4th of July is just a few weeks away, and usually involves lots of food and family fun! Don't forget about your pets as you celebrate this holiday. July 4th is known as the day of the year that over seven million pets run away! Don't lose your best friend by getting caught up in all the festivities! Here are a few tips to help keep Fido safe and still enjoy your holiday.
Add Value to Your Home with Spring Cleaning
In our 2017 New Year’s Resolution: Increase the Value of Your Home blog, we went over four different projects that could increase the value of your home—one of which was cleaning! It may be surprising, but a clean and decluttered home can have a huge impact on a potential buyer’s impression of the home and help them envision it as their own. In addition, a clean home improves your mood and helps you feel more productive.
Clean Up the Yard
You never get a second chance to make a great first impression, so make the most of your home’s first impression by cleaning up the yard.
- Clear away fall and winter debris such as fallen branches and leaves; pick up and put away toys and other items that are not lawn ornaments.
- Be sure that all walkways are clear and easy to navigate along.
- If you have broken or misaligned steps, consider hiring a professional to fix them.
- Clean the gutters, or hire a professional the clean them; when gutters are clogged, they can overflow and cause water damage to the exterior of your home. If they overflow into a window, the water damage can extend into the interior, as well.
- Treat your lawn to a spa day: feed it, weed it, give it moss treatment, and mow it on a dry day. When you know it’s going to rain, or shortly after rain, apply fertilizers for best results.
Clean Up the Exterior Walls of the House
Over the course of a year, a lot of dirt, muck, and grit can collect on the exterior walls of a home—not to mention moss, mold, and mildew growth along brick walls.
- On a warm, dry day, wash away the dirt on the exterior walls of your home. Take care not to damage any surfaces, let water get underneath the siding, or dislodge any bricks.
- If it looks like there is water damage on the outside of your home, call a professional.
- Take the chance to clean the outside of your windows as well, and check for any damage to them. Cracked panes should be replaced and peeling windowsills should be tended to, as well.
- Peeling windowsills are a great opportunity (after removing the old paint) to repaint them with a refreshing new color. Not sure what color to pick? Our Painting Joy Into Your Home: How Colors Influence Your Mood blog post can give you an idea on what might be the best color, depending on what effect you want to achieve.
- Once you’re back inside, wipe the inside of the windows down and clear away any cobwebs.
Clean Up the Garden
If you have a garden with clearly defined borders, be sure to freshen those borders up. In addition, give your garden some attention and care:
- Fork the soil around plants to introduce fresh air and reveal any pests or weeds
- Remove weeds and other unwanted plants
- Add mulch to control additional weeds or refresh existing mulch
- Check to see if any bricks or stones have become misaligned and realign them
- To help your plants grow and add nutrients to the soil, add compost or other organic matter
If you don’t have a garden but would like to increase the curb appeal of your home by adding some plants, try adding flower pots or hanging plants outside!
- Check that the flowers and plants won’t be at risk of dying from a last frost before adding the pots or hanging plants outdoors.
- If you want to grow the plants from seeds, consider starting them indoors to avoid losing them to hungry birds or animals before they’ve had the chance to sprout. Otherwise, pick potted flowers and plants you like from your local garden center.
- Arrange the potted flowers and hanging plants how you like: on your front porch, flanking your front door, along your walkway, or even in your back garden. The options are endless!
Last but not least, if you have a fence, inspect it for any damage.
- Ensure that all gates are properly attached and that locks function smoothly.
- Fill in any holes animals may have dug underneath the fence. If you have a dog that keeps digging a hole to escape, bury a toy, or pursuing some other destructive behavior, you may want to check with your local dog academy to see whether training can correct the behavior.
- Check for loose boards, rusted wires, damaged bricks or stones, etc. and repair the fence accordingly. If you don’t know how to maintain your fence and find that a section has decayed, call a professional.
- If you want to give your yard a fresh look, consider painting your fence a new color, adding flowers along the boundaries, or adding climbing plants to transform your fence into a garden wonderland. Check with your local garden center first on which climbing plants would be best.
- Beware: climbing plants require a certain amount of maintenance and care to keep them from becoming unruly and overtaking your yard. If they attach to a tree, they can cause serious damage.
Enjoy the fruits of your hard work!
If you still have energy leftover to do additional cleaning inside of your home, check out our blog post Tips from Howard Hanna: How to Keep Your Home Sparkling Clean. For especially adventurous individuals, our blog Simple Home Repairs For the Spring Seller offers advice on how to stay ahead of the curve with spring repairs.
Everyone has that one drawer, one countertop, one closet, or even one room that is full of clutter. From year-old bills to 10-year-old Halloween costumes, clutter can take up unnecessary space. Taking control of your clutter can seem daunting and overwhelming, but we are here to help turn your space from a cluttered catastrophe into an organized oasis (or something similar).
