Sept. 13, 2019

3 Money Tips for New Homeowners

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

3 Money Tips for New Homeowners

Being in your first home is an exciting time in your life. But coming up with a down payment may not have been the toughest part of it. Aside from buying furniture, painting and decorating, and making those first fixes, you should probably give your finances an overhaul to accommodate the costs of homeownership.

Financial experts from The Motley Fool offer three important money tips:

Create a new budget. A lot more will change in your monthly budget than the difference between your rent and your mortgage payment. You may be taking on utility payments for the first time, or those costs may increase depending on your new square footage. If you suddenly have a lawn to maintain, that will be a new expense. Money managers suggest you track all your expenses for at least three months, then update your budget as needed.

Prepare for repairs and maintenance. Most homeowners spend between one and four percent of their home’s value on repairs and maintenance. So, if your home is worth $300,000, expect to shell out anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000 a year on upkeep. If you need to do something major, like replace a faulty heating system or roof, your costs could climb even higher. Aim to pad your emergency savings so that you have funds to tap when needed—somewhere between three and six months’ worth of living expenses.

Be ready to meet tax payments. Unless you’ve rolled your mortgage insurance and property taxes into your monthly mortgage payments, you will face a good-sized property tax payment twice or sometimes four times a year. Be aware of the amount, and set aside additional funds each month so you’re not caught off guard when taxes are due.

Sept. 10, 2019

Clean Machine: Tackling the Fridge and Freezer

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Clean Machine: Tackling the Fridge and Freezer

If there’s a funky smell coming from the depths of your refrigerator or small icebergs forming in your freezer, it’s time to bite the bullet and do a deep clean. Not only will this make for an odor-free, organized environment for your fresh and frozen foods, more importantly, it will ensure your food’s safety. Follow these tips from the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to make the task easy and effective:

1. Prepare. Unplug the refrigerator to save energy and to safely clean coils. Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill the sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dish soap.

2. Purge. Empty the refrigerator, then the freezer, and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out!

3. Clean. Remove drawers and shelves and clean them in the sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray the interior with cleaner, and wipe from the top down with a warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and ice-maker filters if needed. Clean the grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).

4. Check Temps. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

5. Organize. When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.

Source: National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association
Posted in House Hold Tips
Sept. 9, 2019

Selling Your Home? Attack Issues Head-on

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Selling Your Home? Attack Issues Head-on

You’ve finally made the decision to put your home on the market - now comes the tough part: making sure it’s ready for prospective buyers.

According to Buddy Stark, director of operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service, there are several steps home sellers should take before beginning the selling process and having a home inspection. Here’s what he recommends:

Clean the house. This may seem like an obvious one, but you must keep your home at a heightened level of clean on an ongoing basis in anticipation of a showing. An ultra-clean home will convey that it's been well cared for and that the house is less susceptible to any issues caused by neglect.

Check all windows. Take a quick inventory of your windows to make sure they're in good working order. Replace windows that are cracked or broken before the inspection to save time during the selling process.

Finish the “honey-do” list. You might not think that certain areas of your home have anything to do with your home’s appeal, but they will come up as safety concerns on a home inspection report. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs, test smoke detectors, replace air filters and unclog drains. These little things are easy to forget in day-to-day life, but taking care of them is a relatively easy task that will help potential buyers focus on the important systems of the home.

Check all outlets. A sampling of electrical outlets will be tested as part of the home inspection to make sure they're in good working order. Take note of which outlets are not functioning in the home and replace them. Or consider hiring an electrician to make sure both outlets and the electrical box are updated and in proper working condition.

Clear areas for easy access. Home inspectors will be looking at the major parts of the home, including the foundation, HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing, and even the water heater. Making sure home inspectors can easily access these areas, including the basement and attic, will save time during the inspection process.

Consider a pre-listing inspection. Having an inspection conducted before the selling process will allow you to take care of issues that may arise later, clearing the way for a smooth - and speedy - sale.

Source: HomeTeam Inspection
Aug. 22, 2019

Laundry Tips

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

10 Laundry Tips to Cut Your Energy Bill

Did you know that laundry machines are among the costliest appliances in your home to operate because of their high energy usage? Given that many families clean multiple loads of clothes every week, taking steps to be more efficient in the laundry room might help lower your overall power bill.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers the following tips:

1. Use cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more. Cold-water detergents can be helpful to ensure items get clean, and high-efficiency detergents (indicated by the “HE” symbol) should be used when required by the manufacturer.

