Your Home Matters

Your Home Matters

  1. Early Fall Home Maintenance -- Already??

    While it definitely does not feel like it outside today, we are quickly approaching the upcoming fall season. We typically have a fairly warm (okay, hot) September and finally see temperatures cool off near the end of the month. There is still plenty of time to work and play outside, so we are not wishing away the lingering summer days! However, with the kids back in school and schedules calendars filling quickly, we know how fast time will go, and before we know it October will be upon us. We thought this week would be the perfect time to give you our September home maintenance guide so you can work in these projects as time allows.

    Early Fall Home Maintenance

    1. Add Weather Stripping
    Newer homes may not need this, but older homes often let air in & out which can hike up utility billd quite quickly. Remove and replace weather stripping around your doors and windows. Pay attention to where you feel drafts coming in through small gaps around the house.

    2. Inspect Your Roof
    This task is best left to a professional, but if you choose to do it yourself, please please be very careful! Check for damaged shingles, worn seals & gutters that have pulled away from the roof line. Get these issues resolved before we have cold weather that involves freezing and thawing, which can be hard on a roof.

    3. Spruce Up Living Spaces
    Cooling temperatures and more homework means your family will likely be spending more time inside. Be sure your most-used living spaces are cozy, clean and have plenty of seating for reading, watching movies, or studying.

    4. Transition Outdoor Plants
    Your patio furniture and grills can probably wait to be winterized until later in the fall because we will still have nice weather until November! For now, begin transitioning your potted plants to late-summer blooms or early fall flowers like mums and be sure to read up on how to care for your plants in the new season.

    5. Do You Use Firewood?
    If you have a fire pit, host bonfires, or use a wood-burning stove or fireplace, now is the time to order firewood. Don't store it directly against your home because it can become a hotel for bugs and other critters. Find a spot in your yard where it will be sheltered from rain and a safe distance from your house.

    6. Check Your Foundation
    Walk the perimeter of your home and examine your foundation. Are there any gaps or cracks? Like the roof, winter is hard on foundations because we can get into a pattern of freezing and thawing, plus those heavy rains and eventually snow. Let's take care of problems before they have a chance to get worse.

    7. Complete Annual Fireplace Maintenance
    Now is the perfect time to have your fireplace and chimney inspected if you have one. Again, this task is best left to a professional because he or she will know what to look for. It's always a good idea to be sure your fireplace is in working order before cool weather arrives.

    8. Inspect Furnace
    It could get chilly at times in September, so we want to know our heating systems are good to go. If you don't know what to look for, ask a friend or relative or call one of our local companies and just ask a few questions or have them check it out.

    9. Continue Whole-House Cleaning
    It's constant, isn't it? We know that everyone cleans as much as time allows all.the.time, but as we spend more time inside, we tend to notice tasks around the house that may have been overlooked during the summer. September is a fabulous time to declutter and work on organization because there's more to keep track of with activities and assignments. It's also a great month to host a yard sale because weather is favorable for people to get out and about. 

    10. Start Transitioning Home Decor
    This task might be the most fun. You don't have to get out your scarecrows and pumpkins yet, but you can begin putting out your heavier throw blankets, change pillow shams to more autumnal colors and put some quilts on your beds. These are just a few cozy touches to enjoy in case we have a cooler day.

    What else will you be working on at home over the next month or two? Share your tips with us! As always, we would love to hear from you! 

  2. Ready to Buy a New Home? Here's what NOT to do.

    Hello & Happy Thursday! We hope you've had another great week and have gotten out a bit to enjoy the milder weather the past couple days! This week, we are going to focus on a topic that is very important when working through the home buying adventure. We want to share a few things you should avoid once you have gone through the pre-approval process and are ready to buy your new home. Changes in your financial or employment status can really affect your mortgage terms, and lenders frown upon (or worse!) borrowers who go out and incur new debt during the transaction time leading up to closing.

     We want to make it easy for you! Just follow this "Don't" guide and be frugal for the time period you're buying your new home. We promise it will be worth it when you close on that dream home!

