McLane. “Commercial real estate investors use it to make sure they have enough cash on hand for replacing systems and materials.”
McLane suggests a similar strategy for homeowners, setting aside a cash reserve that’s used strictly for home repair and maintenance. That way, routine upkeep is a snap and any significant replacements won’t blindside the family budget. McLane’s other strategies include:
Play offense, not defense. Proactive maintenance is key to preventing small problems from becoming big issues. Take the initiative with regular inspections. Create and faithfully follow a maintenance schedule. If you’re unsure of what needs to be done, a $200 to $300 visit from a professional inspector can be invaluable in pointing out quick fixes and potential problems.
Plan a room-per-year redo. “Pick a different room every year and go through it, fixing and improving as you go,” says McLane. “That helps keep maintenance fun and interesting.”
Keep track. “Having a notebook of all your maintenance and upgrades, along with receipts, is a powerful tool when it comes to sell your home,” advises McLane. “It gets rid of any doubts for the buyer, and it says you are a meticulous, caring homeowner.” A maintenance record also proves repairs and replacements for systems, such as wiring and plumbing, which might not be readily apparent.
Thursday, September 20 2012
Most grout stains are surface stains. Try sandpaper or a Magic Eraser-type sponge to remove them. (Even a pencil eraser works well.)
If you still have stains, try a grout cleaner or a mix of bleach and water. Make sure you're in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves to protect your skin.
Vinegar is a great cleaning agent for baths. Using a spray bottle, spray vinegar all over the tub. Leave for 15 minutes, then wipe down the tub and rinse.
For stubborn stains, try a mix of lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar. Work the paste over the stains with a sponge and rinse.
Mix 1 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup Borax. Sprinkle in the sink and scrub with a sponge. The mixture is a natural and mild abrasive that will lift any stains.
To clean and rejuvenate wood cabinets, try a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Use a sponge to remove grease and buildup. (Avoid using steel wool or scrub brushes since they can damage the cabinets' finish.) A paste of water and baking soda can be applied to remove any stubborn stains.
To restore shine, try a mix of 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 cup vinegar. Using a spray bottle, spray your cabinets with the solution and buff with a soft cloth.
Wednesday, September 21 2011
If you live in the Midwest, here are maintenance jobs you should complete every fall and winter to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in peak condition.
Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. What maintenance tasks are most important for the Midwest in fall and winter? Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should complete. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do list to the right of this article.
Keep your Midwestern home free from damage by preparing for the constant cycle of freezing and thawing that occurs throughout fall and winter. “In fall, it’s important to do seemingly minor things that can have disastrous consequences if not done early,” says Frank Lesh, president of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Indian Head Park, Ill.
Key maintenance tasks to perform
• Disconnect hoses from outside faucets. This keeps water inside the hose from freezing and splitting the casing, and it also allows the pipes inside the wall to drain completely so that water doesn’t freeze and crack them. Most outside spigots now are self-draining, but if you have an older home, you may have to manually turn off the valve inside the house to shut off the water so that it drains completely (this valve is usually in the basement or crawl space near where the pipe goes to the outside).
It’s important to remember this task, because you may not notice that these pipes have burst until you turn the faucet on in spring and water leaks into your exterior wall. If you’re lucky, Lesh says, you’ll have a major leak that will be noticeable right away; it’s actually worse to have a slower leak that allows water to drip slowly into the wall, where mold and rot can do extensive damage without your even seeing it.
• Seal coat blacktop driveways. The heat of summer may cause asphalt to expand and crack. If these cracks aren’t repaired, water gets into them and freezes, widening the cracks. Eventually, big chunks of asphalt will break off and repair will become more difficult and expensive, so applying sealant (generally every two to three years) is an important preventive step.
On a warm, dry day in early fall when you don’t expect rain for at least 24 hours, you should clear the driveway of debris, clean up any oil stains with detergent and a scrub brush (be sure to rinse the entire driveway well with a hose), and apply asphalt crack filler to individual cracks larger than 1/4 inch wide. Allow the filler to dry for at least an hour and then spread a coat of sealant over the entire driveway. Don’t use the driveway for at least 24 hours. Expect to pay $100 for the driveway detergent, crack filler, long-handled roller, and sealer needed to do the job.
