The Daily Mortgage Advisor

Practical Mortgage Advice for Valued Clients

Browsing Posts in Around The Home

Post to Twitter

Energy-saving at holiday timeWith the holiday season comes more than colder weather — there are the parties, the baking, the fixing of family dinners, and, in some cases, the stringing of holiday lights. It’s also a time of year when home energy use can spike, leading to a very large January electricity bill.

This year, do what you can to conserve energy through the holidays and the New Year. Try following these simple tips.

Go LED
If you string lights outside of your home, try LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lighting. LED lights use 86% less electricity than comparable incandescent lights and have numerous safety advantages. For example, LED lights are shatterproof, present no fire hazard, and, because they emit almost no heat, are safe to the touch. 

Reduce Your Home Thermostat
When you home is filled with people, or the ovens are working overtime, or both, the temperature can rise by several degrees. Rather than opening a window or leaving a door ajar, consider lowering your home’s thermostat, or turning off the heat altogether. Each degree “colder” that you set you set your thermostat decreases your home’s energy usage up to 3 percent.

Plan Your Meal
Holiday meals are often prepared in advance of dinner and then reheated or warmed to be ready for company. This leads to running the oven, microwave or stove-top multiple times for each served dish. When possible, prepare foods at the same time and warm in the oven at the same time. In running your appliances less, you will save on energy costs.

Use Your Dishwasher At Capacity
Some dishes require hand-washing. For everything else, use a dishwasher. Dishwashers use less water than is required to wash and rinse plates, utensils and pots and pans by hand. They can also use up to 50% less energy than is required to heat the water you’ll need to wash your dishes manually.

The holiday season can be full of excesses. Don’t let your energy bill be one of them.

Post to Twitter

Tips for better home staging

When Orange County homeowners get ready to list, advice will often come from all corners of their personal and social network — what within the home to upgrade; what to repair; what to replace.

And, although some advice remains valuable, much of it can be ignored.

The costs of an expensive upgrade are rarely recouped at the time of sale and studies show that smaller, simpler actions can yield a bigger return on your investment of time and money.

Here are four inexpensive, yet highly effective, ways to prepare your home for sale.

Improve the curb appeal
It’s not just the inside of your home which should be inviting to buyers — the outside of your home should be, too. Trim hedges, maintain the lawn, power wash the walls and try to inject some color, where possible. Your yard is your home’s first impression on buyers. Make it a great one.

Lighten up the place
Extra sunlight lends an airy feeling to your home, and interior lights provide cozy glow. Therefore, wash your windows, pullback your drapes, replace burnt-out bulbs, and add outdoor lighting to your landscaping, if possible. Also, keep your home lit in the evenings in the event that potential buyers drive by after-hours. With the lights on, your home will look cheery instead of dark and gloomy.

Store unnecessary furniture and personal objects
Less can be more when it comes to showing your home so put your knick-knacks, your stacks of books and your fridge-covering artwork in storage. Be sure to avoid stashing personal items in closets because buyers expect closets to be clutter-free as well.

Paint a pretty home
A new coat of paint will freshen up any room so paint where needed. However, stick to neutrals such as grays and tans. Also, consider repainting rooms bathed in bright, fun colors — this can divert a buyer’s attention away from the home and toward money-costing “projects” that would come with buying the home.

With the help of your REALTOR® and a little hard work, these tips should help you increase your home’s appeal to a wide variety of buyers without breaking the bank. It may even help you sell your home more quickly.

Post to Twitter

November gardening listFor homeowners who keep a garden, with the change of seasons comes a task list.

There are basic tasks for gardeners — for example, raking the leaves, sharpening your tools. And, there are advanced tasks, too, which includes identifying and removing plants and trees which may be dead, and covering compost to prevent rain storms from leaching nutrients.

For homeowners in frost-free areas, November is a good time to plant roses and azaleas; prune flowering trees; and, start your fall vegetable garden.

The cooler fall and winter months are terrific for leafy greens such as spinach and kale; and carrots. Protect plants with row covers, when necessary.

For homeowners in colder parts of the county, November is when you should circle evergreens with burlap and wrap the bottoms of young trees with mesh wire to protect from wildlife; and empty and roll up garden hoses for storage.

It’s also when bulbs should be planted. Tulips, crocuses and hyacinths are easy to plant and will welcome you come springtime.

For all homeowners, consider this list : 

  • Aerate lawns to improve root development and drainage
  • Check and clean gutters from fallen leaves, needles, and twigs
  • Perform a round of weeding

And then, to discourage weed growth throughout the winter, place down a pre-emergent, and mulch around bedding plants, shrubs, and trees.

If your temperatures in your area tend to go below freezing, be aware of your plants which are sensitive to de-icing salts. Consider buying sand or sawdust for traction purposes near these plantings instead.

Lastly, remember that the fall months are a terrific time to take note of what worked in your garden during the summer, and what didn’t. Use a notebook and put your findings to paper. Attention paid now will pay dividends next spring.

Post to Twitter

Seasonal Home MaintenanceThe calendar has turned to November; the month during which we transition from fall into winter.

With less sunlight, colder temperatures, and shorter days ahead for Orange County , it’s an opportune time to cross those last-minute maintenance items off your homeowner to-do list.

Practicing preventive care — both inside and outside your home — can save thousands of dollars in repairs come later this winter. What follows is a brief checklist to get you started.

