The #1 Reason to Sell Now Before Spring

The price of any item (including residential real estate) is determined by ‘supply and demand.’ If many people are looking to buy an item and the supply of that item is limited, the price of that item increases.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the supply of homes for sale dramatically increases every spring. As an example, here is what happened to housing inventory at the beginning of 2017:

Putting your home on the market now instead of waiting for increased competition in the spring might make a lot of sense.

Bottom Line

Buyers in the market during the winter months are truly motivated purchasers. They want to buy now. With limited inventory currently available in most markets, sellers are in a great position to negotiate.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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5 Reasons Homeowners Can Throw Better Super Bowl Parties! [INFOGRAPHIC]

Highlights:

  • Watching the big game at home with your friends & family offers many advantages.
  • There’s more room to entertain a large crowd and you don’t have to worry about complaints to your landlord if you cheer too loudly!
  • The kitchen is big enough to make as many appetizers as you want, and if some of your guests are only there to watch the commercials, they can do so on a different TV in another room!

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Winter!

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 7.0% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.7% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase 

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have hovered around 4%. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, you are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

 

Posted by the KCM Crew

Ready to buy? Visit our website to start your search!

Top Tinsel Towns: 10 Surprising Cities Whose Holiday Charms Are Worth Unwrapping

Accept it, the winter holidays overshadow everything in December, whether you’re a Scrooge or a Tiny Tim. The majority of us fall somewhere in the middle. Along with the joy, there’s the stress: making the frenzied rounds of holiday parties, wandering the aisles of CVS for pre-packaged mistletoe or the last box of Hannukah candles, dutifully enduring the office potluck.

But there are some who truly adore this time of year. They festoon their homes with pine branches, pinecones, and pine-scented Febreze; they install outdoor holiday lighting that rivals the Vegas Strip. They revel in heading to the Christmas tree farm to cut down a fresh spruce, watching “Love Actually” on autorepeat, or going with that special someone to a menorah lighting.

So these folks need to find metros that share their ardor. As it turns out, some cities are more on this celebratory wavelength than others. We set out to find those festive places that go all out for tree lightings, parades, and holiday-themed everything.

“For a city to be really attractive for the holidays, it needs to offer something for everyone—from kids to the grandparents,” says Kirsten Maxwell, founder of kidsareatrip.com, a site about family activities. The events they offer, she says, need to bring every generation together.

The jolly realtor.com® data team dug into the numbers to find those magical metros that are catnip for holiday lovers. We looked at the 150 largest metros around the country and sifted them down to one per state. Our criteria were:*

  • Google searches for “Christmas Parade,” “Hanukkah,” and “Festivus”
  • Seasonal cashiers as a percentage of all employees
  • Percentage of realtor.com home listings with a fireplace or chimney (because, Santa)
  • Christmas tree and holiday decoration businesses per capita
  • Toy stores per capita
  • Alcohol consumption rates by state (holiday parties, oh my!)
  • Number of Christmas trees cut down per state
  • Percentage of all flight arrivals between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23 (to estimate how many folks are going home for the holidays)

Best cities for holiday loversClaire Widman

So hitch up those sleighs, and we’ll find you a holiday match. Ho ho ho.

1. Hickory, NC

Median home price: $232,000

Holiday highlight: Enjoy some of the nation’s finest Christmas tree farms … just don’t get run off the road like a Griswold.

Union Square in downtown Hickory, NCWikipedia CC

This place takes its Yuletide festivities seriously. Every year, an 18-foot tree in the mountains of North Carolina is cut down and erected in the city square, where it’s generously decorated. The lighting takes place the week before Thanksgiving—and thousands of community members come out to watch it, and the parade beforehand. It’s a big deal.

So how does it work, you ask? “The parade wraps up downtown, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus light the tree,” says Dana Kaminske, spokeswoman for the city of Hickory. “We have hot chocolate and cookies. And the downtown retailers stay open. All the money raised from the professional floats goes into a scholarship fund.” Got it.

Before December arrives, this town is already in full holiday swing. There’s the Western Piedmont Symphony’s holiday concert, and the holiday kick-off event at the Hickory Museum of Art. Or chill out to a frontier Christmas vibe while strolling through what’s purported to be the nation’s largest collection of “rescued and restored” log cabins, in Hart Square.

2. Eugene, OR

Median home price: $337,275
Holiday highlight: 
More Christmas trees! No. 1 in the nation for piney production

Oregon’s Ugliest Sweater RunOregon’s Ugliest Sweater Run via Facebook

Eugene residents love getting outdoors to run, bike, and hike, so naturally, that’s how they hail the holidays, too.