     1. Don’t apply for new credit cards: It may seem like a great idea to apply for a credit card at a home improvement store or a furniture store when you are about to become a homeowner, but applying for credit can lower your credit score. Not only will you lose a few points because of a credit inquiry, but if you are approved for new credit, a lender might worry that you will spend up to your new credit limit and then default on your loan. Wait to make those furniture and home improvement purchases until after closing on your new home.

    2. Don’t close any credit accounts: You may be feeling that this is a good time to get your financial state in order by closing unused credit accounts or transferring your debt to a new credit card with lower interest rates. While that’s a smart move financially overall, it’s a bad one for your credit score because you lose points when you have a higher usage of debt compared to your limit on one credit card. Wait until your closing is complete before you make these changes.

     3. Don’t move your money around: Your lender will need the most recent bank statements before you go to closing, so if you have any unusual deposits you will need to provide complete documentation of where the money came from. If possible, it’s best to move the cash you will need for your home purchase into one account before you apply for a mortgage.

    4. Don’t increase your debts: In addition to your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio is extremely important in a loan approval. If you take on more debt, you could be in danger of going above the acceptable debt-to-income ratio. Again, wait until after you've closed on the house.

     5. Don’t skip a payment or make a late payment: One of the most important elements of your credit score is your history of on-time, in-full payments, so don’t get so caught up in your move that you forget to keep up with paying basic bills. Keep a list of payment dates for all your bills and check them off as they're paid!

    6. Don’t buy a car: You may be feeling that a new car would be a nice addition to the driveway of your new home. Resist that feeling!! Even if you can easily afford payments on a new car, the depletion of your savings or the addition of a new car loan could derail your mortgage application. Get that new car once you actually have the new driveway.

     7. Don’t change jobs if you can help it: While a job change could mean a raise or a path to a better future, it could also delay your transaction. Your lender needs to verify employment and will need pay stubs to prove your new income before your loan can go to settlement. If at all possible, stay put throughout the transaction process and make the switch after you've closed and settled in. Promotions or moves within your company don't apply though -- if you get promoted or take on a new role within your company, we will be the first to offer our congratulations!

    8. Don’t spend your savings: You’ll need cash on hand for earnest money, inspection costs, and for your down payment and closing costs. Your lender may even verify your cash reserves one more time just before closing, so make sure the funds stay in place. It's best to just be as frugal as possible throughout the time you're in the buying process. It will give you peace of mind and ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

    We hope this information helps as you begin navigating your home buying process. Remember to ask your ERA First Advantage agent and lender lots of questions! We are all here to help and will be happy to do whatever we can to give you the real estate experience.

  3. A New School Year is Here!

    In less than a week, a new school year will be starting throughout the Tri-State. How is it possible that school is starting again? Is it just us, or has this summer absolutely flown by? We hope you've been able to take advantage of the long, warm days and gotten out as a family to enjoy some summertime activities. We know summer isn't technically over, but after next week, we know your families' schedules will be a lot more hectic!

    It's always exciting when a new school year begins in the Tri-State. We are so fortunate to have really good school systems, and early to mid-August signals the start of a new grade for our eager kids, along with new friends, teachers, sports, lessons, and activities. However, the start to the school year can also be very stressful and difficult for many.

    Whether your child is moving on to a middle or high school (or especially college!), or your family has moved to a new school district, there is an anxiety about beginning in a new place and feeling a bit uncertain in an unfamiliar place. We've all been there, right?

    In this week's blog, we'd like to share a few ideas to help your family start the school year on a strong note. We think the trick is to stay organized and prepared, whether you have a little one starting preschool or three headed off to elementary, middle & high school.

    1. Get as many school supplies as possible before school starts. We know parents don't get school supply lists beyond elementary school, but even older students can make sure they're armed with the basics on the first day. At least have a pen, pencil, notebook, and folder for handouts. For those in elementary school, have fun perusing the aisles buying crayons, glue, etc. for a few more years!

