What to Expect when you’re (Home) Inspecting

The first thing you need to know about home inspection: You’ll feel all the feels.

There’s the excitement — the inspection could be the longest time you’re in the house, after the showing.

Right behind that comes … anxiety. What if the inspector finds something wrong? So wrong you can’t buy the house?

Then there’s impatience. Seriously, is this whole home-buying process over yet?

Not yet. But you’re close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: It’s just too good for you, as a buyer, to skip. Here’s why.

A Home Inspector Is Your Protector
An inspector helps you make sure a house isn’t hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldn’t even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)

A home inspector identifies any reasonably discoverable problems with the house (a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc.). Hiring an inspector is you doing your due diligence. To find a good one (more on how to do that soon), it helps to have an understanding of what the typical home inspection entails.

An inspection is all about lists.

Before an inspection, the home inspector will review the seller’s property disclosure statement. (Each state has its own requirements for what sellers must disclose on these forms; some have stronger requirements than others.) The statement lists any flaws the seller is aware of that could negatively affect the home’s value.

The disclosure comes in the form of an outline, covering such things as:

– Mold
– Pest infestation
– Roof leaks
– Foundation damage
– Other problems, depending on what your state mandates.


During the inspection, an inspector has three tasks — to:

1. Identify problems with the house that he or she can see
2. Suggest fixes
3. Prepare a written report, usually with photos, noting observed defects

This report is critical to you and your agent — it’s what you’ll use to request repairs from the seller. (We’ll get into how you’ll do that in a minute, too.)

The Inspector Won’t Check Everything
Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They won’t be tearing down walls or using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.

Inspectors also won’t put themselves in danger. If a roof is too high or steep, for example, they won’t climb up to check for missing or damaged shingles. They’ll use binoculars to examine it instead.

They can’t predict the future, either. While an inspector can give you a rough idea of how many more years that roof will hold up, he or she can’t tell you exactly when it will need to be replaced.

Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesn’t routinely include a thorough evaluation of:

– Swimming pools
– Wells
– Septic systems
– Structural engineering work
– The ground beneath a home
– Fireplaces and chimneys
When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces, for instance, most inspectors will open and close dampers to make sure they’re working, check chimneys for obstructions like birds’ nests, and note if they believe there’s reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.

If you’re concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about $125 to $325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

It’s Your Job to Check the Inspector
Now you’re ready to connect with someone who’s a pro at doing all of the above. Here’s where — once again — your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.

In addition to getting recommendations (friends and relatives are handy for those, too), you can look for professional inspectors at their trade association websites. The American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) Find a Home Inspector tool lets you search by address, metro area, or neighborhood. You can also search for inspectors by state at InterNACHI.

You’ll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:

– Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each state’s requirements here.
– How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience — it indicates more homes inspected.
– How much do you charge? Home inspection costs range from $275 to $400, although pricing may vary regionally beyond this range. The costs depend on the size of your house as well as market conditions, demand, and supply.
– What do you check, exactly? Know what you’re getting for your money.
– What don’t you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
– How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted — normally five to seven days — so you’re on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
– May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.


How to Really Read Online Reviews
Take extreme reviews (“she was the best inspector ever”) with a grain of salt; compare a provider’s reviews on several sites; don’t let a few bad reviews cloud the positives; see if a contractor has addressed negative reviews.

Sometimes you can find online reviews of inspectors on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, too, if past clients’ feedback is helpful in making your decision.

Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)
It’s inspection day, and the honor of your — and your agent’s — presence is not required, but highly recommended. Even though you’ll receive a report summarizing the findings later on, being there gives you a chance to ask questions, and to learn the inner workings of the home.

Block out two to three hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she will look at things like siding, fencing, and drainage.

The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge.

Get Ready to Negotiate
Once you receive the inspector’s report, review it with your agent.

Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs. These can vary depending on location. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:

– Structural defects
– Building code violations
– Safety issues


Most home repairs, however, are negotiable. Be prepared to pick your battles: Minor issues, like a cracked switchplate or loose kitchen faucet, are easy and cheap to fix on your own. You don’t want to start nickel-and-diming the seller.

If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying “repair broken windows,” a request should say “replace broken window glass in master bathroom.”

– If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then it’s full steam ahead toward the sale.
– If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the seller’s counteroffer, or void the transaction.


At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work you’d be taking on. At this point in the sale, there’s a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you don’t feel comfortable, speak up.

The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent — they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.

That’s something to feel good about.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September Home Maintenance

Ah, September… The weather is changing, and we’re getting back to our normal, post-summer routines.

It’s also a great time to give the house a little extra love and maintenance.

Stain the Deck

Help your deck field what winter throws at it by re-staining it this month. September’s cooler temps and lower humidity make it the ideal time for this project.