For outside the home :

  • Inspect exterior lights and outlets. Be sure that none of the outlets are cracked or broken, or have exposed wires.
  • Clean gutters and clear all blockages. If leaves are falling, redo after leaves are off all trees.
  • Inspect and test outdoor railings and stairs.
  • Have problem trees trimmed, including those that may damage your home in a storm.
  • Protect outdoor water faucets from freezing. Consider using foam cups, sold at hardware stores.

For inside the home :

  • Change batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, whether they’re “dead” or not. 
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils, plus the front bottom grill. Empty and clean the drip pan.
  • Inspect wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Hire a certified chimney sweeper to clean the chimney, if needed.
  • Insulate bare water pipes running through your home to prevent freezing and to limit condensation on cold-water lines.
  • Inspect automatic garage door opener. Lubricate chains according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure bolts and screws are properly tightened and secured.

As a constant series of chores, home maintenance is a four-season job and one which should not be taken lightly. The tasks of each season are unique and November’s jobs are mostly preparatory in advance of colder weather.

If your routine maintenance uncovers larger issues including a faulty HVAC unit, or a leaking faucet, for example, seek professional help to make the repair. 

Post to Twitter

Kitchen colors influence eating habitsHave you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?

Rarely do people think about the colors that they choose to paint their kitchens. They are often too busy worrying about whether the kitchen will match the rest of the home, or whether the colors will be satisfactory to the rest of the household.

However, when painting and decorating your kitchen, you may want to think about the process in a way many people do not — how the colors you choose will affect the way in which you eat. As behavioral psychologists have documented, the presence of specific colors your the kitchen can change your eating habits and your cravings for food.

Here are some examples :

  • The color red increases your appetite. This is why so many restaurants paint their walls red. Although associated with romance and passion, red is also a color which promotes hunger. Furthermore, it has been noted that the color red in your kitchen can influence high blood pressure.
  • The color blue is calming, which can slow your eating speed, and prevent you from over-eating. When decorating your kitchen and dining room, therefore, using blue wallpaper or blue paint; and blue placemats, for example, can result in “slower” eating and fewer feelings of fullness.
  • The color orange is a “stimulating” color; increasing oxygen supply to the brain and providing a mental boost. An orange-themed kitchen may stimulate your appetite, therefore, and make over-eating more likely.

Then, there is gray. Gray can be an ideal appetite-suppressing color for your kitchen. This is because, psychologically, gray is calming and relaxing, and it neutralizes anxiety. Gray can arrest binge eating and impulsive snacking. It’s also a color which home stagers recommend for its neutrality.

Whether you’re a home buyer in Orange County , a home seller, or just getting ready to remodel, consider the influence of colors in your home. They do more than just “match the next room” — they affect your food and drink cravings as well.

Post to Twitter

Fixes before you listWith housing prices down across the country, there are a lot of homeowners in Orange County barely breaking even on their respective home sales. Some are even losing money.

You may find yourself in that position, too; wanting to sell, but worried about bringing cash to your own closing.

It creates an interesting dilemma. You want your home to “show nicely” relative to comparable properties, but you don’t want to invest big dollars that may never be recouped into upgrades or renovations. So what do you do?

The answer is simple. Do the bare minimum.

From an advice piece in the Wall Street Journal, we learn of 10 basic home improvement projects that will help your home have better showings. The advice requires almost no technical skills, and the projects be tackled in a weekend.

The theme? Handled your home’s delayed maintenance.

  1. Repair or remove screen doors with holes and tears
  2. Pressure wash windows, sidewalks, and siding
  3. Paint your front door and polish the doorknob
  4. Pull weeds, seed bare spots, and lay down mulch
  5. Touch up holes, dings and cracks in paint
  6. Clean grout and re-caulk sinks, bathtubs and showers
  7. Buy new cabinet hardware
  8. Fix leaky faucets and toilets
  9. Spray lubricant on squeaky doors
  10. Get clutter into storage and out of the way

Now, you’ll notice that none of these projects can be considered “major”. By contrast, each is minor; they’re the items you’d add to your to-do list for work on “another day”. However, they’re extremely important for a home that’s about to be listed.

Here’s why. A prospective buyer doesn’t notice that the above repairs were made. He only notices if they weren’t made. When a buyer sees ripped screens or chipped paint in your home, it makes him wonder what else hasn’t been cared for. This is the why you should also hire an exterminator prior to selling your home. If a buyer spots a trail of ants in your home, it’s unlikely you’ll get an offer.

You don’t need to spend big bucks to get your home ready for sale, but you may to use apply elbow grease. The good news is that time spent up-front can be worth it in the end. Homes that show better tend to sell faster, and at higher prices.

Post to Twitter

Home remodeling projects are expected to top $130 blllion this quarter, their highest total since Q1 2008. A likely catalyst is that the average cost of a home improvement project is falling fast.

With the economy loosening up and contractor costs on a downswing, some in Orange County homeowners are choosing to put money back into their respective homes, and making home improvements. If you’re among them, you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly screened your contractor. 

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn tips for picking a good home contractor. The advice is mostly common sense, and worth heeding. For example:

  • Only select registered/licensed, and insured contractors for work in your home
  • Don’t automatically select the lowest bid; you may want to discard it instead
  • Communication skills matter. You must be able to express your wants, and have that message understood.

And lastly, if this is your first time working with a particular contractor, be sure to ask for references and follow-through on them, too. Sometimes, past customers can tell you more about a contractor than you can learn yourself.