What You Need to Know About Cleaning for Coronavirus

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands.COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online.

What Is COVID-19?

Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Decluttering to Prevent Illness

If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.

Disinfecting Surfaces

The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.

Handwashing Stations

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.

Don’t Panic

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.
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Stranded Without a Kitchen Island?

When it comes to home improvements, there are few things that are requested more often than kitchen islands. Having a kitchen island can totally change the way that you work in your kitchen, and in some cases they can even add new functionality that you might not have had before. Because they’re such a hot commodity in a lot of homes, having a kitchen island in place can even increase the value of your home if you decide to put it on the market! So what makes for a good kitchen island? Long gone are the days when a kitchen island was just an additional surface to set things on while working in the kitchen. If you’re thinking about installing a kitchen island of your own, here are a few things you could consider adding to it to make it a modern, functional island.

Cooking Surfaces

Many modern kitchen islands contain burners, full stove tops or other cooking surfaces. Some even contain griddles or electric grills, giving you cooking options that your standard cook top might not offer. This both allows you to cook in different ways and gives you more surfaces and heat sources to work with when you’re fixing a large meal. Depending on the design of the kitchen island and the specific cooking surfaces added, you can either give the island an electric connection or hook it up to an existing gas line.

Island Appliances

Cooking surfaces aren’t the only things that people include in kitchen islands. You might also see appliances such as ovens, mini refrigerators or dishwashers included in the island as well. In some homes you might see less common appliances included as well such as a steamer, warming bin or wine cooler. If there are electrical outlets built into the island, you might also include countertop appliances such as a stand mixer, toaster or can opener.

Kitchen Prep Areas

One common reason for installing a kitchen island is to add a prep station to the kitchen that is separate from other kitchen surfaces. This can involve adding additional features, such as a small refrigerator to keep prepped items cold until you’re ready to cook. Some must-haves for a prep area on your kitchen island include a sink and some form of cutting surface. Ideally the sink should be deep enough to wash vegetables and other food items and should have both hot and cold running water. The cutting surface can take a variety of forms, though butcher block is a popular option. Having a rack or storage for cutting boards and possibly a built-in knife block are also popular options.

Additional Storage

If there’s one thing that almost every kitchen needs, it’s more storage. Your kitchen island can help with this, giving you a place to add additional drawers, shelves or cabinets. Spice racks or other ingredient storage is also a popular option to add. If you want to make the most use of your kitchen island space, you can also add a hanging rack above your kitchen island for pots, pans and other cooking items.

Stow-Under Seating

Some people want to be able to use their kitchen island as a place to enjoy a quick meal, especially at breakfast or lunch. Stools or other small seating options that store under a lip on the kitchen island can make this happen, providing easy access seating that stores out of the way when not in use. A seating space can be added on top of other features, typically by letting the side of the island that faces away from the main kitchen be used for seating while the interior-facing side is more functional.

Ready to Build Your Island?

If you want to find a pro to build your kitchen island or hook up your various fixtures, trust in HomeKeepr. Sign up for a free account today and start connecting with the professionals who can make your dream kitchen island a reality.
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Top Repairs to Tackle Before Listing Your Home

When you put your home on the market, you obviously want to get as much as you can for the property. A lot of things can affect your home’s value, including many items that are largely out of your control. That’s not saying that you can’t do anything to bring the value up before listing your home, however. In fact, there are some things that you absolutely need to do before you even think about sticking that “For Sale” sign in the yard. Depending on what city, county and state your home is in, there may be code requirements you need to address before you’re allowed to list or sell your property. On top of that, however, here are five fixes that you can make to help get the most from your home when you sell.

Water Stains

If you’ve got water stains on the ceiling or walls, they tell potential buyers that there are leaks somewhere. It’s possible that you already took care of the leak, but a buyer isn’t going to know that, and will likely assume that there’s still a nasty surprise waiting for them somewhere. You obviously need to track down the leak and repair it, but after that’s done you should do something about the water stain as well. Don’t just slap a thin coat of paint on them and call it a day, either; take the time to do it right so that the stains don’t reappear.

Slow Drains

If you have slow drains in your home, this can be a big red flag for some home buyers. They might ask about the plumbing, or even want to run more water to see what the water pressure and drains are like everywhere else. To head off potential problems it’s important to do your best to take care of the issue. In many cases it’s a relatively easy fix, though there are some causes of slow drains that will take a plumber to straighten out. Still, the effort you put into it now can result in a higher selling price once someone buys the house.