2. Wash full loads. Your washer will use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so fill it up.

3. Air dry when possible. Hang laundry outside or on a drying rack to avoid using the dryer altogether.

4. Switch loads while the dryer’s still warm. This will allow you to use the remaining heat inside of the dryer for the next cycle.

5. Clean the lint filter. The dryer will run more efficiently and safely. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter once a month with a toothbrush to remove film buildup that can reduce air circulation.

6. Use the washer’s high-speed spin cycle. This will remove as much moisture as possible before drying, reducing your drying time and the wear on clothes from high heat.

7. Use a cool-down cycle if your dryer has one. This cycle allows clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.

8. Use lower heat settings. Even if the drying cycle is longer, you’ll use less energy and be less likely to over-dry your clothes.

9. Use the moisture sensor option. Many new clothes dryers come with a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes from over-drying.

10. Sign up for time-of-day programs. Some utilities offer programs that lower energy costs at certain times of the day—often overnight. If you sign up and do laundry overnight (or use scheduling controls on your machines), your energy bill could be cheaper. Check with your utility for details.

If you’re in the market for new machines, the Energy Department also suggests buying ENERGY STAR-certified models: ENERGY STAR washers use about 25 percent less energy than conventional models, while the dryers use 20 percent less energy.

Posted in House Hold Tips
Aug. 20, 2019

First Comes Home, Then Comes Marriage?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

First Comes Home, Then Comes Marriage?

When it comes to today’s real estate market, millennials play a major role. According to the National Association of REALTORSⓇ, the group makes up the largest share of homebuyers at 37 percent, and according to RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Report, first-time homebuyers/millennials represent the largest opportunity for business in the year ahead, according to the majority of responding brokers.

Millennials are so keen on homeownership, in fact, that a growing contingent are putting buying a home before marriage. According to recent research from LendingTree, 24 percent of millennials say they are postponing marriage until after they buy a home. Additionally, 27 percent of millennial buyers are postponing parenthood until after they’ve bought a home...and 2 in 5 of all homebuyers are waiting to get the house before they get a pet.

No matter whether millennials are prioritizing marriage or home, the research reveals that more education about the home-buying process is needed either way. For example, while most home closings take 45 - 60 days, nearly half of first-time homebuyers surveyed believe the mortgage closing process will take 15 - 30 days, and about 14 percent believe it will take less than 15 days.

First-time buyers also need more education on the importance of good credit when buying a home. According to the research, just 15 percent of first-time buyers have a score of 740 or higher. While nearly 2 in 5 reported that they aren’t satisfied with their credit score, more than a quarter of them haven’t taken steps to improve it.

Despite credit-score woes, however, the two main obstacles to buying a home are low income and lack of savings. Nearly a third reported that a lack of income has held them back from buying a home, and another 27 percent claim a lack of savings has caused the delay.
LendingTree offers the following tips for first-time homebuyers to help them achieve their goal:

Save as much as you can for a down payment, closing costs and moving expenses, and also look into down payment assistance programs.

- Have a clear picture of the mortgage amount you can afford, realizing that your monthly mortgage payment includes property taxes, homeowners insurance and mortgage insurance if you put less than 20 percent down.

- Generally speaking, your total monthly debts, including your mortgage, shouldn’t exceed 43 percent of your gross monthly income.

- Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking for a house. A pre-approval tells you how much a lender is willing to lend you and at what interest rate. 
Posted in Market Updates
Aug. 20, 2019

5 Tips for Lighting your Living Space

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

5 Tips for Lightening Your Living Space

Do you dream of a light, airy living space? Do you want to feel like you’re living inside of a cloud? Below are five tips for a lighter living space, now.

Paint it white. Well this is an obvious one. From walls to wood paneling and hardwood floors, two coats of white paint will turn your living space into a year-round winter wonderland. Done and done!

Minimize. Do you really need all twenty of those awkward family photos on that side table? De-cluttering surfaces will lighten space with smooth lines. Cut clutter by adding hidden storage systems (like an ottoman with stow space), and minimize furniture to a handful of necessary pieces.

Add mirrors. Mirrors have long-since been a go-to trick for opening up a space. In addition to wall mirrors, consider adding mirrored back splashes or mirrored trays. Not into mirrors? Sparkle can do the trick, too. Glass-top tables and crystal candle holders, anyone?

