How to Handle a Burst Pipe and Minimize Damage
Article by: Brentnie Daggett
Burst pipes can be one of the most costly maintenance issues you'll face as a property owner. A burst pipe suddenly flooding your kitchen can quickly become an out-of-hand emergency that could cost you thousands of dollars in damage. A quick and accurate response is key to resolving the issue and mitigating both damage to your property and your out-of-pocket cost.
Steps to Take Ahead of Time
If you own property in an area that experiences cold weather, you need to be aware of seasonal maintenance tasks that will help you protect your property as the weather changes each year. One of the most important steps is to winterize your pipes to ensure they won't freeze or burst when the temperature drops. This includes action items like insulating any exposed pipes, detaching garden hoses and covering outdoor faucets. If the weather gets cold enough, you may even consider leaving a faucet dripping or opening cabinet doors during the coldest parts of the day.
No matter how prepared you might be, accidents and emergencies still happen. You'd be wise to set up a savings account specifically for your property so you have a "rainy day" fund set aside for unexpected expenses. All homes—regardless of age, location or condition—will inevitably need some form of emergency repair.
Steps to Take for a Burst Pipe
Water damage claims are the second most common insurance claim in the U.S. When you're dealing with a frozen pipe, the water continues to expand as it freezes, which creates pressure that can cause a pipe to burst. When this happens, the crack or leak in the pipe allows water flow from the pipe to enter your home where it shouldn't. If a pipe does burst, you need to act quickly to mitigate property damage and repair cost.
Your very first step should be to shut off your main water supply to minimize flooding—typically the most expensive damage to address.
Once you've shut off the water supply, make sure you identify the entire area that has been impacted by the leak. Remove as much water as possible—as quickly as possible—using a mop, sponges, towels or a shop vacuum or wet/dry vacuum.
To prevent long-term damage due to moisture build-up, run a dehumidifier or fan in the affected area.
Contact a licensed plumber to ensure the pipe is correctly repaired before running any water to that section of the home again.
How to Help Maintain a High Credit Score
During the holiday shopping season, your credit score is probably the last thing on your mind. But as you start your seasonal spending, remember to use credit wisely so you can start the new year with a healthy credit score. The following tips can help you maintain or potentially improve your credit score throughout the holidays and beyond.
Know how your credit score is calculated. The most common credit score is expressed as a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850. (Some lenders may calculate it differently, but this should be a good guideline.) The score is derived from a formula using five weighted factors: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and types of credit in use (10%).1 Keeping these components in mind can help you stay on track with your credit.
Make payments on time. Set up alerts for every credit card you have so you don't miss notifications of charges, statements, or due dates. To help avoid missed payments, set up automatic payments. If you do miss a payment, contact the lender and bring the account up-to-date as soon as possible.
Keep credit-card balances low. If you carry a balance, consider paying down the cards with the highest balance-to-credit limit ratio first while keeping up minimum (or higher) payments on others. Don't "max out" your available credit.
Be careful about opening and closing accounts. Some retailers may offer discounts on purchases if you sign up for a store credit card, but store cards often have high interest rates and low credit limits. Unless you plan on shopping regularly at that store and the card offers useful bonuses or discounts, avoid applying for new credit cards solely to save money on purchases. Likewise, try not to close multiple accounts within a short period of time — this could actually hurt your credit score.
Research before using credit boosting services. You might be tempted to sign up for a free service that promises to instantly boost your credit score, but they're usually only worth considering if you have a thin credit file and/or a low credit score. These services can't fix any late payments you've made or reduce the impact of an excessive level of debt.
Monitor your credit report regularly. You can order a free credit report annually* from each of the three major consumer reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. If you find incorrect information on your credit report, contact the reporting agency in writing, provide copies of any corroborating documents, and ask for an investigation.
Renovation Terms and Their Definitions
Planning to carry out some renovations in your home? If so, you can be excused for getting lost among the numerous phrases, words, and acronyms that make up the rich language of renovation. With that in mind, let’s try to clear things up a bit.
A blueprint is a mechanical drawing made by an architect to illustrate the layout of a building, its dimensions, access points, as well as materials that will be used, and more. In the old days, they were printed on blue paper, while the drawing itself had white lines — which is where their name comes from. Nowadays, they are available in digital formats as well, and blueprints, floor plans and drawings are often used interchangeably.
Building inspectors are employed by the government to ensure that any remodeling, renovation and construction work is done in accordance with local legislation. It is their job to check that health and safety measures are met, that plumbing and electrical work is compliant with local codes, and that any work done on the building is in line with zoning and building code regulations. They can also decide to put your renovation on hold until the inspection has been carried out and all work is approved.
