Category Archives: Home Maintenance

5 Projects to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal This Fall

We’ve said it a thousand times, but it still remains true – curb appeal is everything. It’s what draws a potential homebuyer to want to see the inside of your home. Here are 5 simple, affordable upgrades you can make to your home now to improve its curb appeal this fall:

  1. 5 Projects to Improve Home's Curb Appeal This FallLandscaping: Add fresh mulch to the base of your treas and other plans, and add seasonal plants like mums to your flower beds for a colorful fall look. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, but you still want seasonal decor for your home, add a fall-themed wreath or to your front door or potted mums to your porch.
  2. Upgrade outdoor accessories: Replace those faded house numbers, paint your mailbox or get a new front door. These small, but affordable changes can give your house a fresh, well-maintained look that will entice homebuyers to want to see more.
  3. Keep your lawn groomed. Yes, it is fall and it can be hard to keep up with the falling leaves, but it is important to keep your lawn groomed, especially if you are trying to sell your home. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the weeds under control, trees and shrubs trimmed and the leaves raked.
  4. Pressure wash the exterior of your home, your porch and patio or deck. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest where moss can accumulate, it is important to pressure wash your home and outdoor living areas. This also makes your home look cared for.
  5. Add or upgrade your outdoor lighting. As our days get shorter, outdoor lighting can create an easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic while also providing an important function – a well lit path to your door. Consider decorative lights along sidewalks, flood lights near entrances and new porch lights.

 

Team Marti’s Fall Maintenance Tips

Team Marti's Fall Maintenance TipsMake sure your home is ready for the changing seasons with this handy fall home maintenance checklist from Team Marti:

Inside:

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries.
  • Replace furnace filters.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors.
  • Install storm doors and windows.
  • Check weather stripping around your garage door.
  • Clean your humidifiers.
  • Reverse direction of ceiling fans.

Outside:

  • Clean and repair gutters and downspouts.
  • Drain outside faucets and hoses.
  • Make repairs or repaint peeling or blistering paint.
  • Have your roof inspected and schedule repairs.
  • Clean and store lawn furniture.
  • Prepare your lawn and gardens for winter.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks.

 

 

Avoid These 8 Home Security Mistakes to Prevent Summer Burglaries

Avoid these 8 home security mistakes to prevent a summer burglary.According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice cited by Alarms.org, on average, burglary rates are the highest in the summer. Winter has the lowest burglary rate, with February having the lowest amount of burglaries.

Did you know that break-ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6 AM and 6 PM while people are at work? According to the FBI, there were 1.9 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2013, or approximately one every 16 seconds. About a third of these occurred through an unlocked door or window, says Urban Survival.

There is good news though. There are easy ways for you to protect your home and your belongings by avoiding these home security mistakes.

  1. A full mailbox. This is a clue to a would-be burglar that no one is home. Make sure that your mail doesn’t accumulate when you go out of town, whether it is a day trip or a week’s vacation. Ask a neighbor to take in your mail, or have the U.S. Post Office hold your mail for up to 30 days.
  2. Hiding a spare key in an obvious place. Don’t hide a spare key where it is likely to be found, like in a flower pot by the door, under the welcome mat, or one of those fake rocks that we all know are for hiding keys. Better yet, instead of hiding one outside, give a spare key to a trusted neighbor in case you lock yourself out.
  3. Talking about your trips on social media. These days so many of us post photos and check-ins of our vacations and business trips on social media. This is an invitation to a burglar looking for an easy target. Wait until you get back to post the pix, and/or tighten your security settings on social media so only your friends can see your posts.
  4. Disabling your security alarm. Because more residential burglaries occur during the day, you should not disable the alarm when you’re home during the day. Leave it enabled to protect your home and your family from a daytime break-in.
  5. Leaving doors and windows unlocked. We get comfortable in our surroundings and assume that no one will try climbing in a window or letting themselves into your home through an unlocked door. Wrong. Upgrade to heavy-duty door and window locks, use dowel rods or similar devices to keep your windows from being able to easily slide open, or consider getting door and window alarms which go off when the door or window is opened.
  6. Leaving your garage door open and unlocked. Once upon a time, neighbors would leave their garage doors open, so they could easily go in and out of their homes on the weekends while their kids were playing outside or they were working in the yard. This creates an opportunity for a thief to get inside effortlessly. Err on the side of caution. Leave the door down and locked when not in use.
  7. Poor lighting. A poorly lit exterior can provide good cover for a burglar who wants to break into your home at night. Add exterior lighting or perhaps lights with a motion detector sensor.
  8. A ladder in the yard. Yes, taking your ladder in and out of the garage while you are working on an exterior project can be a pain, but leaving the ladder out is an easy way for a burglar to enter your home through the second story.

