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Crystal Halley

Associate Broker

Crystal's Blog Corner

5 Tips to Clean and Prepare Your Air Conditioner for Summer

6/23/2017

5 Tips to Clean and Prepare Your Air Conditioner for Summer

Making it through the summer without a working air conditioning system isn't feasible in some parts of the country. Even if you live in a temperate climate, your AC system will make you and your family much more comfortable at home.

So before the weather really gets hot, take the time to clean and prepare your air conditioner. Use these 5 tips for getting your air conditioner ready for its busy season.

1. Perform a Visual Inspection

As a homeowner, you won't know everything there is to know about your air conditioning system. That doesn't mean you can't spot something that's obviously wrong or out of place.

Before summer begins, take the time to visually inspect your outdoor air conditioning unit. Look for signs of physical damage to the unit that may have occurred during the winter months like missing or poorly aligned panels. If the panel that covers the electrical system is out of place this is a fix that you should leave to the pros for safety reasons.

You should also take the time to check that your refrigerant lines have proper insulation that hasn't been damaged over the winter.

2. Check Your Electrical

Before you turn your air conditioner on you should inspect any 

power and electrical cords around your outdoor unit. If these are frayed or damaged, getting a service professional to make the necessary repairs is essential.

You'll also want to check your circuit breaker to make sure the proper electrical connections are powered on. Breakers may have flipped during the winter without you knowing it.

3. Clear Debris

It's common to find debris covering your outdoor air conditioning unit's housing and around the condenser coil that makes the unit work. Using a cover for your air conditioner in the fall and winter can help with this in the future, but if debris is a concern now, it should be cleared before you turn the unit on.

Removing debris is a simple job - just avoid damaging your unit with gardening tools like rakes and shovels. Heavy gloves are your best bet for clearing debris around your condenser coil.

4. Change Your Air Filter

Changing the air filter that makes sure you get clean air inside your home might seem obvious, but many people forget to do it around this time of year. Even if your air filter hasn't been in use for the allotted time recommended by the manufacturer, a change is a smart idea between seasons.

If there are any issues with your air conditioning unit that you're not aware of a dirty air filter will only exacerbate the problem.

5. Call the Professionals

Taking the time to clean and prepare your air conditioner on your own is a wise move, but not every problem is one that can be spotted by the average homeowner. Even if you're diligent in your efforts, you're not a professional who deals with air conditioner systems every single day.

When the seasons change, getting a quick inspection from a professional service provider you trust is a wise choice. They can provide a deeper inspection and let you know if there are any concerns with your air conditioning unit. Your air conditioner might also get a clean bill of health, giving you a little peace of mind for the summer season.

Following these tips to get your air conditioner ready for use. Basic maintenance tasks shouldn't take you more than a few hours and performing them could save you hundereds in repairs.

References:

How to Prep Your A/C for Spring and Summer

Clean Your Air Conditioner Condenser Unit

11 Steps to Follow Before You Turn On Your AC

5 Secrets for Getting Your A/C Ready for Summer

Source: Realty Times

The Homeowner's Summer Maintenance Checklist

6/21/2017

The Homeowner's Summer Maintenance Checklist

New season. New tasks. As summer approaches, make sure your home is set with this home maintenance checklist.

Inspect Your Air Conditioner

As temperatures warm, you’ll want to stay cool. And in order to enjoy the benefits of cooled-air you’ll need to make sure that your air conditioner is running properly. Throughout the winter and spring months it is common for your air conditioner’s condensing coils to get filled up with dust, lint, grass clippings and other debris. This can impair the units function. If you have debris, it’s an easy fix. In most cases the debris can be cleared with a high-pressure spray down from a water house. It’s also important to clear the area around your air conditioner unit. This means no overgrowing vines or shrubbery that can hamper its ability to operate.

