April 17, 2013

Real Estate Advice: 3 Ways to Sell your home faster in 2013

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:40 am

With springtime finally here in full bloom, homeowners across North America are gearing up for the busiest selling season in the real industry. Buyers are coming out of the woodwork after their winter hibernation, and real estate brokers are listing and showing properties and hosting open houses on the weekends. The housing industry data has been surprisingly strong, with analysts encouraged by significantly higher prices in many regions and a substantial drop in the volume of foreclosures that had been dragging down the market. The number of permits for new construction has also risen, while interest rates on mortgages remain near their all-time historic lows.

To help you take full advantage of the robust selling season, here are three tips on how to sell your home more effectively and efficiently.

Order a Pre-Sale Inspection

After a purchase offer is presented by a buyer, homeowners often wait on pins and needles for the buyer-ordered home inspection report, wondering if the inspection will reveal anything that might spell trouble. Many sales fall apart because inspections reveal hidden problems, and this can come as a disappointing surprise to both buyers and sellers. But you can avoid that kind of outcome, and the stress that home sellers often feel during this phase of the sale, by simply ordering a pre-sale inspection.

Your inspector will look for any issues that need to be addressed such as repairs, so that you can take care of those before you put the property on the market. That way you can generally preempt any potential problems and complete any necessary repairs before buyers ever see the home. That can effectively remove the emotional trepidation that sellers often feel while it simultaneously helps to ensure that the buyer’s inspection does not contain any unexpected revelations.

Boost the Curb Appeal

The value of visual appeal cannot be overestimated, because most buyers react to their first impression of a property and make an emotional decision based on that response. If the house looks fantastic they want to know more and do further investigation. But if they are turned-off by the initial impression of the home they’ll just drive on past without giving it a second thought. Consult with your real estate broker about ways to improve and enhance the look of your home, so that every potential buyer who sees it will be seeing it at its very best.

You don’t have to invest a lot of money. Just concentrate on cosmetic details that will make the home appealing. Sprucing up the yard with flowerbeds, painting or refinishing the front door, and adding a fresh coat of paint to any interior rooms that need brightening up can be sufficient. It’s also a good idea to create as much extra space as possible inside, by getting rid of unnecessary clutter and furniture to open up the rooms and make the home appear more spacious and inviting.

Pre-Qualify All Potential Buyers

One of the biggest time wasters is failure to properly screen potential buyers before signing a purchase contract. Once you have a sale pending other people shopping for homes are discouraged and typically won’t bother to look at your home or make a back-up offer. The property, for all intents and purposes, is basically out of the running. But if the buyer’s financing later falls through then you’re back to square one – after having wasted lots of precious time. It’s harder to lure buyers back after than interlude, and oftentimes this kind of mistake can cost you a month of downtime during the most advantageous sales season.

To avoid this kind of pitfall is easy though, if you will just insist that all buyers first be prequalified by a lender. You or your Realtor can talk to the mortgage loan officer to make sure that there is a high probability that the buyer’s loan application will be accepted. That minimizes the chances of the deal collapsing due to a lack of funding, and maximizes your chances of signing a purchase offer contract that will succeed.

Homeowner Safety: Tips for creating the ultimate first responder kit.

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 10:38 am

When thinking about homeowner safety we often think about equipment like smoke detectors and burglar alarms. Or we strategize about procedures such as fire escape plans and ways to cope without electricity during a storm. But one of the most fundamental home safety steps is the creation of a great first aid or first responder kit.

Accidents and illnesses can strike suddenly and dangerously and when that happens, your first aid kit may be your very first line of defense. Sometimes you just need to treat a simple scratch to avoid infection. But there may be a life-threatening situation where how you respond and what items you have at your fingertips determine the difference between survival and death.