 

11 Holiday and Winter Fire Safety Tips

Team Marti: 11 Holiday and Winter Fire Safety TipsThe holidays are a wonderful time of year to spend time with friends and family, decorate our homes for the season, and gather around a toasty warm fireplace. Unfortunately, some of these activities bring inherent dangers with them. Here are 11 holiday and winter fire safety tips from Pillar to Post to help keep your family and safe this holiday season.

  1. Before hanging holiday lights indoors or out, check for frayed or broken wires and plugs. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when connecting strings of lights together to prevent overload.
  2. Only turn on your holiday lights when someone is home, and be sure to turn them off before you go to bed each night.
  3. Candles are a beautiful way to decorate for the holidays, but they need to be used with caution. If you are using real candles, be sure they are in stable holders and located away from drapes, pets, children and other potential hazards. Never leave candles burning unattended.
  4. If you are using a live Christmas tree this year, be sure it is properly hydrated and placed in a proper stand. Be sure to check the water level daily, and use nonflammable decorations. Also, when the tree becomes dried out after the holiday, dispose of it as soon as possible. Some cities and scout troops collect the trees to use for mulch, so recycle it if you can.
  5. Check lamps, appliances and electronics regularly for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. If any of those items are damaged, do not use that electrical item, and never run electrical wires or extension cords under carpets or rugs.
  6. Have your fireplace serviced every year, including cleaning and masonry repair.
  7. If you plan to use a space heater to heat your home, keep it away from beds, bedding, curtains, papers or anything else flammable. Keep it away from children and pets, and never leave it unattended. Turn space heaters off before going to bed at night.
  8. Use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change their batteries to keep them fresh. Home safety experts recommend changing the batteries when the time changes each spring and fall.
  9. Keep matches, lighters and candles away from children. Also, be sure to store flammable materials like gasoline, kerosene and propane outside and away from your home.
  10. When doing your holiday cooking and baking, be particularly careful in the kitchen. Grease fires and other kitchen fires and burns can be prevented with good cleaning and by taking great care while cooking. Have a fire extinguisher created to handle grease and fuel fires handy (pantry, under the sink, etc.).
  11. Make sure your family has and knows its emergency escape plan. Visit Ready.gov for information on creating a plan, and make sure all family members – including small children – know to dial 9-1-1 in case of a fire.

Thanks again to Pillar and Post for these great tips. We at Team Marti hope you and your family have a wonderful, safe holiday season!

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: Interior and Exterior

Make sure your home is ready for fall weather with this handy fall home maintenance checklist:

Home Interior Fall Maintenance Tips

  • Fall Home Maintenance ChecklistReplace furnace filters and have your furnace and fireplace serviced before you need them.
  • Do a fall safety check by testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries. Safety experts recommend you do this when the time changes twice a year, so you don’t forget.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors in your home and basement with caulking or weather stripping. This will save energy and preserve heat in your home during the colder months.
  • Check the weather stripping around your garage door.
  • Reverse the direction of any ceiling fans so there is an upward draft. This will help redistribute heat that rises to the ceiling.
  • Store portable air conditioning units and clean and cover central air units.
  • Clean your humidifiers throughout the season to keep them free of bacteria and other germs.

