September Home Checklist

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Don’t Put a Freeze on Home Maintenance! Your Handy Winter Checklist Is Here

Robert Kirk/iStock; realtor.com

Ah, January. The time of new beginnings, new resolutions, and, in most of the country, a seemingly endless stretch of cold and gloom. We get it: You just want to hibernate, catch up on “The Crown,” and scroll Instagram. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch (or treadmill, if you’re on that kick), take heed: This is the absolute worst time to have a major home maintenance problem.

“Catastrophic issues tend to happen in the winter—and when those occur, nine times out of 10 it’s due to failing to plan,” says Janet O’Dea, owner of Powers Plumbing in San Diego. “Taking some time to anticipate and be ahead of maintenance issues throughout the year takes a lot of pressure off.”

We couldn’t agree more. And that’s why we’ve done the heavy lifting for you, season by season, so you can avoid the pain (and expense) of costly home repairs. Now that’s a resolution we can get behind!

1. Get ready for (more) winter storms

In most parts of the country, ’tis the season for freezing rain, sleet, and blizzards. Ensure you’re ready for the next big storm before it strands you.

DIY: First, make sure you have a working generator, and keep a stash of batteries for flashlights and lanterns at the ready. 

“Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark,” says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

Also a must-have: a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to keep you up to date on news in case cellphone reception goes out. Check the condition of your snow shovels, gloves, and window scrapers, and store snowy weather supplies near the door where you can access them easily.

We also love this novel tip from home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill: Mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles, to help snow plowers see where to go.

Finally, a buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Call in the pros: If a limb is buckling, have it removed as soon as the weather permits—expect to spend $75 to $150, depending on how much of the tree you lost.

2. Clean your oven

Now we’re cooking! Clean your oven to make it more efficient.powerofforever/iStock

“Homemade food can really contribute to winter coziness at home, but unfortunately, the oven and its vents can easily turn into the dirtiest feature in the kitchen because they collect a lot of grime and grease,” says Jasmine Hobbs of London Cleaning Team.

And over time, built-up grease can cause your appliance to use more power while turned on.

DIY: To clean your hood filters, fill a sink or a bucket with boiling water; add a quarter-cup baking soda and some liquid dish soap. Mix well and submerge the filters. Let them soak for a couple of minutes and rinse thoroughly. If your oven has a self-cleaning function, use it at least once a month. If not, apply a paste of baking soda and water, then scrub.

Call in the pros: If you never clean your oven and the thought of all that stuck-on grease is putting you in panic mode, you can call a reputable cleaning service. Most pro cleaners will charge a flat rate for whole-house cleaning and will include the oven; you’ll spend between $115 and $236 for the whole kit and caboodle, depending on where you live and your home’s grime level.

3. Inspect the property

Yes, it’s cold and the last thing you probably want to do this time of year is walk around outside. But trust us, it’s time well-spent.

“Home issues that are more susceptible in the winter—such as frozen pipes, window and door drafts, and the condition of a home’s gutters—can be easily detected during this time of year,” says Patrick Knight of WIN Home Inspection.

DIY: Most big inspection issues are best left to a pro, but while you’re taking stock, check off this easy to-do: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You should be doing this regularly, but it’s even more important in the winter months, when windows tend to be closed and heaters are running overtime.

Call in the pros: Consider spending some of that Christmas cash on a professional inspection, especially if it’s been a while. Strong winter winds and cold temps help inspectors detect drafts and insulation failures. Plus, winter gives inspectors a better idea of how the home structure and roof holds with the extra weight of snow and ice. And fireplaces and heating systems are more active during the winter months, making identifying problems easier.

It’s also a great time to check out crawl spaces and attics, which can easily reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer months, making safe inspections nearly impossible.

Expect to spend upward of $300—and be sure you select a licensed, insured, and experienced pro for the job.