Consult the Red Cross, your local fire department, or your family doctor for tips on what to include in your first responder kit. In the meantime here are some tips on helpful items to include:

  • Bandages (various sizes including butterfly bandages)
  • Roll of Gauze
  • Absorbent Compression Bandages (bulk wound dressings)
  • Triangular Bandages
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Topical Triple Antibiotic Cream
  • Antiseptic Towelettes
  • Non-Sting Antiseptic Spray (especially for children)
  • Nitrile Rubber Gloves
  • Ace Bandage
  • Instant Cold Pack (chemical ice pack)
  • Insulated Space Blanket
  • Tylenol
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Non-glass, No-Mercury Thermometer
  • Bottled Water

You should also include in the kit a copy of the great publication “First Aid Manual: The step-by-step guide for everyone.” (compiled by the American College of Emergency Physicians and published by DK Ltd.) With color-tabbed pages that make it easy to access condition-specific information and first aid procedures in a hurry, plus full-color photos and quick at-a-glance summaries, this is one of the best emergency first aid books on the market. It’s also a handy size and is routinely updated with new editions that contain the timeliest medical info.

You can store your items in a Tuppleware-type box, in a paramedic’s style carry bag, or in one of those hard plastic tool boxes available at home improvement stores. Just make sure it is secure, moisture-resistant, and never stored in a way that allows unwanted access to it by children. Label it in a conspicuous way to identify it as a first aid kit, and also tape emergency numbers to the outside of like those of your doctor and the national poison hotline. Of course you can also buy an off-the-shelf first aid kit at your local pharmacy or through agencies like the Red Cross.

It’s a good idea to keep one on each floor of your home and one in each vehicle. Smaller versions are also great for taking with you on hiking trips, excursions to the beach, and other short outings. You should also familiarize yourself with how to use the items in the kit. The best method for this is to attend a first responder certification class or workshop like those offered by local chapters of the Red Cross. Everyone old enough to attend should take advantage of these classes to learn first aid procedures including emergency CPR techniques. Study the first aid manual, too, because it has a wealth of information. The more you read and review the more knowledgeable and familiar with the responses you will become, and that will allow you to act decisively, calmly, and confidently in a real emergency.

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to setting up a first aid kit in your home and each of your vehicles. You can usually have them ready to deploy within an hour or two, just by making a couple of trips to the local drugstore. Then all you have to do is maintain them by keeping the items that have an expiration date on them fresh. That hour invested to build your kit could save a life – which makes it one of the highest-yield invests you can make.

Are there Silent Killers in Your Home?

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 10:35 am

Many homeowners unwittingly live with silent killers inside their homes in the form of environmentally hazardous substances such as radon gas, toxic mold, and formaldehyde. That’s why every home should be checked by a qualified environmental inspector, just to make sure that these dangers are not present.
Here are some of the things that you can request an inspector to look for and include in the inspection report:


Toxic Mold
There are many kinds of mold that can live and thrive in your home, and they are especially attracted to dampness that occurs during months like April when rain and humidity is plentiful. Some of these create an obnoxious musty odor that can be alleviated by controlling moisture in your home and ensuring proper ventilation of fresh air. But other forms of mold can make you sick, and some are even lethal. You may not realize they are growing in your house and that you and family are breathing the poisonous spores until it is too late, so when in doubt have your home inspected.


Radon Gas
Radon is a naturally occurring and radioactive gas that is given off by certain kinds of underground mineral deposits as they decay over time. When the gas is released it travels upward, and oftentimes it can enter your home from deep in the ground beneath the home’s foundation. You won’t know it unless you test for it, thought, because radon is invisible and odorless. It was not until the 1980s that scientists became aware of this potential threat to our health and linked radon gas exposure to lung cancer. In fact radon gas is second only to cigarette smoke in terms of causing lung cancer and it is estimated that radon kills approximately 25,000 every year in the United States alone.

You can get a do-it-yourself radon test kit from your local home improvement store. You set the test kit in your basement or other low-lying room for a few days and then mail it off to a testing lab that will send you the results. Or you can hire a qualified environmental inspector to do a radon check of your property and explain the findings in a written report.

Some homeowners who have granite counter tops in their kitchens and bathrooms become concerned when they learn that granite also produces these kinds of radioactive elements. But the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups that report on potential environmental hazards have issued statements explaining that there is no need to be worried about the granite in your home. The radioactive particles are so insignificantly small that they are never concentrated enough to pose a problem, so if you have granite counters you are really experiencing no more exposure than you would otherwise.


