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.
Wednesday, February 16 2011
This month I would like to discuss home inspections. These are an important part of virtually every real estate transaction. Unfortunately many buyers and sellers do not consider inspections before purchasing or selling a home. I always recommend home inspections for buyers. This is an opportunity for the buyer to hire a 3rd party professional to evaluate both structural and mechanical systems in a home before the transaction closes. When significant, unknown problems are discovered this gives the buyer an opportunity to ask the seller to make an allowance or repair defects in the home prior to closing. The inspection is not intended to sour a transaction because of minor, inexpensive defects. Too often I see buyers asking for a laundry list of minor repairs especially when considering an older home. Keep in mind that inspectors will, and should, point out items for the buyer's benefit that are not necessarily major defects but simply minor repair or maintenance items.
I try to remind sellers that most buyers will ask for an inspection. In many cases the inspection will uncover some legitimate defect(s). In these cases, it is often in the seller's best interest to make the repair because any known defects must legally be disclosed by both the seller and the Realtor. The next buyer will likely ask for the same repair.
As I hinted last month we have just relaunched FCTuckerEmge.com as well as an upgraded TuckerMobile.com for your web-enabled phone. The new sites are designed to make the customer experience as quick, easy and efficient as possible. TuckerMobile is the only local GPS enabled site and also allows the customer to search easily. Please try both I know you will be happy with the experience.
I will be back next month with more helpful information and we will be one month closer to warm weather. Feel free to call or email me at 812-499-9234 or Rolando@TheTrentiniTeam.com if you have any questions regarding real estate or home inspections.
Thursday, January 20 2011
GET WINTER-WISE: Prepare Your Home for Cold Weather
December 22 is the first day of winter 2010/2011. In many parts of the country, cooler weather has already begun to set in. So before you curl up with a good book or head outdoors to enjoy the snow, take time to make sure your home is ready for cold weather so it can enjoy the winter as well.
Inspect your heating system.
Breathe easier this winter. Have an HVAC professional inspect your furnace and clean air ducts to remove dust. Then, make sure you have a good supply of furnace filters on hand and make a note to change them every month. Something as simple as changing a furnace filter can reduce heating costs by up to 5%. If you have hot-water radiators, bleed the valves.
Replace old thermostats.
Nearly 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for heating and cooling. Think about replacing your thermostat with a programmable one, allowing you to keep your home a little cooler at night.
Ready your chimney and fireplace.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace that hasn't been cleaned recently, hire a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote. Chimneys should be capped or screened to keep birds or rodents from nesting there. Check your fireplace damper and make sure it still opens and closes properly. For brick chimneys, inspect the mortar and tuckpoint if needed.
Go outside. Weatherize the exterior, doors and windows.
Inspect the outside of your home. Look for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes and seal them. Weatherstrip around doors and gaps along the foundation helps to keep cold air out. Caulk around windows for the same reason. Switch out screens and storm windows in the fall, before it gets cold.
Do you need more attic insulation?
Although insulating or upgrading insulation can be a big step, it is relatively easy to add insulation to most attics. A poorly insulated attic can be a major source of heat loss.
Up on the roof.
Inspect your roof, gutters and downspouts. Replace roof shingles that are worn and check the flashing to make sure your roof is watertight. Clean leaves and debris from gutters and if you don't have them already, think about installing leaf guards. Clear downspouts with a hose.
No more frozen pipes.
You can prevent your plumbing from freezing with a few easy steps:
• Drain and detach all garden hoses.
• Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
• Drain air conditioner pipes. If your air conditioning system has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
• Leave heat on while on vacation (at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit).
When the Lights go out
Prepare for power outages ahead of time:
• Buy indoor candles and matches or a lighter.
• Keep a flashlight and extra batteries on each floor of your home.
• Keep the phone numbers of utility companies near your phone or inside your phone book.
• Buy a battery-operated radio.
• Have extra bottled water and non-perishable foods on hand. Don't forget food for your pets.