If you have a concrete driveway, you don’t need to maintain it—unless it’s less than a year old. It’s very important that during the first year of curing, no salt come into contact with the surface; don’t salt your driveway and clear any roadway salt that gets thrown onto it.
• Clean your gutters. In the Midwest, this task is especially crucial because of freezing and thawing. “After a snowfall it’s typical for the sun to come out just long enough to melt the snow on your roof, which then drips into the gutters,” Lesh says. “But the water freezes before it’s all drained.” If your gutters are clogged with debris, standing water freezes and forces its way up under the roof shingles or into the eaves, which introduces moisture that can eventually rot the roof decking. Trapped ice and frozen debris can also bend your gutters so that they don’t drain well, or even pull them away from the house.
• Schedule your annual furnace checkup. Your technician should be able to tell you exactly what he’s going to check to keep your furnace maintained. Lesh recommends asking open-ended questions (“What specifically will you be cleaning?”) and making sure the contractor is checking fuel connections, burner combustion, and the heat exchanger. In the meantime, you should be checking your furnace filters monthly and changing them whenever they’re dirty. Inspect floor grates and return ducts regularly and clean them out with a vacuum cleaner brush. You may want to enroll in a yearly maintenance agreement with an HVAC professional that includes a fall furnace service and a spring air conditioning service. Otherwise, expect to pay $50 to $100 for a furnace tune-up.
You don’t need to prepare your outside air conditioning unit for cold weather because it’s designed to withstand snow and cold. In fact, if you cover your unit with plastic to protect it, you provide a place for mice to overwinter and gnaw through the unit’s wiring. If your unit sits in a spot that’s vulnerable to falling ice or heavy tree limbs, place a sheet of plywood over the top and cover with a loose drop cloth for protection; just don’t enclose the space completely.
• Make sure deck and porch boards are secure. Loose or warped boards are hazardous. Prop up low spots with wooden shims and fasten loose boards with galvanized deck screws
• Insulate your whole-house fan. If you use a whole-house fan to help cool your house, be sure to cover it when not in use with an insulated box or other cover. “If you don’t, heated air—which you’ve paid for—will enter the attic,” Lesh says. Introducing warm, moist air into the attic will then cause frost to form on the cold surface of the roof decking, which melts and drips onto the attic floor—your ceiling, in other words. Mold and staining can result.
You can make a simple fan cover from a batt of insulation; make sure it fits snugly over the opening with no gaps. For about $30, you can buy duct tape and a piece of 2-inch-thick polystyrene foam and make a foam box to fit over the top; 2-inch foam has an insulating value of about R-10.
Attic fans, designed to remove super-hot air from attics, are usually installed in the roof or gable ends of an attic space. Unlike whole-house fans, attic fans don’t require insulation, but fall is a good time to investigate whether animals have tried to force their way in through the screen covering the vent. Replace the screen if necessary.
• Scrape, prime, and paint. Lesh recommends painting wood surfaces early in the fall before the weather gets too cold and before winter’s moisture has a chance to do any damage. Scrape peeling paint even if you can’t get to the painting this season—water actually sheds better off bare wood than wood with peeling paint attached, which traps moisture.
• Prune back trees. After leaves drop, prune any nearby trees or bushes, especially if snowfall will cause them to bend and rub against the house. This can shorten the lifespan of your roof and siding.
Performing these important fall maintenance tasks can prevent costly repairs and alert you to developing problems.
Karin Beuerlein has covered home improvement and green living topics extensively for HGTV.com, FineLiving.com, and FrontDoor.com. In more than a decade of freelancing, she’s also written for dozens of national and regional publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, The History Channel Magazine, Eating Well, and Chicago Tribune. She and her husband started married life by remodeling the house they were living in. They still have both the marriage and the house, no small feat.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/fall-winter-seasonal-maintenance-guide-midwest/#ixzz1YXSNjNPY
Wednesday, August 03 2011
In a recent post we addressed the issue of controlling moisture inside the home. But how do you protect your home from heavy rains and snow? Realtor® Tom Slupske of Maple Grove, Minnesota gives five ways to control moisture outside the home before it can get in and cause damage:
These days, homes are at a greater risk of water damage than ever before. Heavier precipitation and less predictable weather patterns increase the chance of unwanted water entering our homes.