Clean Up Your Grill

Thinking about hosting a few cookouts this season? Not before you clean the grill. If you don’t already have a grill cover, invest in one to keep it protected from the elements throughout the other seasons. Your first task includes scrubbing your grill grate with a wire brush. This should also be done every time you grill, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s overlooked. Next, remove and wash your burner protectors. These can be removed easily. Toss them in a soap-filled five-gallon bucket and get to scrubbing. After that, wipe up the grime from your burners and clean the plates underneath with a wire brush. The plates are also removable. Finally, remove the bottom tray that serves as a collect-all, give it a wash and put all of your pieces back in order. Then, you’ll be ready to throw some steaks on the fire.

Check for Pests

Many types of pests thrive in the summer months. Due to summer temperatures, which affects behavior and development of common pests, ample food sources and increased daylight, many house and yard pests thrive throughout these months. But homeowners can prevent pests. First, check moist areas around your home and yard, like the gutters, for example, as these moist areas are hotspots for pest activity. Take a hard look at your home and inspect the outside of your house for cracks, crevices and holes, as these can be used as access points for unwanted pests, large and small. While you may be able to treat and prevent a number of pests, some pests, including wildlife, require special removal. If you suspect an infestation it is wise to contact a specialist or professional, as these trained experts have the skills necessary to properly remove wildlife nuisances.

Wash Your Windows

Take advantage of the warm weather, get outside and wash the windows. Ideally, your home’s windows should be washed twice per year. This task can be simplified and expedited with a squeegee. Instead of rubbing the dust and dirt around in a circular motion, opt for a strip applicator and use a solution of warm water and dishwashing soap. Next, wipe the window clean with a squeegee and clean up your window corners with a dry rag. For multi-pane windows you can customize a squeegee to fit the area by trimming it down with a hacksaw. It’s a simple solution for clean, streak-free windows.

Source: Realty Times

Passive Income Is Great, But Are You Really Cut Out To Be A Landlord?

6/15/2017

Passive Income Is Great, But Are You Really Cut Out To Be A Landlord?

The idea of buying an investment property to rent out and collect some passive income sounds good, does it not? After all, being a landlord is one of the greatest and most time-tested ways to build long-term wealth. Especially when rents just keep on rising, which means more money for rental owners. According to Apartment List's National Rent Report, they "are up by 2.1% compared to their December 2016 level" and have risen each month of 2017. "In addition to the growth the national level, rents are increasing in most of the nation's biggest markets," they said, with "some individual markets seeing substantial increases."

But, you have to do it right. And doing it right may not be as easy as it seems. The rental reality check includes:

Your tenants might be turn out to be lunatics. They may refuse to pay their rent or even leave your property.

Those are obviously worst-case scenarios, but that doesn't mean you don't have to prepare for them. Expecting the best and not preparing for the worst is a recipe for rental distaster. Doing a thorough background check and collecting a sufficient security deposit are key protections. Bigger Pockets has a few more suggestions to "protect newbie landlords against bad tenant situations."

You'll have to collect rent

Your tenant's late rent check isn't just an inconvenience. For some property owners, it can mean not paying the mortgage on time, which will mean incurring late fees and dinging your credit. Having several months of reserves in the bank to cover anything that might come up with your rental or renter is key, but, for those owners who are cutting it close, including an iron-clad late-fee policy for renters should help to ensure it's paid on time.

They may be slobs or they may be destructive... but are they worth it?

Yes, you've collected that security deposit, but it might not cover the damage left behind when tenants move out. Many landlords don't like to rent to college students for this reason (Hello, nightly parties!). Another downside is that there is often a higher turnover because students may not stay in the same place for more than one year and they may also be looking for a shorter lease if they're planning to return home for the summer.

The potential upsides:

Increased rent potential. "Off-campus housing is often paid for by the student's parents, or even by the college itself, so you may be able to get a higher rental price for the property," said The Balance. Investors look for rental property in college towns often key in on homes that have multiple bedrooms, which can further increase the price.

A reliable tenant pool, said Rentec Direct. "With some student populations ranging from 20,000-50,000 and accounting for as much as 25 percent of a town's total population, there is high demand for rentals for co-eds who want to live off-campus and are not in the market for purchasing their own home." You can protect your bottom line by requiring a co-signor, especially for students who have no previous rental history and may also have no credit history.