Check Fire Extinguishers


According to the Red Cross, fires increase in the fall and winter. Keep your home fire safe by getting your fire extinguishers checked by a certified professional. Fire extinguishers do break down and malfunction. In fact, after six years they need to be emptied and reloaded. If you haven’t already, buy one for each floor — and the garage.

Spruce Up the Yard


Aerate your lawn, reseed or fertilize it if needed, and plant perennials and shrubs (often on sale now). Your lawn will green up faster after winter, and the shrubs and perennials will have a chance to establish roots before the first freeze.

Inspect Your Home’s Exterior


Spending money on roof repairs is no party, but neither is handing out buckets to the family to catch leaks in a winter storm. Inspect your roof — and other big-ticket items, like siding, grading, and gutters — before you’ve got problems. You’ll cut costs by fixing them now and stay dry and warm all winter long.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Prevent Home Buyer’s Remorse

When you’re house hunting, the pressure of competition can move you from “Hmm, I like that, but it’s too pricey,” to “I have to have that!” You think, so what if paying for this house will put me way over budget? I can cut back somewhere else, right? But that kind of thinking can get you into trouble. Trouble that’s totally avoidable.

Whether you’re in the middle of a home bidding war or facing down a list of must-haves, don’t lose sight of your budget and the risks. That way, you can own a house without home buyer’s remorse. And you’ll have money left to enjoy things like new furniture, entertainment, and just plain having fun.

Who Has Home Buyer’s Remorse and Why?

A competitive real estate market can set buyers up to purchase a home that’s either beyond their budgets —sometimes hugely beyond — or doesn’t meet their needs, according to a 2021 survey by Bankrate and YouGov. The survey found that recent home buyers, including 64% of millennials, had regrets about their home purchase. The top reason? They were unprepared for maintenance and other home ownership-related costs. On top of that, 13% percent of millennials said they think they paid a higher sales price than they should have.

“Things in homes always break down, so people should put aside a budget for anything that will need fixing,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®. “A rule of thumb is to anticipate 1% or 2% of the home price for potential maintenance,” he explains. “So, for a $300,000 home, that means setting aside $3,000.”

One reason home buyers may be tempted to go over budget is they’ve been influenced by the beautiful homes on TV, according to an NAR report on home staging. “The shows can create unrealistic expectations for the home buying process and how homes should look,” says Brandi Snowden, NAR director of member and consumer survey research. In time, buyers can view features that used to be luxuries as necessities. They believe everyone has them and they should too. One solution: Work with a REALTOR as early as possible in the process. “Make sure your agent knows your budget, so they can help you set expectations and stick to them,” she advises.

How to Navigate House Hunting in a Competitive Market
In addition to pressure to exceed their budgets, buyers are facing hurdles like these five:

1. Requests to Waive Contingencies
Tamara Suminski, a real estate agent at Beach Real Estate Group in Manhattan Beach, Calif., is seeing not only bidding wars but also sellers wanting buyers to waive contingencies. “With an appraisal contingency, if the appraisal comes in low, the buyer has choices. They can choose to try to renegotiate with the seller, bring in the difference, or cancel. When they remove that contingency and its protection, and if the home doesn’t appraise at the right level, the seller is not very likely to renegotiate with them. And the buyer has waived their right to cancel. If they cancel anyway, they’re risking their deposit.”

Some buyers are also waiving contingencies related to home inspections. These investigations are an opportunity to have a home inspector view the home based on disclosures and for the buyer to use findings as a bargaining tool, Suminski says.

Eliminating these protections can end up costing money for buyers. And the more offers the buyer writes and loses, the more risk they will tolerate. So, they may waive contingencies and regret it later, says Suminski. Talk to a buyer’s agent who will guide you through this and explain the risks of removing protections and unknown variables, she advises.

2. Speed Showings and Decisions
Bryan Yap recently bought a home in an expensive and highly competitive market — Orange County, Calif. He found that with the pandemic, each showing lasted only 15 minutes. That was one of the biggest hurdles. “We’d see three, four, or five homes in one day. It’s hard to keep track of what you like and don’t like with each house. What I would do differently is take notes immediately after viewing a home. If you’re able to prepare beforehand, create a list of wants and requirements in priority order. Immediately after seeing each home, rank it based on the list.”

3. Focusing on the Top of Your Price Range
“If you’re looking in a micromarket where listings are achieving multiple offers and homes are going above asking price, don’t set your on the houses at the top of your price range,” Suminski says. If $300,000 is your upper limit, look at houses priced at $250,000 or $275,000. Otherwise, you’re going to be outbid from the gate every time.”

That was the process Yap used when he was looking. “I would look for homes $25,000 under my max budget. I went on Zillow and looked at homes that were sold recently and tried to calculate the average over-listing price those homes were being sold for and factor that into my offer price.”