Water damage is serious business. It is a drain – financially, emotionally, even physically. Just one inch is all it takes to destroy sentimental or irreplaceable items, or to create structural damage that can depreciate the value of your home. The bacteria and mold it can leave in its wake can affect air quality in your home and create potential health risks. The best way to deal with water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Here are some easy things you can do outside your home to help keep you safe and dry.
Disconnect downspouts from the municipal sewer system.Extend downspouts at least 6 feet away from your basement walls and drain away from your house towards the street or backyard.
Install a rain barrel to minimize the amount of surface water that could enter your home.
Grade the earth or hard surfaces around your home to slope away from your foundation.
Before temperatures drop to freezing, turn off the water supply to outdoor taps and faucets, then open the taps to drain the water completely. Leave taps in the open position until spring.
Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and other debris – clean them out at least once a year – late fall is a good time.
With a little know-how and some routine maintenance, you can stay ahead of the wave and keep unwanted water out.
Read more: Controlling Moisture Outside The Home | REALTOR.com® Blogs
Thursday, May 12 2011
For the most part, the real estate markets around the country have flattened out, and homeowners are breathing a tentative sigh of relief. So, where do homeowners go from here? It will be a while before we start to see home values appreciate on their own, because demand will need to drastically increase before that happens. So, if you want to increase the value of your home, you’ll need to do it the old-fashioned way. Here are seven ways to improve your home’s value:
1. Remodel the Kitchen. Take into account the value of your home. If you have a $750,000 house, you should probably put $50,000 into a kitchen remodel. If you have a $250,000 house, you can get away with $5,000 to $10,000 in remodeling. Instead of replacing cabinets, try refinishing or re-facing them. New tile flooring, upgraded countertops, and a new sink are great things to update that don’t cost a ton of money.
2. Remodel the Bathrooms. This doesn’t need to be a lot. A new vanity, new flooring, a fresh coat of paint, and new fixtures can be done for less than $5,000.
3. Put up a Privacy Fence. You’ll get 100% return on your money by putting up a privacy fence, and when you go to sell the house, your house will appeal to people with children and pets.
4. Replace the Windows. This is a great upgrade that many savvy buyers will look for when they are shopping for a house. New windows helps improve energy efficiency to the home.
5. Finish Your Basement. We don’t have basements in Florida, because 10 feet below us is water. But many of you do have basements that are not being used or collecting junk. You can drastically improve your finished living space by putting up drywall, paint, and some carpet or laminate flooring.
6. Replace the Roof. You drastically improve the re-sale value of your home if you roof is new. Not only can you sell it for more money, but your house will stand out above other houses when trying to sell it. If a buyer is torn between your house and another house, a new roof can seal the deal, because many buyers don’t want to deal with buying a new roof when they first move in.
7. Add a Deck. EVERYONE loves wood decks. They never go out of style and they are great for entertaining. Decks are always a great selling feature. My advice would be to have your deck professionally installed, unless you are great with carpentry. No one wants an uneven deck.
There are many improvements you can make to your home, but only few of them will actually increase the value to your home. Also, make sure that you factor in where you live. You don’t want to put $100,000 into a house in a neighborhood full of $150,000 houses. Find the most expensive and the cheapeast homes in your neighborhood, then make improvements to put your value somewhere in between the median home prices and the most expensive prices.
By: Heather Levin
Friday, April 01 2011
The do-it-yourself home improvement market has faced a 21 percent drop from 2005-2010, according to the latest research from market researcher Mintel. Yet, that’s not due to lack of will on home owner's part, but more about lack of money, according to the survey.
More than a quarter of DIYers surveyed said they would undertake a major home renovation or addition to their home if they had the funds.
Nearly 40 percent of DIYers say that making a major home improvement is the best long-term investment they can make.
However, with the sagging housing market, many home owners have opted to put off major renovation projects, but forecasters are already seeing signs that is changing.
“We forecast growth to accelerate in 2011 and, presuming a stabilization of the housing market, to remain positive through 2015,” says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. “Pent-up demand, ongoing need for repair and maintenance, retro-fitting, and renovations from boomers approaching retirement and demand from millennials should all propel DIY spending.”