Case in point: Oregon’s Ugliest Sweater Run, which takes place here a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s your typical 5K run, just requiring that contestants be outfitted in that hideous knitted garment an aunt bought them a few years back. If that doesn’t do it for you, try the Jingle Rush 5K, where you’re provided antlers and bells at the start of the run, and hot chocolate and cider upon completion. Heck, the city’s nickname is Track City U.S.A. Winners never quit!

To stave off dehydration, head over to the Holiday Cocktail Party at the Provisions Market Hall. You’ll guzzle holiday libations and beer from local breweries, all while digging Rat Pack-era tunes.

3. Buffalo, NY

Median home price: $166,525
Holiday strength: 
Great for kids, lousy for bank accounts—the highest concentration of toy stores per capita

Even the deer love Buffalo during the holidays.Joel Lim/Getty Images

In the 19th century, Buffalo was one of the first cities to install electric streetlights, earning it the nickname City of Light. They’re still gaga over their lights here, as evidenced by the ultracool display of more than a million LEDs that you’ll see as you drive through the Fairgrounds Festival of Lights. More than 15,000 cars wind their way through the spectacle during a two-week period every December.

“This past Saturday, we had 1,500 carloads,” says Marty Biniasz, marketing manager at Erie County Fairgrounds. “Drivers can listen to Ho-Ho Radio and our holiday soundtrack as they drive through.” After all, what would a festival of lights be without Ho-Ho Radio?

The Fairgrounds also has a 3,000-square-foot maze. Once you find your way out, you can grab your Santa suit and head over to SantaCon Buffalo for drinks with 5,000 other Santas.

Did we mention that Fisher-Price, one of the world’s largest toy companies, is based in the Buffalo region?

4. Pittsburgh, PA

Median home price: $171,500
Holiday highlight: 
Hi, Mom! An unusually high number of townies return home for the holidays.

PPG Place Ice RinkLori Kemp/Getty Images

During the mid-20th century, Pittsburgh was a steel and coal-producing behemoth, and transporting those products required a massive network of railroads and locomotives. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that model trains play a big role in the Steel City’s holiday celebrations.

“There were so many [trains] in Western Pennsylvania,” says Bill Humphrey, public relations director and vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum. “People think of us around Christmas time, which all goes back to the tradition of setting up a model train around your Christmas tree.”

During the holiday months, the museum opens up and guests pile in to share nostalgia for the city’s past. The museum’s best-known model train is a 1/87th scale model that replicates the network of trains and tracks that ran between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MA, in the summer of 1952.

But it’s not all diesel and ironworks here. The Winter Flower Show and Light Garden at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is another December tradition. Luminous orbs, oversized ornaments, and festive lights add to the allure of orchids and poinsettias.

5. Sarasota, FL

Median home price: $350,000
Holiday strength: 
Drink up! Alcohol consumption spikes here in December, thanks to a plethora of parties.

Venice Christmas Boat ParadeEducation Images/UIG via Getty Images

When you think of the holidays, you probably picture snow and snowball fights—not temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. That doesn’t stop folks here from celebrating hard. So if you want the festive atmosphere without the chill, then Sarasota might be your place. Just make sure to bring your boat!

The annual Venice Christmas Boat Parade floats along the waterways from South Nokomis Beach to North Venice Beach. Participating boats are transformed into decorated Christmas floats with lit-up reindeer and palm trees.There’s also the Downtown Sarasota Tree Lighting Celebration and the Jazz Christmas Concert at the Centennial Park.

Feeling wistful for the white stuff? Swing by Snow Fest Sarasota, where you and your children can play in manmade snow. The free event attracts around 15,000 guests and offers pony rides, snowman building, and jelly bean juggling—because why not?

6. Hartford, CT

Median home price: $259,950
Holiday strength:
 A fine place to celebrate eight crazy nights

Winter in HartfordDenisTangneyJr/iStock

Cue the Hanukkah celebrations: Connecticut has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish residents in the country.

To kick off the first day of Hanukkah, townies gather at the Blue Back Square in West Hartford for a menorah-lighting ceremony held by Chabad of Greater Hartford, a community group. Afterwards, they get to watch a live carving of an ice menorah and 3-D dreidel printing. Be honest: You’re curious about the dreidel printing.

“In West Hartford, around 25% of the population is Jewish,” says Susannah MacNeil, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “We have a very vibrant community and a wide variety of Hanukkah celebrations. And latke tastings.”

Other holiday entertainment in the region includes the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus, which regales the crowds with its annual fave, “Nutcracker: Men in Tights.”