4. The Need to Compromise
Yap’s must-haves were three bedrooms, two baths, and being closer to the city center of Anaheim. “I was able to get three beds, two baths, but I did have to compromise on location. I also had to compromise on price, which was doable because I could still afford it. To compete with all the potential buyers, I knew that we had to either offer an over-list price or remove some contingencies.”

Suminski advises adjusting your search outward geographically, even if it means a longer commute. Buyers might also have to compromise on property types and features. In addition, they should consider doing some DIY projects instead of wanting everything to be move-in ready. “They may have to be willing to look at townhouses instead of single-family homes or install carpet and paint on weekends.”

5. Information Overload
In the two years before he started searching for a home, Yap did a lot of reading. “It was a massive plan I had to come up with and stick to so that I’d be able to afford buying a home.”

Because of how hot the Orange County market is, agents scheduled showings as soon as a house was listed or showed “coming soon” status. Yap treated the home search as “almost a second job,” using lunch breaks and evenings to check emails, do online searches, and text his real estate agent about what he wanted to see. “I had to make a lot of sacrifices. People wanted to set plans with me for the weekend, but I said, ‘Sorry, I have to go view homes that day.’”

He primarily credits his real estate agents, including Sumiski, for keeping him informed. “They made all this possible. I learned a lot from them.”

Some agents, like Suminski, hold an accredited buyer’s representative designation but usually work with sellers as well as buyers. “An [agent with an] ABR has taken extensive buyer’s representation training,” Suminski says. “They’ll provide education to buyers so that they’re learning as much as they can about the market, including the risks involved with different negotiations. If buyers are going to shorten terms or remove protections, they need to be well informed about the pitfalls.”

Learn from Experiences
That access to information and guidance will help buyers making an offer on a home especially in a competitive market. “Today’s buyer has seen and written offers on many properties before they get their offer accepted,” Suminski says. “That’s common across the country. Each is a learning opportunity for buyers about what information they might need to be researching so they can move more quickly.”

When you act on advice from recent buyers and agents, you can stay well informed and get good results even in a tough market. And that’s the best way to prevent home buyer’s remorse.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Know About Credit before Buying a Home

Like it or not, your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life, ranking up there with your Social Security number, date of birth, and wedding anniversary. This three-digit number is your financial report card, except there’s no getting rid of it after college.

Your credit score shows lenders just how trustworthy you are when it comes to managing your finances, and it can either save or cost you thousands of dollars throughout your life.

If you’re in the dark about just how significantly this number can impact you and the details behind your personal score, here’s an overview of what you need to know before hitting the mortgage application process.

How Your Score is Calculated

Your FICO credit score is comprised of five elements, according to the Fair, Isaac Corp.

  1. 35% of your score is attributed to how you pay your bills. Points are added for paying on time and deducted for late or missing payments. Note: This is a big portion of your score, so if you’re not paying bills on time, it’s best to get that under control pronto.
  2. 30% of your score is based on your credit utilization ratio. Translation: How much money do you owe as a portion of the amount of credit available to you? The lower this ratio, the better.
  3. 15% is based on the length of your credit history. When did you open your first account (and is it still open)?
  4. 10% of your score goes to the type of credit you have. Think revolving credit (such as credit cards) and installment credit (such as car loans and mortgages).
  5. The last 10% is impacted by new credit applications. How often and for what types of credit are you applying?

Where to Find Your Score and Report

To access your credit report, use a website such as annualcreditreport.com, which will give you one free report a year, or creditkarma.com, which will provide you with free access to your score upon signing up for an account.

Once you have copies of your report and score, immediately look for fraudulent or erroneous information. If you find anything, immediately contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that is portraying inaccurate information to determine next steps.

How Your Score Can Cost You

Your score can range from about 300 to 850. You’ll find a variety of breakdowns on what’s considered “good” compared to “excellent” versus “poor,” but in general you’ll want to aim for a score of 740 and higher, which is the “very good” range.

The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you appear to lenders (meaning they can rely on you to pay your debts and pay them on time), which translates into lower interest rates and more money saved when taking out a loan.

Not sure how this can play out financially? Consider this:

Meet Claire: She’s 35, pays her credit card off in full each month, has all her bills on auto-draft, and never misses a payment. She’s had a positive credit history for 10 years and wants to buy a home. Claire was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3.75%.

Meet Steve: He’s 32, obtained his first credit card at age 18, ran up some debt in college that he’s still working on paying down, and has no system for keeping track of bills. He has consistent late and bounced check fees. Steve wants to buy a home and was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5.5%.

What’s all the fuss about if they were both approved? Over the life of her loan, Claire will pay $133,443.23 in interest. Over the life of his loan, Steve will pay $208,808.08 in interest. A small interest rate difference of 1.75% translates into $75,364.85 more paid by Steve! $75,000 is a pretty significant sum of money that could be used toward other goals.

