Top Things New Homeowners Should Do Immediately

New Homeowners

 

Are you in the market for a new house? Whether you are looking for a first home or you are changing homes, make sure you take a moment to assess what needs to be changed in your new residence. Use this list as a reference for things you should do when you buy a new house.

Walk Through the House
You’ve just bought a new house – did the previous owner leave things behind? Did anything break during the move? Walk through the property and see what needs to be fixed, replaced or can be removed. This is also a good time to see if anything was left from the move. Be sure to check any outdoor areas as well, as garden pots, hoses, outdoor furniture and even trampolines can get left behind.

Change All the Locks  carpenter at door lock installation This should be a top priority. You might have received a few keys at closing, but who knows how many duplicate keys to your new home are out there. Change all locks on doors that have outside access. This is also a great time to reprogram any garage door openers/remotes/keypads as these things are often overlooked by new owners.

Change Your Address
It’s highly likely you’ll receive mail for the previous owner. Be sure to update your address with the Post Office, your employer, credit card companies, investment companies, all utility companies, and any other company or service you receive mail from. If you do receive mail for the previous owner, write “No Longer at This Address” on the envelope and place it back in the mailbox.

Change Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
These things save lives, and there’s no guarantee that the previous owner practiced good upkeep on these vital parts of your home. Replace all the batteries in the detectors, and make sure to run a test on each detector to make sure it’s in working order. If the house is older, you might want to consider replacing the detectors for more current and up-to-date models. This is also a good time to locate any fire extinguishers in the house, or make a plan on where to place fire extinguishers. Check that the extinguishers are still charged and in working order.

Learn and Label Fuse/Panel BoxCircuit breaker box
You’ve purchased a home – it’s important you understand how it runs! The electrical panel handles all the electricity in your house, and it’s important to know where it’s located in the home and which outlet each circuit goes to. Sometimes the previous owner has already done this for you, but if not, you can do it manually by turning off one breaker at a time and checking which room or rooms have gone dark. It’s also important to locate the main disconnect, which handles all the power to the house and is used in emergency situations.

Put Flashlights in Every Room
No one anticipates the power going out, but it’s best to be ready if it happens. You can buy flashlights are your local hardware or big box store. LED flashlights will last for a long time, and they provide a large amount of light compared to their size. Be sure you have spare batteries, and make sure you have a flashlight in the high traffic areas of your home: kitchen, bedrooms, main bathroom and garage. Flashlights are not only useful when the power is out, but they also come in handy for basic improvement projects and when you need extra light.

Heating PipesLearn Where the Main Water and Gas Shutoffs Are
You have a water leak or a gas leak – do you know how to turn off the water or the gas into the house? Locating the main water and gas shut offs before an emergency will save you time and could possibly save your life. It’s just general good homeowner practice to know where these important fixtures are. The main water shutoff should be located near the water meter, which is either located outside in a warmer climate area and inside in a cooler climate area. If you have natural gas in your home, the main shutoff valve will be located just before the gas meter.

Find The Sewer/Water Lines and Septic Tank
As a homeowner, you’ll likely (at some point) want to do updates to your home. These updates can also include construction in the yard. It’s important to know where your home’s sewer and water lines/pipes are in the yard so you avoid hitting them during any demolition – most of the time, if you hit one on your property, you’re responsible for fixing it, not the utility company. If your new home is on a septic system, it’s incredibly important to know where the septic tank is located and where any septic lines are in the yard.

Clean All Major AppliancesHands cleaning refrigerator.
Unless you’re purchasing brand new appliances for your home, it’s a smart decision to clean all of the major appliances in your new home. These include: oven, refrigerator/freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, and any other large appliances. A fresh clean not only gets rid of any germs and bacteria, but it also makes your new home fresh and ready for you and your family. Another important thing to replace: toilet seats. We’ve all used public restrooms before, but your home is not a public restroom. Get new toilet seats from your local hardware store. But if you’re okay with the ones you inherited, make sure you give them a good deep clean!


A Handy Moving Guide

A Handy Moving Guide

 

Are you anticipating a move in the next few months? Whether moving across town or across the country, having a comprehensive moving list in your arsenal will help make the moving process smoother and less stressful. Your first steps will include preparing your home and your personal information for your move. Be sure to know the utilities you’re responsible for and transfer them (the sooner the better).