Switches and Outlets

People don’t want to buy houses that have electrical problems. If your switches or outlets look discolored or beaten up, this can lead people to assume that there are problems even if there aren’t. Take the time to replace any damaged, discolored or malfunctioning switches and outlets, along with any non-working fixtures or “mystery switches” that you might have around the house. Even if it’s not a very big job, it can have a major impact on how potential buyers view your home.

Trip Hazards

Are there any loose bits of carpet or wood on your floor that you’ve learned to just step around? Fix them before you have people in to look at the house. You might have gotten used to them, but a potential buyer won’t be. They’ll see potential tripping hazards as something they’ll need to fix, and they’ll negotiate the price down as a result.

Walls and Ceilings

Are your walls drab, dull and damaged? Take the time to fix any holes or dings before you list the house. A little bit of drywall repair can go a long way, and this can be a perfect time to update the look of your rooms with a fresh coat of paint as well. Don’t neglect the ceiling either, since those little issues that you’ve learned to overlook will stick out like a sore thumb to potential buyers.

Need Help?

If you have some repairs to make before listing but don’t know where to start, HomeKeepr can help you find the pro you need to get your home in tip-top shape. Sign up for a free account today to find pros in your area that come recommended by people you know and trust. They’ll get your home ready to sell and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it.
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Be Snow Storm Ready!

Winter weather has a way of catching people by surprise. Even if you know a snow storm is coming, the amount of snow or speed of accumulation can sometimes take you by surprise. Unexpected snow can create a number of dangerous situations, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible in case a snow storm hits. To that end, here are a few ways that you can be ready to face snow storms or other hazards that winter might throw your way. Some of these tips may be useful for facing down other types of bad weather as well. Regardless of what the weather’s doing, though, make sure that you stay safe first and foremost.

Get Travel Done Early

If you need to go to the store, help relatives get ready for the snow or otherwise get out on the roads, try to get everything done as early as possible. If you can, try to be back home before the snow falls. If that’s not an option, head out at your earliest opportunity and avoid the temptation to break the speed limit. You shouldn’t waste time, but trying to rush increases your likelihood of an accident, so avoid going too fast while you’re behind the wheel.

Stay Inside

Ice and low temperatures typically accompany snow storms, so it’s best to stay inside where it’s warm. This will also eliminate the risk that you might slip on ice and injure yourself in a fall. Also remember that this rule applies for pets, too; either bring them inside or provide a safe and warm place for them while the weather outside is frightful.

Stock Up

Dry goods and canned foods are important staples to have when the snow is coming down outside. They might not be as tasty of an option as fresh-cooked meats and other meals, but the tastier options are sometimes harder to cook if your power is flickering due to the snow storm. Be sure that you include pet food, bottled water and similar items that you might not always get on a shopping trip! (And no, you most likely won’t need bread and milk unless you’re running low on those items anyway).

Stay Warm

Power outages can be a real hazard during snow storms. Make sure that you have multiple blankets available to cover up with in case the power should go out for a while. Home generators or even portable generators can be very useful if the power goes out, but remember to keep them outside as they often produce dangerous exhaust. The same goes for gas-powered heaters; you shouldn’t place them in the house since it can be hard to ventilate the gases that can build up when using those heaters indoors.

Have a Plan

Before a snow storm hits, take the time to develop a plan for your family in case of snow emergency. This should include making sure that everyone in the house knows where emergency supplies are located, how any generators you have work and other details like whose responsibility it is to go on a grocery run or evaluate potential damage after the snow stops falling. Make sure that you include something in your plan about checking in on your neighbors as well, since it’s important to make sure that nobody gets stuck in the cold once the snow starts to fall.

Is Your Roof Snow Storm Ready?

One part of your home that takes a real beating during snowy weather is your roof. To help prevent leaks or other roof failure during the winter, have your roof checked out by a professional each year. HomeKeepr can help you find a roofer to check the integrity of your roof and make any repairs that might be necessary. Sign up for your free account today to get your roof checked before the big snow hits.
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Insulation 101

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation.

How Insulation Works

Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.

Understanding R-Values

Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.

Types of Insulation

Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:

  • Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed.
  • Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss.
  • Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well.
  • Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient.
  • Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves.

You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.

Air Sealing

Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.

Insulation Installation

Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.

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Are Smart Homes Here to Stay?