Friday, March 04 2011
Pests are not just unwanted houseguests--they're also a threat to your home investment. In many cases, pests bring down a home's price more than high crime rates or low quality schools. In this sense, they pose a greater risk than fire and flood. Termite damage costs U.S. homeowners more than $5 billion annually.
The 's ChallengeExterminator
The best time to call an exterminator is right away, before the symptoms of an infestation appear. Early detection of termites or other pests can help you protect your investment and avoid thousands of dollars in treatment and structural repair costs. Termites and carpenter ants work from the inside out, gradually consuming the wood until the structure fails altogether. Unlike rats or raccoons, these destructive pests are "silent invaders"--they may hide undetected for years, leaving no marks on the wood's exterior surface.
Exterminators Detect the Early Signs of Termites
Professional exterminators possess a trained eye to spot the early signs of a termite or carpenter ant infestation. Telltale evidence of termites or ant colonies includes:
- Mudholes or "mud tubes" along the exterior walls of your home. About the size of a pencil, these are tunnels that provide termites a direct thoroughfare from the soil outside into your home's wall.
- Piles of sawdust along windowsills or on the ground next to walls.
- Cracks, small holes, or paint bubbles on the wall's surface.
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped with a hammer.
- Swarms of winged insects in and around the home.
These signs indicate that an infestation is underway. An expert can assess the extent of the problem and recommend solutions. Exterminators are trained in pest identification and control. They understand how pests such as termites behave, and how best to clear the premises of these destructive visitors.
A standing relationship with a pest exterminator can help you protect your property from pest invasion. "Every successful pest control program begins with a partnership between the homeowners and the professionals," explains Ron Harrison, Ph.D., technical director for a leading pest control company. Routine inspections (at least once a year) by an experienced exterminator can catch the worst offenders--termites and carpenter ants--before they eat into your walls and your property value.
Thursday, March 03 2011
You have installed vinyl or aluminum siding on your house, and you look forward to a long vacation from the cares of maintaining wood siding. You are done scraping and repainting every four or five years, and you are delighted. Sadly, no house siding product for your home can be 100% maintenance free. With a little bit of care though, your house siding will retain its good looks for years to come. Cleaning Your Vinyl Siding or Aluminum Siding
Over time dirt, grime, and even mildew can build up your house siding. You can clean off these deposits using a pressure washer, which can be rented from most hardware stores. The key is to use a lower-pressure nozzle to avoid damaging the siding. A cleaning solution made with diluted liquid detergent works well on especially dirty siding, but if your siding is only lightly soiled, water alone should do the trick. You should always spray the siding using a downward angle to avoid shooting water up between the spaces in the siding. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, you can find a pressure washing professional to do the job for you.
Aluminum and Vinyl Siding Repairs
At some point, your house siding might require some repairs. Aluminum siding can get dented when objects such as stray basketballs hit it. Vinyl siding is susceptible to cracking in the winter because the cold temperatures make it more brittle. Also, vinyl siding can melt if you lean something very hot against it, such as a barbecue grill lid. If a panel of your house siding is damaged, it easily can be removed and replaced with a new piece that has been cut to size and locked into place. In general, it is much easier to repair vinyl and aluminum siding than wood siding.
Though you will not escape maintenance duties entirely with vinyl or aluminum siding, they offer a worry-free and attractive exterior finish for your home.
Thursday, February 17 2011
TRIMMING COSTS STARTS AT HOME
Many Americans have resolved to cut costs in 2011. One of the best places to start is in your home. There are several low-cost ways to create significant savings on your utility bills throughout the lifetime of your home.
Check for leaks.
Cold air seeping in through your doors and windows and weak spots in your insulation can have a huge impact on your energy costs. Test for these issues by taking infrared images, conducting a blower door test, or simply locating cool air by touch. You can save 10 percent on your energy bill by plugging air leaks with caulking, sealing or weather stripping.
Upgrade your attic insulation.
This simple, inexpensive solution can reduce your home's heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. The recommended insulation level is 12-15 inches, depending on the insulation type.
Take a close look at your windows.