Having a solid credit score is one of the most financially savvy tools for you to have on hand when it comes to buying a home. When managed wisely, your credit score will bring you confidence, peace of mind, and more money saved via low interest rates.

When mismanaged or not cared for at all, your credit score can delay your success in meeting financial goals and result in additional funds and resources spent correcting past mistakes.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Kitchen Materials Savvy Remodelers Never Use

About to remodel that old kitchen? Unless you’re cool with treating the hardest working room in your house like a museum exhibit, resist the temptation to buy the cheapest or shiniest materials available and go for durable options that can stand up to regular abuse.

Trust us: Although it may be tough to leave that raised, tempered glass bar top (ooh!) in the showroom, repairing its first (and second, and third) chip will get old. Very fast.

Picking the right materials is easy if you do your homework. “There are amazing products out there,” says Jeffrey Holloway, a certified kitchen designer and owner of Holloway Home Improvement Center in Marmora, N.J.

“You’re looking at price point, sanitation, how easy it is to clean the product, its durability and maintenance.”

Keeping those all-important features in mind, here are some materials to avoid during your next kitchen project.

#1 Plastic Laminate Counters

First off, there’s plenty of great laminate out there. It’s the entry-level, plastic laminate to stay away from, Holloway says.

These are the ones that look thin and dull, as opposed to richly textured. They scratch easily, and if the product underneath the laminate gets wet (say, from steam rising from your dishwasher), it can delaminate the countertop, which means the edges will chip pretty easily.
Also, one misplaced hot pan on the plastic will result in a melted disaster zone you’ll remember forever.

But if you’re watching your budget, plastic laminate at the next level up is a good choice. “It’s got good color consistency, and there are a lot of retro and trendy patterns available,” says Dani Polidor, an interior designer and owner of Suite Artistry, and a REALTOR® in Pittsford, N.Y.

New laminate counter technology offers scratch resistance, textured surfaces, and patterns that mimic real wood and stone. “There are even self-repairing nano-technologies embedded in some laminates,” says Polidor, “and others have antimicrobial properties.”

For an average 10-by-20-foot kitchen, the next-level-up laminate will cost about $3,000, Polidor estimates, and those super cool technology options add another $200 to $300. For durability and longer life, the investment is well worth it.

#2 Inexpensive Sheet Vinyl Flooring

You spend all day stepping on your floor, so quality really matters. At the lower price point, about $2.50 per square foot, the cheapest sheet vinyl floorings tend to be thin.

“If your vinyl floor is glued down and the underlayment gets delaminated, say, by water seeping from your dishwasher or refrigerator, you’ll get bubbles in your floor,” Holloway warns.

Compare that with luxury vinyl tile (LVT) that costs about $5 per square foot.

It’s still usually glued down, but it’s a little more forgiving than its less classy cousin — and it can come in tiles, which you can grout so they mimic the look of higher-end stone, Polidor says.

#3 Some Laminated Cabinet Fronts

Holloway suggests staying away from lower-end thermofoil cabinet fronts. What is thermofoil? Contrary to its name, there’s no foil or any metal-type material in it. It’s actually vinyl, which is heated and molded around fiberboard. If the cabinet is white and the price is waaaaay affordable compared with other cabinets, think twice. Cheaper thermofoil has three critical issues:

1. It’s not heat resistant. If near a dishwasher or oven, it could delaminate.

2. It can warp and yellow with age, revealing its cheapness.

3. The “wood” underneath the thermofoil is also poor quality and won’t hold up over time.

But just like with plastic laminate, science has made great strides, and now there are a host of new cabinets that are remaking thermofoil’s reputation. “New European laminates have become all the rage for the clean-lined, flat-panel look,” Polidor says. “It’s budget-friendly and can look like wood or high gloss. It’s not your grandmother’s thermofoil.”

And it doesn’t come at grandma’s prices, either. But still, the new thermofoil is much more affordable than custom cabinets, and still satisfies with its rich look and durability.

#4 High-Gloss Lacquered Cabinets

A nice shine can be eye-catching. And spendy. About 20 layers of lacquer go on a cabinet for the high-gloss look. Ding it or scratch it, and it’s costly to repair.

“It’s a multi-step process for repairing them,” Polidor says. A better option for the same look is high-end thermofoil (see? We said there were good thermofoil options!).

Thermofoil has a finish that’s fused to the cabinet and baked on for a more durable exterior. And it’s way more budget-friendly, too. High-gloss can be in the thousands of dollars, whereas thermofoil can be in the hundreds or dollars.

#5 Flat Paint

Flat paint has that sophisticated, velvety, rich look we all love.

But keep it in the bedroom.

It’s not KF (kitchen-friendly). Flat paint, also known as matte paint, has durability issues. It’s unstable. Try to wipe off one splatter of chili sauce, and you’ve ruined the paint job.

About the only place to use flat paint in your kitchen is on the ceiling (unless, of course, you have a reputation for blender or pressure-cooker accidents that reach to the ceiling, then we suggest takeout).

