5 Ways to Warm Up an Older House

Older homes certainly have their charm, but they’re not usually the most energy efficient or the easiest to keep warm. About one-third of our nation’s energy consumption comes from the residential sector, and about 70 percent of this can be attributed to homes built before 1983, according to a study by ConSol, a building and energy consulting firm in California. But living in an older home doesn’t mean you have to put up with drafty doors and cold nights huddled around the fire. There are several smart ways to work with your home’s existing structure to improve its efficiency, and make it as warm and comfortable as an old sweater.

No. 1: Do an energy audit

You’ve no doubt heard that knowledge is power. Well, in this case, knowledge can actually save you power. An energy audit is a great place to start when you’re seeking to retrofit an older home to make it warmer, because it will show you exactly where most of your warm air is escaping and cold air is entering. Some utility companies offer energy audits for free, so check with your providers first to see if this is a possibility. If not, you may wish to hire a professional energy auditor who will go beyond pointing out the obvious sources of heat loss and give you a comprehensive plan for warming up your home. If you find a professional too costly, you can do a basic energy audit yourself by finding leaks with the smoke from a stick of incense. On a windy day, simply wave the smoke from the incense near windows, doors and anywhere else there might be a gap to the outdoors. The smoke will blow inwards where you have gaps that let outside air in, and it will get sucked toward heat-depleting leaks. In both cases, you’ll want to close up the gaps with caulk or insulation.

No. 2: Check windows & doors

Did you know that a one-eighth-inch gap beneath a 36-inch door has the same effect on your home as a 2.4-inch-wide hole in the wall? Sealing gaps around doors and windows is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to warm up your older home. Place weather stripping around loose doors and windows, and caulk obvious holes around window sashes. You can also seal windows for the winter using a plastic sheeting kit from your local-home center or hardware store. Even drapes and blinds can help retain heat in the colder months. If you still notice a draft beneath your door after you’ve installed weather stripping, a rolled up towel or “door snake” can further block drafts.

No. 3: Insulate

Older homes tend to be insulation challenged. They did not always receive the benefit of this energy-regulating material or the vapor barriers that often accompany its installation. If your home is insulation free — or just lacks adequate insulation — you can retrofit it by hiring trained installers to inject a nonflammable foam resin into existing walls. This means there’s no need to remove either exterior or interior walls and, according to the manufacturers, the installation can take less than a day for a whole house. The foam is filled with tiny air bubbles that increase its heating and cooling properties.

Before insulating an older home, however, be aware of the fact that you need to maintain some airflow. Old homes were designed to “breathe,” and if you seal them up too tightly, you might experience issues with moisture buildup. Talk with your energy auditor to make sure that you’ll continue to have adequate airflow once your home has been retrofitted with insulation.

No. 4: Install a programmable thermostat

A thermostat that acts like the brain of your heating system might seem like something compatible with only newer high-tech homes, but replacing an old thermostat with a newer model is a relatively straightforward affair that can be done by most DIYers in homes of any age. You can buy a programmable thermostat that can create different heating schedules for every day of the week, or one that has a set schedule for weekdays and another for weekends. By operating your home’s heating system through a “smart” thermostat, you can make sure the house stays warm and toasty when occupied and saves you money on heating fuel when vacant. For maximum efficiency, thermostats of all kinds should be installed away from heating and cooling vents, open windows and direct sun, and should be set to remain at steady temperatures for long periods of time rather than spike up and down throughout the day.


Source: warmboard.com

No. 5: Install radiant floor heating

Unlike electric baseboard units or forced hot-air systems that constantly spike the temperature and then kick on again when the house cools down, radiant floor heating provides a quiet, constant warm glow throughout your house. You can retrofit radiant floor heating beneath the floors, in effect warming the actual structure of your home. Not only is this a very energy-efficient way to heat your home; it’s also very pleasant. Imagine never again having to step on a frigid floor on a cold winter’s morning.

These days, most radiant floor systems are being installed in new homes and would be difficult to add to an older home. That’s not the case, however, with a newer product called Warmboard. Warmboard-R is a subfloor panel designed specifically for remodels. These radiant panels transfer heat quickly from the water in the system’s tubing to the inside of your home. The radiant panels actually increase the rigidity of existing subfloor panels in old homes as well as provide a flatter and smoother subfloor surface for finished flooring. The thick aluminum coating on the Warmboard-R panels can also save you money because the panels transfer heat to your home more quickly than other radiant options while requiring less hot water to reach the desired temperature in your home.