Take the first step by setting goals. Figure out what you want to be accomplished and when you want to happen. Go even further by creating a schedule. Plan a time with all family members to go through clutter together. Involving the family will help keep everyone on track.
Many organizing experts recommend the four-box approach: have a box for trash, a box for donations, a box for items to keep, and a box for items to relocate. Carefully consider each item before placing it in a box to make sure you are confident about which box to use. Leave no item unboxed. Once all items are placed in a specific box, follow through. Donate items that should be donated, throw away unwanted items, put back the items you are keeping, and relocate the others to their new home. Completing this immediately will help you feel accomplished sooner!
Sometimes your clutter can be due to poor organization or neglect. Invest in storage options or organizers for important things. Bills beginning to pile up? Grab a mail organizer and label each slot as due soon, paid, and unpaid, or whatever works for you. Important documents lying about? Purchase a fireproof lockbox to keep all important docs secure and safe. Organizing the simplest of things can have a huge impact on your space.
Having trouble noticing clutter? Sometimes we become blind to our mess and need a new perspective to help us notice things we’ve ignored! Inviting over friends or family will cause you to start thinking of your spaces as a visitor would. This new perspective can open you up to see your space differently. Take a photo of the space. If your eye is immediately drawn to a messy area, declutter it! Ask others what they see and use their perspective, too.
Tackling clutter can be taxing, so don’t overdo it. Trying to do everything all at once will likely cause frustration and make you upset, which then results in being less efficient and losing progress. Take it a step at a time and take breaks when needed. Doing spurts of decluttering will result in a better finished product rather than rushing through just to “accomplish” the job.
Taking control of your clutter will give you peace of mind and give your spaces an instant facelift!
APRIL IS STRESS AWARENESS MONTH....TIME TO RELAX!
Believe it or not, the average stress level of Americans has dropped since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). But, we here at Howard Hanna Insurance Services understand if you don’t exactly feel that way. It’s a good thing, then, that Stress Awareness Month is here.
Reducing your stress is well worth your while. If you don’t know where to start, tese tips from the Mayo Clinic and WebMD will get you headed in the right direction:
Make stress management a goal. Simply saying, “I want to reduce stress” isn’t enough. You’ve got to learn to identify problems and implement solutions, which takes work.
Identify your triggers. What situations cause you to experience stress? Work? Relationships? Money? Don’t overlook everyday tasks, such as commuting, or even positive events, such as starting a new job.
Consider strategies to deal with those specific triggers. For example, creating a budget plan or talking to a financial adviser could help ease your worries about finances. Changing your hours at work could potentially improve your commute.
Practice relaxation techniques and live a healthy lifestyle. Here are just a few tools that people use to help alleviate stress:
Deep breathing, yoga or tai chi
Meditation and guided imagery — imagining yourself in a place of relaxation
Writing or talking to someone about your feelings
Exercise (even simple stretching or housework) and outdoor recreation
Art and other creative projects
Ask for help. Many people you know have probably experienced similar stresses to your own. Find out how they have solved problems and relieved stress. And, if they are still having trouble, you can work on managing issues together.
April is a great time to try to reduce stress and live a healthier life. So, what are you waiting for? Remember, when you make stress management a bigger part of your life, you leave less room for the stress itself.
Simple Home Repairs For the Spring Seller
So you want to sell your home. Congratulations! This process can be overwhelming; maybe you are unsure where to start. Or maybe you are worried that no one will love your home like you do. Don’t worry, these stresses are completely normal! You’re in luck – besides using a professional real estate agent, there are several simple home repairs you can do that may improve the showing of your home. Keep in mind, this list is in no particular order but each step you take will move you closer to a sale! Many factors influence the success of your sale, including market changes, location, price, condition, marketing, etc. That being said, the following tasks don’t impede the home selling process, so why not have some fun and try? Grab a set of clothes you can get dirty and let’s get to work!
- While you may not enter the home through the front door, any potential buyer is likely to come in that way. It is important to make sure the front door opens, closes, and locks easily; you don’t want a potential buyer to have to fight to get in or out of your home. A fresh coat of paint on the front door can make a world of difference in terms of a house’s curb appeal and can set your house apart from others that may look similar.
- A potential buyer’s first impression is generally made upon pulling up to the home and judging its exterior. If your home’s exterior is sloppy or unappealing, there is a good chance that the potential buyer will form a negative opinion of this house before even seeing the interior. Don’t let your yard work get away from you; keep up on any outdoor maintenance that will help your house look pristine. If your roof is in bad shape, a potential buyer will notice. By doing an easy roof repair, you can save yourself time in the negotiation process by eliminating that from a list of things the potential buyers may want done before they finalize an offer.