7. Providence, RI

Median home price: $342,450
Holiday highlight: 
Need help with holiday decor? You’re in the right place.

Providence, RIdigidreamgrafix/Getty Images

One of the world’s largest toy makers calls the Providence region home: Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly and My Little Pony. And Providence sure loves its toys.

“The holidays are our time of the year,” says Emily Brownell, manager at Henry Bear’s Park, a mega toystore in Providence.

Providence has all the holiday attractions you’d expect, plus a few extra. You can watch “A Christmas Carol,” which will be performed for the 40th year at Trinity Rep in downtown Providence. Then you can throw on some holiday attire and run the holiday-themed F.I.T. ‘Mas 5K Trail Race-TrailFecta. Want to show the state love even on your Christmas tree? Swing by the visitor center at the Rhode Island State House, where Rhode Island ornaments are on sale. Deck the halls!

8. Salisbury, MD

Median home price: $299,950
Holiday highlights: 
Throw a rock in any direction in December, and you’ll hit either a holiday shop or a Christmas parade. So don’t throw rocks, OK?  

In Salisbury, holiday traditions seem to stick around. There’s the annual Salisbury Christmas Parade, from Mount Hermon Road to East Main Street, which has been going strong for 71 years. The parade includes fire trucks, marching bands, Santa Claus, and Saul the Salisbury Jaycees Bear.

The Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury hosts a Christmas Eve candlelight service and a Christmas play called “How to Have the Best Christmas Ever!” Be prepared to take notes.

In nearby Ocean City, which is part of the Salisbury metro area, holiday lovers can enjoy the Winterfest of Lights. This is the 25th year of the event, which illuminates more than 1 million light bulbs. Imagine the electricity bill!

9. St. Louis, MO

Median home price: $189,950
Holiday highlight: 
An exceptionally high concentration of fireplaces. Cuddle up!

St. LouisJByard/iStock

Anheuser-Busch, the iconic St. Louis company, shows its appreciation for the city by hosting an annual Brewery Lights event that runs from mid-November to the end of December. It features s’mores, ice skating, and—duh—beer. Just save the Bud and Michelob Light for when your skates are off.

The classic holiday activities make the city great for the holidays, says Anthony Paraino, director of public relations of Explore St. Louis. “People come into town from all over, just to see the light displays,” he says. Endless showings of “Meet Me in St. Louis” on TCM don’t hurt the tourism trade, either.

10. Lafayette, LA

Median home price: $210,000
Holiday highlight: 
Shopping and shellfish 

Lafayette stands out for its unique take on holiday traditions. This shrimping town bills its season as Christmas on the Cajun Coast. So of course, festivities include a decorated boat parade down the bayou.

“Santa and some of his helpers and the mayor turn on the city’s [Christmas] lights, and then all the kids gather around the shrimp boat to take photos,” says Carrie Stansbury, executive director of the Cajun Coast and Convention Bureau. Delicious.

*Data sources: realtor.com; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Google Trends; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. National Institutes of Health; and Yelp.

 

Posted by Lance Lambert on realtor.com

5 Reasons to Sell This Winter!

Here are five reasons listing your home for sale this winter makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now! More often than not, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy a home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon.

Historically, the average number of years a homeowner stayed in their home was six, but has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time to close a loan has dropped to 44 days, after seeing a 12-month high of 48 days in January.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The inventory of homes for sale at these higher price ranges has forced these markets into a buyer’s market. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly, AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!

Prices are projected to appreciate by 4.7% over the next year according to CoreLogic. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Ready to sell? Click HERE to see how much your home is worth!

6 Ho-Ho-Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle in December

Maudib/iStock; realtor.com

So you’ve finished the last of those turkey leftovers and just about thrown in the towel on your workout regimen until some undefined time after the first of the year. (We get it— the holiday party circuit is rough.) It’s high time for relaxing and merriment! Certainly your house can wait for a little TLC until 2018, right?

Alas, we don’t have the answer you want to hear. The truth is, if you squeeze in a smidgen of time to do some routine maintenance chores this month, you’ll save yourself a load of potential trouble—and repair costs—down the road.

So down a big glass of eggnog, and take a swing through this short, painless checklist of tasks to tackle in December. We promise they’re so simple, you might just be done before you can sing the chorus to “Jingle Bells.”

1. Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. The risk of frozen pipes is actually highest in southern climes, where colder temps are less common and pipes are less likely to have the insulation needed to protect them from bursting. (Temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit pose the greatest threat to pipes in unheated areas.)

