How to Winterize a House: Tips to Prevent Ice Dams, Drafts, and More

CatLane/iStock

When the weather turns chilly, your house needs to button up, too. And the way to do that is to learn how to winterize your house. No, not once the snow starts falling, but now. Trust us, you’ll want to nip any issues in the bud before the temperature drops too much.

Here’s a handy list of things to check on your house to keep it cozy, save on energy bills, and prevent a nightmare’s worth of damage you’ll have to tackle come spring (or even worse, in the dead of winter).

Conduct a pre-winter inspection

First, size up how prepared your house is for winter by taking a walk around its perimeter and eyeballing these features, says Bob Hanbury, a Newington, CT, builder for 40 years and a board member of the National Association of Home Builders:

  1. Check the ground to make sure it slopes away from your house, which helps prevent melting ice and snow from seeping into your home.
  2. Look for gnawing marks on vents and trim, which signal that critters are trying to make their winter home in your attic. If you see teeth marks, patch holes to discourage unwelcome visitors. The animal type, that is.
  3. Inspect caulking around doors and windows to make sure it’s not cracking or peeling, which will let cold air in and heated air out, increasing winter energy bills.
  4. Check roof shingles, and replace any that are curled or missing.
  5. Cut back tree branches overhanging the roof, which could cause damage during storms.

 

How to prevent ice dams

Those darn ice dams. Maudib/iStock

Ice dams, however lovely they may sound, are ice mounds around the edge of your roof created when melting snow can’t drip into gutters, through downspouts, and away from your house. Ice dams are not your friends.

If any of those exits are blocked with leaves or ice, then water stays on your roof and continually melts and freezes, causing dams that push water under eaves and into your home.

Adequate and properly installed insulation helps prevent ice damming; so does making sure gutters and downspouts are in good shape and unblocked by leaves, bird nests, and other debris.

If ice damming has been a past problem, you can increase your odds of a drip-free winter by laying heating cables along the edge of your roof, in gutters, and down spouts, which will keep ice from forming. Cables typically cost $200 to $400, depending on the size of your house.

How to protect pipes in winter

Mother Nature laughs at the calendar (true) and can create a hard frost weeks before or after you expect. So it’s a good idea to protect outside garden hoses by detaching them and turning off the water to outside spigots by Thanksgiving.

After you shut off water valves, open spigots to let water drip out and prevent freezing, which can burst pipes.

And while you’re disconnecting garden hoses, hold them waist-high as you’re coiling them. That will let water drip out, keeping your basement dry if you store hoses there in the winter, or prevent cracks from frozen water if you store hoses in an unheated garage.

How to save on energy bills this winter

Another essential aspect of winterizing is making sure your home keeps heat in and cold out! Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Clean or replace filters: Before temperatures drop, make sure your furnace is blowing hot air. Clean or replace filters, “the most important piece of preventive maintenance you can do for your furnace,” says Mike Clear, vice president of operations at American Home Shield, the country’s largest provider of home warranties based in Memphis, TN. Also vacuum burners to remove dust and debris, and be sure drapes and furniture don’t block floor vents. It’s also a good idea to hire an HVAC professional to oil the furnace blower motor annually.
  • Seal leaks: Sometimes stopping hot air from escaping your home is as easy as stuffing a draft snake (a tubelike cushion) under doors. You can make your own by filling a knee sock with dried beans or popcorn kernels. Other ways to stop air leaks are to replace weatherstripping around windows, replace door and window screens with storm doors or windows, or replace old door sweeps on exterior doors.
  • Cover water heaters: If your water heater is located in a garage, attic, or other unfinished space, cover it with an insulated water heater blanket that will help prevent heat loss.
  • Maintain fireplaces: If your wood-burning fireplace is just decorative, plug and seal the chimney flue to make sure heated air doesn’t, literally, go up the chimney. If you still burn wood, close the flue when you’re not making a fire.

 

Posted by Lisa Gordon on realtor.com

8 DIY Ways to Redo Your Bathroom (Without Remodeling)

Ready for a revamped bathroom space, but nervous about taking on a big renovation project? These easy updates can give you a whole new look on any budget.

The bathroom is probably the best room in the house for a mini-makeover. When you realize how dramatically, quickly and inexpensively you can completely update the space without an actual renovation, you’ll wonder why you’ve waited so long.

Before you dive in, take a minute to consider what you’re going for in terms of style. Your bathroom should be a peaceful, relaxing space. Are you more soothed by rich, dramatic tones and style, or are you going for a more simple and serene spa-like space? Once you know what you want, take a look at these simple tips for getting the bathroom upgrade you’ve been dreaming of.