Instead, you want to use high-gloss or semi-gloss paint on your walls. They can stand up to multiple scrubbings before breaking down.

#6 Trendy Backsplash Materials

Tastes change. So avoid super trendy colors and materials when it comes to permanently adhering something to your kitchen walls. Backsplashes come in glass, metal, iridescent, and high-relief decor tiles, which are undoubtedly fun and tempting. They can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to $220 a square foot, and difficult to install. And after all that work and expense, if (er . . . when) your tastes change in a few years, it’ll be mighty tough to justify a re-do.

Stick with a classic subway tile at $2 to $3 square foot. Or, even more budget friendly, choose an integrated backsplash that matches your countertop material. “If you want pops of color, do it with accessories,” Polidor suggests.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Programming your Thermostat

Owners of programmable thermostats are misusing the devices, according to research from Energy Research & Social Science journal. About 40% don’t use programming features, and 33% had programming features overridden.

But it’s really not that hard, and it’s definitely worth doing because it can save at least 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.

The U.S. Department of Energy says you can achieve that 10% by turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees F from it’s normal setting for 8 hours a day.

The first step is to pick the thermostat that best suits your scheduling needs so you can “set it and forget it,” an approach the Energy Department advocates to get the most savings.

Pick the Right Thermostat

There are four types of programmable thermostats, each with a distinctive scheduling style:

7-day programming. Best for individuals or families with erratic schedules, since this is the most flexible option. It lets you program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week.

5-1-1 programming. One heating/cooling schedule for the week, plus you can schedule a different heating/cooling plan for Saturday and Sunday.

5-2 programming. Same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan.

1-week programming. You can only set one heating/cooling plan that will be repeated daily for the entire week.

You’ll need a program for both the cooler months and the warmer months.

TIP: Before buying a programmable thermostat, identify the type of equipment used to heat and cool your home so you can check for compatibility. For example, do you have central heating and cooling, or just a furnace or baseboard heating? Otherwise, you may not reap the rewards of energy savings and may risk harming your heating and cooling equipment.

Change the Factory Settings

Most programmable thermostats have a pre-programmed setting that’s supposed to be for the typical American family. But what family is typical these days? You need to adjust the thermostat’s settings so it’s in sync with the life you and your family lead instead of some mythical family.

Programming options are based on:

  • Wake Time
  • Sleep Time
  • Leave Time
  • Return Time

The Department of Energy suggests the following settings as an energy-saving rule of thumb:

Winter months:

For the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F.
Lower at least 10 degrees for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.

Summer months:

For the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F.
For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm.
Program it to be warmer than usual when you’re out of the house.
Here are a few programming timing tips that can help you create the best set-it-and-forget-it heating and cooling schedule for your home:

  • Shut down heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home each day.
  • Turn on heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you come home each day.
  • Reduce the heating or cooling 60 minutes before you go to sleep each night.
  • Increase heating or cooling about 30 minutes before you wake up each morning.
  • Spend time tweaking your program for a few days to make sure it feels right.

TIP: With a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature while on the go. That way, you’re not wasting energy if you’re running late or forgot to create a new program before going on vacation.

FYI: A furnace does NOT have to work harder to warm a house after the temperature has been set low during the day.

Use a Wifi Thermostat to Make It Super Easy

Want something that’s simpler? Newer more high-tech models have simplified the process:

The Nest Learning Thermostat: It creates a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home based on motion detection technology. Plus since it is Wi-Fi, it can be controlled remotely. Price: Ranges from $120-$229.

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat: This device makes it easy to create a custom heating and cooling plan. Unlike conventional programmable thermostats, it has a large color interface that displays a simple menu that walks you through all the programming steps. It also “learns” your home and will send you personal notifications if the temperature is not right, or if there’s a power outage. Price: Ranges from $68 to $234.

FYI: Thermostats made prior to 2001 may contain mercury. To see if your programmable thermostat contains mercury, check with the manufacturer. If you decide to dispose of a thermostat that contains mercury, check out how to do so safely in your area at Thermostat Recycling Corp. (Not sure why mercury is so bad? Here’s the skinny: It’s toxic and it never breaks down. When it enters the waste stream, it permanently damages the ecosystem.)

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

9 Tools Every DIYer Needs

Those spare Allen wrenches and $1 tape measure from Ikea aren’t going to cut it if you’re making real home improvements.

Here are the nine essential tools you need to start hammering out great projects:

#1 Two Hammers

You know you need a hammer. Duh.

But Beth Allen, a licensed contractor and DIY instructor, is about to blow your mind: You don’t need a hammer. You need two.

A lightweight hammer is important for more delicate projects, like adding trim to a bookcase (without the fear of splitting said trim) or putting a nail into drywall.