By Michael Franco | Zillow Blog

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/2013-11-11/5-ways-to-warm-up-an-older-house/


Negotiating the Sale of Your House

Home sellers who’ve chosen the right Realtor, prepared their home for sale and priced it right are strongly positioned for a smooth real estate transaction, but perhaps the most complex moment in the sales process comes when you get an offer for your home. Whether you have one offer or several to consider, you should take a moment to congratulate yourself that you’ve got a buyer interested in purchasing your home.

Negotiate a Real Estate Offer

How to Evaluate Purchase Offers

Ideally, your buyer or buyers have offered you full price or more, along with the perfect terms for the sale. However, the reality is that not every offer will be immediately acceptable. You’ll need to carefully evaluate each offer and begin a negotiation with the buyers and their agent.

Your Realtor should be your partner and educate you on the terms of the offer and help you understand the offer in the context of the housing market in your area. You’ll need to know whether you’re in a balanced market with equal numbers of buyers and sellers or one in which buyers or sellers have the upper hand. You’ll also need to estimate whether home prices are rising or falling in your community.

Before you begin to analyze any purchase offer, the most important step is to determine whether the buyer can fulfill the terms of the contract with financing. Your Realtor can check on the preapproval letter that should be included with any offer by consulting with the buyer’s agent and the buyer’s lender.

What Factors Should You Consider in a Purchase Offer?

Once you know the buyer can legitimately qualify for a loan, you should begin to evaluate the offer by looking at these factors:

  • How close is the offer to your asking price?
  • Will your home appraise for the contract price?
  • How large is the earnest money deposit that accompanied the offer?
  •  Has the buyer asked for assistance with closing costs?
  •  Has the buyer asked you to make repairs or to give a credit for home improvements?
  •  Is the requested settlement date appropriate for your needs?

If you’re not immediately satisfied with the offer or are uncertain about whether to accept it, consider your options.

  • Are there other offers?
  • Can you wait for more offers to come in?
  • How will you handle it if no other offers come in after a particular deadline?

Making a Counteroffer

As a seller, you have the option of accepting the offer as is, declining the offer, or making a counteroffer. Your Realtor can give you specific advice about your negotiating stance based on your home and your market, but generally you’ll need to be prepared to compromise on some aspect of your home sale.

Your negotiations can go more smoothly if you have a clear sense of your own priorities, such as a particular settlement date, the ability to rent-back your home from your buyers, or a minimum price that you need to achieve to meet your financial goals. Your Realtor should have prepared a document showing you net proceeds at different sales prices that can make it easier to understand the value of different offers.

Negotiations proceed best when both you and your buyers respect each other’s needs and interests and come to an appropriate compromise with the help of your Realtors.

This article was originally published on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

8 Priceless Tips for Moving Your Valuables

The books can be tossed pell-mell into small boxes, the clothes hung in a wardrobe box, but what do you do with Grandma’s china and that big painting over the couch so that they get to your new digs unscathed?

If you don’t have the cash to pay movers to box everything for you, or your moving crew consists of your cousin and a rental truck, a few key steps while packing, and even before you start rounding up boxes, can save a lot of headache on the unpacking end — and, hopefully, save your crystal.

Here are some key tips from the pros:

1. Create an Inventory

Documenting every book you have may not be worth your time, but making notes and taking photographs of your more meaningful possessions can help, should anything go wrong. It’s easier to make a claim against your homeowner’s insurance, or the moving company’s, if you have documentation of the original state. This should fit in easily with your pre-move organizing.

2. Get Insurance

For anything that goes on a truck, make sure it’s covered by insurance. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover a move. Some moving companies might offer extra insurance. The federal government has a surprisingly good overview of your rights when it comes to damaged goods and your movers.

3. Big Stuff Needs Help

Todd McDermott used to move pianos, chandeliers and 500-pound gun safes in Texas. He now works with the Popeye Moving and Storage Co. in Los Angeles, which offers specialty services to interior designers, among other clients. Heavy items need special dollies and wooden crates, he said. Many movers will contract out that work to specialists. These are not items to trifle with or move by yourself, he said. And take the time to choose a moving company carefully.

4. Small Stuff Goes With You

The movers don’t want your jewelry or important paperwork damaged any more than you do, McDermott said. He even tells high-end clients to keep their valuables with them in their vehicles during moves. “It’s safer,” he said. “And that way we’re not as liable. You packed it.”

5. Invest in the Right Boxes

Special flat-screen TV boxes have padding to keep the screen safe. The $20 or so might seem expensive for a box, but that’s cheaper than buying a new $1,000 television. The same goes for stemware, McDermott said, which is particularly hard to pack. There are specialty boxes for all sorts of items.