4. Take care of your wood floors

Woodwork: Clean your wood floors to protect them from winter’s wear and tear.seb_ra/iStock

Winter can wreak major havoc on wood floors: Rock salt can stain wood (and its rough crystals can scratch floors), while indoor heaters can dry it out, causing problems like shrinkage and cracked floorboards.

DIY: Avoid using vinegar to remove stains, advises Dave Murphy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Instead, place rugs and mats in the highest-traffic areas. To lock moisture in the air and prevent heat-related damage to your floorboards, run a humidifier. And, of course, engage in routine sweeping, dusting, and mopping.

“This will also prevent particle and salt buildup,” Murphy says. “And remember to mop with the boards, and not against the grain.”

Call in the pros: In the end, winter’s effects may be too harsh to manage on your own. Consider professional refinishing, which averages between $1.50 and $4 per square foot.

5. Block drafts

With temperatures down and indoor heaters working overtime, you’ll know if your weatherstripping isn’t up to par. And over time, all that unwanted cold air can increase your energy bill in a major way.

DIY: If the cold air is getting in under a door, pick up a door sweep at a local home improvement store. This doodad is typically made of hard plastic and attaches to the bottom of your door, sealing any gaps.

Call in the pros: Feel like you’re wasting way too much energy during the winter months? Conduct an energy audit. A trained auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency and give you a list of recommended improvements. You can also find instructions for a DIY energy audit at Energy.gov.

6. Alleviate allergens

An estimated 50 million Americans live with allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many of their conditions are exacerbated by indoor allergens such as dust mites and animal dander.

The main sources of indoor allergens? Pets top the list, of course, but other culprits include wall-to-wall carpet, soft furniture, stuffed toys, bedding, damp areas, indoor plants, mattresses that aren’t in allergen-resistant covers, and pillows and bedding that can’t be washed in hot water.

DIY: Clean dust from your blinds and ceiling fans using your vacuum’s attachment kit, and make it a regular practice to vacuum all upholstery and carpets.

Once a week, wash your bedding in hot water (at a temperature hotter than 130 degrees), and consider investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can filter almost 98% of allergen particles in the air, according to the AAFA.

Another good buy?  A zippered allergen-resistant cover for your mattress, which the AAFA says is even more effective than an air purifier at removing indoor allergens.

Call in the pros: For your living room upholstery and other soft furniture, consider professional steam cleaning. Expect to spend upward of $200.

 

Posted by Holly Amaya on realtor.com

This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress)

2018 is going to be your home’s cleanest, most organized year yet.

Here’s an easy way to get on top of your home maintenance checklist in the new year: Take it one small chunk at a time!

Little steps add up to big results. And if you dedicate some time to home maintenance — two hours a week, an afternoon per month and a couple of days a year — your home will remain in tiptop shape this year.

Here’s our easy-to-follow checklist:

Weekly home maintenance

Your weekly home maintenance ritual will be largely determined by the features of your home, but may include some of the following tasks:

  • Give all your carpets a thorough vacuuming. Or, if you have hardwood floors, give them a good once-over with a large dust-mop.
  • Plan to spend 30 minutes performing one small maintenance task in your yard, such as pruning a tree or shrub, painting a mailbox, or blowing leaves and debris from a garden path or sidewalk.
  • Do some bathroom maintenance. Again, we’re talking about biting things off in small chunks here! Some examples:
    • Pick a drain used by a person with long hair, and clean it out with a Zip-It tool.
    • Spend some time repairing damaged tile grout in a shower or tub.
    • Clean the mineral sediment out of a showerhead.
  • Freshen up your garbage disposal. Run a tray of ice cubes through it, along with some baking soda or lemon rinds, and voila! It’ll be clean and fresh again.
  • Clean the outside of all appliances and the inside of one appliance per week. For instance, if you clean out the refrigerator this week, run a cleaning tablet through your dishwasher next week, and wipe out your dryer the following week.