You may get calls in the middle of the night.

The toilet overflowed and flooded the bedroom, and now you're double-fisting a plunger and toolbox at 3am. If that sounds as painful as it is, or if you have minimal (or zero) home maintenance skills, you'll probably want to read the next entry.

You may have to hire a property manager.

If your investment property is out of your local area, you may not have a choice when it comes to hiring a property manager. But if you're looking to do as little as possible - or if you simply aren't qualified - and don't mind paying out a little of your potential profits, property management might be for you. "A typical property manager will interact directly, on your behalf, with applicants and tenants. Managers will usually market and advertise your rentals, meet with prospects to host showings, collecting rent, deposit money to your bank account, and coordinate repair issues," said Landlordology. "They are also the first line of defense when responding to tenant complaints and will even stand by your side when you have to pursue an eviction or get sued."

Still interested? Heed these tips:

Make sure you have enough money to put down. You already know that the more you put down, the less you'll have to finance. But financing for rental homes may also require a larger down payment than you were planning. "If you're borrowing money for your first rental house, you're going to need at least a 20% down payment," said Interest.com. "And if it's your first rental property, your current income is going to have to be enough to handle the mortgages for both your residence and your new property."

Don't buy more home than you can afford. Yes, a higher-priced home may increase the potential profit every month, but it can also increase your potential loss. What if you can't rent the home right away? What if there's a lapse between renters? Keep in mind how much your carrying costs are so you can determine how much house you can really afford without counting on max rent every single month.

Don't take a chance on an unfamiliar neighborhood. Your best bet when you're just getting started is staying local, where you know the home values, the rental trends, the crime rates, and maybe also have some local resources that can help with renovation, maintenance, and yard work.

Don't be greedy. This may sound like an odd tip if the idea behind owning rental property is to make as much money as possible, but if your asking price isn't getting applicants in the door, you need to rethink your strategy. Consider this: "Every month of vacancy costs you 8.3% of your potential yearly revenue, so you would be better off renting every property one month faster for 5% less rent, two months faster for 10% less rent, and so on," said TIME. In the end, it may make better financial sense to lower the price of your rental if you're having trouble finding tenants.

Source: Realty Times

4 Things to Know about Purchasing a Second Home

6/12/2017

Often, those looking to purchase an additional home get confused between a second home and an investment property. However, the two are not interchangeable – especially when it comes to their financing.

Second-Home, Defined
A second home is real property that the homeowner intends to occupy in addition to their primary residence for part of the year. Usually, second homes are used as vacation homes. Second homes may also be properties that the homeowner visits on a regular basis.

Examples of second homes may include:

  • A condo in a city where you frequently conduct business
  • A beach house that you and your family occupy during the summer months
  • A house in a different state where you have seasonal work

Getting a Mortgage
If you can’t purchase a second home out-right, you’re going to go the traditional route and look into obtaining a mortgage. In order to qualify for a second-home loan, the property is usually required to be located in a resort or vacation area (like the beach or mountains), or be a certain distance from the borrower’s primary residence.

Understanding Interest Rates
Most lenders consider second homes to be more of a risk than primary residences, but not as big a risk as investment properties. Typically, interest rates will show this; second-home mortgages may have lower interest rates than investment property loans, but not necessarily. It can all depend on the borrower’s entire financial picture.

Understanding Rules
Second-home loans often include a second-home rider along with the mortgage. This rider states certain rules the borrower must abide by in order to qualify for the loan.

These rules often include the following:

  • The borrower will occupy and use the property as his/her second home
  • The property will be kept available for the borrower’s exclusive use and enjoyment at all times
  • The property cannot be used as a timeshare or be subject to any rental pool arrangement

The property cannot be subject to any agreements that require the borrower to rent the property or give a management firm (or anyone else) control over the use and/or occupancy of the property.