A building permit is an official approval granted by your local governmental agency that allows you to perform renovation or construction work on your property. Whether you need a building permit in order to go ahead with your project depends on the scope of the renovation, as well as where you live. You may or may not need one, so make sure to check with your local authorities in advance.
Also known as ‘general contractor’, this is the person you hire to oversee your renovation project. A contractor will coordinate the renovation and provide a quote on the cost and timeframe as well as handle the actual work. General contractors often hire subcontractors to take care of specific tasks, such as plumbing, electrical, and so on. All contractors you work with should be licensed and, ideally, insured.
Typically used when referring to windows, the term is used for a closed unit made out of two (sometimes three or four) panes of glass that are separated either by vacuum, or inert gas. Double-glazed can also be applied to doors made with similar types of glass panes. Windows and doors made with double-glazed glass units provide your home with better insulation, both when it comes to heat and cold, as well as sound.
A fixture is a relatively loose term used to describe items that are set firmly in place, and are usually attached to the exterior of a wall. Examples of fixtures include anything from chandeliers to landscaping plants that have taken root in the soil. In renovation, they commonly refer to items such as taps, handles, sinks and bathtubs, even built-in ovens. Meanwhile, items that are attached using screws or nails, such as paintings, are referred to as ‘fittings’.
Sometimes appearing under GFI, this is an acronym for ‘ground fault circuit interrupter’. This is a device that breaks an electrical circuit in order to protect you from harm if exposed to stray electrical current. According to the National Electrical Code, GFCIs are required in all homes, in areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, garages, laundry rooms, and other areas where a water source is present.
An acronym for ‘heating, ventilation and air conditioning’. HVAC systems are essential for ensuring thermal comfort in your home, and should be inspected and maintained regularly.
A commonly used material in woodworking and carpentry, MDF stands for ‘medium-density fiberboard’. It’s sturdier than particle board, but weaker than plywood, and it’s commonly used for furniture, such as shelves and cabinets. It’s also easier to work with due to the fact that it doesn’t chip easily, making it ideal for sawing and drilling into. Although there have been some concerns regarding the effects of MDF on human health, due to the use of formaldehyde resins, MDF is not banned in the US.
Although ‘renovation’ and ‘remodeling’ are often used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing. Generally speaking, renovating means updating or upgrading a room without changing its purpose — for example, applying a new coat of paint on the wall. Remodeling is a more ‘invasive’ process, and it often implies remaking or repurposing a room. For example, you can remodel a kitchen by changing the layout of electrical and plumbing fixtures, on top of adding new cabinets. Remodeling is also more generally expensive than renovating, and it’s not always suited for a DIY project. Also, there’s a good chance that you will need to obtain a permit for remodeling, but not for renovation.
8 Amazing Ways to Brighten Your Home During Winter
Remove Mesh and Solar Screens
One of the best ways to brighten your home in winter is to use as much of the available natural light as possible. And, given the fact that there are no flies or mosquitoes around to bug you, now is a good time to remove mesh screens from your windows. The same applies to solar screens which, like mesh screens, make your home darker. While you’re at it, make sure to give the windows a clean as well — you will see the results instantly!
Go for Light Curtains
Speaking of window treatments, the right curtains can also be used to make your home brighter. If you have dark curtains, you can swap them for brighter colored ones, going for pastel colors, or even plain white. Drapes are a great way to add another layer of insulation to your home, so don’t ditch them just yet. Instead, go for something on the lighter end of the palette.
Use Light Slipcovers and Carpets
Like curtains and drapes, the color of your furniture and the flooring can also impact how bright your home looks in winter. Of course, changing your sofa to match the season is somewhat unfeasible, but using a brightly colored slipcover also does the trick. In fact, you can even use a white or pastel colored blanket to achieve the same effect, while also increasing the coziness of the room. Don’t forget about carpets: light colors will once again help brighten your room, on top of giving the illusion of space.
Swap Your Light Bulbs
With winter on your doorstep, you’ll find yourself switching the lights on earlier each day, so using the right light bulbs matters. Many homes use ones that have a yellow glow, and while they do make your home feel warmer, they are also darker than light bulbs that come in cooler tones. If you want to keep the cozy feel as well as brightening your home, consider swapping them for light bulbs that are between 2700K and 3000K. You can also go for ‘full spectrum’ CFL lights, which are better at emulating natural light.