Home Exterior Fall Maintenance Tips

  • Drain outside faucets and hoses, and do any repairs or maintenance to sprinkler systems.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts, so they can handle the fall rain without getting clogged. If you have old or damaged gutters, make repairs or replacements as soon as possible. New models have built-in leaf guards which will save you from hours of labor and your home from clogged gutters in the future.
  • Where possible, direct drainage away from the home. Consider a rain garden to improve drainage on your property while also protecting our waterways from pollution.
  • Check the exterior of your home, garage, shed and any other outbuildings for peeling or blistering paint. Make repairs or repaint in try weather. We recommend hiring a professional painter because this can be a time-consuming task.
  • Have your roof inspected for loose, damaged or missing shingles. Harsh fall storms and winter weather can compound any existing problems, so it is better to make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Do fall lawn maintenance including preparing your lawn and gardens for winter, trimming back trees and bushes that could get damaged by fall and winter winds, and rake autumn leaves which you can then use for compost or mulch. Fertilize your lawn for spring.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks. Make any necessary repairs.
  • Drain fuel from gas-powered lawn equipment like leaf blowers, lawn mowers, edgers and chain saws.
  • Clean and store patio, porch and deck furniture.

Yes, this seems like a lot of work, but preventative maintenance can save homeowners time and money down the road. And remember – you don’t have to do it yourself. There are plenty of highly skilled contractors throughout the Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Auburn and Renton area. If you need recommendations, let us know. Team Marti can offer suggestions!

 

7 Tips for Selling Your House in the Fall

Kent Realtor Marti Reeder: 7 Tips for Selling Your House in the FallThough the real estate market slows down a bit in the fall, it is still a good time to sell your home, especially in the greater Seattle area where home inventory and interest rates are both low. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for sale.

 1. Clean up the exterior of your home. This means keeping your lawn, trees and shrubs neatly groomed, clearing out any flowers and plants that didn’t survive the summer, and keeping the leaves raked. It is also a good time to wash exterior windows, power wash the outside of your home, your front porch and deck.

2. Make the front of your home inviting. Don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal. You want the exterior of your home to be neat and clean, but you also want it to be inviting. This might mean putting flowers or plants (pumpkins even!) on your front porch, adding a seasonal wreath to your front door, giving your mailbox or front door a fresh coat of paint or replacing the old faded address numbers with something more attractive.

3. Clean your home’s interior, top to bottom. We always hear about spring cleaning, but fall cleaning is just as important. Give your home a thorough cleaning, including windows, blinds, ceiling fans, baseboards, floors, walls, if needed, etc. If you don’t have time, ask your Realtor® to refer you to a professional house cleaner in your area. It is well worth the money.

4. Declutter, depersonalize and organize your home, garage and any outbuildings. By doing so, potential buyers can more easily envision themselves in your home.

5. Prepare your home for fall weather. Take out or store window or portable air conditioners, replace screens with storm windows if your home has them, clean out your gutters, store your patio furniture, and consider having your furnace serviced.

6. Do minor repairs. This goes hand in hand with preparing your home for fall weather. Do the windows need caulking? Do any of the screens need repairing or replacing? Are any of your light fixtures broken or in need of an updated look?

7. Add seasonal touches to your home’s interior. This could mean a fall floral arrangement in your entryway, cozy autumn-colored throws in the family room, or a bowl of fall fruits on your kitchen counter. You could also take advantage of fall scents with candles or air fresheners – apple, cinnamon, pumpkin, etc.

During the initial walk-through of your home, your Realtor® can make additional suggestions for improving and staging your home to put the focus on its very best features. Happy selling!

 

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

 

Do a Final Walk-Through Before Closing

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

You’ve done it! You’ve found your dream home, and you are almost ready to sign the papers that will make it yours. While you are anxious to close the deal and move in, there is one critical last step before you do so – a final walk-through. You might be tempted to use this opportunity to give the house one more cursory glance as you plan where you’ll put your furniture, but this is your last chance to make sure the home is in good shape and that any repairs or changes have been made as agreed.

