To Fix or Not to Fix?

26 Jun


When you’re getting ready to sell your home, that is always the question. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a house in good condition will sell faster than one that needs work.

Low-cost, minor improvements that increase the appeal of your home are always a good idea – you want to be sure it looks like the house has been well taken care of. Patch nail holes and repaint, fix or replace damaged flooring, repair plumbing leaks, replace outdated light fixtures, clean out and reseal gutters, and keep up with the yard and garden.

Beyond the basics, ask yourself these questions when deciding what to fix:

What is the market like? In a seller’s market, you may not need to do much. In a buyer’s market, you might have a long list of repairs and updates to make in order to keep your house in the running.

How fast do you need to sell? If you must sell quickly, you’ll probably need to make the necessary improvements so your house is move-in ready. If you have time to test the market, you can hold off on pricey fixes and see how your house fares as-is, knowing you have the option of repairing those things later on – if you’re not getting the offers you’d like.

What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? If other homeowners have prepped their houses to move-in condition, you may need to do the same.

As your real estate professional, I would be happy to discuss how to best prepare your home for the current market in our area. Please contact me at your convenience!

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Simple Ways to Allergy-Proof Your House

19 Jun


Protecting yourself from household allergens can be a daunting task, but start simple and you might see quick results.

  • Use two doormats at every house entry point – one inside and one outside.
  • Take off your shoes when you enter the house.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly using a vacuum with a small-particle filter.
  • Damp-mop floors once a week.
  • Wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth once a week.
  • Hang machine-washable curtains instead of heavy draperies.
  • Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in dust-proof zippered covers.
  • Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Repair cracked or broken caulk and tile in the bathroom.
  • Always run the bathroom exhaust fan when you take a shower.
  • Clean out under the kitchen sink and check for leaks.
  • Monitor the humidity in the air (ideal is 30 – 50 percent).
  • Change air filters once a month.

If you can only make a few changes, start with your bedroom — you spend about one-third of your time sleeping. And, if possible, go to an allergist and find out what you are allergic to. This will help you focus your efforts and make sure you are treating the right problem.

Saving Water through Xeriscape

12 Jun


Tired of wasting water and money to achieve a lush lawn and garden? Maybe you should try Xeriscape — using creative landscaping to conserve water.

Xeriscape is a combination of seven common-sense gardening principles that save water while creating a lush and colorful landscape:

  1. Plan and design for water conservation and beauty.
  2. Create turf areas of manageable sizes and grasses.
  3. Select low-water plants.
  4. Use soil amendments, such as compost or manure.
  5. Use mulches to reduce evaporation and keep soil cool.
  6. Irrigate efficiently.
  7. Maintain the landscape properly.

Originally developed in Colorado for drought-afflicted areas, Xeriscape is now used across the country in efforts to be more environmentally conscious. The practice offers many benefits:

  • Saves water – Reduces landscape water use by 60 percent or more.
  • Improves property value – Can increase property value by as much as 15 percent.
  • Less maintenance – Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal.
  • No fertilizers or pesticides – Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements.

Better Your Life with Feng Shui

5 Jun


It’s said that your space — your home, your office — is a mirror of you. If you are looking for ways to improve your quality of life, you might consider first improving the quality of your space. Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art and science of placement and energy flow, can help you do both.

The basic theory behind feng shui is that everything is energy and everything is connected. So if you change the energy in your home, you also will be changing the energy in your life. “Your home can often be a mirror of your inner life that can symbolically or literally manifest practically everything that is going on in your life,” says holistic design expert Laura Benko. “There are so many actions you can take to address these issues. It first begins with shifting your perspective and connecting the dots between your environment and yourself.”

Here are a few easy steps you can take now to give your space, and hopefully your life, a little lift.

Eliminate clutter. Clutter stagnates your energy and promotes disorder.

2. 
Keep your bathroom door closed. The bathroom is full of drains (sink, tub and toilet) and by leaving the door open you allow good energy to literally drain out of your home.  

3.  
Get two nightstands. Regardless of the number of people sleeping in the bed, two nightstands create a more supported and balanced bed for everyone. The nightstands don’t necessarily need to match, and they don’t need to be traditional nightstands; tables, stools or benches can work.

4.  
Place furniture so it faces the door. Place yourself in a position of power in every room so you are always facing the door and nothing can “sneak up” on you.

Add plants.
Plants encompass nature, growth, creativity, and even air purification all in one! Especially if you have a lot of electronics, add one or two more plants than may seem necessary and you’ll feel the difference.

Fix what’s broken.
You aren’t broken on the inside — don’t be broken on the outside either.

“If you’re feelingoverwhelmed, a calming thing to do is clear off the surfaces in your home. It does away with visual and, more importantly, psychological clutter.”