You can guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents, and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. You should also keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight. And make sure you’ve drained all your exterior hoses—if you’re following our monthly maintenance checklists, you did this back in October. Nicely done!

In the event of an emergency, you should know where your main water shut-off is located; it’s usually in the crawlspace or basement, where your water supply enters your house, or inside a water meter box outside your home.

DIY:  If your pipes have indeed frozen, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point; if none of the faucets work, the culprit is probably the main supply line.

Check all areas where supply lines enter your home, and feel the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it using a hand-held hair dryer. Another option: Wrap the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in a pro: If you can’t locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run between $150 and $600 on average (depending on the severity of the leak).

2. Give your oven some lovin’

Improperly sealed ovens can result in a loss of more than 20% of the machine’s heat, leading to longer cooking times, lost energy, and (most importantly) delayed gingerbread cookie gratification.

DIY: Check the seal around the oven door for breaks or cracks, and replace the seal for optimal oven performance. If you choose to tackle this yourself, be sure you disconnect power to the oven before digging in, and consult your manufacturer’s instructions to find the correct replacement part.

Call in a pro: Not the DIY type?  A typical oven fix takes less than an hour and will cost between $50 and $100.

3. Check your insulation

Let it snow…BanksPhotos/iStock

Improve the efficiency of your pad by checking your attic’s insulation—and save up to $600 a year in energy costs.

DIY: Examine the insulation in your attic to see whether it’s flattened or sagging.

“If the insulation is level with the attic floor joists, you should be in pretty good shape,” says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of ASecureLife.com. “But if it’s below the joists, you’ll need to add more to make sure you keep the warm air in and the cold air out.”

Call in a pro: If your insulation is lacking, you’ll need a pro to get it up to snuff, at an average cost of around $1,350.

4. Suss out—and prevent—potential fire hazards

“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you giant box of tinder.”  

It turns out that the gorgeous Douglas fir you’ve so painstakingly decorated could pose a huge fire risk. In fact, Christmas trees account for more than $13 million in property damage per year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association (yes, that’s a thing). Throw in Hanukkah candles, unswept chimneys, ancient space heaters, and faulty strings of lights, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday disaster.

DIY: If you can’t live without a live tree, be sure to keep it well-watered (seriously, do this every day). Keep it at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, turn your tree lights off at night, and toss damaged lights. (Extra credit: To save energy, use LED lights for your holiday decor. They use 80% to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours—as opposed to 3,000.)

Similar rules apply for space heaters: Keep them away from drapes or furniture, which could catch fire from direct contact and radiant heat; plug them into their own outlets (without extension cords); and never leave one running overnight.

Of course, other common sense precautions apply: Blow out all of those candy cane–scented candles before bed (or just use battery-operated ones), never use paper or flammable liquid to start a fire, and use a screen to keep embers where they belong.

Call in a pro: We’ve said this before, but rule numero uno of fireplace safety is having it professionally cleaned at least once a year. Expect to spend between $125 and $250.

5. Prevent ice damming

Ice what-ing, you ask? It turns out, an ice dam—a ridge of frozen water that forms at the edge of your roof—is even more fearsome than the average run-of-the-mill icicle. Left untreated, ice dams can prevent water from running off your roof, resulting in leaks and damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.

DIY: Ice dams will begin to form if snow (and ice, obviously) builds up on your roof. So the easiest way to prevent a problem is to clear your roof of that white slush—pick up a snow rake, grab a ladder, and get to work. While you’re up there, trim any branches hanging over your roof: Under the weight of snow or during a windstorm, these can break and cause damage to your shingles. Finally, keep gutters clear of leaves and other debris so melting snow can flow freely.

Call in a pro: Installing heating cables along the edge of your roof can keep snow runoff from freezing. Expect to spend between $600 and $900.

6. Get secure

The holidays are prime time for burglaries and break-ins (those daily Amazon Prime deliveries are just too tempting for package thieves). That’s why you should be extra-vigilant, especially as the days get shorter—and you head out of town or dance off to holiday parties.

DIY: Illuminate the area around your house, lock doors and windows, and trim bushes to deter intruders. You might also look into installing security cameras around your door.

“The six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are prime for packages being delivered to your home for the holidays,” says Emily Longof SafeWise.com. “That means burglars are more likely to swipe your packages if they are left outside.”

A security camera you can monitor with your smartphone allows you to have eyes on your home anytime, from anywhere.

Call in a pro: Professionally monitored security systems will sound ear-piercing alarms and call the police if an intruder enters your space. Options abound here, so do your research before committing to a system (and a monthly service fee).

 

Posted by Holly Amaya on realtor.com