Shutterstock ID 683730031; Requester Name: Cat Overman; Project: blog post; Client/Licensee: ; Other:

Monthly home maintenance

These are the projects we all know we should do regularly but often don’t get to. Just pick an afternoon, and go for it!

  • Clean the range hood and filter. This is one of those areas that we often forget about, but if you don’t take care of it on a regular basis, it will become unmanageably greasy and dirty over time.
  • Clean the furnace filter, and replace it if needed. This will help your furnace run efficiently, keeping utility bills down.
  • Polish wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down baseboards.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re functioning and don’t need new batteries. If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Visually inspect the outside of your home for problems or issues, such as loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests, or overgrown trees or shrubbery. Make a note to correct the problems!

Shutterstock ID 281534546; Requester Name: Cat Overman; Project: blog post; Client/Licensee: ; Other:

Yearly home maintenance

Schedule these tasks in a way that makes sense to you. You can do them on a seasonal basis or just schedule one or two days per year to knock everything out.

Here are some bigger tasks to take on once a year:

  • Clean and organize your garage, basement or attic. This is a maintenance task that everyone dreads doing, but it feels so good once it’s done! Plus, you’ll most likely discover some forgotten treasures to either donate to charity or sell online.
  • Wash windows and window screens, and let the sunshine in! While this task is often done in the spring, you can do it any time of the year.
  • Take on one major outdoor improvement project per year, and schedule a day or two to complete it. For example, you might want to install a fence, refinish a large deck, patch up an asphalt or concrete driveway, or install raised garden beds.
  • Clean out gutters, check under the eaves, remove trees or shrubbery that are encroaching on your home, and install wire grates in any holes to keep pests out.
  • Freshen up one room in your home. Pick any room, and give it a mini makeover. For instance, you can repaint it, switch curtains, move the furniture, and add plants and knickknacks to give it a whole new look. If you do this with one room per year, in a few years, your whole home will look terrific!

By following this easy checklist, you can have a wonderfully maintained home with a minimal investment of time and energy.

 

Posted by Jane Drill on Zillow

First Time Homeowner? Here’s The Move-In Checklist That Will Save You Stress

Congratulations on your new home! The process can be exciting – but also very stressful. And that’s just the process of buying a home. After the closing, you will probably find you have even more tasks to deal with.

Here’s a short homeowner move-in checklist of things you should make sure you do to smooth over the process. You’ll be surprised at how much easier this makes the moving process.

Start By Taking Time Off From Work

The first week or two in your new place will likely be a mess of repairs, phone calls, unpacking, and of course waiting. Waiting for contractors, internet and phone and cable installers, and deliveries.

Trying to work this in alongside your job is not a good idea. Remember, you just bought yourself a house. This is a big deal! And not something you will do often. Give yourself a break and take some personal or vacation days.

Do As Many Repairs And Improvements As Possible Prior To Moving In

It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiring a pro or doing it yourself. It’s much easier to work on a house when it’s empty. This is particularly true for projects that are best done when there’s no furniture in the way, like refinishing floors, plastering, or painting. I recommend using HomeZada to plan and manage your remodeling projects to prevent them from going over budget.

You should probably do basic tasks like using a multimeter to check the whole electrical system to find out if it needs a repair project. And we would strongly recommend removing the new paint smell before the move. In new construction, new paint can especially can be a bit much.

Set Up Utilities And Change Your Address

To begin with, let the post office know you’ve moved, so that they can start forwarding mail to your new home. Try to start updating your address on all your key bank and workplace benefits accounts, your credit cards, your health and car insurance. Next update your information on your memberships and magazine subscriptions.

At the same time, call the electric and gas companies to let them know you’ve moved. Most will just transfer over your account to the new address.  If you are moving in the same neighborhood or service area, you need to also do the same with your internet or cable provider. If you’re moving outside your region, you’ll want to investigate the local options and call them to set up service when you get settled.

Clean Up (Or Hire Someone)

Before the furniture shows up and you start unpacking, it’s time to clean like crazy. Ideally, you’d hire a house cleaner who can do a one-off deep clean of the house.