Source: RIS Media

Your Resistance to Change When Buying or Selling Your Home

6/10/2017
Your Resistance to Change When Buying or Selling Your Home

Resistance to change is common for buyers and sellers. This may seem surprising since both buying and selling mean seeking out a move with many related changes, but resistance is common none the less.

Buying and selling real estate involve many complex decisions packed full of real estate terminology, all of which are new territory for most buyers and sellers.

Add the pressure of time-sensitive decisions and the stress of dealing with huge amounts of money (much of it borrowed) and most buyers and sellers are way out of their comfort zones.

Does resistance in buyers and sellers make more sense now?

Too often, making no decision or a "no" decision may seem less stressful for buyers or sellers than agreeing to the significant changes related to entering into a real estate transaction. Fear of making the wrong decision can result in resistance and indecision which could cost thousands:

  • Sellers who receive their first offer — especially very soon after the house is listed — may worry they are selling too cheaply. Resistance can lead to the seller wanting "to wait and see" if a higher offer will appear. Sellers may second guess their decision to sell. Resulting stubbornness can materialize as illogical resistance to offer price, move-in date, or to giving up light fixtures or other items a buyer includes in their offer to purchase.
  • Buyers who have seen a property which meets their wish list must-haves, may still be resistant to making an offer, especially if it's their first offer or one of the first houses they view. Resistance leads to wanting "to see more houses" as if there's a magic number of viewings before a dream house appears. Resistance may also materialize as stubborn refusal to increase their offered purchase price for a seemingly-ideal property a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to meet the sellers half way. Buyers have been know to walk away from deals if the appliances, lighting fixtures, or other "must haves" they ask for in the offer are denied them by the seller. Ask your real estate professional about their experience with deal-breaking battles over furnishings and details.

Resistance is common under stress, even the best stress.

Real estate professionals will do their best to help buyers and sellers face their fears and overcome their resistance. Closing or decision-making techniques can help buyers or sellers realize where true value lies for them. In the hands of trained, ethical professionals, closing techniques can be communication and decision-making aids. (Caution: Unscrupulous individuals can use these simple exercises to manipulate or mislead — care is essential!)

For instance, one closing technique involves reducing a small disputed difference in purchase price like $1500 to its cost per day over a year. In this case, $1500 is $4.11 a day. Compare that amount to common purchases like a cup of coffee to put the financial decision in perspective. Or, relating that dollar difference to the cost per month on the mortgage payment, rather than cash out of hand, may also help.

Resistance leads individuals to "I'd like to sleep on it" reactions. It's not that they expect to win the Lottery overnight. This stress-related stall provides mental breathing room but unless issues are addressed, clear thinking does not automatically result. The problem is usually lack of confidence in decision making, not in the property.

Unfortunately, in real estate, delays can cost buyers a "dream" property or sellers a dream offer. Decisive buyers and sellers will snap up opportunities while others hesitate.

When experiencing resistance, ask yourself why you're having this reaction to put these feelings in perspective. Often the bigger the decision or resulting change, the greater the resistance:

  • What are you being asked to let go of or to release?
  • What must you face in its place?
  • How real are related fears?
  • How real are perceived benefits of proceeding with the transaction?

Enlist the expertise of your real estate professional in assessing the true benefits and weaknesses of the decision to buy or sell a specific property. Question their responses. Ask for market statistics and analysis of area trends.

  • Spend equal time and energy analyzing what is gained by not buying or selling the real estate in question. How special is this property anyway?
  • How much of the hesitation is related to uncertainty in your personal life or relationship? Is this really the best time to buy or sell? Don't just ask these questions. Get to work and decisively tease out answers.

Usually, this deep, clear thinking reveals the true value of benefits and gains in taking the plunge to buy or sell.

More than one experienced real estate professional has suggested the 51% rule can make sense when homes are involved. That is, "more sure" than "not sure," with slight but exhilarating uncertainty regarding the adventure ahead. That's real estate ownership.