Step One: Transfer Your Information

It’s important to remember all of the agencies, businesses and utilities that require an address change. The ones that directly impact your move should be the first to update:

  • Telephone
  • Cable/Satellite TV
  • DSL/Cable/Phone/Internet
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Fuel/Oil
  • Water

Be sure to check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if moving is covered, and check to see if the home is covered when you transfer fire, theft, and other personal property insurance.
Also remember to update your address with these important agencies:

  • DMV
  • Post Office
  • Bank
  • Credit Card Companies
  • Social Security
  • Insurance Companies
  • Employers

Step Two: Find Packing Supplies

Boxes and tape can add up to a lot – if you’re looking to cut costs on the move search sites like Craigslist for boxes and moving supplies; go to a local big box store and ask if they can provide you with boxes (the produce boxes generally stack and can carry heavy loads); call a furniture store and see if they have boxes they are looking to get rid of; ask friends and family who have recently moved if they have any boxes to spare. You will also want to get a hand truck (one that can handle at least 150lbs), furniture dolly, a good box cutter, a pair of scissors and a regular knife.

Step Three: Get a Truck

If you’re going the DIY route, you’ll need to figure out the number of miles you’ll be travelling and whether or not a per mile rental or a rental that doesn’t count the miles is the better option for your budget. Also consider if you’ll want to have insurance on the truck itself should you be in an accident, and understand what you are and are not liable for if there are any incidents or accidents. Reserve the truck as far in advance as possible – the summer months and weekends are the busiest times for moving companies. If you’re considering hiring movers, check out websites like movingscam.com and others to make sure you use reputable companies who have your best interests at heart.

Step Four: Take Measurements

You know your current furniture fits in your current home, but will it fit in your new home? Take some time to make an appointment at your new property (if you can!) and measure to make sure your large pieces of furniture, and any new furniture or appliances you plan on buying, will make it through a door. Bring a tape measure and measure the length and width of the doorways. This is also a great time to evaluate the walls for potential wallpaper application, paint, or locating good areas to hang pictures, etc.

Step Five: Sort and Pack

It’s time to start sorting your items and packing them up. Some people believe packing by room is the easiest way to go, but sometimes it’s not realistic. If sorting by room is what will help you get the job done, feel free to do that. If you’re looking for other options when it comes to packing your things, you can pack by sorting things: sheets and bedding, electronics, kitchen supplies, etc. If you have a lot of miscellaneous items or designated junk drawers, find all these items first and use them as fillers for boxes that need extra items. Be sure to label everything, and it is a good idea to keep your boxes as room specific as possible.
Do you like making lists and knowing all the items you have? If you are moving cross country or cross state, it’s a good idea to have a list of all your items, including numbered boxes and the contents of each box. If you’re into technology there are a number of moving apps available for tablets and smart phones that can help you label and manage your boxes. If you like to be more hands on, you can always label and number your boxes and keep a comprehensive list of each box, its contents, and its number.

Step Six: Set Aside the Essentials

You’ll need mainly clothing and toiletries that can fit easily into a suitcase for your move. Put everything you need into the suitcase/bag and live out of it while you pack up your belongings. You’ll know where everything is as you move, and you won’t accidentally pack an essential. Other items to put to the side and have ready for the new house:

  • Medicine
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Sheets and towels
  • Toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Paper goods
  • Disposable plates and silverware
  • Foil, plastic bags, and plastic containers
  • Microwave (if the new place doesn’t have one)
  • Vacuum
  • Garbage bags
  • Tool kit
  • Ladder
  • Extension cord
  • Light bulbs
  • Cleaning items

Other things to consider and do:

  • Who will watch your children or pets on moving day? Do you need to hire a sitter?
  • Do you have house plants to transport? Most movers don’t move houseplants, especially on long-distance or out-of-state moves.
  • Remember to disassemble shelving, closet systems and any other large items you plan to take with you
  • Gather personal records (medical, dental, etc.)
  • If you have children, arrange to transfer school records if needed
  • Cancel any newspaper subscriptions
  • If you are moving out of state, refill all prescriptions so you have extras on hand, and transfer any current prescriptions to a new pharmacy close to your new home

Moving can be very stressful. Take the time before a move to be proactive: know what needs to be done ahead of time so you are not scrambling at the last minute to pack and organize your home. Utilize the items above to help make your move as problem-free as possible, and have fun in your new home.


Prepping Your Home for a Vacation

Prepping Your Home For a Vacation

Vacations are a time to relax and escape from regular life. When you’re miles from home, the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of your home. If you plan on taking a vacation this summer (or any time this year), here are some simple tips on prepping your home for a vacation.