“Heck, I’ve used a shoe for that kind of hammering,” says Allen, which gives you an idea of how lightweight we’re talking. “You can even use the floral hammer that comes in those ‘lady’ toolsets.”

But don’t let that be your only one: You’ll need a heavy-duty hammer for nailing into studs or putting a big anchor in the wall.

She recommends fiberglass over wood for avoiding intense vibrations in your hand while crushing your first project (figuratively, we hope).

#2 A Long, Sturdy Tape Measure

What’s wrong with your trusty Ikea measuring tape? “It must be at least 25 feet!” Allen says.

“That move where you measure partway, run out of tape, and have to use your toe as a placeholder? Nope, nope, nope.”

Take it from a pro: That measurement-fudging dance causes miscalculations that can run you big bucks in mistakes — we’re talking, like, realizing those freshly delivered kitchen appliances don’t actually fit in their designated spots. Whoops.

A grown-up measuring tape that’s long, wide, sturdy, and equipped with a solid locking mechanism.

You want one made of steel, which conveniently is the most widely available option. And make sure to invest in one with red rectangles every 16 inches, which is the standard width between wall studs.

#3 Your Dream Drill

Allen gets downright giddy when she talks about her cordless drill.

Not crushing on yours in the same way? Then you haven’t found the right one.

“To start, don’t even look at something smaller than 12 volts,” she says. “You’re not going to have enough power to even drill into wall studs without hearing the motor grind. You do not want to hear that thud thud thud of stripping a screw.”

Allen also recommends a rechargeable model with a pair of lithium batteries on the side so you’ll never be without a charge — and never have to fight with a cord while squeezing in a tight or awkward place, like closets.

Plug-in drills do have more power, but most home DIYers don’t need that extra power for two reasons:

       1. You’re not exactly building a house from scratch (right?)

       2. A cordless model allows for a steady flow of torque, meaning you don’t have to        worry about how hard or gently you pull the trigger.

Best way to find the perfect drill: Find one you can hold above your head comfortably for about 30 to 45 seconds.

And don’t bother fussing over the brand. Store-brand drills can be just as quality as the major labels. “You can find a great drill, especially during sale season, for $70 to $100.”

#4 A Jigsaw

When most DIY newbies think of saws, they think of the rotating blade attached to a table. Not your best starter saw. “A table saw will take your fingers off,” Allen warns.

For the sake of your digits, a simple, cordless jigsaw is a better choice. A jigsaw also is lightweight enough to carry and cut wherever you need, and versatile enough to cut delicate pieces like trim or molding — it can even cut curves when needed.

A jigsaw has a slower pace, and the blade does downward strokes, which means it’s safer because the debris falls down, not out.

Most stores will have options suited for smaller hands, lefties, and those who prefer an ergonomic tool.

To get the most out of your jigsaw, add on an assortment of blades that will let you cut metal and PVC. A $10 combo-blade package should do it.

#5 A Tile Saw

Got tiles? Want tiles? If you have even a single tile project coming up, let us assure you, you want to own your own tile saw.

Tile projects can be tedious and time consuming, and if you’re rushing to return it on time, you could end up with sloppy work.

Look for something in the $100 to $150 range, keeping in mind that rentals will run you about $50 per day for the most simple one.

Plus, it’ll see you through future tile projects, from fireplace surrounds to bathroom backsplashes, even patio pavers. Ooo! The starter diamond-cut blade your saw comes with should last you through a few hundred square feet, so no need to pick up extras right away.

The tile saw is a good reminder for buying versus renting for all tools: Consider how many times you’re likely to use it, get prices on buying and renting, and do the math. You might be surprised how often treating yourself is the more economical option.

#6 Two Pairs of Safety Glasses

When you’re DIYing, the weather is always cloudy with a chance of wood chips. Or drywall dust. Or tile flakes. Not things you want in your eyes.

Look for a pair of safety glasses that fit comfortably (“like sunglasses!” says Allen), and wrap around on the side to protect you from all angles.

“Try them on and look down — that’s the way your face will be angled while working,” Allen recommends. “They shouldn’t slide off or feel too snug, otherwise they’ll drive you crazy and you’ll want to pull them off.”

Don’t feel shy about shaking your head around in the store to make sure they feel good when you’re moving, and if you live somewhere especially hot or cold, look into options with anti-fog coating.

And this is one piece of equipment you don’t want to skimp on. “I’d avoid the dollar store options,” says Allen. “Your vision is your life, and anytime there’s the possibility of projectile anything, you’d be a fool not to wear a quality pair.”

Why two pairs? Because there’s often someone holding up the shelf while you drill, or keeping the wood steady as you saw — and they’ll probably want their eyesight later too.

#7 Shop-Vac

When you’re in the midst of any sort of project (especially if you do any demo in older homes), you may have no idea what gross or potentially dangerous stuff is inside the construction dust you’re generating, so getting rid of it as quickly as possible is just smart.