Light Some Candles
Sometimes, embracing the darkness that comes with the winter nights might just work out for the best, especially if you’re going for a hygge atmosphere. This is where candles come into play, creating a soft light on top of making your home feel warm and cozy. Using scented candles will further add to that feeling, or, if you have respiratory problems or want to eliminate fire risks, feel free to use battery powered ones instead.
Bring out the String Lights
Don’t wait until Christmas to deck your halls with lots of string lights. Just like candles, they can brighten up your home, while also adding a touch of cozy, festive feel to your décor. String lights are remarkably versatile, and they come in a wide array of shapes, length and color, suitable for any room. Not only that, but they’re also easy to put up, and you can use them to highlight any part of your home. They look stunning when hung along ceilings or curtain poles, or even just along windowsills or shelves. You can even use a string of small, battery powered lights placed in a jar as a night light.
Reflect the Light Using Mirrors
Both practical and gorgeous, mirrors are a timeless piece of home décor. Not only do they make a room look spacious, but they will also make it brighter by reflecting any existing light. Mirrors work wonderfully especially if you have a room with a blank wall, and you need some inspiration for wall art decorations. As with paintings, make sure that the frame of your mirrors also matches the colors and overall theme of the room
Create a Summer Oasis with Houseplants
Nothing can lift your spirits amidst all the snow and gloomy weather quite like seeing a bit of greenery. Houseplants can brighten your home in any season, but they have a much greater impact in winter. Tropical plants such as miniature palms, Monstera or Philodendron will definitely give your home a summer vibe, or you can go for flowering plants such as African violets, begonias or azaleas for a spring look. In fact, some houseplants bloom in winter, such as cyclamens, Christmas cactus or poinsettias, making them perfect for whisking those winter blues away.
The Pros and Cons of Different Styles of Doors
Article by: John State
New exterior doors not only give your home a fresh and updated look, they can also significantly reduce your utility bills. Modern, energy-efficient materials mean your new doors can pay for themselves over time.
Wood is a popular choice among homeowners for a high-end look, but it tends to be expensive and require significant maintenance with annual painting and/or staining needs to maintain its appearance.
Steel has a reputation for being inexpensive, secure, and long-lasting, but it tends to have a shorter life span and dent more easily than wood and fiberglass. A steel door will usually last only ten years on average in a high-humidity environment, and both wood and fiberglass are able to outlast that life span.
Fiberglass doors are virtually maintenance-free and have available finishes that can mimic the appearance of high-end wood. They feel lightweight but are durable and can last from 15 to 20 years, and include an energy-efficient foam core, which means they insulate well against heat loss.
SLIDING PATIO DOORS
Sliding doors don’t require additional space to open; they slide on a compact set of tracks that stack on each other to open up your indoor living space to the outdoors. However, you can only open a sliding door halfway, they tend to be noisy when opening, and some people find their weight difficult to maneuver.
A set of French doors provides a traditionally elegant entrance into your home, provides a high-end look, and can open the entire width of the door frame for maximum ventilation. They require floor space to open, and this might make them an undesirable option for a small or cramped location.
Bifold doors are easy to install and maintain, versatile enough to suit a modern or traditional design aesthetic, and include multiple locking points for enhanced security. The downsides are that they include a lot of frames that partially obstruct views and don’t include a threshold. They also may need to stack inside your home, which might intrude on your living space.
LIFT & SLIDE DOORS
Lift and slide doors operate differently than sliding doors – you turn a handle downward to lift the door panel up from the track and the door rolls on heavy-duty wheels to allow opening with little effort. A lift and slide door isn’t able to open invisibly, unless you install a wall pocket, as panels must stack on top of each other as the door opens. They also allow you to control the size of the opening, for customized ventilation and quick entry and exit.
Need to Replace Your Roof?
Article by: Lisa Braton
Perhaps one of the biggest (and often most nerve-wracking) home improvement projects you can undertake is a roof replacement. Not only is a roof replacement one of the more expensive home improvement projects, according to Angie’s List, it can also be one of the most disruptive to your everyday life. That is not to say you should not replace your roof if it is showing signs of disrepair, as the benefits far outweigh the perceived headaches. The good news is that headaches can be avoided and your roof replacement can remain stress-free if you take the time to answer these six important questions first.
How Long Do I Want My New Roof to Last?