Source: Realty Times

Easy Ways to Make Your Patio Look Great This Summer

6/3/2017
Easy Ways to Make Your Patio Look Great This Summer

Summer is the perfect time of year to be outside with family and friends. The cold weather, snow and rain are gone, and you see bright, sunny days ahead of you. If you're getting ready for a season full of pool parties and barbecues, here's everything you need to make your patio look great:

Update Your Furniture

It's a new season with new trends, so you might be in the market for new patio furniture, or your old furniture just needs some updating. Chances are your cushions and pillows are looking faded, worn out and tattered from last year, so replace them with new cushions or fabric covers to match the rest of your decor. Don't be afraid to go with bold and bright colors or big designs because they won't dominate the area since it's an open space.

You also need enough furniture and seating to fit your family and friends. Get a large round table or a long rectangular table for your guests to eat, snack and set down their drinks. Add extra chairs or a love seat around your table so you can add more people than your immediate family when you host a party. Go for items that are easy to clean so dust, dirt and spills don't permanently ruin your furniture.

Make Some Shade

The summer sun can be intense, so you need shady areas to give yourself and your guests a break. Get a table with an umbrella in the middle to provide some shade while you're eating dinner on the patio. Or add an umbrella on the top step of your pool or behind lounge chairs to stay cool.

If you want a larger shady area, set up a pavilion with a canopy roof in a section of your yard. Add chairs, side tables and a reading area underneath. You also can build a pergola and cover the top and sides with growing vines or climbing plants. This will add some color and nature to your patio as well as provide you with shade.

Light It Up

Transform your patio into a summer wonderland by lighting it up at night. Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, you'll want to relax on your patio with a nice cocktail or dessert with a lovely glow around you. For a touch of glamour, install an outdoor chandelier or light fixture over your patio table and chairs. String up hanging lights from the roof and side of your pergola to light up your ivy or plants. Put a few candles in translucent vases on side tables surrounding your other furniture or in the middle of your table. This is a great place for you to include some of your accent colors and add a delicate touch to sometimes bulky furniture.

Make It Party Ready

Now that you have the necessities, it's time to get to the fun part. You want people to see your beautiful summer patio, so give them an excuse to come over for a party. Set up a grill, cooler for drinks and counter space to prepare and display your summertime treats. If it tends to get cool at night, get a table with a fire pit in the middle or build your own fire pit where you can roast s'mores and tell ghost stories. You also should invest in some lawn games and board games that you can play well into the night.

Update Your Furniture

It's a new season with new trends, so you might be in the market for new patio furniture, or your old furniture just needs some updating. Chances are your cushions and pillows are looking faded, worn out and tattered from last year, so replace them with new cushions or fabric covers to match the rest of your decor. Don't be afraid to go with bold and bright colors or big designs because they won't dominate the area since it's an open space.

You also need enough furniture and seating to fit your family and friends. Get a large round table or a long rectangular table for your guests to eat, snack and set down their drinks. Add extra chairs or a love seat around your table so you can add more people than your immediate family when you host a party. Go for items that are easy to clean so dust, dirt and spills don't permanently ruin your furniture.

Make Some Shade

The summer sun can be intense, so you need shady areas to give yourself and your guests a break. Get a table with an umbrella in the middle to provide some shade while you're eating dinner on the patio. Or add an umbrella on the top step of your pool or behind lounge chairs to stay cool.

If you want a larger shady area, set up a pavilion with a canopy roof in a section of your yard. Add chairs, side tables and a reading area underneath. You also can build a pergola and cover the top and sides with growing vines or climbing plants. This will add some color and nature to your patio as well as provide you with shade.

Light It Up

Transform your patio into a summer wonderland by lighting it up at night. Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, you'll want to relax on your patio with a nice cocktail or dessert with a lovely glow around you. For a touch of glamour, install an outdoor chandelier or light fixture over your patio table and chairs. String up hanging lights from the roof and side of your pergola to light up your ivy or plants. Put a few candles in translucent vases on side tables surrounding your other furniture or in the middle of your table. This is a great place for you to include some of your accent colors and add a delicate touch to sometimes bulky furniture.