Don’t be tempted to use your house vacuum — it’s not made for home-project debris, and could clog your motor.

To handle your DIY successes (and fails), you’ll want one that has at least a gallon capacity and 5.0 “peak,” which is the power and speed at which it sucks stuff up.

Keep in mind it has to be light enough for you to comfortably carry both empty and when it’s filled with a gallon of water-soaked sawdust or sand.

#8 An Outdoor Extension Cord

You’ll need that for the shop-vac and other tools!

And like the measuring tape, go with quality and length.

“At least 50 feet,” says Allen.

Your shop-vac will require a cord with 12-amp power and a three-prong plug on both ends — a more expensive option than your typical two-prong, 14-amp cord, but a worthy upgrade.

(And yes, you read that right: 12 amps powers more than 14 amps. Lower amps equals higher power capacity. Weird, we know.)

#9 Something To Put It All In

Your dad might make a big fuss about handing down his first toolbox to you, but maybe use that as a decorative planter (Pinterest it! It’s cute!).

The truth is, there are way better options today.

“Look for one on wheels, like your favorite carry-on suitcase,” says Allen. Your biggest priority is to choose something you’re going to be able to move around easily. Why haul every tool to the project site individually?

Look for deep drawers and shallow trays so you can easily organize the itty-bitty things like bits and store the bulky stuff, too.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selecting a Mortgage Loan

Whether you’re shopping for new bed sheets or a new car, the drill is usually the same. Hit the reviews, check with friends, and scope out the best deal. After all, who wants to buy a car that racks up repair bills right away? Yet when picking a mortgage loan, borrowers don’t always think about comparison shopping.

In a Bankrate survey of recent home buyers, 12% of millennials said they believe their mortgage rates were too high. Some buyers may think that when mortgage rates are low, they don’t need to shop for the best offer. But even a few basis points can make a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan, according to Bankrate, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission.

You may think mortgage shopping is as enjoyable as prepping for a tax audit. It’s true that comparing home mortgages can get complicated. But you don’t need a finance degree to make an informed decision. Here are some steps to get there.

Find a Few Lenders
When looking for lenders to consider, loan officers recommend going to a few sources:

  • Locals you know and trust: “Make sure the lenders you’re comparing come from referrals from local people you know who’ve worked with them — like your friends or relatives,” advises Jeff Koch, vice president of residential lending at Draper & Kramer Mortgage Corp in Schaumburg, Ill. “Wherever you have trust established would be a good source.”
  • Your real estate agent: “If you’re working with a real estate agent, find out if they have any feedback or advice on a lender or a loan officer,” recommends Jim DeMarco, branch manager and senior loan advisor at Flagstar Bank in Seattle.
  • Online reviews: These can be a good starting point, DeMarco says. “If you see a lot of really good reviews, that means people are taking the time to provide them.”

Have an Intro Mortgage Loan Meeting
During a meet and greet, you and the loan officer will usually ask each other questions, and the loan officer will use that information to assess your qualifications. That may sound cut and dried, but the meeting should be fluid based on what you’re ready to do.

Typically, the loan officer would schedule a meeting focused on comparison shopping separately. If that sounds painful to borrowers who want to (literally) get moving, no problem, Koch says. “The borrower may be well versed and want to get right to what’s most relevant for them, which are the financial and comparison details. But a lot of people need to go over their own questions or cover key topics first.”

Want to meet virtually? “Some folks are just more comfortable virtually, and that’s OK,” DeMarco says. “I’ve closed loans with people I’ve never talked to on the phone. It’s all via text.”

Interview the Mortgage Loan Officer
Whichever way you choose, this meeting is prime time to interview the loan officer. Borrowers need to find someone who will be in there with them and who can problem solve. “We call unanticipated problems ‘icebergs,’” DeMarco says. “You think there’s smooth sailing. And then, suddenly, you smack into an iceberg.”

Scope out the lender’s communication strategy and their process for delivering on time. “The process is highly complex, and you’d think professional lenders all would have mastered it. That’s not the case,” says Koch. “When a loan is not delivered on time, people’s finances and lives are basically balanced on the head of a pin, which is the closing date.”

To avoid problems, ask questions like these:

Fact finding about the process:

  • Would you take me through the process?
  • What should I expect?
  • What will I need to supply?

Compatibility with the loan officer or mortgage banker or broker:

  • What’s your communication style? Are you willing to communicate virtually?
  • When would I work with you? Are you available in the evening?
  • Will I be working with you or a member of your team?
  • What do you think of my time frame to get to closing?
  • What if any issue do you foresee being a problem?

Track record of loan officer and lender:

  • How long do loans you process typically take to close?
  • What are some ways you could expedite the process if there’s a tight time frame?
  • About what percentage of loans you work on close on time?
  • How many loans have you worked on that haven’t closed or haven’t met deadlines?
  • What’s the biggest problem you’ve had with a loan and how did you fix it?