Most modern roofs last anywhere between 10 and 50 years, depending on the composition and quality of the materials you use. Roofing materials that routinely last 50 years or more are going to be more expensive than materials with a considerably shorter lifespan. It is a good idea to take longevity into account when establishing your budget, as it is an investment that you may need to repeat if you intend to live in your home for a long time.
What is the Best Material to Use?
There are a variety of roofing materials on the market, including asphalt, metal, clay, plastic polymer, concrete, metal and cedar. Each option has vastly different lifespans, insulation levels, weight and cost. A qualified and experienced roofing contractor can help advise you on your options and which is the best material to suit your home, style and budget.
Can the Roofing Frame I Currently Have Support My New Roof?
While you might like the look of clay tile, you need to consider whether your current roofing frame can support the heavy weight of clay. It is vital you ensure that the frame is adequate for the proposed load of the new roof. Again, the right roofing contractor will be able to help ascertain if your desired roofing material will work within your existing frame.
Do I Have the Best Offer?
The price of a new roof depends on many factors, which is why it is vital you do your homework and get a quote from more than just one roofing contractor. It is also wise to check the background and reputation of the contractors you are considering. Yelp, Angie’s List, Houzz, Facebook and Home Advisor are all great places to look for reviews from existing clients that demonstrate a proven track record of successfully completed projects. Be wary of contractors that offer low bids, as they are often using cheaper materials and labor to cut corners, which will cost you more in the long-run.
Does the Old Roof Need to Come Off?
While it is possible to avoid the cost of removing an existing roof by having a contractor lay the new materials right on top, you need to confirm that the roofing frame can hold the additional weight of this new layer. If you do choose to remove the existing roofing materials, do not forget to factor in the extra cost for labor and disposal and additional time required.
Roofing Insulation and Ventilation – is it Important?
While a lot of time and emphasis is often placed on the roofing material, it is also important to take into consideration insulation and ventilation. When replacing your roof, it is often the best time to consider installing proper insulation. The additional and easy access to your roof and attic can be very helpful to an insulation contractor. The benefit of proper insulation is that it will more effectively regulate the temperature of your home, which saves money on utility bills while also increasing your comfort. At the same time, make sure you get a detailed description of your contractor’s proposed ventilation plan. Not considering the ventilation of the roof can lead to serious problems down the road, including mold, condensation problems, ice damming and more.
7 Signs That It’s Time To Replace Your Windows
Article by Kelly Brown
It’s not always easy to determine if it’s time to replace your windows. For most homeowners, it’s clear: your windows might be old and drafty, or they could be original to your home. However, for some homeowners, it might not be as obvious. In fact, your windows might not have any noticeable signs that it’s time for them to be replaced. In that case, how do you know your windows need to be replaced? Our window replacement experts compiled a list of warning signs you need to be aware of before you start your project.
If you notice condensation between your windowpanes, we highly recommend replacing your windows. Moisture between the panes of glass is a telltale sign your seals have failed – an issue that isn’t easily fixed. If you notice seal failure, you might be able to replace the panes of glass; however, you’ll need to contact your window manufacturer for more information. In most cases, your windows will need to be replaced to fix the issue. Replacement windows from Window Nation are built with top-of-the-line window glass to ensure your windows remain condensation-free for years to come.
Drafts are one of the most noticeable signs it’s time to replace your windows. Your old windows often become drafty over time, allowing the comfortable air from inside your home to escape. You might feel the air from outside in your home when you stand close to your windows, or you might notice higher energy bills. Energy loss through old, drafty windows accounts for nearly one third of your heating and cooling costs – start saving money by upgrading your old, drafty windows with modern replacement windows from Window Nation.
Hot to the Touch in Warmer Weather
Outdated replacement windows are often single pane with little protection from the warm air outside. If you notice your windows are hot to the touch in the summer, your windows are most likely poorly insulated. We recommend upgrading your windows with modern, well-insulated replacement windows to prevent the hot summer air from entering your home.
Cold to the Touch in Colder Weather
Insulation issues only get worse in the winter – if you notice your windows are cold to the touch in cooler weather, you’ll need to upgrade your windows. Modern replacement windows are well-insulated to keep your home comfortable even in the coldest of temperatures. Well-insulated windows are particularly important in colder areas like Boston, Kansas City or Indianapolis – if you notice your windows are cold to the touch, we recommend meeting with an exterior design consultant at Window Nation to discuss our replacement window options.
Cracked or Broken Window Frames
A small crack in your window frame might not be the most urgent issue; however, it’s important to fix the cracks before they spread. If you catch a crack early enough, you might be able to repair the crack with no issues. However, if the crack continues to spread, it might be time to replace the window.