Make It Party Ready

Now that you have the necessities, it's time to get to the fun part. You want people to see your beautiful summer patio, so give them an excuse to come over for a party. Set up a grill, cooler for drinks and counter space to prepare and display your summertime treats. If it tends to get cool at night, get a table with a fire pit in the middle or build your own fire pit where you can roast s'mores and tell ghost stories. You also should invest in some lawn games and board games that you can play well into the night.

Source: Realty Times

Landscaping to Improve Resale: 9 Projects That Fit Within Your Desired Price Point

5/30/2017
Landscaping to Improve Resale: 9 Projects That Fit Within Your Desired Price Point

As the weather starts to heat up each Spring, so too does the housing market. Spring is an optimal time to get your house ready to sell. The first thing that potential buyers will see of your home is the landscaping, so make a great first impression with beautiful outdoor spaces. An investment in landscaping can help sell your home faster and for more money. There are simple projects at every price point that can help you achieve great curb-appeal.

Inexpensive $

1. Keep the Lawn Well-Manicured

The easiest and most obvious landscape project when hoping to sell your home is to get your lawn looking its best. Spring is a great season to try to sell because your lawn is helped by Mother Nature. Wet, mild Spring weather will help the lawn stay green with less effort. To show off that green lawn, make sure to mow and edge it often.

2. Keep Your Yard Weed Free

It may not cost much, but it will require some time and effort to control the weeds around your property. Spray or pull weeds in flowerbeds, on property borders, and along the driveway. A weed-free yard will help potential buyers feel confident that the home is well cared for, which can create an overall positive impression of your home.

3. Add Flower Pots Near Your Front Door

A splash of color in the yard is a great way to highlight your home. If you are looking to sell quickly, it might be too late to do major yard improvements since new flowers and plants will not have adequate time to grow and mature, but a few beautiful pots of flowers strategically placed near your front door can have a similar effect without requiring a lot of time and maintenance.

Moderate $$

4. Add Outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting has become a trendy feature that buyers have embraced. Lighting can add interest to your yard, highlight areas of beautiful landscaping, and make your home stand out at all times of the day. Solar lights are particularly easy to use because they will recharge during the day and automatically come on in the evening to illuminate your home.

5. Install Curbing/Edging

If you have a little extra money to spend, consider adding curbing or edging around your yard. It helps the landscaping appear crisp and clean, and makes the lawn easier to mow and trim. Savvy buyers will appreciate the ease of maintenance and the defined spaces that curbing creates.

6. Hire a Lawn or Pest Control Company

It is important when selling a home to make sure that their aren't any obvious problems. If your lawn is dead or patchy or you have pest problems like spiders, mice, etc, you will need to get those under control. Some of these projects are beyond the scope of what an individual without training can quickly achieve and should be left to professionals. Lawn care companies and exterminators can assess the issues you may have and recommend treatments. This may even be limited to a one time visit that can quickly improve the chances of selling your home.

High-End $$$

7. Create Outdoor Living Areas

If you have money to invest in your home, high-end landscaping projects can increase your bottom-line and draw attention from buyers looking for upgrades. Extra living area outside of your home is a huge attention grabber that attracts buyers. This could range from simple patios staged with outdoor furniture, to screened in porches, to full outdoor kitchen areas. Depending on your location, these upgrades may or may not be worth the investment, so do your research before proceeding.

 

8. Replace or Update Fencing

Fences provide a safe place for children and pets and also give homeowners a feeling of privacy, so they are highly sought after. Fencing is also one of the first things people see when coming to your home. If your fence is an eyesore, it will be worth it to make the effort to have it replaced or fixed up. A new fence is quite an investment, so first determine if your fence can be spruced up with some nails and a new coat of paint.

9. Hire a Professional Landscaper

If you are serious about creating a stunning yard, a professional landscaper can add massive amounts of curb appeal to make your home one of a kind. A landscaper can help you add impressive things like paving stone walkways, decorative retaining walls, and water features. Outdoor improvements definitely increase house values, but it is always good to know what the market will support in your area before moving forward.