You don’t need to be obsessed about cleanliness to see how difficult it is to live in someone else’s mess. This means wash and vacuum carpets (if need be, rent a carpet cleaner or hire out), mop and sweep the floors, bleach the bathroom, clean the bathtub, clean the oven and fridge and sinks, and wipe off all the closets, shelves, drawers, and cabinets.

Have The Locks Changed

Even if you trust the last owner, it’s impossible to say how many house key copies are floating around or who might have them. A new set of door hardware will only cost around $50, and it’s worth the peace of mind. The hardware store will also be happy to make up a few extra copies of your new key for you to give to a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative.

Locate Your Shut-Off Valves

First, there are shut off valves to help deal with smaller, local problems. If the toilet starts overflowing, find the valve that comes out of the floor or sticks out of the wall just under or behind the toilet. If your sink starts leaking uncontrollably, there’s a shut-off under the sink. Similarly, there’s a gas shut off near the dryer or stove. Find all of these and get some familiarity with using them.

Then, and this is crucial, find the main shut-offs. These control the water and gas as it comes into your house from the street. You need to locate these so you don’t have to panic about a busted pipe that’s flooding your kitchen. Similarly, familiarize yourself with the circuit breakers. Different circuits control the electricity to different rooms or different appliances. Notice the main shut off switch is, which can turn off all power to your house in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

Of course, there are plenty of other things you’ll need to take care of as part of your move — like going to a furniture store or throwing a housewarming party. However, this brief checklist is a good place to start for the most important things you definitely don’t want to forget.

Posted on HomeZada

 

ESSENTIAL WINTER HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST ITEMS TO START NOW

It’s that time of year again when the days are shorter and the cold air means your home and family are going to start feeling the drop in the temperatures. While we all love the idea of cozying up around a warm fireplace while it’s blustery cold outside, most of us don’t enjoy our heating unit dying on the coldest night of the year! This season of colder weather termed the “hibernation season” is the hardest on your plumbing and HVAC systems, as well as on your family’s comfort. American Home Shield and I have compiled an essential winter home maintenance checklist that will help your home get ready for the hibernation season instead of suffering through it in regret. We also give you some handy tips for organization to ensure your family is ready for canceled school days and winter vacation.

Try these Plumbing Tips Before it Gets Too Cold: Protect Plumbing Guide from American Home Shield

For most homeowners, the thought of having to check your plumbing pipes inside and outside of the house is only thought of right before the first freeze of the season. The hibernation season means colder temperatures and this is the time to ensure your plumbing lines are ready:

1. Water Heater Home Maintenance: Before the cold season fully sets in consider draining your water heater from sediment that has built up. Over time small pieces of sediments similar to small grains of sand can slowly shorten the life of your water heater. Consider draining it during before winter temperatures plunge below freezing and your water heater has to work harder.

This hot water heater maintenance video from American Home Shield can help.

2. Plumbing Pipes: Leave water dripping in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room and any room you have sinks when temperatures are expected to plunge below freezing. Open under counter cabinet doors around pipes to keep air circulating.

3. Garden and Drain Hoses: Now that the weather is getting colder it is time to disconnect your garden hoses before water freezes inside of them! Disconnecting the hoses also helps your faucet not back up into your internal plumbing system inside your home when frozen.

  • Preventative Measures: For exterior water pipes and pipes consider covering them with insulated sleeves. These will help your pipes stay warmer than the outdoor freezing temperatures.

Ensure your Fireplace is Ready for a Warm, Crackling Fire:

When temperatures get cold many homeowners rely on their wood burning fireplaces to help heat their homes. Unfortunately, many accidents occur during the winter season due to dirty chimneys and improper ventilation can cause smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation. Here are some tips to make sure your fireplace is ready:

4. Winter Home Maintenance: Hire a professional chimney sweep: While there are creosote sweeping logs you can burn in your fireplace to remove creosote from your chimney, it is still important to have a professional take care of what you can’t see.