Unlike cracked window frames, a crack in your windowpanes is a major issue that needs to be addressed. Cracked windowpanes aren’t just unsightly: they could spread and cause bigger problems for your home’s energy efficiency. You could replace the cracked pane with replacement window glass; however, in some cases, it’s best to replace the entire window. If your windows are more than fifteen years old or original to your home, window replacement could save you money in the long run.
Outdated and Unsightly Windows
Sometimes your windows might function well, but they look old and outdated. If your home needs a curb appeal boost, we recommend replacing your windows with modern replacement windows from Window Nation. Our windows are custom-made to fit your home’s needs. We offer a variety of style and color options, so you can find the perfect fit for your home.
5 Steps to Finding Your Next Home
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that “finding the right property” was the most difficult step in the home buying process.
Buying a home is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.
Follow these five steps—and complete the corresponding worksheet offered below—to assess your priorities, streamline your search, and choose your next home with confidence.
Set Your Goals and Priorities
The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move can help you assess your priorities for your home search.
Don’t forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family’s needs for at least the next five to seven years. Be sure to set your goals accordingly.
Determine Your Budget
Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).
Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.
Choose a Location
When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.
Do you prefer a rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighborhoods feed into your favorite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.
Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighborhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.4
Decide Which Features You Need (and Want) in a Home
Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want a swimming pool?
Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all of your “wants,” or even all of your “needs” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.
Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school.
If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.
Meet with a Real Estate Agent
A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood to meet your needs, they will be there to assist you every step of the way.
No one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. And although we’ve listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.
What to Look for When Buying a House
Article courtesy: Zillow
While everybody knows that buyers shop based on price range, there are many additional considerations to make when looking for a home. And, most buyers end up refining their criteria once they start touring homes. Ultimately, your home criteria should depend on your personal lifestyle and needs. Regardless of what you’re looking for, here are some general rules you should follow to make sure you’ll be happy with the home you buy for the foreseeable future.
What are the top features buyers look for in a home?
Neighborhood wants and needs for buyers
Safety: 82% say a neighborhood that feels safe is very or extremely important
Walkability: 60% say it’s very or extremely important
Preferred neighborhood: 56% say it’s very or extremely important
Proximity to shopping, services and/or leisure activities: 53% say it’s very or extremely important
Optimal commute to work or school: 52% say it’s very or extremely important
Offers a sense of community or belonging: 48% say it’s very or extremely important
Close to family and friends: 46% say it’s very or extremely important
In preferred school district: 43% say it’s very or extremely important
Home Features Buyers Want
Within initial budget: 83% say it’s very or extremely important
Air conditioning: 78% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Preferred number of bedrooms: 76% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Preferred number of bathrooms: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Private outdoor space: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Preferred size/square footage: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Floor plan/layout that fits preferences: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Six Important Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Search for the right price
2. Prioritize the location
3. Think long term
4. Assess property condition
5. Don’t focus on minor cosmetic details
6. Stick with your must-haves
Benefits to Moving to the Treasure Coast
Many people are seeing the benefits of moving to the Treasure Coast. There is something different for everyone to enjoy and plenty of things to keep you busy. For those that want to relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches, parks and outdoor activities the Treasure Coast is a great choice. Many waterfront properties for sale throughout the Treasure Coast bring Florida living into beautiful reality. You can choose to live on the beach in a condo, townhouse or mansion. Or you can buy a large single family home on the St Lucie River which affords homeowners boat dockage and unlimited fun in the sun.
Treasure Coast Lifestyle
If you are visiting the Treasure Coast for the first time you may be overwhelmed by the number of outdoor activities are available. However, there's so much to do indoors as well. Many folks want to be near shopping, 5-star dining and more. We have some amazing Golf and Country Club communities where you can eat, be social, play outdoors, workout and even eat out all within the security of guard gated access. Places like Evergreen Club in Palm City offer 1 acre home sites and very unique homes. They are built around a world-class golf course that resident members have unlimited access to. If you are on a budget, but still want an amazing value in Martin County then Emerald Lakes in Stuart is a great choice. Here you will find townhouses and single family residences that are a bargain. The community is run by a healthy HOA and the fees are really low (under $250 per month)
Then for those who enjoy being out on the water, our many Yacht Clubs on the Treasure Coast offer amazing memberships. You can even choose to buy a home within a Yacht Club and have year-round access to the water.
How to Create Your Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen
Article by: Natalie Wise
Create a beautiful outdoor cooking space for relaxing and entertaining all summer long.