Source: Pottery Barn

Paint

This is obviously the place to start, since doing it yourself results in such fast and dramatic change. For the simple and serene look, choose soft and soothing tones to give you a greater sense of space and light. If you’re looking for a rich, dark hideaway, choose warm saturated tones to strike the right mood.

Hardware

Now choose drawer pulls that keep the style makeover moving forward. They’re available in all styles and at all price points, and this is another big change you can make on your own. Typically, a nickel or stainless finish goes best with the spa look, while oil-rubbed bronze tones will add the richness you’re looking for in a sophisticated atmosphere.

Storage

Because our bathrooms are also spaces that our guests may see, keeping them clutter free is essential. Organization is also important for keeping stress on the other side of the bathroom door.

A quick and functional fix here are simple storage cubbies. Stash toiletries, makeup and other beauty and grooming equipment in small caddies that you can pop out and put away easily.

Lighting

Good grooming requires good light, but when you’re just looking to slip into the tub and relax, you want something softer. Start your lighting makeover with a simple dimmer switch.

Replacing the vanity lighting fixture is easier than you think, too. To keep the job a simple and quick one, simply choose vanity lighting that covers the same space the original fixture did. You can maximize your options, though, if you tackle the lighting when you do the painting.

To take it up one more notch, consider a dramatic piece of statement lighting such as a chandelier or pendant that adds a sense of style.

Shower, sink and tub faucets

Now we’re moving into the updates that really make the space feel new. Look for sink fixtures that offer a little more height over the bowl and length extending into the bowl for the most functional effect.

Then, upgrade to a new showerhead that makes your morning feel anything but routine. A handheld showerhead that ties into the shower arm and can extend from the wall via a hose is another indulgent and functional option.

Source: KellyBaron

Mirror and medicine cabinet

Most standard medicine cabinets are not much to look at, and there are now plenty of options that will your replace your current cabinet. A simple beveled mirror version with a plastic wipe-able interior can update a rusted metal version.

But another simple fix if you don’t want to replace the whole cabinet is to build a simple picture-style frame right over your basic wall mirror. Just choose the frame according to the style you’re going for, and make sure the surface is moisture resistant.

Towel warmer

Even if you don’t have the most spacious bathroom, this is an amenity worthy of serious consideration. In case you think you just can’t spare the space, you’ll be glad to hear that they also come ready to plug-in or hard wire and hang on the wall.

Source: Zillow Digs

The final touches

New towels and a fresh bathmat can change the appearance of your bath space with little effort. Pick a monochromatic color scheme to dry off in style, or go all white for the spa-like aesthetic.

For a little added detail, consider monogramming your towels with your initials or “His,” “Hers” and “Guest.” This added touch will make all your efforts well worth the time and consideration of your bathroom update.

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow

5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional When Buying & Selling!

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be quite an adventurous journey; you need an experienced Real Estate Professional to lead you to your ultimate goal. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can For Sale by Owner or FSBO.

The 5 Reasons You NEED a Real Estate Professional in your corner haven’t changed, but rather have been strengthened, due to the projections of higher mortgage interest rates & home prices as the market continues to pick up steam. 

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true Real Estate Professional is an expert in their market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. Ok, so you found your dream house, now what?

According to the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association, there are over 230 possible actions that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions are, to make sure that you acquire your dream? 

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. However, after looking at the list of parties that you need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll realize the value in selecting a Real Estate Professional. From the buyer (who wants the best deal possible), to the home inspection companies, to the appraiser, there are at least 11 different people that you will have to be knowledgeable with and answer to, during the process. 

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start to attract the right buyers and shorten the time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you the truth as to your home’s value. According to the National Association of REALTORS, “the typical FSBO home sold for $185,000 compared to $245,000 among agent-assisted home sales.”

Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional.

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and the internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively price your home correctly at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a lowball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has their finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic. Why would you make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a Real Estate Professional?

Posted by The KCM Crew

Should You Take Your Home Off the Market for the Holidays?

Nobody’s buying homes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, right? (Or are they?)

Home sellers often suggest to their agents that they should take their listings off the market during the winter holidays. Surely nothing happens between now and the end of the year, they ask? It’s best to wait for the spring selling season, right?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is: not necessarily.

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential home buyers were attending parties, cooking holiday meals, buying presents, or vacationing this time of year. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent to look at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the home-buying season is now year-round.

Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays — or even in January.

Today’s buyers check the listings 24×7

These days, serious buyers are always real estate aware — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a mobile real estate app before bed or while waiting for the bus. You know the drill. We can’t pull ourselves away.

Our hectic lifestyles also play a role. Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — your competition — is lighter

Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers stop looking come mid-November. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market for months often take them off now to give the listing “a rest.”

The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. There’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing, and have a salable home, consider listing right after Thanksgiving. There’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year.

And those buyers swiping right will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market. Buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

Update a slow mover

If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will assume it’s stale, overpriced or that something is “wrong” with it, no matter how light the competition is.

In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home.

If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling.

The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look. Strike while the iron is hot.

You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year. But before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.

Plan B: List in January

Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a dealbreaker for some would-be sellers.

If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day. Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in early January. Many areas are seeing cold weather, bare trees, and dead landscaping. Many sellers wait until the spring — a more conventional time to sell.

While January inventory is typically still very tight, the number of buyers may be growing. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.

Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.

Posted by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow

3 Types of Insurance You Need to Buy a Home (and 4 You Don’t)

erhui1979/iStock

When you buy a home, you will be showered with offers to buy insurance—and not just one type, but many types. Such awesome deals! So which ones do you really need?

There are a few that are downright essential, and others are nice but not necessary. Furthermore, others are total rip-offs to avoid at all costs.

To help you differentiate among them all, here’s a rundown of the types of insurance you’ll likely encounter on your home-buying journey and a reality check on whether you need them.

Title insurance

Do you need it? Absolutely!

Normally, this isn’t even a question because it’s almost always mandatory when you’re getting a mortgage. But if you’re paying all-cash, you have the option of skipping on title insurance. You shouldn’t.

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Title insurance “ensures both the lender and the owner’s financial interests in the home are protected against loss due to title defects, liens, or other matters,” says Liane Jamason, a Realtor® and owner of the Jamason Realty Group at Smith & Associates Real Estate in Tampa, FL.

It’s especially important to get title insurance in transactions like short sales and foreclosures, which often carry the high risk of some kind of tax lien being attached to the property. Title insurance is going to safeguard against your needing to pay for liens, and will ensure the title is clear so no one down the road could claim they own the property and file a lawsuit.

If for some reason you’re dead set against getting title insurance, Jamason suggests you should at least get a lawyer to “thoroughly check the property’s history to ensure there could be no future claims to title.”

Homeowners insurance

Do you need it? You bet

Like title insurance, this is another one that’s not required if you own the house outright (you’ll need to have it with a mortgage), but this is necessary. Homeowners insurance covers you for a variety of things like fires and storms. You’ll want it even if you aren’t legally required to have it.

Eric Kossian, agency principal of InsurePro, a Washington state insurance agency, cites an example of a wealthy homeowner who had paid off his house and “figured since he had never had an insurance claim he would save himself the $700 a year in premium.” Then some kids near his home started a fire, which got out of control and burned down several houses—including his. It cost the homeowner about $450,000 in damages. Consider this a cautionary tale.

Extra moving insurance

Do you need it? Yes, if you’re smart.

Bare-bones, federally mandated moving coverage offers just 60 cents per pound of an item, and is known as “released value protection.” So if something breaks and that’s your only coverage, you won’t get back the full cost of the item, just what’s calculated under the coverage limits.

There’s also “full-value protection,” which can be purchased from the moving company, but you need to specify which items are worth more than $100 per pound. The moving company can opt to repair the item back to its original state, or give you the fair market value of the item—not necessarily what you paid for it. Plus, full-value protection excludes items over $5,000. Opt for this instead of released value protection. (Rates vary by moving company—it’ll be more than released value, but it’s worth it.)

If you’re moving some really valuable stuff, you can purchase extra insurance from a third-party insurance provider. This typically costs $100 per $10,000 of coverage.

Flood insurance

Do you need it? It depends on where you live and how lucky you feel.

Flood insurance is a tricky one. Requirement for flood insurance can be mandatory for homes in flood-prone areas. Otherwise, it’s optional. The biggest problem with flood insurance is you don’t know you need it until it’s too late. Last year, flash floods in Texas and Oklahoma washed homes away. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast and left thousands in low- or moderate-risk flood zones with water-damaged homes.

Torrential rain and freak storms can happen anywhere.

“If you are not in a designated flooding area, it is still a wise idea to get flood insurance, and typically it is very affordable if you are not in a low-lying area,” Jamason says.