No matter how much money you have to invest in your home's landscaping, there are projects you can do this Spring to improve your home's curb appeal and get it noticed by buyers.

Source: Realty Times

Spring Home Maintenance List: Five Things to Check Off Your List

5/16/2017

Just as you prepare your home for the winter by covering outside pipes, making sure your heater is working well and removing all of the old leaves and branches from your property, there are also a number of things homeowners should do to ready their homes for warmer weather. With spring in full swing, check out the following list of home-related chores and checkups you may want to do before summer arrives:

Check For Pests

As plants, flowers and bushes began to come back to life with the warmer weather, so did a variety of pests. Every spring, walk the perimeter of your home checking for signs of infestations. Look for evidence of termites in the wood — either by seeing the insects with your own eyes or by seeing damage to the wood or their droppings; also watch for ant hills, bees swarming in trees and places where four-legged critters like squirrels and raccoons might be able to get into the attic. Do the same thing in the home; if you have spotted a cockroach in the bathroom or crickets in the kitchen, chances are good there are many more of the insects that you cannot see. If you spot a large number of bees building a hive, call a bee removal company that will safely relocate them, and if you see other evidence of pests you may want to call an exterminator for help — especially in the cases of termites and wild animals getting into the home.

Examine Your Sprinklers

You may not have run your underground sprinkler system all winter, but now that the weather is heating up you’ll want to be sure your grass and other outdoor plants are getting plenty of water. Turn on the sprinkler zone by zone and check to be sure the sprinkler heads are rising from the ground properly and spraying in the right direction. If you spot any that will not budge or have broken off and are shooting water into the air, you can call a local landscaper to come fix them, or DIY-minded folks can fix these themselves.

Examine the Roof

Another important task to complete in the spring is giving the roof a thorough check up. Depending on how pitched or large your roof is, and how comfortable you are with heights, you can carefully do this inspection yourself or hire a roofing company. If you do this job on your own, examine the roof shingles or tiles to see if any were damaged or blew off during the winter, and check the flashing around skylights and chimneys to be sure it is tight and not allowing water to seep into the house.

Ready Your Air Conditioner

Before it gets too hot, give your A/C unit a thorough inspection to be sure it will keep the home and your family cool during the upcoming warm months. Change the filter, check all hose connections for any leaks and make sure the drain pans are not clogged. Vacuum the unit to remove any dust that can prevent it from working at full efficiency, and if you spot any issues along the way, call in a professional to fix them before summer arrives.

Trim Away Overgrown Branches

As the DIY Network notes, spring is a great time to remove branches from trees and bushes that are touching up against your house. In general, try to keep the branches about 5 or 6 feet away from the sides and roof of the house to prevent critters from having a highway to hop onto your roof and prevent spring rains from getting onto the roof and sides of the home.

Source: Realty Times

Lessons Learned To Avoid A Stressful Move

5/9/2017

As a designer, she'd helped others move. But her own move proved a bigger challenge:

It's been said that moving is one of life's most traumatic events, right up there with switching jobs and losing a loved one. Having experienced all three - and having just recently moved with a toddler in tow - I can honestly confirm that, yep, moving is pretty stressful.

We decided to move when our rent rose higher than what we were willing to pay for our apartment. But no one wants to pack and unpack, plus we faced the anxiety of transitioning our 2-year-old to new surroundings. So I decided I would control this move (and my anxiety about it) by devising the perfect moving plan.

The Not-So-Perfect Moving Plan

As an interior designer, I plan moves for my clients. I plan with contractors and furniture movers and closet designers. But when I had to plan a move involving my own space and things, my anxiety shot up. Add in a 2-year-old and a demanding business, and I was completely overwhelmed.

So I got super organized. I color-coded each room and moving box. I measured our new space and created a furniture layout plan. I even created a new filing system for all the papers we unearthed in the process of packing. Of course, none of that helped when our movers didn't follow my carefully color-coded plan. Let's just say that I wasn't a lot of fun to be around during our move.

If I could do it again, instead of striving for organized perfection, here are the things I would focus on.