  • A chimney sweep will:
    • Inspect your chimney, smoke ducts, flue pipes
    • Help prevent soot fires and gas emissions by inspecting the firebox, smoke shelf and other areas of your fireplace that you can’t reach.

5. Tips you can do for fireplace safety: Once your fireplace is professionally cleaned each season try and keep the firebox free of soot and ashes before you start a new fire.

  • Open a window: When using a fireplace allow for fresh air into your home to prevent smoke build-up. Don’t worry the air coming in will go up through the chimney.
  • Keep flammable items away: Ensure furniture, throw rugs and blankets, pillows and other furnishings are at least 4-5 feet away from the fireplace while in use.

Keep your House Warm and Air Clean with these HVAC Maintenance Tips:

Your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system (HVAC) are one of the most important systems in your home as it controls the comfort level, humidity, and quality of air in your household. During the colder months, your heating system or furnace can run double duty trying to compete with the outdoor temperatures. These American Home Shield recommended maintenance tips should be checked now to ensure a comfortable winter.

6. Hire an HVAC professional to inspect system: Each season your system should be inspected to ensure it’s working up to its potential. Higher energy bills and your home having problems heating and cooling could be signs of a larger problem.

7. Change your air filters monthly: This tip is one of the easiest because it doesn’t involve a professional and you can do it yourself. Check for the air filter size on the air handler unit and keep a few in storage so they’re no excuses when it’s time to change.

This American Home Shield video will show you

how to replace a furnace filter:

8. Learn how to properly use your thermostat: Many homeowners assume they know how to use their thermostat but several thermostats, especially Smart thermostats can actually learn your behaviors and lifestyle habit and adjust to save you energy. Take time to educate yourself and your family on how to properly use your thermostat before the cold weather sets in.

Organize and Clean your Home Before your Family Stays Indoors:

Each winter the opportunity for your family to stay in the house for longer periods of time is inevitable.Whether you’re getting ready for extended family and friends for the holidays or you’re gearing up for snow days from school, these organizing and cleaning tips from American Home Shield will help.

9. Clean out the kitchen and pantry: Have you noticed around hibernation season is when we like to cook, eat and entertain more? Your kitchen becomes the main hub of activity and cleaning out your refrigerator, pantry and utensil drawers will help the chef and family find exactly what they need. Throw out expired food in storage cabinets and why not install new shelf paper where one-too-many containers have spilled?

Food ingredients and green herbs on modern kitchen countertop.

Food ingredients and green herbs on modern kitchen countertop.

10. Declutter closets and entertaining rooms: Playing board games, video games, watching television and lounging around the family room are popular pastimes throughout the colder season. Before the chill sets in why not purge old toys and magazines? Donate old coats, boots and winter weather in your hall closet and give to charity or your local church. Visit your local discount store and stock up on new games, crossword puzzles and adult coloring books for those cold nights when the electricity goes out.

This hibernation season is going to be cold, but before it sets in you will be prepared with these home maintenance tips to ensure your family is warm, healthy and comfortable. If you’d like to find more tips from American Home Shield on preparing your home for winter, take a look at this video:

Is your home protected in case of an unforeseen problems occurs? American Home Shield can help with a home warranty. It can repair and replace all of your broken appliances and home systems.

Whether you are ensuring your plumbing and HVAC systems are working properly or you’re gearing up for more time indoors, you will be ready this winter season.

 

Posted by Ronique Gibson on stagetecture

8 Critical Things to Do Before Buying a Home: How Many Have You Done?

mattjeacock/iStock

So you’re finally ready to get serious and buy a house—chalk it up to the amazing spring weather, or maybe a precious bun baking in the oven, or that much anticipated promotion at work. Whatever the reason, you feel primed to start poring over listings and spending your weekends open-house hopping. Exciting!