So this one’s sort of a toss-up. If you have it, you may never need it. But it’s worse to really need it, and then not have it. A similar argument can be made for earthquake insurance.

Private mortgage insurance

Do you need it? Hopefully no.

For most loans, private mortgage insurance is mandatory if you don’t have a 20% down payment. But if you can put down at least that amount, it’s well worth doing to avoid PMI. The reason: Mortgage insurance benefits only the lender—it does nothing for you, so get rid of it as quickly and cheaply as possible. Some options to avoid PMI include piggyback loans, lender-paid PMI, and single-payment PMI.

Mortgage protection life insurance

Do you need it? Not really.

In case you die while you’re still paying off a mortgage (bummer, we know), this insurance is supposed to make sure your family is financially covered when it comes to paying your mortgage. But it’s basically pointless.

“I would say as a general rule that mortgage life insurance or mortgage protection insurance is unnecessary,” says David Reiss, a law professor specializing in real estate at Brooklyn Law School. Reiss says consumers “are generally better served by a cheap term insurance policy from a well-rated insurance company,” and “you will generally get more protection per premium dollar with a term life insurance policy.”

Umbrella insurance

Do you need it? Usually not.

Umbrella insurance is basically insurance for your insurance. It vastly expands the amount of damages your insurance will cover. But it’s not necessarily worth it.

“One common rule of thumb is that an umbrella insurance policy should equal the net worth of the insured,” Reiss says. So for the average middle-class American homeowner, Reiss notes that an umbrella policy is generally “less relevant,” probably because your regular insurance covers enough. For the rich, or those who are “reasonably expecting” a rise in income, Reiss says it can be a good idea and worth researching further.

 

Posted by Craig Donofrio on realtor.com

6 Things You Need for the Best Friendsgiving Ever

Thanksgiving is just a few days away (which, first off, how?!) and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a lovely time of year, what with the copious amounts of food and family time. In fact, I love Thanksgiving so much that celebrating it once just isn’t enough. That’s why I’m so jazzed that Friendsgiving has become such a trend, especially since I live in New York City and travel home to Ohio for the holidays. It’s a real treat to get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my city friends before we head back to our respective hometowns. Plus, I will never turn down an opportunity to eat mashed potatoes.

If you’re looking to throw your own Friendsgiving, these six special touches can really make it a next level bash. Now let’s get ready to give thanks!

1: DIY Banner

Get your guests into the Thanksgiving mood with this glittery banner.

Make This: Glittered Thanksgiving Banner

2: A Photo Booth

A gathering of close friends is the perfect time to capture those mems — millennial for memories — so customizing a photo booth for the occasion is sure to excite everyone in attendance and guarantee some amazing Instagram posts.

3: Unexpected Place Settings

Jason Kisner, Copyright 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Jason Kisner, Copyright 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surprise your guests by eschewing the expected turkeys and cornucopias and whip up these DIY white pumpkin succulent holders. They’re minimal, stylish and your guests will be able to take them home, what could be better?

4: The Perfect Side Dish

Your Thanksgiving dinner will be all about the main dish, but most Friendsgivings are pot luck-style, so side dishes get their chance to shine. This take on Brussels sprouts includes cranberries, orange juice, pine nuts and plenty of garlic…yum!

5: A Signature Cocktail

Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

Of course, you’ll want to have plenty of non-alcoholic options as well as beer and wine on hand, but serving up one speciality drink is s fun way to add personality to your get together. You could go with one of these seasonal apple cider sips, or get creative with this this hot cranberry mule, an autumnal take on a summer classic.

Make This: Hot Cranberry Mule

6. A Crowd-Pleasing Dessert

To cap off your top-notch Friendsgiving, all you need is a delicious sweet treat. And sure, you could go with apple pie or pumpkin pie, but sometimes it’s a little more fun to try something new. These pumpkin mousse and ginger parfaits scream fall, look pretty and they come pre-portioned!

Make This: Pumpkin Mousse and Ginger Parfaits

Posted by Bridget Mallon on hgtv.com

 

Homes Across the Country Are Selling Fast! [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • The National Association of REALTORS® surveyed their members for the release of their Confidence Index.
  • The REALTORS® Confidence Index is a key indicator of housing market strength based on a monthly survey sent to over 50,000 real estate practitioners. Practitioners are asked about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions.
  • Homes sold in 60 days or less in 42 out of 50 states, and Washington D.C.
  • Homes sold in 30 days or less in 17 states.

Posted by The KCM Crew