Windows can also account for 10-25 percent of your heating bill in the winter and can kick your air conditioner into overdrive in the summer by letting sunlight in. Consider installing energy-efficient windows to help block solar heat. If that’s not in your budget, simply modifying your window treatments with thicker or longer curtains can also help lower bills too.
Upgrade your appliances.
Swapping out all appliances isn’t realistic for most homeowners, but if you’re in the market for a new washer, dryer or fridge, consider an Energy Star product.
Check your filters.
Dirty filters slow down airflow, making your system work harder to keep your home warm or cool. Clean filters also prevent dust and dirt buildup – an issue that can lead to expensive repairs or system replacement. Filters should be replaced every three months.
Swap old light bulbs for new, energy-efficient ones.
Energy-efficient light bulbs require much less power to provide the same amount of light for a much longer time.
Make small adjustments
to your routine.
-Turn off lights and electronics when
they’re not in use.
-Do laundry and wash dishes in the
evenings instead of midday, when
usage is typically greatest.
-Wash clothes and dishes in hot water,
but rinse them in warm rather than
hot to save heating costs.
-Don't run the dishwasher until it's full
or consider washing dishes by
-Don’t use too many appliances at
the same time.
Picking up on small changes can make a huge impact on electric and energy usage. For more on what you can do to save on home costs, follow Energy Star’s Maintenance Checklist.
When searching for a home service agreement, check to see if plumbing stoppages are included. Sometimes they are not covered at all and other times you may have to pay extra. With a HomeTrust home service agreement, plumbing stoppages are covered under the standard coverage.
Tuesday, February 15 2011
February is a great time to accomplish simple tasks that will add to the value and appearance of your home. We hope that you are enjoying the unique experience of being a homeowner! We have done a little research and have compiled a list of quick, easy projects that you might enjoy!
If you need additional tips or advice, please feel free to call us anytime at 812-499-9234 for Rolando and 812-499-0246 for Kathy. We would be happy to hear from you and would love to offer any guidance that we can!
FIVE QUICK AND EASY HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS
A few changes to the landscaping of your home can make a world of difference! You might want to consider planting some fruit trees in the backyard, adding a touch of color with some bright and unusual flowers or perhaps finally starting the vegetable garden you've always dreamed about.
Add a touch of color:
Feeling creative? Why not give the family room, bedroom or bathroom a whole new look? By focusing on the improvement of one room at a time, you'll find that what can seem like an overwhelming job becomes fun and simple. Repainting a single room can be inexpensively completed over a single weekend.
Bright and beautiful:
Replacing the light fixtures in your house with personally selected pieces can drastically increase your home's beauty and value. Choose a cohesive look for the entire house, or decorate room by room! The installation of new fixtures is generally a quick do-it-yourself task.
Tile it up:
While it might seem like a daunting task, installing new tile in a kitchen or bathroom can be easily accomplished with a little know-how and the right supplies. Your local home improvement warehouse will have everything you need to revamp and personalize the flooring of your choice!
The beauty beneath:
Always dreamed of having beautiful hardwood floors? Choose a room, pull up the carpet, and you'll be on your way to accomplishing just that! Repairing, refinishing and staining the floor is a simple step-by-step process that you can achieve without the heavy expense of installing new wood panels.
While it might seem like a daunting task, installing new tile in a kitchen or bathroom can be easily accomplished with a little know-how and the right supplies. Your local home improvement warehouse will have everything you need to revamp and personalize the flooring of your choice!Replacing the light fixtures in your house with personally selected pieces can drastically increase your home's beauty and value. Choose a cohesive look for the entire house, or decorate room by room! The installation of new fixtures is generally a quick do-it-yourself task. Feeling creative? Why not give the family room, bedroom or bathroom a whole new look? By focusing on the improvement of one room at a time, you'll find that what can seem like an overwhelming job becomes fun and simple. Repainting a single room can be inexpensively completed over a single weekend.
A few changes to the landscaping of your home can make a world of difference! You might want to consider planting some fruit trees in the backyard, adding a touch of color with some bright and unusual flowers or perhaps finally starting the vegetable garden you've always dreamed about.