Yet while you might feel prepared for this next giant step, just remember—there’s a lot of planning and prep work that goes into this purchase, even before you start to look at homes. So make sure you’ve got all your mallards in a row first! Use this checklist to figure out if there are any things you may have missed.

1. Crunch your numbers

First, ask yourself not if you’re ready emotionally—because it sounds like you are—but ready financially, says Kristen Robinson, senior vice president at Fidelity Investments. A perfect place to start is at our Home Affordability Calculator, where you can punch in your income, desired location, and other factors to see if your expectations jibe with reality. Good luck!

2. Know your credit score

Your mortgage’s interest rate—and, as a result, the size of your monthly payments—will be directly related to your credit or FICO score, essentially a summary of how reliably you’ve been paying off your debts.

“If you’ve had too many problems or late payments leading up to the purchase of a home, your score could be lower, and you might get a higher mortgage rate,” says Ali Vafai, president of The Money Source, a national lender and servicer. Many major lenders require a score of at least 620 for a mortgage, but if you find out you’re below that or want to boost your score, now is the time to get started, since it can take months to take effect.

3. Amass a down payment

Most mortgage lenders require a cash down payment of 5% to 20% of the price of a home. For the U.S. median home price of $292,700, that’s anywhere from $14,635 to $58,540. If you don’t have this kind of cash lying around, it’s high time to start a saving goal for the next few months. You can start by putting off buying any big-ticket items, fancy vacations or other extravagances. This is a new home we’re talking about, remember? You can also explore other ways to come up with a down payment fast—like borrowing from your IRA or even getting a gift from your parents (lucky you).

4. Get educated

The most important aspect of purchasing a home? Understanding the nuts and bolts of how it works. Consider taking advantage of local home-buying seminars, often offered by banks or nonprofits. Such resources will explain aspects of a home loan, like the criteria lenders use to evaluate a borrower, the documentation buyers will need to provide and what each portion of a mortgage payment goes toward. Even better: these seminars are usually free.

5. Interview at least three real estate agents

Just about everyone knows a real estate agent or five, which explains why 52% of home buyers find their agent through a friend. But don’t just settle for the first agent to cross your path—remember, a house is a huge purchase, the stakes are high. In the same way you’d want to thoroughly vet a surgeon before upcoming surgery, make sure to do the same here, too. Here are some questions to ask a real estate agent before deciding which one is right for you.

A real estate agent can also help in the education department, according to Christine Lutz, director of residential brokerage for Chicago-based Kinzie Real Estate Group. “An agent will often have relationships with lenders that buyers can work with to determine a budget and down payment percentage and get pre-approved for a mortgage.”

6. Go mortgage shopping

In the same way you wouldn’t buy the first house you set foot in, you shouldn’t commit to the very first mortgage you meet, either.

“Mortgages are not one-size-fits-all,” says Scott Haymore, head of mortgage pricing and secondary markets at TD Bank. He advises buyers to find a lender they trust and to discuss their financial situation. A lender will then help buyers “understand what financing options are available.”

7. Ballpark your closing costs

Buyers sometimes forget, amid their scramble to make a down payment and monthly mortgage fees, that that’s not everything they need to pay for. Another sizable chunk are closing costs, and they’re no small chunk of change, ranging from 3% to 6% of the purchase price thanks to taxes, transfer fees, and other expenses. So, make sure to budget for this expense too, just so you aren’t blindsided come closing time.

8. Ponder the future

Home buyers sometimes think of the purchase “inside a vacuum,” says Jeremy Hallett, CEO of Quotacy.com. That’s why he advises “making sure you have a will in place. Buyers should also consider a term life policy that runs at least 20 years and would pay off the home if something tragic happened—$20 a month buys a $500,000 policy.”

Robinson adds that before buying a home, you should have “an emergency fund established with enough money to cover three to six months of living in case you’re faced with an unexpected financial hardship. Considering your retirement savings is also important; you should continue making contributions towards your future.”

Posted by Margaret Heidenry. See more at realtor.com