6. Dishes Side-by-Side

Pack dishes in several layers of paper, and fit them in the box on the edge — not flat-side down. They’re less likely to shatter if something bumps the edge.

7Tape Paintings

Put  a big X with masking or painter’s tape on anything under glass — like you see in photographs of shop windows during hurricane preparations. The tape helps keep glass from shattering.

8. Box It Up Right

With any box, but especially one containing fragile things, gently shake it as you pack to make sure the contents don’t move. If they do, add more padding. Also, don’t just fold over the box tops — tape them. And make sure to fill the box so the top can’t cave in. See more tips for packing properly.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Creating the Rustic Barn Look in Your Home

You may not find a wraparound porch or stalls with hay, but newly constructed homes and remodeled properties around the country are getting the barn treatment.

Tall windows weren’t commonly found in barns, but by adding overhead beams, Locati Architects made this space architecturally believable.

Designed by Locati Architects

“Everyone wants something like going home to grandma,” explained Christopher Travis, an architect and designer specializing in restoration projects and high-end remodels in rural communities. “The inspiration at the heart of it are things that remind them of their own experience or a period in history.”

In the early 1900s, American barns were purchased as kits from companies such as Sears Roebuck. Travis says crosshatch doors and other classic barn features were added because they were easy and cheap at the time, but now you have to make them from scratch.

As a result, today’s barn-home style is less about building an exact replica than embodying the rustic look and feel.

“It’s a flavor of rustic architecture,” Travis said. “People are drawn to it not because of aesthetics but because it’s comforting — it speaks of a time when things were simpler.”

Locati Architects built this home to look like a farm with the barn and outbuildings slowly added over time.

Modern amenities, rustic accessories

To create the look in your home, designer Anita Oates says you don’t have to have make your space old fashioned. In fact, she says it’s crucial to first design for your lifestyle.

A sliding barn door, barn-wood table and antique chandeliers give this contemporary kitchen a rustic feel without being dated. Designed by Anita Oates of Otrada LLC.

“Don’t have so many rules — it limits the creative process,” she said. “And, it all depends on how you choose to live. Do you have sit-down dinners or just grab breakfast and go?”

Once you’ve determined how you are going to use your space, don’t be afraid to bring in stainless steel appliances or other modern amenities. Just hide outlets, cords and remotes, if possible.

Christopher Travis shows how you can achieve the look and save money by mixing and matching dining room chairs.

Then try to be unconventional with the surrounding furniture and accessories. Consider bringing in a few antiques to create that lived-in feel.

“There are so many different ways to bring in six to 10 dining room chairs,” Oates said. ” Personally, I would put folding chairs under a barn-wood table.”

Interior designer and real estate agent Dotty Hopkins designed her kitchen with vintage-inspired, modern fixtures and appliances.

Travis suggests using an apron sink and curtains instead of cabinet doors. Here are a few other barn-inspired elements you could use to balance a contemporary space:

  • Crosshatched or barn doors
  • Riding boots
  • Embroidered initials
  • Wheelbarrow side table
  • Wheat or crop centerpieces
  • Burlap or canvas

Natural woods & metals

From barn-wood coffee tables to industrial light fixtures, barn-style furniture shows off two key materials: natural wood and metal. And, it’s not just the furniture; these materials can also be woven into the architecture of your space.

The key, Travis says, is to select items that are believable.

“You never see sheetrock in a farmhouse or barn-style building,” he said. “It’s always a plank wall. It has an emotional connection for people because that’s what they had in actual barns.”

Jordan Design Studios combines plank walls and vintage accessories for a historic barn look.

To give a new guest cabin a historic look and feel, Locati Architects‘ Greg Dennee experimented with industrial, reclaimed metal.

Locati Architects uses industrial metal on the walls of this bedroom to embody an old farm outbuilding.

“Our main strategy was to eliminate drywall because it didn’t exist 100 years ago,” he explained. “Nothing gives it away because it’s metal from end to end.”

Recycled materials in small doses

While authenticity is key, designers advise taking a less-is-more approach with bringing in recycled barn materials. Not only are they expensive, but they can also lose their appeal if used in abundance.

Dennee recently designed a barn-style home with large windows to show off the view of a nearby mountain range.

“The homeowners needed tall windows, but they were not historically accurate,” he said. “We had to find the right balance there, so I used recycled timber trusses to keep the scale manageable and believable but also create a large open space the homeowners wanted.”

Locati Architects purposely mixed materials in this man cave, creating a light space with architectural interest.

In a game room redesign, Dennee used barn-wood planking, tin countertops and backsplash, and a white wall to keep the room from feeling too heavy.

“You would never find white drywall in a barn, but we wanted it to feel light and bright,” he said. “Also, it doesn’t compete with other things in the room.”