Stop Your Newspaper and Mail Mail
One sure sign of being absent from your home is a pile of newspapers in the driveway. Contact your newspaper delivery person and stop service while you’re gone. If you don’t have a locked mailbox, contact the post office and have them hold your mail. You can also ask a trusted neighbor to collect mail, newspapers and deliveries and have him/her hold them for you until you’re back.

Park Your Car in the Garage
The last thing you want is to get home from a vacation and have your car gone. If you can, park your car inside the garage, or have a family member park it at his/her house. You can also ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway, making it look like someone is leaving each morning.

Put a Light on a Timer
A dark house stands out in a neighborhood, especially when all the other homes are lit up. Before you leave, buy a timer and install it on a lamp in your home. It’s also a good idea to install a motion-activated sensor on an outdoor floodlight that will be triggered should someone walk by it. You can also ask a neighbor to turn on the front porch light in the evening.

Mow Your LawnMow your Lawn
Grass can grow pretty fast in two or three days. If you have a lawn, make sure it’s trimmed before you embark on your trip. If you’re going to be gone longer than a week, ask a family member or neighbor to cut the grass in the front yard while you’re away.

Some of these items are easily overlooked, but could cause major issues when you’re away:

Unplug Small Appliances and Electronics
Small appliances and electronics can be energy vampires when plugged in, and some are still active even when they look like they’re turned off. Before you leave, unplug those items that won’t be used while you’re gone (coffee makers, toasters, espresso machines, etc.). It’s also a good time to make sure all smoke detectors work properly throughout your home.

Turn Down the ThermostatAdjust your Thermostat
Your thermostat makes sure your home maintains a specific temperature throughout the day. Before you leave, set the thermostat to a lower temperature if the house is going to be empty. This will help conserve energy while you’re gone. If you do turn down the thermostat, be sure to keep your home at a temperature that will still protect plants, pets and furniture.

Put the Water Heater in Vacation Mode
Traditional water heaters heat water throughout the day, even when you’re not using water. Before you head out on a vacation, put the heater in vacation mode. Check to see if your water heater has a VAC setting — which is for vacations. If it doesn’t, you can turn down the thermostat to the lowest setting. But don’t stop at the water heater: turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and any sinks. The last thing you want to come home to is a flood in your house because a pipe broke or a hose burst.

Tidy upTidy Up the Kitchen
Before you leave it’s always a good idea to clean out the fridge and dispose of anything that will go bad while you’re gone. The sink can harbor things that cause bad smells — run a half cup of vinegar and some water through the garbage disposal to alleviate any potential buildups, and make sure to take out any trash and recycling so you don’t come home to a smelly house. If you have a trusted neighbor, ask them to put your garbage, recycling or yard debris bins out on pickup day.

Leave Emergency Contact Info with Neighbors
You may tell your family that you’re heading out, but you should also let a neighbor know. Neighbors live near you and can be your first point of contact should something happen to your home while you’re away. Let a trusted neighbor know you’re going to be out of town — provide them with information on where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and contact information for yourself and for family members in case of an emergency.


Alternative Energy and Your Home

Alternative Energy and Your HomeWe all appreciate electricity — each one of us uses it in some capacity every day. Heating and cooling our homes is one of our top priorities, not only for our comfort but also for our safety. In recent years more and more information about alternative and green energies has become available to consumers. Green or alternative energy is energy that is produced from renewable resources: wind, water, or sunlight. Here are some of the most-readily available options for alternative energy systems offered to home buyers right now:

Solar PowerSolar Power
Solar power is “the power obtained by harnessing the energy of the sun’s rays.” This is done through solar panels and photo voltaic cells on the panels, which convert the sunlight into usable energy. Solar power is the most common and popular option for homeowners looking to take the first step toward alternative energy. Solar uses the power of the sun, so this option is best for homes or properties located in areas where sunlight is strong year-round. There are three types of solar panel systems: On-Grid Battery Systems, which are connected to the grid but also contain batteries that can store excess energy; On-Grid Systems without batteries – these are more simple and easier to install, but if the power goes out in the area the system will shut off; and Off-Grid Systems, which are not tied to the electricity grid and generate all their power independently.

At the current moment, solar power accounts for three-tenths of one percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. (instituteforenergyresearch.org/). For those who live in year-round sunny climates – California, Arizona, Hawaii, etc. – a solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three years (judithcurry.com).