Thursday, January 06 2011
FIVE TIPS FOR DO-IT-YOURSELF WORK AROUND THE HOME
· Make a list: Spend some time taking stock of the kinds of maintenance and improvement projects you'd like to begin. A well-considered list will help you to set reachable goals.
· Assess your skills: Make sure that you carefully consider which projects you are fully capable of completing. For example, unless you have sufficient experience with electrical, plumbing or construction work, you should probably leave those tasks to the professionals.
· Establish priorities: Which projects are most important to you? Which projects will be the most costly? Which is more important: timeliness, quality or cost? Before beginning any do-it-yourself project, it is always wise to determine specific goals and priorities so that you are fully prepared when it comes time to begin.
· Create a budget: For each project that you want to complete, make certain that you have a firm budget in place. Allowing for unexpected circumstances (such as errors or the need for additional materials) in your budget will keep you from overspending.
· One step at a time: When it's time to begin, remember to pace yourself! Rome wasn't built in a day, and your new garden terrace will take time as well. Complete one task at a time, and soon you'll feel the wonderful sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that doing-it-yourself can bring!
Wednesday, December 22 2010
As part of the 2010-11Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.
“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but also are among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for home owners to work with a REALTOR® through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.”
Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1 percent of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9 percent of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.
“Curb appeal remains king – it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.
The 2010-11Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.
REALTORS® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS® estimated that home owners would recoup an average of 60 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8 percent last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.
According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70 percent of costs. Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS® the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80 percent of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6 percent upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8 percent of costs.
The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2 percent nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70 percent. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8 percent; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5 percent; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6 percent of costs.
Although most regions followed the national trends, the regions that consistently were estimated to return a higher percentage of remodeling costs upon resale were the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington; the West South Central region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas; the East South Central region of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the South Atlantic region of the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The regions where REALTORS® generally reported the lowest percentage of costs recouped were New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin), West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), and Middle Atlantic (New York and Pennsylvania).
“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR® who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”
Results of the report are summarized in the January issue of REALTOR® Magazine. To read the full project descriptions, access national and regional project data, and download a free PDF containing data for any of the 80 cities covered by the report, visit www.costvsvalue.com. “Cost vs. Value” is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood, LLC.
Hanley Wood, LLC, is the premier media company serving housing and construction. Through four operating divisions, the company produces award-winning magazines and websites, marquee trade shows and events, rich data, and custom marketing solutions. The company also is North America’s leading provider of home plans. Founded in 1976, Hanley Wood is a $240 million company owned by JPMorgan Partners, LLC, a private equity affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
REALTOR® Magazine is published by the National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate” and America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
Thursday, May 20 2010
If you live in the Midwest, here are maintenance jobs you should complete in spring and summer to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.
Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. What maintenance tasks are most important for the Midwest in spring and summer? Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should complete. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do lists at the end of this article.
When spring arrives in the Midwest, it’s time to clean up your home and yard from the ravages of winter. As the weather warms, you can also accomplish some routine maintenance tasks that are much more agreeable when the sun is shining.
Key maintenance tasks to perform
• Check your gutters and downspouts. “Stuff accumulates even after your fall gutter cleaning,” says Frank Lesh, president of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Indian Head Park, Ill. “Pine needles especially, which fall all year long and are difficult to remove.” Children’s toys, he says, also find their way into gutters between cleanings, as well as nails and other debris from the roof. Look for any signs of wind or ice damage—has the gutter pulled away from the house, or bent so that there are depressions where water can stand? You can usually repair damage yourself for under $50 by adjusting or reattaching brackets and gently hammering out bent areas.
Lesh also recommends examining your downspouts for blockages. “You can’t see inside them,” he says, “so tap them with a screwdriver handle to see if they sound hollow.” If the ends run underground, where animals can build nests or winter debris can become trapped, your best bet is to put a garden hose in the gutter and see where the water discharges. If you have a blockage, you’ll have to disassemble or dig up part of the downspout until you locate it.
• Inspect your roof for winter damage. This is best done from a ladder, but if you’re allergic to ladders, use a pair of binoculars to check your roof from your yard. Look for loose and missing shingles. If anything looks unusual, investigate further yourself or call a roofing contractor.