Laura Benko, Benko Feng Shui, New York

Choosing the right paint brush

29 May


Painting is the quickest way to give a room a fresh new look. It is also quite possibly the easiest do-it-yourself project. Most people will spend hours poring over colors, finally choosing the paint, and then just throwing the cheapest paint brushes or rollers in the cart on their way out of the paint section.

This is a big mistake. The results you get from a high-quality paint brush will always be much better than with the "whatever's on sale" brush or rollers.

A quality paint brush holds more paint, gives you more control and provides a smoother finish. It also covers more with fewer brush strokes, which saves you time.

Here's what you need to consider when buying paint brushes.

Balance
You want paint brushes that have balance. It should feel comfortable in your hand and be easy to control.

Bristle density
Paint is held in the space between the bristles, so the more bristles a brush has, the more paint it will hold. A cheaper paint brush won't hold much paint and smears the paint rather than flowing the paint onto the surface.

Bristle flagging
Take a look at a good brush and you'll notice that the bristles have split ends. This is called flagging and helps to provide finer and smoother application.

Bristle type
The type of paint you're using determines what bristle you should choose. Use hog hair or China bristle for oil-based paints. However, you can't use hog hair when using water-based paints because the bristles absorb water. Some synthetic brushes use a combination of polyester and nylon – polyester provides stiffness and nylon is soft for a smooth application.

Ferrule
The ferrule holds the bristles against the handle and are commonly metal. A high-quality brush will have either a stainless steel or other rust-proof ferrule. Cheaper brushes use lower quality metals and are subject to rusting.

Size
Surface area determines what type of brush you use. Wide surfaces warrant a 3 - 4" brush. When trimming around doors, you will want a smaller 1½ - 2" brush.

Taper
A good brush is thicker at the bottom and narrower at the top. The tapered shape makes the brush stiffer and gives you more control. A cheaper brush has bristles all the same length.

How are real estate agents paid?

28 May


Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll probably work with a real estate professional during the transaction. If you’re a seller, the REALTOR® that you work with will offer expert advice about the community and competition, provide marketing and advertising, and handle schedules for all the transactions that must occur. For buyers, the agent will help them identify properties that fit their needs, handle negotiations and also help with the paperwork and scheduling.

For all that they do, agents are paid by commission, rather than on an hourly rate. The commission they receive is based on the sale price and only after the completion of the sale. If they do not sell the home, or if they are unable to locate a home for a buyer, they aren’t paid.

How much is the commission?

The typical commission is about 6 percent of the sale price, and it is usually split between the buyer’s agent and the listing agent. The commission percentage that the seller agrees to pay is negotiable.

Who pays the commission?

The fee for the transaction is subtracted from the proceeds of the sale. It’s important to note that the fee comes out of the cost of the house and is not tacked on in addition to the sale price.

Easy-to-grow edibles for your home garden

22 May


Starting a garden can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you have a plot for a garden, plans for a raised garden or just a few pots around your patio, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding.

The good news is that you can start small and add some new plants year after year. The better news is that there are some fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow.

Lettuce

There are many types of lettuce and other salad greens – head lettuce, leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, just to name a few. They are easy to maintain, grow quickly and don’t need a lot of room. They prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, rather than the heat of summer. To ensure that you have greens all summer long, you can plant seeds every two weeks.

Tomatoes

The flavor of summer comes from tomatoes. You can buy starter plants from nurseries and home improvement stores. Tomatoes prefer the sun and can be grown in pots and even upside-down hanging baskets. Opt for heirlooms and grow a variety ranging from green to yellow to purple.

Cucumbers

Vine cucumber plants need some room because they spread out. They can take over areas of your garden and choke out sun and nutrients from other plants. Opt for bush rather than vine plants. They don’t spread as much and are more resistant to disease. Cucumbers will grow all summer long.

Carrots

A root vegetable, carrots grow until they hit something, then grow around it. If you have rocky soil, you’ll get crooked carrots. Still edible, but not visually appealing. For long, beautiful carrots, you need deep soil. Carrots are ready to harvest when you can see them above the soil.

Radishes

If you like radishes, the good news is that they’re incredibly easy to grow. Spring radishes are mild in flavor, can grow in pots and are ready in three to four weeks. Hot summer soil produces spicier radishes.

Green beans

There are many varieties from which to choose. Beans prefer sun and well-drained soil. As with cucumbers, there are vine and bush types of bean plants.

Zucchini

Preferring warm soil, zucchini and other types of squash are perfect to add to your garden later in the year. They can grow just fine in pots or in mounded soil. Zucchini plants do need water in order to flourish.

Herbs

If you want to start even smaller, grow an herb garden. Herbs can be grown in pots or in a garden. Basil, thyme, dill, cilantro, chives… all can be grown with minimal effort, space and maintenance.

Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint, explore the possibilities of sustainable food sources, or simply like the idea of gardening, if you’ve got a back yard with a bit of space, gardening can be rewarding, cost-effective and best of all, delicious!