Archive July 2015

Universal Appeal

As more homeowners choose to live in their homes longer as they age, many of them are improving their space with universal design features to help them live more comfortably. Before making any improvements, the National Aging in Place Council outlines the most common universal design modifications.

Are the entryways accessible? Adding a ramp or constructing no- step entries can help those confined to a wheelchair or who have trouble climbing stairs. Open floor plans and wider hallways make everyone feel less cramped and allow people to move around easily. Wider doorways provide easier access to other parts of the home and enable people to move large items in and out of the house.

To improve safety in bathrooms, install grab bars and elevated toilets. Make sure there’s enough turnaround space for someone in a wheelchair, and consider lowering the bathroom sink and adding a roll-in shower with multiple showerheads. A non-slip floor and shower surface will help everyone stay on their feet. In the master bedroom, consider reconfiguring an existing walk-in closet or building a new one with storage at different heights.

In the kitchen, lower cooking surfaces and countertops built at varying heights will appeal to home cooks who have difficulty bending over or have height limitations. Wall ovens and microwaves should be mounted at reachable heights, and storage and shelf space should be abundant and accessible.

Well-placed skylights and ceiling lights will aid those with poor vision and make the home more personable and safe. Installing rocker switches and door lever
handles can aid people with poor hand
strength as well as those carrying
groceries into the house.

A universally-designed home provides smart solutions for everyday living that everyone can enjoy.

Your Home Newsletter, October 2012

Inspect For Success

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, home inspections are a key part of closing any deal. The inspection serves as a top-to bottom overview of the home — from structure to plumbing and electrical — to ensure safety and peace of mind for new homeowners. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, home inspections can range from $350 to $500 depending on geographical location, and are typically the responsibility of the homebuyer, although it’s not uncommon for sellers to conduct them.

Anything that is readily accessible and clearly visible can be a part of the inspection, which can take from two to four hours. Buyers should always tag along on home inspections to see firsthand what the inspector notices and identifies as potential cause for concern. This is especially helpful in making sense of the inspector’s final summary report, which will note anything in the home that might need fixing or that could lead to big issues down the line, such as a cracked foundation, faulty wiring, defective heating and cooling systems, or the presence of mold or water stains.

While it is not included in a normal home inspection, many experts recommend spending the extra money to conduct both termite and radon inspections before deciding whether to buy. Buyers shouldn’t be nervous to use the findings as bargaining chips during negotiations. Oftentimes, sellers will repair problems or lower the home price based on issues the inspection discovers.

Your Home Newsletter September 2012

Shaping Up At Home

A home gym may be a practical alternative for people who can’t afford a club membership, are short on time or don’t have access to a health club. With so many types of equipment available, it might be overwhelming to know what to buy for a home gym. These simple steps from Shape Magazine and the American Council on Exercise can guide you in the right direction.

Start by finding a location for your home gym. If you don’t have a spare bedroom, basement or back porch, designate a corner of the home, such as the living room. Make the space as light and airy as possible. Natural lighting from windows and doors work best, but if there are few windows, add recessed lighting or a few lamps with soft white bulbs to provide the light you need.

Full-length mirrors on one wall can not only make the space appear larger, they can be used to monitor proper form during workouts. Bring in a few plants, such as ferns, spider plants and bamboo palms, to boost oxygen levels and naturally purify the air.

Even equipment designed for home use can take more room than you have. Equipment can take up as little as 10 square feet for a bike or 30 square feet for a treadmill, while a multi-station gym may require up to 200 square feet. If the space doesn’t allow for a treadmill and multi-gym, opt for a space-saving rack of dumbbells and several easily storable items such as a jump rope, resistance bands, stability ball and yoga mat.

Start by adding a few pieces of equipment and gradually build up the home gym over time. In no time, your body and bank account will thank you.

Your Home Newsletter, October 2012

Rental Strategies

For some homeowners, renting may be a viable option to selling. Whether you are an experienced landlord or a first-timer, the following tips from Frontdoor.com and USAA Insurance can help you evaluate prospective renters for your home.

First, know federal and state landlord/tenant laws, especially the Fair Housing Act, which outlines illegal discriminatory actions. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website is a good place to start to gather information.

When advertising, focus on the details about the home, such as amenities, features, number of bedrooms and baths, and rent. Providing photos can also help “sell” your place to prospective renters. Show your house at its best by keeping it clean and in good repair. Remember to remove any personal items.

Use a standard rental application that conforms to state laws, and give renters a list of policies about pets, co-signers, credit scores and late payments. Review all applications in the order you receive them, conduct a background check and call references. A good rule of thumb is to accept only applicants whose gross monthly income is three times the rent or more.

Keep marketing the house and accepting applications until a lease is signed and the deposit check has cleared. Ask potential tenants to show proof of renters insurance, which covers the cost of the tenants’ belongings and any damage that might occur to the property during their stay.

By following these tips, you can find tenants who appreciate your home as much as you do.

Your Home CRS Newsletter August 2012