    2. Pick out clothes and prepare lunches the night before. It will be hard to wake up for the first few weeks, especially if your family has been fortunate enough to enjoy sleeping in a bit throughout the summer. Everyone will be a little nervous and possibly edgy those first few days, so make things easier on yourself and pick out everyone's outfits and pack lunch boxes the night before when you're not in a hurry and more awake.

    3. If you're starting in a new school, go find your classroom ahead of time. We hope you've had a chance to do this already with new student enrollment, because it really helps alleviate that helpless feeling when you go somewhere new and don't know your way around yet. This is especially important if you've moved to a new school district over the summer and aren't familiar with your new school. Parents with little ones might even be allowed to walk their kids to their classroom the first day -- just check with your school.

    4. Stay positive and be open-minded. Everyone has such high hopes on the first day of school, but the truth is, it's often overwhelming and exhausting by the end of the day. Know that you will find your groove and feel more comfortable with everything as the days go by. It will just be an adjustment, like any new schedule or environment.

    5. Don't forget to have fun. After the first week or two of school, do something fun as a family. We will still have warm weather in the Tri-State for at least another month or two, so get out and go to the zoo or walk by the river, treat yourselves to ice cream, or get out of town (if your schedule allows) for the weekend. Everyone has been under more stress and pressure, so it's very important to keep a little bit of that relaxed summer vibe when you can!

    What does your family do to ease the transition back to school? We would love to hear from you, so please share with us!

    We hope everyone has a safe, happy start to the school year! We can't wait to see what our local kids accomplish and learn this year!

  4. Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish!

    A home is expensive. In addition to monthly mortgage payments, we have annual maintenance, updates, landscaping, and other various costs associated with being a homeowner.

    We certainly don't look at these things as negatives since we take great pride in owning and caring for our homes, but we also know there are other financial responsibilities to consider.

    That is why we are firm believers in refurbishing and upcyling whenever possible! Not only can it be a fun, creative outlet to paint, reupholster or reuse furniture and accessories in new ways, it is also an incredible strategy to save money.

    So where do you start? Our best advice is to shop your own home first. What pieces have great "bones" but could use a little update? The best painting projects are pieces like solid wood hutches, buffets, coffee tables, and dressers. Depending on your home's style, paint these a nice light neutral and they will instantly change the look of the room they inhabit for very little cost. (We love the idea of a $30-$40 investment versus $500+ for a new piece of furniture!)

    Wondering what paint to use? You can always use a latex paint from somewhere like Lowe's, but be prepared to wash and sand the piece you're working on.

    For a very user-friendly paint, try Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, sold locally at The Barefoot Cottage in Newburgh. You don't have to sand the furniture before painting, it's very easy to use and there are literally endless looks to achieve with it. Check out all the colors available, and for a stylish look, do a little distressing with some sandpaper. One thing to remember with this type of paint, you must apply their clear or dark wax on top of the paint to seal and protect it. Your resident blogger has painted at least 10 different pieces of furniture with chalk paint, so if you have questions, just comment on our Facebook post and we'll get them answered!

    Some of our other fabulous local home decor stores carry other lines of furniture paint too. It would be worth your while to chat with the experts at The Red Poppy and The Refinery too!

    Another great way to save on updating your favorite pieces is to reupholster them. This option is best for chairs of all kinds because couches can get quite expensive if you use a nice quality fabric. Update your dining room chairs with new cushions or all over upholstery, and finally update that arm chair in the guest room that no one really likes anymore. If you have some pieces that have been handed down by family or friends, make them your own by customizing and cleaning them up with new fabric.

    Our top picks for finding beautiful, affordable fabric are Jo-Ann Fabric and Grateful Threads, located downtown Evansville. The ladies at Grateful Threads are incredibly knowledgeable and can even recommend professional upholsterers.

    What else do you do at home to update on a budget? Share your projects with us! We love passing on great ideas to our clients who are looking for affordable ways to make their new house a "home".

    Thanks for stopping by again this week! Enjoy the beautiful weather!
  5. Live-In Home Improvement Projects

    A client had a great thought after reading our article about our agent's built-in project. He asked for some thoughts on the most beneficial upgrades and "special touches" to add to a home that can be enjoyed while living there but also pay off when homeowners decide to sell. I had to think a lot about these ideas because home improvement priorities are very subjective. Many of us would agree that there are so many things we would love to change or upgrade in our homes, but would those changes provide any kind of return on investment in a sale? Or would the next owner move in and overhaul our hard work?