  1. Heating and Cooling Systems. Check to be sure that the heating and cooling systems in the home work, no matter what the season. You don’t want to wait until winter to know that the furnace or heat pump isn’t working.
  2. Plumbing. Turn on every faucet and showerhead and flush all the toilets. Do they all work? Is anything leaking? Is the water pressure appropriate? If not, make a note of it.
  3. Electrical Systems. Turn on all the lights and ceiling fans, find the fuse box and check to be sure that switch plates, fixtures, etc. are in place. If anything is missing, jot it down.
  4. Appliances. Are the appliances in good working order? Make sure that any appliances that are staying work. Turn on the dishwasher, make sure the refrigerator and freezer are cold, give the dryer a spin, test the garbage disposal, and check the microwave and bathroom fans.
  5. Home Security. If the home has a security system, is it working? Does the keypad work? How about the remotes? Do you know where everything is and do you have instructions on how to change passcodes, etc. once the home is yours?
  6. Windows and Doors. Open every window and door to ensure there aren’t any problems, and make sure you have keys to each door. Are the screens and storm windows intact? If the home has an electric garage door opener, check that too and be sure you have access to all remotes.
  7. Landscaping and Lawn Care. Check to be sure that the lawn has been left as you agreed to it. Make note of any problems with the fencing and, if there is a watering system, check to be sure that it works. Is anything missing?
  8. Repairs. If the current homeowner agreed to make any repairs prior to selling the home, or if the inspection required repairs or upgrades as a condition of sale, follow up to be sure these repairs have been made. Also, if the homeowner agreed to leave the ceiling fan, curtains or other items, check to be sure they are still in the home.
  9. Overall Condition of the Home. Is the home clean? Have all of the previous owner’s property been removed? If not, let your Realtor® know.

Make sure you have your Realtor along when you do the final walk-through, so she can serve as the liaison between you and the sellers should there be a problem. You’ll want to get everything resolved prior to closing. Enjoy your new home!

Sources:  Money Crashers, Realtor Magazine and Zillow

 

 

 

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing Your Home

Are you considering downsizing – or rightsizing – your current home to accommodate your changing needs? Maybe your kids have left for college, you have more space than you want to maintain, or perhaps you and your spouse are tired of caring for a large yard. Here are some important factors to consider as you consider downsizing your current home.

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing or Rightsizing Your HomeAccording to Realtor.com, the first thing to consider is how much money downsizing will actually save you. You might be surprised to learn that downsizing does not always save money, so it’s critical to evaluate your expenses carefully. For example, if you downsize your home but move to a more expensive part of town, your bills may actually increase.

The same might be true if you’re moving into an older home which may have an outdated heating or electrical system. Will making repairs or replacements in an older home cost you more than staying where you are? To help make this decision easier, trying using a downsizing calculator to help figure out how moving will affect your finances.

Next, take a look at why you’re downsizing. Do you want to move just so you can save some extra money month to month? Have your kids left for college, or moved out on their own? Do you want to live in a condo to save time on lawn maintenance, or are you tired of climbing the stairs because of health concerns? All of these are valid reasons for wanting to move.

HGTV offers some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering downsizing. For example, will you miss important things about having a more spacious home? How will different life scenarios pan out if you live in a smaller home? Take a look at your options to see if downsizing is really the right option for you. Will the cost of selling your current home cover the cost of buying your newer, smaller home?

You might also have to get rid of or replace things that you have come to know and love over the time that you’ve lived in a larger home. Know how small you’re willing to go with your home, and make decisions about personal belongings accordingly.

Like any other housing decision, you also need to take in common lifestyle and convenience factors. Will your home have what you need and what you want in it? Is it in a neighborhood you feel comfortable living in? Will you have enough space to live comfortably? Are the services and amenities you access regularly nearby? How much “stuff” will you have to part with if you move?

There are many factors to consider when downsizing or rightsizing. Think through all of them carefully before making your decision. Can’t quite decide? Discuss the choices with your family and consult an experienced Realtor® who specializes in rightsizing. They’ll be able to talk you through the decision more objectively. Good luck!

 

Save Money at Home with These 10 DIY Home Hacks

Save Money with these 10 DIY Home HacksEveryone likes to save money, especially on expensive home-related projects. With these DIY home hacks, inspired by This Old House, you can save time, money and energy! Here are 10 of our favorite home hacks.