• Take a close look at your chimney. “Do this even if the winter was mild,” Lesh says. “High winds, rain, and snow can damage a chimney. Look for cracks, missing mortar, loose bricks or boards, and signs of rot.” If any of those things are present, call a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America for a repair estimate. If the metal flashing and the cap on a chimney are galvanized, Lesh says, check to see if they look brownish, which means they’re rusting and should be replaced. Also, make sure the cap is still present but hasn’t collapsed and covered the flue opening, which could cause a dangerous carbon monoxide buildup inside the house. Expect chimney repairs to start around $200.
• Examine your drainage. Make sure soil slopes away from your foundation at least 6 vertical inches in the first 10 feet on all sides of the house and that there are no areas of standing water. If you have properly sloped foundation drainage but still have areas of standing water, consider a landscaping solution, such as a swales (contoured drainage depressions), berms (raised banks of earth), terraces, or French drains (a shallow, gravel-filled trench that diverts water away from the house).
• Take a look at your siding. Has any of it come loose or begun to rot? Repair any damaged sections before moisture has a chance to set in. No matter what your siding is made of (wood, vinyl, brick), it may need a spring cleaning. The best DIY method for any kind of siding is a bucket of soapy water and a long-handled brush. A power washer is not recommended and should only be handled by a professional cleaning contractor. If you choose to have your siding professionally cleaned, expect to pay $300–$500 depending on the size of your home.
• Schedule your biannual HVAC appointment. Get ready for the air conditioning season with your spring tune-up. If your system wasn’t running well last season, be sure to tell your contractor, and make sure he performs actual repairs if necessary rather than simply adding refrigerant. “He shouldn’t just charge it up,” Lesh says. “That will work for a while, but it won’t last. Freon lasts forever—if your system is low, there’s a leak somewhere, and he should tell you specifically what he’s going to check to fix it.” Expect to pay $50–$100.
Your contractor’s maintenance checklist should include checking thermostats and controls, checking the refrigerant level, tightening connections, lubricating any moving parts, checking the condensate drain, and cleaning the coils and blower. Duct cleaning, while it probably won’t hurt anything, is not necessary; be wary of contractors who want to coat the inside of the ducts with antimicrobial agents, as research has not proven the effectiveness of this method and any chemicals used in your ducts will likely become airborne.
On your own, make sure your filters are changed and vacuum out all your floor registers.
• Check your GFCIs. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you do this once a month, and it’s a good idea to incorporate it into your spring maintenance routine. GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) are electrical outlets that protect you from deadly electrical shocks by shutting off the power anytime even a minimal disturbance in current is detected. They feature two buttons (“test” and “reset”), and should be present anywhere water and electricity can mix: kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and the exterior of the house.
To test your GFCIs, plug a small appliance (a nightlight, for example) into each GFCI. Press the test button, which should click and shut off the nightlight. The reset button should also pop out when you press the test button; when you press reset, the nightlight should come back on.
If the nightlight doesn’t go off when you press the test button, either the GFCI has failed and should be replaced, or the wiring is faulty should be inspected. If the reset button doesn’t pop out, or if pressing it doesn’t restore power to the nightlight, the GFCI has failed and should be replaced. These distinctions can help you tell an electrician what the problem is—neither job is one you should attempt yourself if you don’t have ample experience with electrical repair.
Spending a weekend or two on maintenance can prevent expensive repairs and alert you to developing problems before they become serious. Be sure to check out the comprehensive seasonal to-do list following this article, and visit the links below for more detailed information on completing tasks or repairs yourself.
Thursday, April 08 2010
Fix fences, tighten your home’s energy efficiency, repair a screen door and make 8 cheap, fun improvements to give your home’s entrance some spring sparkle.
Finally, it’s spring. To celebrate, do a few improvements indoors – tweaking your home’s energy efficiency and getting doors to operate smoothly – and then get outdoors to do some work that shows off your home’s exterior. Install a new screen door or repair an old one. Maintain fireplaces and gas appliances while avoiding the scammers who pop out of the woodwork like bugs this season. Repair fences. Remove stubborn stains from concrete garage floors, patios and sidewalks. And try one or all of our eight cheap and fun ways to give your home’s entrance some exciting spring sparkle.
Read entire story here: http://tinyurl.com/yhg66ho