As summer approaches and temperatures start to rise, no one wants to spend time inside sweating over a hot stove. With an outdoor kitchen, you can make the most of the beautiful warm nights by spending them with your friends and family.
Whether you have thousands to spend or a just few hundred to splurge, create your own outdoor kitchen and enjoy all it has to offer.
Upgrade your grill
A rusty, dusty grill doesn’t inspire lingering outdoor evenings. Upgrade your outdoor grill and take care of it all year round for a stand-out outdoor kitchen. A standard grill will cost you $150 to $300, and top-of-the-line outdoor ranges may be upwards of $1,500.
Before buying the biggest and best grill, consider how you will use one. Will you be feeding the whole soccer team? Or perhaps grilling some steaks for a romantic dinner for two? Look for a grill with features you will actually use and not just the latest trends.
Enhance your seating
If your basics are up to date, then you’ll want to upgrade your patio furniture and seating options too. If you plan on dining outside often, invest in an actual dining table and appropriate chairs. Eating a gourmet dinner off your lap downgrades an otherwise luxurious experience.
If you’re looking for more versatile pieces, sleek contemporary options coordinate nicely with most outdoor kitchen setups. Expect to spend a good chunk of change on quality furniture, but remember: With the proper care and maintenance, it can last as long as high-end interior pieces. Make sure you have a plan for the off-season, whether that’s moving outdoor furniture to indoor storage or securely covering it to protect it from the elements.
Add the extras
Want a prep sink? Wine fridge? Ice machine? Built-in smoker? You got it. The sky’s the limit when it comes to custom additions — or rather, your budget is the limit. Think carefully about your space before making a wish list.
Perhaps a full chef’s kitchen won’t quite fit in your backyard, but a beautiful wine fridge and some extra counter space are just what you need to take your outdoor kitchen to the next level.
Some features require installing or extending utilities (think: water or electricity), so don’t forget about portable additions such as a bar cart — which adds class without hassle.
Make it comfortable
Think about how you will provide amenities to make being outdoors comfortable, such as shade, heat (if using your space year-round), and perhaps even a few extras like a TV or audio equipment.
Tucking the seating close to the house may help you take advantage of a porch or awning. Otherwise, structures such as a light-strung pergola add shade during the day, light at night and atmosphere all the time.
If you have the room, the addition of a fireplace allows for a longer entertaining season. Outdoor kitchens don’t have to be just for summer, after all.
If you like to have some indoor comforts while enjoying your beautiful outside oasis, television and music can be connected outside — although it can be expensive. Bluetooth or portable speakers, a projector and a large sheet, or even an old-fashioned radio are more budget-sensitive options for those looking to add a little fun to their outdoor space.
Apply your own style
Create an outdoor kitchen that suits your style and taste. If you’re working with an existing space, be sure to embrace the style and play up the features, such as dark wood, stone and classic columns.
If you’re starting from scratch, take a look at your indoor design and see what features you like. Then consider incorporating those color schemes, design styles or even furniture shapes into your outdoor kitchen.
While you can’t go wrong designing your outdoor space, consider designs and colors that are versatile so you’re not limited if you want to mix things up in the future.
Make it yours
Your outdoor kitchen should be a comfortable, relaxing space for entertaining or unwinding after a long day of work. Make yours an escape that works for you.
When planning your outdoor kitchen, think about adding one or two small luxuries that will make you excited to enjoy your space. These can be as small as pretty tea lights scattered around or as large as a wood-burning pizza oven.
What Is a Property Manager Responsible For?
Article by: Erin Eberlin
If a landlord wants help taking care of the daily responsibilities at their rental property, he or she can hire a property manager. A property manager can be hired for one simple task, such as collecting rent, or can be completely responsible for the operations at the rental property.
Here are seven important roles a property manager can take on.
Responsible for Managing Rent
Collecting rent is a basic responsibility of any landlord. Therefore, it is one of the most common jobs a landlord will pass on to a property manager. A property manager's rent responsibilities could include:
Setting Rent: The property manager would set the right rent level to attract tenants to your property. To determine the rent range, the property manager will look the market where the property is located and analyze comparable properties in the area.
The property manager will set up a system for collecting rent from tenants. To ensure optimal cash flow they will set a date to collect rent each month and strictly enforcing late fees.
Adjusting Rent: The property manager can increase the rent each year, according to individual state and/or municipal law. They can also decrease the rent if they feel it is necessary.