There’s been quite a bit of hype about smart homes in recent years. These aren’t the top-to-bottom smart homes that were envisioned by science fiction for years, of course. Those were houses that had a central artificial intelligence that controlled everything and inevitably went rogue at some point. Instead, modern smart homes are usually traditional homes just like the one that you live in. They’ve simply been enhanced with sensors and devices and the occasional digital assistant. Some people are thrilled with how technology is changing the way we interact with our home environment. Others aren’t quite so happy with the direction that this trend is heading. Love them or hate them, though – there’s one thing that you need to accept: The smart home isn’t going away.

What Makes a Smart Home?

A smart home is one that has a variety of sensors and controls within it that give you additional information or functionality when it comes to your home. This can range from information like whether you left the front door unlocked or what the temperature is in your living room to functions such as controlling your lights with your voice. Some smart homes use a central hub or device to control everything, while others use components that connect via wifi and are controlled by your phone. Some smart homes feature appliances or other major fixtures that have “smart” capabilities while others just use devices or sensors to make day-to-day life more convenient. Because of the device-based nature of modern smart homes, homeowners can choose exactly the components they want to help make the smart home installation meet their specific needs.

Smart Home Devices

There are a wide range of smart home devices available for homeowners. Some of these are fairly well known, such as smart thermostats that feature programmable temperature controls that “learn” how best to keep you comfortable. Others are less common but very handy, such as leak sensors that alert you when your pipes leak or window sensors that let you check to see whether your windows or locked or unlocked. You can get smart lighting that can be controlled remotely and can even change colors, smart locks that you can lock and unlock with your phone or a key fob, smart smoke and CO2 detectors, motion sensors that activate security cameras but that are able to ignore pets and small animals… the list is quite extensive. Most of these devices are programmable so you can automate specific tasks, or can at least be paired with things such as a digital assistant (like Amazon Echo devices or Google Home) to schedule automation and even voice control.

Safety and Privacy

There are a number of advantages to using smart devices, including saving money and increasing convenience in your daily life. However, some people have security and privacy concerns as well. Some smart devices have been exploited in the past, allowing hackers to listen in or speak through the devices to people in a smart home. Some devices featuring video also raise security concerns as people worry that others will be able to record them going throughout their day. While these are valid concerns, security breaches and flaws are taken seriously by manufacturers. The majority of cases where unwanted access has occurred were either due to flaws that have since been patched or due to someone gaining access to the password that secures the devices. This is why it’s important for those who buy smart devices to use strong passwords on their accounts and to make sure that their devices have up-to-date software, as these two actions will mitigate the majority of security concerns.

Get Smart

Whether you already have smart home devices installed or you’re just curious, there are installers and consultants who can help you determine exactly how your home could be a little smarter. If you’re interested, HomeKeepr can help you connect with a consultant in your area that can help you along your way. Sign up now for your free account and get ready for your home to be that much smarter.
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17 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your House

Selling your house can be both exciting and stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Regardless of why you decided to sell your home, there are a number of pitfalls you can easily fall into, making your home selling experience less than ideal. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the most common home selling mistakes people make so you can sell your home knowing you have your bases covered. A home for sale

Underestimating the cost of selling your house

While you should ultimately profit from the sale of your home, many home sellers forget about the costs associated with selling a house. For starters, you should expect to use five to six percent of the total sale price of your home to cover the commissions of both the seller and buyer agents. For example, if you sell your home for $300,000 you could wind up paying upwards of $18,000 in commission. Furthermore, this hefty cost doesn’t include possible concessions homebuyers might want you to make during the negotiation phase, such as making repairs suggested by a home inspector.

Not budgeting for your move

When you consider the moving process, you have two options: hiring a moving company or borrow your buddy’s truck and doing it yourself. By hiring a moving company, rather than doing it yourself, you’re getting someone who will pack, move, and then unpack your belongings. This means that a full-service mover can be well worth the investment when you’re preoccupied with all of the other tasks associated with selling your home. Not to mention, when you hire movers your belongings are insured so you’re covered if anything breaks.

Selling a house you owe more on than what it’s worth

If you still have a remaining balance on your mortgage, you’ll most likely use a portion of the sale proceeds of your home to pay off the existing mortgage. Make sure you don’t owe more on your mortgage than what your house is actually worth or you won’t make enough money on the sale to pay off your mortgage. The best option is almost always to wait on selling your home so that it can build more equity. This way you can sell your home and buy a new one without having two mortgages at the same time.