The overall goal, according to Travis, is to avoid anything that connotes a completely contemporary or manufactured building.

“You want it to look like someone bought old antiques at an antique show,” he said. “Pick the pieces that are really special and speak to you emotionally, and have your designer build them into your space.”

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

How to Market Your Home for Maximum Exposure

Once you’ve made the commitment to sell your home, chosen a Realtor to represent you, and established a list price, it’s time to work with your Realtor to market your property so it sells as quickly as possible. Your Realtor should share a marketing plan with you, but the more you know about the process of selling your home the easier it is to support your Realtor’s efforts.

Market Your House for Maximum Exposure

Pre- Market Tips

The day your home goes on the market it should be in prime condition and priced right to attract the most potential buyers. While your Realtor can help you determine an appropriate price and can offer suggestions to make your home more appealing, your job is to put in the work to get your home pristine clean and to remove clutter and personalization. Buyers want to see a home where they can visualize themselves living. If buyers see an overstuffed closet, they’ll assume the home lacks storage space; and if your kitchen counters are cluttered, they’ll think the space is too small.

Provide your Realtor with tips about what you love best about your home and community that can be incorporated into your marketing materials.

Your Realtor can advise you on what you need to repair before putting your home on the market. You can also visit other homes that are for sale, or even local model homes for ideas on ways to present your home to potential buyers.

What to Expect From Your Realtor

Many Realtors have experience staging homes, or they can bring in a stager to rearrange your place. In addition, your Realtor should market your home in multiple ways:

  • Research the market to identify potential buyers to target for direct mail,
  • Reach out to other real estate brokers and agents who work with buyers in your price range,
  • Take excellent photos or hire a professional photographer to showcase your home online with attractive pictures,
  • List your home on the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and make sure it receives maximum exposure on multiple websites,
  • Take a video of your home or produce a virtual tour with numerous photos so your home can be viewed in-depth by buyers looking online.

Once buyers begin visiting your home or contacting your Realtor, your agent should respond as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. Every visitor to your home or their agent should be contacted by your Realtor to get feedback on your home and to gauge their interest.

What Your Realtor Should Expect From You

While your Realtor does the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing, as a seller you need to support your Realtor in several ways:

  • Keep your home as clean, neat and odor-free as possible while your home is on the market. This may mean that you have to give up cooking your favorite liver-and-onions dish and that you have to bribe your kids to make their beds and take out the trash every day.
  • Make your home as available as possible to buyers, no matter how inconvenient it is for you and your family. Your home won’t sell if no one can see it.
  • Leave the house when buyers are there, since studies show that buyers will linger and look more carefully when the homeowners aren’t there.
  • Lock up your pets or take them away when buyers are visiting, especially during an open house when multiple visitors are expected.
  • Provide information to buyers about community amenities or neighborhood sports leagues so they can appreciate your home’s location.

If you and your Realtor develop a team approach to selling, you’ll benefit from a quicker and more pleasant real estate transaction.

This article was originally published on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.


What’s Cooking in the Kitchen?

A spotlight on the latest trends in kitchen design.

Photo courtesy of Remodelista.com

Photo courtesy of Remodelista.com

With the kitchen becoming a home’s central meeting place, more homeowners are redesigning their old ones to accommodate the needs of their families.

“It’s where everybody congregates,” says Sue Pelley, the international spokeswoman for INTERIORS by Decorating Den based in Montgomery Village, Md.

Pelley suggests adding a breakfast bar with stools or a table and chairs in the kitchen, if there’s room, so that children can do their homework or play games while the cooking is going on.

Other trends in the kitchen include:

Granite countertops. Although other materials are slowing edging out granite, it’s still the most popular choice. “That is it,” says Pelley. “Granite is the big thing. It’s still what people really want. Corian countertops are really highly sought after as well.” While there are many choices for counter material, Pelley says many homeowners still like tile, although some of them are going for the larger ceramic sizes to minimize grout lines.

Decorative backsplashes. “What people are doing, on tile backsplashes, is using decorative tile to personalize it—you can get decorative tile, decorative accents, architectural shapes, raised surfaces—and they’re personalizing it in that vein,” she says.

Glass-front cabinets. “If you have some beautiful pieces, you can display them. That’s a today look,” Pelley says.

Stainless steel and white appliances. “They’re very neutral, very clean. Stainless steel can work with a lot of different design styles. It lends itself to contemporary kitchens, but clean lines and simplicity are always good,” she says. “They age well. It’s almost like everything old is new again. White kitchens are no different. Toasters, blenders… you look at them, they’re very retro. They’ve got a big look again.”