• Protect computer and sensitive electronic equipment with a battery backup and/or surge protector(s).
• Keep blankets and a first-aid kid in a location that's easy to access and remember.
• Prepare an evacuation plan for emergencies.
Wednesday, May 12 2010
EASY WEEKEND DECORATING PROJECTS
Add wallpaper - With wallpaper’s recent comeback, a slew of beautiful choices are available to jazz up any room. Look for oversize patterns to create a sophisticated and dramatic look.
Tile your backsplash - Transform your kitchen with a new backsplash. This easy DIY project will add sophistication to your space. Consider small tiles on a mesh backing for the easiest installation.
Add or upgrade your molding - From grand crown molding to handsome baseboards, millwork can really elevate a room. If you want to add extra architectural interest, consider adding a chair rail or wainscot.
Make a new headboard - Two salvaged windows are a great alternative to an ordinary headboard. Find windows that measure approximately the width of your mattress. Remove the glass and install fiberboard or foam board to cover the backs. Cut fabric or wallpaper remnants to fit each section and adhere with spray adhesive.
SPRING YARD CARE
Spring temperatures draw us outdoors. If you’re like many homeowners, you can’t wait to head outside to assess lawn maintenance needs and plan what plants to add to the landscape.
Collect and Use Debris - Get out your lawn mower and mulch up leaves that have blown into your yard over the winter. They are nature’s fertilizer, so don’t send them to the landfill.
Plan to Fill In - Think about which areas will receive full sun and which will be partially or fully shaded. Remember that the best plants for your yard are usually natives that have adapted to the particular soil and climate in your area. The natural relationship to your environment makes them worth the extra effort it might take to find them.
Where to Shop for Native Plants – Large retail garden shops don’t always offer plants that are best for the local area. Familiar flowers fill their greenhouses, but these aren’t always the best for you because they may not thrive in local soils without many hours of feeding and watering.
Take a little extra time to learn from knowledgeable local vendors about the varieties of plants that will thrive in your yard. In the long run, you will save money and time as plants that spread by roots and seed will come back next year to reward your efforts.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR FINANCES
Begin by gathering up your docs. Pull out stray files, snatch the latest round of bills, and empty that overflowing kitchen or office drawer stuffed with papers you've been meaning to get to for ages. Sort everything into six piles:
• Monthly Bills, Bank Statements, and Pay Stubs
• Investment Statements (pension updates, 401(k) statements, brokerage and fund statements, and so forth)
• Tax Returns and Supporting Docs
• Policy Documents & Deeds (insurance docs, home deed)
• Warranties and User Manuals
• Forever Docs (things like marriage license, will, birth certificate)
Next, create a folder for each type of document and add new papers as they come in. Then create folders within the folders: Take ongoing bills, for example. Store all gas bills in one folder, electricity bills in another, cable bills in a third, and so on. If possible, keep all folders in a fireproof, water-resistant file cabinet or box; if not, a drawer or shelf will do.
It's an entirely different ball game for the forever docs. Because of their importance, they must be put in a portable fire- and water-resistant home safe or file container—something that you can grab at a moment's notice. Why not a bank deposit box? Because you don't have access 24/7. If, God forbid, you die or become incapacitated, your relatives may not be able to access it; besides, the maintenance fee is a waste of money compared with the onetime cost of buying a safe.
SHRIMP MOJO DE AJO
24 unpeeled, large raw shrimp
1/2 cup Mojo de Ajo
24 (6-inch) wooden skewers
Garnishes: lime wedges, fresh cilantro
sprigs, coarse sea salt
Peel shrimp, leaving tails on; devein, if desired. Combine shrimp and Mojo de Ajo, tossing to coat. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, soak wooden skewers in water 30 minutes.
Remove shrimp from Mojo de Ajo, discarding marinade. Thread 1 shrimp onto each skewer.
Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Garnish, if desired.
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 Home Buyers Warranty VI® home service agreement, plumbing stoppages are covered under the standard coverage.