Lighten the linens. Breezy, airy curtains and snow-white throws will make your space seem plush and comfortable, like snuggling with a sheep.

Shades of gray. To avoid looking as if you doused your house in bleach, consider adding soft, light shades of gray or blue to your color scheme.

For more tips on home decor and improvements, contact me today!

Posted in Home Design
Aug. 19, 2019

Water Heaters and What you should know

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Bay Street Realty Group

Water Heater Replacements a Good Bet in Today's Energy-efficient Driven Market

When considering purchasing a home, prospective buyers often have a long list of questions they’d like answered before making a final decision. And, with more buyers being energy-conscious today, they may be put off by large energy, heating and water bills that are a direct result of old systems and non energy-efficient offerings.
 
While savvy house hunters will most certainly ask about the age and condition of the basic systems and appliances in your home, it’s important to think carefully about which upgrades make the most sense before placing your home on the market. 
 
One change to strongly consider is the water heater. If your unit is anywhere between 10-15 years old, upgrading can be a big improvement, catching the attention of a prospective buyer. New models are up to 20 percent more efficient and can save up to $700 in energy costs over the life of the unit. Of course, it’s always a good idea to research your options before choosing a replacement.
 
The most popular water heaters today are electric, but those running on fuel, geothermal energy, propane, solar energy and gas are also available. Conventional water heaters have a large tank that stores hot water for future use, while tankless water heaters heat water directly when needed, reducing both storage and heating costs.
 
Currently, five categories of water heater are designated as Energy Star rated, including high-performance gas storage, whole-home gas tankless, advanced drop-in or integrated heat pump, solar and gas condensing. For each type of water heater, the Energy Star rating can help you determine just how energy efficient a model is.
 
According to Energy.gov, the type of water heater you choose may affect your water heating costs. For instance, an electric heat pump water heater is typically more energy efficient than an electric conventional storage water heater, however, an electric heat pump water heater might have lower energy costs than a gas-fired conventional storage water heater because of its higher efficiency.
 
Even if your water heater is currently working, if it’s an older, inefficient model, you could reap real cost benefits by replacing it with a more energy efficient one.
 
Adding an energy efficient water heater and maintaining it properly before you put your house on the market will help reduce energy bills significantly and attract more buyers. Keep yourself out of hot water and make a change that can only benefit your sale.
 
For more information about buyer questions, contact me today! 
Aug. 8, 2019

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Posted in Real Estate Tools
Aug. 7, 2019

Air Quality of your home

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

You may think about air pollution while you're running alongside a busy road or strolling to your favorite coffee shop, but do you ever think about the pollutants inside your home? Between sleep and home hangouts, the majority of your time is spent between your own four walls. According to Aire Serv, you should regularly change the HVAC filter in your home to help improve indoor air quality. For ease, stock up on a few filters at a time and plan to check the filter monthly. Other considerations to keep in mind include:

Dust and vacuum often. It's easy to put off dusting and vacuuming, but removing dust means you get rid of one of your home's most prevalent pollutants. Instead of a feather duster, use a wet rag or electrostatic cloth to trap debris instead of spreading it around. When you vacuum, turn the thermostat setting to ON so the fan blows continuously, drawing up dusty air and filtering it before sending it back into the air you breathe.

Avoid chemicals. Everything from cleaning products and air fresheners to personal care items give off harmful vapors that become trapped in your home. Avoid chemically laden products and choose non-toxic, non-aerosol, unscented products instead to promote good indoor air quality.

Utilize existing spot ventilation around your home. For example, run the bathroom exhaust fan when you shower and clean; flip on the kitchen range vent when you cook and clean; and turn on the laundry room exhaust vent when clothes are drying. These habits help you eliminate pollutants at the source.

The air filter in your furnace should be cleaned or replaced at least once every three months. Irritants and allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites and more build up in dirty filters, increasing exposure and worsening the effects on those with sensitivities.

If your furnace uses natural gas, propane or oil to keep your house warm, the air quality in your home could become contaminated by dangerous carbon monoxide gas. If not properly and adequately ventilated, its build-up in your home can be deadly.

Run an air cleaner. A small portable air cleaner is perfect for your bedroom at night while you sleep. This device collects airborne dust and debris, leaving the air cleaner than ever. If you opt for a whole-house model, it replaces the air filter. This type of installation is known to decrease asthma and allergy symptoms.
Posted in Home Guide
May 31, 2019

Dataw Island's Real Estate Report Spring 2019

Posted in Market Updates