Turquoise and pink. “It’s any color pink. Pink is the hot shade. Bubblegum, raspberry pink, cherry pink… all those pinks are big. The other big shade is turquoise. Turquoise jewelry is hot and we’re starting to see that in fabric and wallpaper design. It’s just now starting but it will get huge.”

Round or oval tables. “They’re much more conducive for conversation. They don’t take up as much space. That’s a bit of a trend that’s continuing,” she says.

Hardwood floors. “What we still see is hardwood, more hardwood than tile. Some of the new things they’re doing with hardwood is laying it in octagonally and bordering it with deeper shade of wood to call attention to it, making it look like a wood area rug,” Pelley says. Ceramic tile and vinyl continue to be popular choices as well as a large selection of area rugs. “Because some of the kitchens are so big, people want to warm up the hardwood a bit and make a little softer.”

When redecorating a kitchen, Pelley says, it’s best to go for a more timeless look. We find most decorating styles go in eight to 10 year cycles,” she says. “Once everybody has it, it’s over. We don’t seem to want it anymore when everyone can have it. Creating a more timeless look is really prudent for your remodeling budget… unless you have the money to remodel every 10 years.”

This article was originally published by Diana Lundin on realtor.com. See it here.

How to Compete Against a Cash Buyer

In many real estate markets today, there’s a lot of talk about cash buyers.

How to Compete Against a Cash BuyerThese buyers have a reputation for swooping in and “stealing” homes out from under other buyers, simply because someone with cash doesn’t need a loan. Regular buyers relying on credit are often intimidated by what appears to be a “lose-lose” situation. They assume that if they need a loan, they can’t compete.

The truth is, someone buying a home with credit can still compete against cash buyers and win. Do you have a 20 percent down payment? Are you well employed? Do you have cash reserves in addition to your down payment? Do you have very little debt? Do you have good credit? If so, your purchase should be as bullet-proof as a cash buyer’s.

Here’s what you need to do to compete against a cash buyer.

Structure your offer as if it’s a shoo-in

Ask your lender to write not only a pre-approval letter but to verify that you’re a well-qualified buyer. Get your agent or mortgage professional to provide some financial information about you with your offer (if you’re OK with that, of course).

See if your mortgage professional can take it a step further. Have your lender take as much of your loan through the process as possible. Send the lender a copy of the preliminary title report, if available. If you’re buying a condo, find out if a condo questionnaire is available and give it to your lender. If you take any of these steps, let the seller know.

Shorten the loan and appraisal contingencies

Ask your lender how quickly an appraiser can be sent out to the property and how long the loan would take to turnaround. In some parts of the country, loans are being approved in less than 14 days.

Pre-order an appraisal

This may not be as easy with a bigger bank. But smaller banks, direct lenders or mortgage brokers can line up the appraisal in advance. At the time your offer is written, tell the seller the appraisal has already been ordered.

Have the inspection immediately

Along with the quick appraisal and loan contingencies, get your inspector in and out. Shelling out a few hundred dollars and getting the inspections done within days of having your offer accepted shows the seller you mean business.

Pay extra

Paying more money to beat a cash offer may sound counterintuitive, but cash buyers nearly always expect a discount from the seller simply because they’re offering cash. As a result, the cash buyer will often make a lower offer. To increase your chances, top the cash offer.

If a seller is faced with a few thousand dollar difference, the seller probably wouldn’t risk it. But what if your offer is 5 percent higher than the cash buyer’s? The seller, perhaps wanting the best of both worlds, may ask the cash buyer to raise his or her offer. Some cash buyers will come up, but not always enough to match.

Bottom line: Stay in the game and know your limits. Do you plan to live in the house for many years and it’s the home of your dreams? Overpaying isn’t the end of the world, so long as you’re within a reasonable range.

Make yourself known to the seller

Some buyers write “love letters” to the sellers, hoping to appeal to their personal side. Does this work? Sometimes. If you’re competing with a cash buyer, particularly an investor who plans to rent the home out, it can’t hurt to get a little personal.

When a seller’s agent presents an offer, the seller always wants to know more about the potential buyer. Ask your agent to write a cover letter and an introduction. Let the seller know who you are, why you like the home and what your intentions are. It usually works.

But not always. Sometimes a seller just doesn’t want to take a risk with someone getting a loan, and nothing you do — aside from paying all cash — will change that. So do the best you can and be realistic. Make sure your financial “‘house” is in order. Work with a good local real estate agent and start working with a local mortgage professional well in advance. Structure your offer to show that you’re ready to roll. And who knows? It just might go your way.

This article was originally published by Brendon Desimone on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.