Wind Power
Wind PowerAnother popular alternative energy option that has been seen throughout the U.S. is wind power. Wind power is the “power obtained by harnessing the energy of the wind.” Modern wind power uses wind turbines to harness wind’s kinetic energy, which is then turned into electricity. There are different types of wind power: Utility-scale, which are the large wind turbines seen on the side of hills– these are larger than 100 kilowatts and deliver electricity directly to the power grid; Distributed, which are smaller turbines, 100 kilowatts or less, and these deliver electricity directly to a home or small business. There are also offshore wind turbines, but these are mostly found outside the U.S. At the current moment, the U.S. receives about 4.1 percent of its electricity from wind power (www.awea.org/).

Wind power is an excellent option for those who live in areas where there is a good source of wind all year long. Initially, wind power systems can be expensive, and the turbine prices vary depending on the type, manufacturer and the area you live in. Many people look to the advantages of wind power over the initial investment – utility bills are cut and the homeowner has control of knowing how his/her energy is generated, and there are generally federal tax credits available to those who buy a wind power system.

Geothermal PowerGeothermal Power
Geothermal power is “the heat from the Earth.” Geothermal power takes advantage of the earth’s natural heat. Geothermal energy is harnessed in two ways: tapping extremely hot temperatures via steam at great depths, or the use of moderate temperatures at shallow depths (http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/). In almost all parts of the U.S., the shallow ground (upper 10 feet of the Earth’s surface) maintains a nearly constant temperature of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To use this naturally occurring heat, consumers can install a geothermal heat pump. The pump utilizes air or antifreeze liquid in pipes. The liquid or air is pumped through the pipes, which are buried underground, and comes back into the building. In summer, when the temperatures are hotter above ground, the liquid or air moves heat from the building into the ground; in the winter, when temperatures are colder, the pipes pump pre-warmed air or liquid into the building. Geothermal power is also a renewable energy that can supply continuous power (www.ucsusa.org/).

Geothermal systems can be expensive to set up, with estimates into the low $40,000s. There are tax credits available, which can cover 30% of the total cost of a new geothermal system. Geothermal systems last about 20 years before needing new parts, and over the course of a 20 year lifespan, these systems can save homeowners upwards of $60,000 in electricity costs (www.esquire.com/).

The U.S. relies heavily upon fossil fuels for its energy sources. Currently, 82 percent of U.S. energy demand is met by fossil fuels (coal, petroleum (oil) and natural gas) while the other 18 percent is met by renewable energy and nuclear energy (instituteforenergyresearch.org/). Electricity is a vital part of the U.S. economy, and it helps a household run every day. Homeowners have options in every facet of their lives, and energy is no different. Fossil fuels are a finite resource – exploring other options available to homeowners not only opens up access to other technologies and ideas, but it also helps the Earth. Alternative energy also presents more reliable and efficient energy sources. When a homeowner or consumer gets more reliance and efficient energy, more money is saved in the long run, making for a happy, safe and sustainable home.


Staging Tips for Sellers

Staging Tips for Sellers

Spring has arrived, which means real estate season is upon us. When selling your home or property, attracting full price offers is always top priority, and a properly staged home can be your number one asset in drawing as many offers as possible. Here are staging tips to help you prepare your home for the market.

Enhance Your Entry
It’s the first thing buyers see, and most likely serves as the first impression of your house. Utilize the entry by updating the front door color, change out the door hardware (or clean and polish the current hardware). Make potential buyers welcome with a nice mat and some potted plants or flowers.

Clean Out ClutterStagingTips1
The majority of us have too much stuff, and clutter is a huge killer for potential buyers. Be ruthless when it comes to clutter — if you haven’t used it in three months, box it up. If you haven’t used it in a year, sell or donate it. Go one room at a time. It’s ok to have empty space. If you can’t part with something, get creative on how to store it. Rolling bins that fit under beds are perfect for hiding items and getting things out of the way. Too much furniture will also make a home look cluttered and smaller than it is. You want to create space – ask what you can live without. Every square foot is prime real estate.

Move or Float Furniture
Once you’ve moved out the clutter, turn to the remaining furniture. Furniture doesn’t need to be pushed up against walls. Moving and floating pieces can help rooms look and feel bigger. Try moving pieces around, even from other rooms, but remember to keep the perimeters clear with clear pathways.

Staging TipsLet the Light In
Natural light does wonders for a home and makes rooms more inviting. Take down heavy drapery and replace with gauzy and airy fabrics. If you have views, play them up! Look into roman shades, which help with privacy but also let light in. Simple curtain panels made from airy fabrics like cotton twill or translucent linen will let the light in during the day and still help with privacy at night.