Use the Meeting to Learn
You can also use the meeting to clarify general info you’ve picked up online and talk about your concerns. DeMarco gives an example. “You may have switched careers or industries in the last year or started having bonus or commission income. Your research may have shown that you can just divide your salary by 12 to figure monthly income. But it may not be as simple as that.”

You’ll also want to bring up concerns like the impact on your credit score. Thirty-eight percent of buyers think comparing multiple mortgage offers in a short time will hurt their credit rating, according to a 2020 LendingTree survey. “As long as the lenders all pull the borrower’s credit within a couple of weeks, it’s counted as a single credit inquiry. So, it’s not a problem if they do it within a narrow band of time,” Koch explains.

Get and Compare Financial Information
Whether you’re looking at a federal form called a loan estimate or a precursor form called the fees worksheet, you’ll see a breakout of closing costs, explains Koch. “To compare the lender financials, you’ll want to drill down to origination charges in the lender section. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If one lender is offering a 30-year fixed rate at 2.875% with no lender fees and another is offering 2. 75% with $1,500 in lender fees, those are unlike products. Get the fees at the same rate to find out who’s less expensive.”

6 Tips to Get Mortgage Loan Information
Comparison shopping can get complicated. Here are six ways to simplify the process.

1. Keep Your Pool Manageable
Mortgage shopping “depends on the borrower and the personality type and how they’re wired,” Koch says. “The process can seem overwhelming. That’s why it makes sense to have a select few options to compare so borrowers can process and assimilate them.”

2. Get a Fees Worksheet
The best way to compare effectively is to zero in on the fees worksheet, which the loan officer should provide. “You’ll be able to figure out just what the lender’s direct fees are, and you can make a nice, simple comparison.”

3. Understand a Fees Worksheet Versus a Loan Estimate
Keep in mind that the numbers on the worksheet are estimates and not locked in. Interest rates are fluid and change daily or even more often, DeMarco says. On the other hand, after you have a contract with a seller, “the loan estimate and loan application are where the information is binding barring structural changes to the loan,” Koch says. Make sure the information reflects previous discussions with and disclosures by the loan officer.

4. Be Careful Interpreting Third-Party Fees
Third-party fee estimates are included on the worksheet. Two lenders could each come up with different estimates for title, escrow, or appraisal fees, Koch explains. But not all are negotiable. For instance, the seller chooses the title company, so the lender doesn’t control the choice or the fees. The lender could be choosing the high or low end of a range, but it’s only an estimate.

5. Think About Timing
Make sure lenders are using the same time frame for locking in pricing and that it will extend through the closing, Koch notes. “A lender might offer a rate that’s a lock for three weeks, but if you anticipate or know your closing date will be five or six weeks out, that’s a problem.”

6. Consider Applying for Loan Approval Before Finding a Property
“Many lenders will not do this,” Koch says. “But some will allow borrowers to go through the formal underwriting process — not just preapproval — without having a property. The borrowers can get a bona fide mortgage commitment with all of the major buyer financials truly underwritten at that point. Then when borrowers make an offer, they can close more quickly.”

You’ll have to invest some time and effort into comparison shopping for a mortgage loan and selecting a lender and a loan officer. But your return on investment can pay off over the long haul.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Decluttering your Garage with Outdoor Storage

“That can go in the garage” is a common solution to just about anything outdoorsy that needs a home.

Instead, think outside the garage. These ideas are great for decluttering your garage — and they’ll pay dividends when it comes time to sell. Because clutter never increases a home’s selling price.

#1 Tuck Storage Under Your Deck


An elegant solution if you’ve got a deck that sits up fairly high. You can tuck loads of outdoor tools and equipment under it. Even add doors to help keep things out of sight. A perfect solution to decluttering your garage.

One caveat: This type of storage will protect items from the heat and sun, but not from moisture, so unless you add a ceiling to your under-deck shed, only store things that can handle some wet.

If your deck lacks height: try storage drawers instead.

Store pool equipment, folding deck chairs, yard games, and coolers within easy reach, and you’ll hardly break your outdoor-happiness zen when you need to grab something.

#2 Build a Fence With Built-Ins


Think of it as the outdoor version of an indoor wall with built-in storage. But outdoors it delivers so much more: privacy, security, and storage. It’s the trifecta of functionality.

#3 Add a Purpose-Built Shed


This pup’s family obviously loves biking and campfires — and they’ve got just the right size and configured shed to store the bikes and wood efficiently.

Maximize your outdoor space by noodling on your storage pain points, then building something to fit your purpose. You’ll get rid of the clutter, and you’ll prevent some pre-fab shed from taking up too much space and becoming yet another place where clutter accumulates.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Posted in Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Decluttering your Garage with Outdoor Storage