    The conundrum of deciding which improvement projects are worthwhile, both for enjoyment and resale, is one that many homeowners face. Most of us have a budget to stick to, so let's discuss the best options for investment. Each of these ideas provide not only a high return on investment, but also tremendous enjoyment and quality of life benefits for current homeowners. 

    • Bathroom Upgrades: Buyers want a spa-like bathroom with a walk-in shower and separate tub. Tile the shower, update the fixtures, and paint the room a soothing color. As a homeowner, you will love this relaxing space to get ready for the day. Don't feel like you have to install luxury fixtures, but do make an effort to choose elegant, stylish finishes.
    • Effortless Style: This idea applies to many different parts of the home. Think about what materials are most durable and easy to clean. Go with a quartz or granite for counter tops, and be thoughtful about your decisions for finishes on things like faucets and sinks. Many materials show dirt, finger prints, food splatters, etc. very easily. That will get old! Also consider resale factors and shy away from anything too customized. Stick with styles that will appeal to many types of styles and design tastes, otherwise buyers will only see a home full of things they need to change.
    • Good Lighting: Based on our experience (and we've toured a lot of homes), good lighting is essential. It is very obvious and depressing when a home is "dark", so it's a wise investment to install functional, stylish lighting in a home. Recessed lighting spaced three to five feet apart is typically recommended, and for some pizzazz add a beautiful pendant light or tasteful fixtures above dining tables, kitchen and bathroom counters, islands, or in the foyer. I have also been seeing a lot more style added to lights in bedrooms as well, so that could be a great option for a small investment to punch up bedrooms. Lighting can really add a lot of fun to a home!
    • Landscaping: We can sum up the ongoing benefit of landscaping pretty succinctly -- curb appeal. Give your gorgeous home a nice setting. Landscaping provides color, life, charm, and pride of ownership for a home. You will love coming home to a house that has a nice flower bed or row of shrubbery versus a bare yard. Eventually, buyers will love the well-kept yard too. If you don't have a green thumb, call a local garden center. Most will provide ideas or even a design for little or no cost.
    • Finish Out Attic/Basement: This improvement project is substantially more expensive than my other ideas. However, this project will actually add usable square footage to a home and endless possibilities for use and enjoyment. This is a great way to add a bonus room to be used for crafts, reading, an office, or playroom, and the basement can house a wet bar, workout room, man cave, additional playroom space, and a safe haven in the event of severe weather, which is a real threat in the Tri-State. For many, a basement is a non-negotiable want for their next home, so if you have the opportunity to finish out that space, get a quote and seriously consider it. These types of flex spaces are hard to find and can be really special if done right for a 90% return on investment.
    • Replace Windows: This is most applicable for older homes because of all the energy-efficiency standards and features that have been developed. I have had clients whose utility bills have decreased by several hundred dollars each month after installing new windows. It is a substantial investment, but it will pay off. Plus, the seals on new windows keep your home cooler or warmer relative to the season. It's not pleasant to live in a drafty home, either hot or cold, so do consider this option if your home's windows are more than 15 years old.
    • Flooring Options: Flooring can completely change the look and feel of a home. It is a big project, but updated floors are a great way to enjoy your space. Right now, hardwood and ceramic tile are in highest demand, so go with those materials if possible. If you're changing out carpet, lower pile is preferable because it is easier to keep clean. The color and style possibilities are virtually endless, so do some homework and really think about what looks best in the home and what will be attractive in the long run. Consult a designer or stylish friend if you're having a lot of trouble making a decision.

    As we said before, there are so many home improvement projects that can make your home more functional, efficient, stylish, and comfortable, but you have to prioritize what you want most. How does your family "live" in the home? Where do you spend the most time? What stands out as lacking in the current space? Trust your instincts and you'll make the right choices. What other ideas do you think would provide improvements in your home?

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