Responsible for Managing Tenants
Managing tenants is another core responsibility of a property manager. The property manager may be involved in finding and screening prospective tenants, managing daily complaints and maintenance issues and handing tenant move outs and evictions.
Property managers are responsible for filling vacancies. They will advertise the rental and create a compelling ad. They also understand what attracts tenants, so they can offer tips to help makeover the property.
Property managers should have a consistent screening process, including running credit checks and criminal background checks, which can decrease your chances of tenant turnover. Experienced property managers have seen hundreds, even thousands, of tenants, so they have a better idea of how to select the right tenants; those who will pay their rent on time, have a longer tenancy and create fewer problems.
This can include setting the lease term and making sure it has all the necessary clauses to protect the owner. This includes determining the amount of security deposit required.
The property manager may deal with maintenance requests, noise complaints and handling emergency situations.
Handling Move Outs:
When a tenant moves out, the manager is responsible for inspecting the unit, checking for damages and determining what portion of the security deposit will be returned to the tenant. After move out, they are responsible for cleaning the unit, repairing any damages and finding a new tenant.
Dealing With Evictions:
When a tenant does not pay rent or otherwise breaches the terms of a lease, the property manager understands the proper way to file and move forward with an eviction.
Maintenance and Repairs Roles
The property manager must keep the property in safe and habitable condition. Property managers are responsible for the physical management of the property, including regular maintenance and emergency repairs.
This includes performing preventative property maintenance to keep the property functioning in top condition. For example, they are personally in charge of, or must hire someone to, exterminate, check for leaks, landscape, shovel snow and remove trash. This maintenance aims to keep current tenants happy and attract new tenants.
When there is an issue, the property manager must fix the problem or hire someone else to do it. They often have a large network of reliable plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other contractors.5
Knowledge of Landlord-Tenant Law
Good property managers have an in-depth knowledge of statewide and national laws regarding the proper ways to:
Screen a Tenant
Handle Security Deposits
Terminate a Lease
Evict a Tenant
Comply With Property Safety Standards
If there are other employees in the property, such as a concierge or security personnel, the property manager is responsible for making sure they are doing their job. The property manager can set their salaries and even fire them.
Property managers are often hired to look after vacant properties to make sure there has been no vandalism and to perform routine maintenance. They also make sure contractors and other repairmen are completing their work in a timely manner.46
Responsible for Managing the Budget/Maintaining Records
Property managers can be responsible for managing the budget for the building and for maintaining all important records.
The manager must operate within the set budget for the building. In certain emergency situations when the occupants (tenants) or physical structure (investment property) are in danger, they may use their judgment to order repairs or likewise without concern for the budget.
Maintaining Records: The property manager should keep thorough records regarding the property. This should include all income and expenses; list of all inspections, signed leases, maintenance requests, any complaints, records of repairs, costs of repairs, maintenance costs, record of rent collection and insurance costs.
Things to Ask and Look Out For When Viewing a House
Article by: Jessica Sweet - Contributing Writer for Out2News
We’ve just spent the past few weeks viewing multiple properties while trying to find our dream home and the first thing that really surprised me was the fact you are usually shown around by the vendor as opposed to the estate agent.
What to Look For
Signs of damp, including looking behind furniture. Damp usually manifests in areas where there’s lots of water vapour so bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, utility rooms and areas where the vendors may have been drying clothes
What’s parking like?
Is there enough room for the number of vehicles you have? Is there off road parking? Try visiting in the evening to see if you’d need to park far away from the house
Where is the sun shining and at what time?
It’s preferable to have a garden that’s south facing but it’s a good idea to visit the house at different times of the day to see what rooms get what light and when.
What is mobile signal like in different rooms of the house?
Sounds small but this can be infuriating if you find out that you can’t make mobile phone calls unless you are at the very far end of the garden
Visit at different times of the day to see what the street is like.
Are there undesirables hanging around after dark? Is the street full of vehicles at school pick up time?
Is there a curtain behind the front door?
Is this for aesthetic reasons or because of a draught? Are there portable electric heaters in rooms with radiators? Why?
Try a faucet to check the water pressure.
You do not want to buy a property where it takes two hours to run a bath!
How many plug sockets are in each room?
You don’t want a bedroom with one plug socket right on the other side of the room- how will you charge your phone?!
Go into the garden and just listen.
Is there lots of noise? Traffic? Kids?
You will want to know you can enjoy your garden space.
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7 Things to Do Before House Hunting
Article by: Robin McDaniel
House hunting can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a first time buyer.