Re-purpose Rooms
Do you have a designated junk room? Re-purpose rooms that have lost their identity. Most designers look at junk rooms and envision fantasy spaces: an exercise room, meditation space, art studio, etc.. Re-purpose a clutter/junk room into something that will add value to the house. Also consider loft spaces, stairwell nooks and other areas not utilized or gathering dust as possible areas for increased space.

Light It UpStaging Tips
Many homes are poorly lit, making rooms too dim or harsh on the eyes which can deter buyers when they walk into your house. Try to aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet. Don’t be afraid of dimmers, and replace light-switch covers that are old, dingy or broken. Uplights also help add depth to a room, especially when positioned behind a plant or piece of furniture.

Add Some Color
Color on the walls or as an accent can really make a room pop. Painting is an inexpensive and easy way to give your house a new look. Neutral colors don’t mean beige or off-white; warm tans, honey and soft blue-greens all attract the eye and help to make a room feel warmer without going overboard. Accent walls can also add a burst of color. If painting is too daunting, add richly colored accessories, pillows and throws for subtle bursts of color.

StagingTips4Add Art and Accessories
De-cluttering is important, but so is playing up what you have in your house. Adding art to a drab wall can also add character to a room. Try breaking up the art by patterning and grouping pictures or images together. Add a small touch by accessorizing your room — layer accessories in threes, with varied heights and widths. The eye naturally reads a room from left to right, so adding a large or striking object in the far right corner will draw the eye to it and make the room seem bigger. Another accessory not to be overlooked: plants. A vase of fresh flowers, branches, twigs or greenery will add depth and character to a room.


New Year To Dos for Your Home

New Year To Dos for Your Home

With the start of a new year, it’s always a good idea to assess your home and its needs. Taking stock of appliances, home systems, and other items that make a house a home will help guide you to home improvements needed, appliances that may be near the end of their lives, and any other updates that can help to boost your home’s worth. Listed below are major home systems to evaluate in the new year to help give you peace of mind.

HVAC

HVACIn the winter and summer months a home’s HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems are put to good use. January is the perfect month to replace disposable filters or wash permanent ones in your home’s HVAC or humidifier systems. Filters should be regularly replaced or washed when use is high or during peak seasons.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Checking alarms and detectors is especially important when cold temperatures in the winter leave homes closed up. This month inspect, clean and test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and be sure to replace any that are faulty, no longer working or old.

Fire ExtinguishersExtinguishers

Very few homeowners actually have to use a fire extinguisher; many times these important tools get overlooked for maintenance. January is a great time to inspect and charge any working fire extinguishers you may have in your home. Fire extinguishers should also be placed in all accessible areas of the home where fires are more likely to occur: kitchens, garages or areas that house furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and stoves

Fire Evacuation Plan

Do you have a plan in place in case of a fire in your home? January is the perfect time to form a fire evacuation plan. Go over the plan with anyone who might live with you, and if you have kids dedicate a time to have a practice fire drill. Should your home’s bedrooms be on a second or third floor, invest in a fire escape ladder, many of which can be found at your local hardware store.

Leaking Windows and Electrical Outlets

With winter setting in, finding the weak points in your home will not only help keep your home warm, but it will also help cut down on heating bills. Identify any windows that may have broken seals by looking for condensation on the inside of the window. Examine electrical outlets throughout your home for any drafts, and insulate those that may be letting in cold air.

Check and Test GFCI Outlets

GFCI OutletsGround fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are a must have in your home. These special outlets protect people from electric shock by monitoring the amount of current flowing through the outlet. If there is an imbalance of current, the outlet trips the circuit of the appliance, cutting off the electricity. You can test GFCI outlets with a circuit tester that has its own GFCI test button. GFCIs do wear out, and their lifespan is about 10 years. Replace GFCIs that no longer function properly — these outlets save thousands of lives each year.

Many homeowners have home safety and preparedness at the top of their priority list, and the New Year stands as the perfect time to discover what improvements and fixes your home will need in the coming months. Other items to look at in a new year:

  • If you’re in an area that is known to have inclement weather, make sure you have proper snow removal equipment and have alternative energy options in case of power outages
  • January is also a great month for reviewing warranties and product information on a furnace, large appliances, and any other big ticket items in the home

Preventative maintenance will not only save you money and keep your home safe, but houses that do not keep up with maintenance have been known to lose up to 10% to 12% off their appraised value. The US Census has estimated that annual maintenance can cost between 1% and 3% of a home’s initial costs dependent upon the geographic location of the home. With the New Year, getting a head start on yearly to dos, and anticipating yearly maintenance, will put you ahead of the issues and have you prepared for any upcoming and unforeseen fixes.