- Be sure to present your home at its cleanest. Even if your home is in pristine condition, if it is cluttered and dirty, the potential buyer will not be able to fully appreciate its quality and value. Keep your house as clean as possible while it is on the market in order to have it best represented, especially the often neglected areas such as basements, garages and utility rooms. Believe it or not, the way you maintain your home reflects on how you as a person are; potential buyers will be more inclined to work with a seller who seems organized and put-together over one whose house is a mess.
- Weather permitting, allow your drapes and blinds to remain open when showing your home. This provides the various rooms of your house with natural light to add a spacious and more open feeling and eliminates any unsettling odors without attempting to cover them up with artificial air fresheners. If you can, again depending upon the weather, cleaning your windows will make the home look better from both the outside and inside.
- Think of applying a fresh layer of paint to your home as giving the place a facial: it isn’t complicated or very costly, but the results are immediately visible and rejuvenating. Light and neutral colors can brighten up rooms that might seem dark or closed off, and these colors are more tasteful and add a sense of calmness to the home. Any outdated décor, including wallpaper or wood paneling, should be removed or painted over. You will feel refreshed in the newly painted home, and so will potential buyers!
- Because bathrooms are areas of high use, you can be sure that most potential buyers will look closely at these rooms. Anything outdated or broken should be replaced, including hardware, flooring and fixtures. Make sure things that are supposed to work actually work, including the toilet, faucet and tub. If you have been having any issues with drains, consider investing in some inexpensive clog remover from your local hardware store. Caulking is another thing that can be easily replaced and makes a big difference to the bathroom’s quality and appearance.
- Regardless of the type of flooring your home has, be it carpet, tile, hardwood, etc., you should make sure it all is clean and in good shape. It is a good idea to have your carpets professionally cleaned, especially if you have pets, or removed entirely to expose coveted hardwood. Refinishing hardwood is not as hard as you may think; sanding and applying a finish is relatively easy once you clear the area of furniture and décor. Clean the grout between tiles, which will add a shine to a tile floor and make it appear new. If any tiles are chipped or cracked, they should be replaced before you show your house to potential buyers.
This list of simple home repairs is not exhaustive; it is important to make sure your home repairs are going to give you a good return on investment. Don’t stress too much about completely remodeling your house, simply put in the work to increase your home’s value with little cost to you. When you’re ready to sell, Howard Hanna is ready to help! Contact one of our outstanding sales associates today!
To find some unique and innovative ideas, check out Howard Hanna’s exciting Pinterest Boards!
Spring is the perfect time to get into a new home!
Get the most out of your money with these handy home-buying tips from HGTV's Buying & Selling.
Buying Secret #9: Get Pre-Approved for Your Home Loan
There’s a big difference between a buyer being pre-qualified and a buyer who has a pre-approved mortgage. Anybody can get pre-qualified for a loan. Getting pre-approved means a lender has looked at all of your financial information and they’ve let you know how much you can afford and how much they will lend you. Being pre-approved will save you a lot of time and energy so you are not running around looking at houses you can't afford. It also gives you the opportunity to shop around for the best deal and the best interest rates. Do your research: Learn about junk fees, processing fees or points and make sure there aren’t any hidden costs in the loan.
Buying Secret #8: Avoid a Border Dispute
It’s absolutely essential to get a survey done on your property so you know exactly what you’re buying. Knowing precisely where your property lines are may save you from a potential dispute with your neighbors. Also, your property tax is likely based on how much property you have, so it is best to have an accurate map drawn up.
Buying Secret # 7: Don’t Try to Time the Market
Don’t obsess with trying to time the market and figure out when is the best time to buy. Trying to anticipate the housing market is impossible. The best time to buy is when you find your perfect house and you can afford it. Real estate is cyclical, it goes up and it goes down and it goes back up again. So, if you try to wait for the perfect time, you’re probably going to miss out.
Buying Secret # 6: Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Everyone’s drawn to the biggest, most beautiful house on the block. But bigger is usually not better when it comes to houses. There’s an old adage in real estate that says don’t buy the biggest, best house on the block. The largest house only appeals to a very small audience and you never want to limit potential buyers when you go to re-sell. Your home is only going to go up in value as much as the other houses around you. If you pay $500,000 for a home and your neighbors pay $250,000 to $300,000, your appreciation is going to be limited. Sometimes it is best to is buy the worst house on the block, because the worst house per square foot always trades for more than the biggest house.
Buying Secret #5: Avoid Sleeper Costs
The difference between renting and home ownership is the sleeper costs. Most people just focus on their mortgage payment, but they also need to be aware of the other expenses such as property taxes, utilities and homeowner-association dues. New homeowners also need to be prepared to pay for repairs, maintenance and potential property-tax increases. Make sure you budget for sleeper costs so you’ll be covered and won’t risk losing your house.