Edit Early

I tell my clients to edit their home every year, advising them to go through closets, drawers and even take a critical eye to worn-out textiles. But I know that many of my clients probably don't do this - and the same goes for me.

When we had our son, life took over. My closets weren't edited for over a year. My paperwork wasn't neatly filed away. And my son's items seemed endless. Kids grow and, as a result, their toys keep changing, as do their clothes and accessories. This requires a constant state of swapping out items. If you don't keep up with it every few months, you'll be drowning in baby gear.

When moving, start clearing out every room as early as possible - ideally months in advance and definitely at least one month ahead. Try not to get bogged down in the sentimentality of every item. Trust me, on moving day, you'll be glad you pared back.

Embrace the Chaos

This is probably easier said than done, but giving in to the turmoil of the move rather than resisting and trying to control it will go a long way toward saving your sanity. Moving is a chaotic process, and it takes a lot of time to emerge from the chaos. There's really no way around it.

So don't do what I did and have perfectionist expectations for getting everything done really fast. I cleared my schedule for a single week to tackle moving tasks. But that just wasn't enough time. Feeling short on time left me feeling stressed. I should have used a big red marker on my calendar to circle two months. With enough time, I might have actually enjoyed - or at least better tolerated - unearthing years of nostalgia and packing up boxes.

Look Ahead

One thing I realized through the move is that big changes can lead to a more productive path. And that's certainly true in our new apartment. Our closets are organized and less full, there's fresh paint on the walls awaiting new family photos, and my son loves discovering all the different places to play hide-and-seek. You can feel openness throughout our apartment.

And I, too, feel renewed energy. I look forward to our future here in this new home. I think if I'd deliberately looked ahead during the moving process and kep my eyes on our goal - to be settled and happy in our new apartment, as we are now - I would have been less of a stress case. But I'm comforted by the fact that not only did we survive the turmoil of moving, but we learned important lessons that will help it to be better next time around. After all, we're not done yet. 

Source: Realty Times

How Design Rules Our Homes And Our Lives

5/2/2017

Humans are naturally drawn to certain shapes, curves, and colors. We can see design trends as far back as human history goes. In modern-speak, this innate desire creates a need for creative individuals and companies to give us what we want. Our tastes, however, change dramatically over time.

Take homes for example, the easiest trends to spot over the centuries. There was a time when we made gigantic stone castles that would serve Royalty for generations.

There was a time when we switched to lumber for our building needs. Paint, plaster, brick, and other materials were switched to as tastes evolved. There was even an unfortunate time when we thought that fake wood paneling would look great all around our homes. We've wised up a lot since then, but it begs the question: what will our design tastes be like in another hundred years?

Great looking homes aren't the only thing that we can't live without-- we also require a certain look and feel in our household and electronic products. In fact, product design is one of the biggest industries out there. Estimates of the top companies dictate that over 30% is dedicated to the sole purpose of design. Take Apple, for instance. Their world class-design team has made some of the most iconic gadgets ever produced. This isn't by accident-- they realized early on that people care as much about how something looks as how well it performs. Recently that human trend has created some major flops though. Emerging markets realized this quickly, and created shabby, cheap products that have a great look, only to find that they were severely lacking in every quantifiable way. Don't make this same mistake when looking for the place in which you will choose to live.

When you're looking for a home, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration, knowing how much we value design. First off, the general look has to be tolerable. You are going to live there for heaven's sake! After it passes the initial look test, one has to consider how the flow of the home will fit into your daily life. Does it have a space for a home office? How many rooms are there compared to your needs this year and 3-5 years down the road? After the inside is checked off, you can make plans for how you want to change the look and feel of it. Remember, the way it looks now can be easily changed, especially easy things like colors, appliances, and decor. As any REALTOR® can tell you, these small elements can drastically change the atmosphere of a home.

Take note of how your home's design makes you feel. Does it have a friendly, open floor plan, or is it smaller boxy rooms? People prefer different things of course, but it's always important to realize this before you move in than six months down the road.

Source: Realty Times

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