You have to think about the location of the property, square footage, layout, finishes, flooring, and oh yeah — getting a mortgage. The list is endless.
It’s exciting and exhausting at the same time. How do you even know where to start in the process?
Whether you’re hunting for your very first house or your fifth, the process will be much smoother if you have a plan and a house hunting checklist.
If you’re jumping into the real estate market, here are 7 things to do before you start house hunting.
Know Your Credit Score
First things first: don’t go house shopping without getting a mortgage pre-qualification.
Make a Budget
You should decide ahead of time what amount you’re comfortable with paying per month for your mortgage. Then go to your bank for your pre-qualification letter.
Find a Diligent Realtor
The next step is finding a realtor who will work for you. You want someone who will stand up for you in the final walk-through or at the closing table if something doesn’t go right.
Make a List of Needs, Must-Haves, and Wants
You may end up seeing so many properties your head will be left spinning. You might forget some of the things you were looking for in the first place.
Choose Your Location
It’s going to be really hard for your realtor to show you the best housing options for you if you don’t know the area you want to reside in. You’ll end up all over the place if you don’t.
Save an Emergency Fund
If you don’t have an emergency fund saved yet, buying a house isn’t a wise option.
Check Your Emotions at the Door
Buying a house is an emotional process, but do your best to keep your emotions out of it before you make a hasty and unwise decision about a house that’s financially out of your reach.
Even though it’s hard to keep emotions out of it, you need to in order to keep yourself from making a bad decision that could end up affecting you for years, and cost you a ton of money.
No matter what you do, try to make house hunting a fun process, because it should be. It’s not every day that you get to run around shopping for houses, so try to enjoy it! If you follow this checklist, then your house hunting process will be easy and painless.
5 Minor Remodeling Projects
Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home or just want to make the place you live an oasis, these minor remodeling projects will increase your home value!
Your home’s curb appeal is the first thing visitors see when they get to your home. You can make a strong, positive first impression with some smart landscaping. Consider a variety of plants that reach their peak in each of the four seasons so your yard always looks incredible.
Replace Your Front Door
The front door is one of the first things visitors see. Replacing the door can give your home a more modern, updated, and clean feeling. When choosing your new door, keep the rest of the home’s color and style in mind. Investing in a steel door will provide you with unbeatable durability.
Updated Color Schemes
Paint fades over time and popular color schemes change. Today, neutral tones like beige and grey are popular options throughout the home. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, painting your home is a great way to improve the atmosphere of your home.
Remodel Your Fireplace
Highlighting a home feature as iconic as a fireplace can make a dramatic improvement in your home. Some popular remodeling options are replacing outdated brick with modern, natural stone or expanding it to a floor-to-ceiling statement piece.
Add Crown Moulding
Crown moulding adds a touch of sophistication and class to your home. And, you may be surprised at how simple and affordable adding it can be. In addition to framing the rooms of your home, you can use it to highlight key features in your home such as the fireplace, breakfast nook, or bay windows.
Whether you’re planning to stay in your home for many years or getting ready to make a move, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me with any real estate questions!
Why an Investment Property Should Be Your First Real Estate Purchase
Not ready to buy a home for yourself but want to take advantage of great market conditions? Consider buying an investment property! It's a trend that's taking over real estate, as savvy investors look to put their money in an appreciating asset. Here are five reasons to consider it.
1. Rates are crazy low. Lower rates mean more affordable lending, or more for your money if you choose to reach higher.
2. Because it will appreciate. According to CoreLogic, "The overall home price index (HPI) has increased on a year-over-year basis every month for seven years." The long-term price appreciation of real estate can provide one of the safest investments out there.
3. Because passive income is good. Yes, it's nice to know there will likely be appreciation over time, but the real key to success with investment properties is passive income.
"The best part about rental properties is that they provide a stable income," said Mashvisor. "What would be better than having a check sent to you every month? In order to have positive cash flow, you have to make sure you invest in a profitable rental property."
4. To turn it into a short-term rental. The short-term rental market has opened up a new world of opportunity for investors. By buying in the right location—by the beach, near a ski resort, or in close proximity to a popular annual event like Coachella, you have the potential of making a significant return in a short period of time. Just be sure to check the local laws, as lots of cities have been cracking down on Airbnb and other services.
5. Because it can help you buy the home of your dreams down the line. "Buying an investment property before your first home does not imply that you won't have the funds to purchase your actual home at some point," said Mashvisor. "In fact, investment properties that have been purchased wisely and have grown in value can offer you a sizeable amount of wealth and equity."