  1. Closing closet doors reduces the square footage your home must heat and cool. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $50 per year.
  2. Turn down the temperature on your hot water to 120 or 110 degrees. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $30 or more per year.
  3. Install a dimmer switch and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. It will cost about $10 per switch and $5 per bulb. Approximate savings: about $20 per fixture over 3 years.
  4. Use a microwave to make meals instead of your stove. A microwave consumes about half the power of a stove. Cost: $0. Savings: $40 or more per year.
  5. Insulate hot-water lines using pre-formed foam tubes. Cost: $0.29 to $0.35 per foot of insulation. Approximate savings: $50 per year on your energy bill.
  6. Put your computer to sleep. When you aren’t using your computer, put it in sleep mode manually or adjust the setting on your computer to do it automatically after 10 minutes. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: up to $75 per year off your electric bill. (Bonus tip: laptops use less energy than a desktop PC.)
  7. Plant deciduous (leafy) trees on the south, west or east side of your home. When the tree matures, it will provide natural shade and cooling for your home. Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the species and age of the tree you purchase. Approximate savings: $120 per year on cooling costs once the tree reaches maturity.
  8. Install ceiling fans in living areas (e.g., bedroom, living room, family room, etc.) A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool in the summer, but running it at low speed and clockwise can also help keep your home warmer in the winter. Cost: $30 to $300 at Home Depot. Approximate savings: up to $100 a year.
  9. Buy home-related products in the office season to get the best prices: firewood in the spring, grill, lawn furniture and lawn equipment in the fall, etc. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
  10. Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning unit, including professional maintenance and DIY maintenance like replacing furnace filters on schedule. Routine upkeep can help you save energy and money. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.

Thanks to Josh Garskof of This Old House magazine for these great DIY home hacks. See the original article for more ideas to save time, money and energy at home.

Homeowner’s Insurance vs. Home Warranty: What’s the Difference?

Force-placed-ins-money-house-article-2Because your home is one of your most valuable investments, it is important to protect it. There are two primary ways to do that: homeowners’ insurance and home warranty. While both are important resources, they cover different things. Here are some of the key differences you should understand before purchasing them.

Homeowners’ Insurance

As American Home Shield points out, a home insurance policy covers accidental damage to your home due to theft, storms, fires and some natural disasters. Note: some natural disasters like floods and earthquakes require separate policies. Homeowners’ insurance covers four key areas:

  1. Interior of your home
  2. Exterior of your home
  3. Personal property in case of theft, loss or damage
  4. General liability when someone is injured on your property

If you have a mortgage on the home, your lender will require you to have a homeowners’ insurance policy. How much insurance you need depends on the types of coverage, the value of your home, and the amount of any mortgages on the property. Your lender and insurance agent can tell you the minimum required amount as well as make recommendations. Their advice will also be based on whether you have replacement cost coverage, actual cash value, market value coverage or stated value.

Homeowners’ insurance is renewed annually, and the yearly premium ranges from $300 to $1,000, depending on coverage amounts and your deductible. A higher deductible typically means a lower premium.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a completely different type of coverage. It is a service contract that provides for the repair or replacement of your home’s system components:

  • Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Washer/dryer
  • Pools and spas (usually available as an add-on)

A home warranty is usually good for 12 months, and it is voluntary. You do not need a home warranty to qualify for a home loan. American Home Shield says the average cost of an appliance and system combo plan is about $75 per month, or $900 a year. Add-on coverages for pools and spas are additional. Home warranties are particularly useful when purchasing an older home with older systems and appliances. $75 a month is a bargain compared to having to foot the bill for major repairs or replacements.

Home warranties are helpful to home sellers because it may help them to sell their homes faster because their homes are more marketable. It may also protect them from legal disputes if major problems arise after the sale. Home warranties are also useful to home buyers because they help protect major systems in the home as well as cash flow as the buyers move into a new home.

Both types of coverage offer peace of mind in exchange for a premium, and can protect you from financial surprises should something unexpected happen to or in your home. Check with a trusted Realtor® for recommendations of reputable homeowners’ insurance agents and home warranty providers when you are shopping for your next home.