Buying Secret #4: You’re Buying a House – Not Dating It
Buying a house based on emotions is just going to break your heart. If you fall in love with something, you might end up making some pretty bad financial decisions. There’s a big difference between your emotions and your instincts. Going with your instincts means that you recognize that you’re getting a great house for a good value. Going with your emotions is being obsessed with the paint color or the backyard. It’s an investment, so stay calm and be wise.
Buying Secret #3: Give Your House a Physical
Would you buy a car without checking under the hood? Of course you wouldn’t. Hire a home inspector. It’ll cost about $200 but could end up saving you thousands. A home inspector’s sole responsibility is to provide you with information so that you can make a decision as to whether or not to buy. It’s really the only way to get an unbiased third-party opinion. If the inspector does find any issues with the home, you can use it as a bargaining tool for lowering the price of the home. It’s better to spend the money up front on an inspector than to find out later you have to spend a fortune.
Buying Secret #2: The Secret Science of Bidding
Your opening bid should be based on two things: what you can afford (because you don’t want to outbid yourself), and what you really believe the property is worth. Make your opening bid something that’s fair and reasonable and isn’t going to totally offend the seller. A lot of people think they should go lower the first time they make a bid. It all depends on what the market is doing at the time. You need to look at what other homes have gone for in that neighborhood and you want to get an average price per square foot. Sizing up a house on a price-per-square-foot basis is a great equalizer. Also, see if the neighbors have plans to put up a new addition or a basketball court or tennis court, something that might detract from the property’s value down the road.
Today, so many sellers are behind in their property taxes and if you have that valuable information it gives you a great card to negotiate a good deal. To find out, go to the county clerk’s office.
Sellers respect a bid that is an oddball number and are more likely to take it more seriously. A nice round number sounds like every other bid out there. When you get more specific the sellers will think you've given the offer careful thought.
Buying Secret #1: Stalk the Neighborhood
Before you buy, get the lay of the land – drop by morning noon and night. Many homebuyers have become completely distraught because they thought they found the perfect home, only to find out the neighborhood wasn’t for them. Drive by the house at all hours of the day to see what’s happening in the neighborhood. Do your regular commute from the house to make sure it is something you can deal with on a daily basis. Find out how far it is to the nearest grocery store and other services. Even if you don’t have kids, research the schools because it affects the value of your home in a very big way. If you buy a house in a good school district versus bad school district even in the same town, the value can be affected as much as 20 percent.
Baby It's Cold Outside......
It may be winter outside, but you can cozy up inside with these bedroom ideas. I am absolutely loving the plaid duvet with the fireplace! That cozy cabin feel just screams "stay in bed with hot cocoa and a movie"! I'm also crazy about the thick knit throw in the white bedroom. Who wouldn't want to curl up in that? I would add that to the plaid duvet for double the coziness! How are you staying warm this winter?
Introducing Pantone 2017 Color of the Year...GREENERY!
I absolutely LOVE this color! Use it in patterns, accent pieces, wall color, draperies, and furniture...YES, that's right. You can use this color anywhere in your home! Greenery plays very well with others, especially greys, blues, and neutrals! Whether modern, rustic, or traditional, greenery is the go to color this year! Try it on your nails and eyes too if your feeling brave. Just HAVE FUN!
Organizing for the New Year!
The holidays are over! Now is the time to breathe a sigh of relief and get organized! No doubt, your children received more toys for the holidays than you know what to do with. Naturally, children tend to accumulate things and not want to let go. Now that the new year is upon us, it is the perfect time to clean out and organize. Get your children involved fr...om the very beginning, explain to them that together, you will be sorting through toys, games, books and whatever else they have laying around. Talk to your children about donating toys that they no longer play with or perhaps selling the nicer things on craigslist or ebay. Books that are in good condition can sometimes be donated to you local school or public library. Toss out any broken items or toys that are missing pieces. When you have finished weeding through the chaos, you will assess the items left and decide how to best organize them.
There are so many organizational pieces on the market now, that you will more than likely be able to find something to hold everything. I have found a very easy way to organize young children is a large bookcase or shelf system and lots of attractive bins, boxes and baskets. Coloring books and drawing paper can be kept in flat boxes, while fabric bins can be used for action figures, barbies, trucks, etc. Art supplies like crayons and markers can be placed in jars for easy access. Larger trucks and stuffed animals can be sat on the shelves individually. Be sure to take your children along when shopping for containers and let them help you pick things out, this will help ensure that they will use the system being put into place. Organization is a learned behavior, so teaching your child at an early age will make life easier for years to come.
Photo source: hgtv