Formaldehyde and Asbestos
But your older particleboard furniture or mobile home may be a potential source of trouble, because many forms of particleboard and many mobile homes are manufactured with glues made from the chemical formaldehyde. You may be familiar with this chemical from high school biology class, because formaldehyde used to be commonly used to preserve the frogs and other specimens that students dissected. These days it is recognized as a potential health hazard, however, and if you have formaldehyde in the furniture or building materials of your home you may be inadvertently exposing yourself and your family to this volatile chemical.

Similarly, asbestos used to be used as an insulator or building material in homes. If your home is old enough you may have it around the heating pipes, for example, or the siding shingles or floor tiles may be made from asbestos. Once the particles are airborne you can breathe them and suffer potentially life-threatening consequences. That’s why it is also a good idea to have your environmental inspector include formaldehyde and asbestos on the checklist of unwanted hazards to look for in your home.

Home Maintenance for April: Tune-up your landscaping equipment.

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 9:52 am

All of your gas-powered landscape maintenance equipment needs to be checked and tuned-up at least once a year. With spring arriving April is an ideal time to crank it up and make sure it’s in good working order. You may need to add oil or replace the old spark plugs, and it is also wise to install new clean air filters. Doing so will make the equipment easier to crank and will ensure that it operates with greater fuel efficiency.

lawn mower

Garden equipment is also responsible for thousands of accidents a year. Many of those accidents are the result of equipment that needs to be repaired or a lack of safety and attention while operating potentially dangerous tools like lawn mowers. You want your mower, for example, to have very sharp blades and need to sharpen those as part of your maintenance routine. Using dull blades will rip and tear at your grass when you cut it, rather than making a clean slice. That causes injury to the grass that can cause it to suffer, turn yellow, or even die.

But that means you need to wear thick, protective footwear when operating your mower. You should also wear safely glasses when using any equipment that might cause items like wood chips, pebbles, or dust to become airborne. Even a small piece of glass hidden in the lawn or a seemingly harmless piece of sawdust can cause catastrophic eye damage if it is propelled through the air by a whirling lawn mower blade.

It is also important to note that poorly maintained gas-powered lawn equipment is one of the biggest polluters in North America. Every year dripping oil pans, spilled motor fuel, and faulty filter and exhaust systems cause ordinary machinery like lawn mowers to contaminate both the air and the ground. The Environmental Protections Agency estimates that running an old, outmoded lawn mower for an hour produces as much smog as does a car driven for the same amount of time. Garden equipment accounts for approximately 10 percent of all pollution, and you can reduce that waste and environmental damage by keeping equipment in tip-top condition. You’ll spend less money on fuel, less cash and downtime on unexpected repairs, and your equipment will last much longer.

trickle charger

Be sure to check the rubber tires too, because they may have lost air pressure or cracked and rotted during the off season. If you have battery-powered equipment, test it to make sure the battery is charged with enough juice for easy starts and smooth operation. If it is low you can “top it off” by using a trickle charger gadget. A trickle charger isn’t like an emergency jump starting unit. Instead it sends a low voltage flow of juice to the battery and slowly recharges it – a process that usually happens overnight. Trickle chargers run off of your household electricity. Just plug it in and hook it up to the battery terminals according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They are available at automotive stores for around $30, and are useful for keeping all of your batteries – including the ones in cars and trucks – fully charged.


While you’re at it, this is also a good time to test your garden hoses for damage. During wintertime any hoses that had water inside of them may have cracked when that water froze and expanded. You don’t want to wait until you need the hose to water your lawn or flowerbed to find out that it has sprung a leak. Test your underground irrigation system, too, if you have one. Problems buried under the turf such as leaky pipes or fittings are so much easy to repair before you put in your springtime gardens. But if you wait until later to discover that the irrigation system needs to be dug up and repaired, you may also be forced to dig up the mulch, topsoil, landscape fabric, and new plants you just invested time and effort to put into your flower beds.