Archive June 2015

Hiring Power

Finding a qualified contractor for a home improvement project can seem overwhelming unless you know what qualifications to look for. Start your contractor search by following these guidelines from Angie’s List.

Begin by clearly defining your project. Read remodeling magazines and search websites for designs and materials. Even just jotting down ideas on paper can help potential contractors understand what you want to accomplish.

To find contractors, ask family and friends for references, or check out sites like Angie’s List and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) for recommendations. Also check the Better Business Bureau for any reported complaints.

Ask the contractor for names of previous clients and talk to them about their experience. Find out if they were pleased with the workmanship and whether they would hire the contractor again. If the contractor is reluctant to give names of past clients, find another one.

Make sure the contractor has an established street address and phone number where they can be reached in case of an emergency. Be wary of contractors who use a box office address or an answering service.

Obtain at least three written estimates, and ask if the contractors are licensed, bonded and insured. A reputable contractor will usually come prepared with proof of these items. Review the contract thoroughly to ensure that you understand all of the details and how change orders will be handled.

Most contractors require a 10 percent to 15 percent deposit before beginning a project. Use a credit card for payments so you have some recourse in case something goes wrong. Before signing off on the project and making the final payment, check that the work is completed to your satisfaction.

Hiring qualified contractors can provide some peace of mind throughout the project.

Your Home CRS Newsletter August 2012

New Homeowner DIY Tips

Buying a home for the first time is a huge step. But learning to maintain and improve it can be both painful and rewarding. The do-it-yourself experts at The Family Handyman (www.familyhandyman.com) offer the following tips for maintaining your home that will save you money down the road.

Create a homeowner’s journal. Keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house inside a three-ring binder. Storing your home’s maintenance information in one handy place makes it easier to find when you need it — especially when you consider selling the house in the future.

Get to know your house before making any big changes. Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations, since your initial perspective may change. After you’ve lived there for awhile, reassess what suits your needs — and your home — best.

Tackle one project at a time. If you dive right into the porch, a kitchen remodel and an outdoor fence replacement at once, you’ll have the whole house and yard torn up at the same time. It might all come together, but this approach can be stressful on homeowners and their families.

Budget for unexpected repairs. Problems are bound to happen sooner or later. Set up an emergency fund to handle these unexpected expenses.

Ask neighbors to recommend good plumbers, electricians, contractors or other professionals for you to contact. Chances are, people who have lived in your area for a long time can give you the best advice.

Your Home Newsletter June 2013

Landscaping Adds Value

Is your yard helping or hurting your chance of getting top dollar for your home? According to a survey by landscape manufacturer TruGreen, nearly three-fourths of Americans believe it takes only a few seconds for them to form a first impression about a home’s appearance.

Most REALTORS® agree that curb appeal is essential when selling a home. Lackluster landscaping can turn off prospective buyers and affect the home’s resale value, say experts at the Appraisal Institute. But before making any improvements to your landscaping, consider how long you’ll be living in the home and whether to make short-term updates or plan for the long term. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is the landscaping attractive enough to make a prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design contemporary and in line with comparable properties in the area.

2. Does the landscaping provide a cost savings? Landscaping that requires little or no water to maintain may be more desirable to some buyers, depending on where they live.

3. Is the landscaping energy-efficient? In locations with abundant sunshine, trees should be planted where they can block some of the sunlight and provide cooling shade.

4. Are trees planted at a safe distance from the home and are they well maintained? Old or damaged trees planted too close to a home can damage the home’s foundation.

A well-maintained yard can make a strong first impression and add value to your home.

Your Home Newsletter June 2013

Your Ultimate Backyard

With spring coming to an end, it is time to prepare your home for all things summer. Whether you want to play host to summer barbecues or just want a place to relax in the sun, there are lots of options for outdoor recreation spaces. Working to build a premier outdoor area can not only serve as the ideal place to spend time with family and friends, but it can also add value to your home. Here are some ideas for equipping your ultimate summer backyard:

Let There Be Light – Light up your outdoor space by installing lights along walkways or on tables or stringing lights around a seating are. This lighting not only creates a relaxed atmosphere, it’s also great for night-time showings when it’s time to sell.

Create an Outdoor Kitchen Area – While only about 4 percent of affluent households have outdoor kitchens today, 13.6 percent say they are planning to add one in 2014. A recent study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that outdoor kitchens can add to a home’s value. Upgrading your standalone grill to a built-in grill with additional counter space can go a long way.

Cozy Up – Adding outdoor couches, throw pillows and rugs creates the perfect ambiance for entertaining and invokes a feeling of comfort and serenity, according to the National Association of REAL- TORS® (NAR). These additions also provide value for staging and help potential homebuyers visualize themselves in the home.

Bug Off – There aren’t many downsides to the summer, but one of them is the return of the insects. To make your outdoor space critter-free, make sure you have citronella candles handy.

Your Home CRS Newsletter May/June 2015

Natural Landscaping

According to a study conducted by the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), the drought across the Western United States and parts of the Midwest region will intensify in 2015. With so much sun and little rain, homeowners will need to prepare their landscapes accordingly. If you live in one of these drought-ridden areas, an easy solution for an efficient and attractive yard is a natural landscape.

Natural landscapes are gaining popularity for good reason. Plants native to a particular region have adapted to the surrounding environment, whether it features harsh winters, flooding or droughts. Native plants tend to flourish in local soils, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says these landscapes are good for the environment.

Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance on natural landscaping is minimal. Once implemented, native landscapes do not need fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Natural landscapes usually require less water and minimal maintenance, which make them ideal for busy homeowners.

Another growing trend in drought-ridden areas such as California is “xeriscaping.” Plants required for this type of landscaping vary by region, but they are commonly waste- efficient and require extremely low amounts of water — if any at all, the EPA says.

Maintenance-free “hard elements” in a yard can include rocks, fences, walking paths or lawn ornaments. These features help fill your landscape and require zero maintenance.

Whatever choice homeowners consider when deciding how to create a beautiful outdoor landscape, NAR recommends keeping costs below 5 to 10 percent of the home’s value, so that you don’t over-improve.

Your Home CRS Newsletter May/June 2015