Pricing your home incorrectly

If you price your home too high, your home may fall into seller’s limbo, sitting on the market for what feels like an eternity. On the other hand, if you price too low then you will likely sell your home quickly but you risk missing out on a significant amount of money. The first step to understanding how much your home is worth is utilizing an online calculator. Afterward, meet with your real estate agent to discuss a good pricing strategy for your home. They will look at other comparable properties in your neighborhood that sold recently as well as bring keen insights into what the housing market is currently doing. Together, you’ll determine a good starting price as well as a pricing strategy that will incentivize buyers if your house begins to sit on the market for too long.

Skipping a pre-listing home inspection

Selling a house is stressful enough, even when everything goes right. But if a homebuyer hires an inspector who catches an issue like mold, pests, or a cracked foundation, then your stress levels will multiply as you risk losing a potential sale entirely. Given the affordability of home inspections, there’s not much reason to avoid them. Getting a pre-listing home inspection will put your mind at ease as you’ll either know that your home is in sound condition or you’ll be able to tackle problems before homebuyers have the chance to bring them up during the negotiation phase. If an issue does arise, you can either fix it or you can let buyers know and then make a concession during the negotiation phase by reducing the price of your home accordingly.

Not refinishing hardwood floors or cleaning your carpet

If you’re reading this at home, look down. How do your floors look? Even if they don’t look terrible, there’s a pretty good chance they’re starting to show their age. Since potential buyers are going to be inspecting every aspect of your home, you should start thinking of refinishing your hardwood floors and cleaning your carpet. A living room with wood floor The best time to have your carpet cleaned or hardwood floors refinished is right before you stage your home. Since you’ll already be moving most (or all) of your furniture to either a new home or a storage unit, this is a great time to get your floors done (like the floors above) and make them a selling point to potential homebuyers.

Not staging your home for a quick sale

The main point of staging your home is to allow potential homebuyers the chance to picture themselves living in your space. They get to see a home with furniture and art that’s arranged in a way that highlights key features of your home, rather than an empty house that echoes every sound. Staging your home pays off too as 21 percent of agents told the National Association of Realtors that staging a home increased its’ sale price by as much as 10 percent, making it a worthwhile investment.

Forgoing professional real estate photos

With the advent of cameras on smartphones, everyone likes to think of themselves as a photographer these days. Even though that picture you took of your dinner last week looked like it could be featured in advertisements, you’re still probably not ready to take your own real estate photos. A real estate photographer will make sure that your home looks great when you list it because not only do they have the equipment, they understand the angles that best sell a home. If you have a large home, a stunning view you want to show off, or a large amount of land, you may also want to consider having aerial photos taken of your home. The views that drones are able to capture are impressive and can help show off your home in a way that will make sure it stands out from other houses in your area that are on the market. Even better, drone technology makes this option more affordable than ever before, allowing you to get a lot more bang for your buck.

Trying to sell a poorly lit home

You want to show your home in the best light, so take the time to really gauge the quality of your lighting by closing your curtains/blinds and looking at each room as though you’re a potential homebuyer. Make a note of any rooms that are poorly lit or just seem dark and then call an electrician so that you can have some additional lighting installed. a well lit home for sale Even worse than a poorly lit room, however, is when the lights don’t work at all. Sometimes the light bulb is just burnt out, while other times the socket itself is in need of repair. Consider calling an electrician before you begin showing your home to make sure it’s shining its brightest like the one above. Potential buyers (and your bank account) will thank you for the investment.

Not making your home energy efficient

If you’d like to spend less on your utility bills, you aren’t alone. A study by the National Association of Realtors found that 33 percent of homebuyers see high-efficiency HVAC systems as an important factor when looking at a new home. If you have an older home, you should look into either retrofitting or replacing your HVAC unit altogether as your current system might be using a lot more energy than it needs to be. This will ensure that you have a system that is meeting your home’s needs, while also lowering your utility bill. If you’re committed to energy-efficiency then there are a few extra things you can do. These options include making sure your home is properly insulated, ensuring that you don’t have any leaky air ducts, and buying a smart thermostat. Whichever route you pursue, having an energy-efficient HVAC system will make your house stand out from the competition.

Not cleaning your house before trying to sell it

Most of us would probably be lying if we said our homes weren’t overdue for a good cleaning, so don’t forget to check this box before listing your home for sale. There’s nothing more off-putting during a home tour than realizing the house is dirty, and potential homebuyers may wonder what else you’ve been neglecting. By hiring a professional cleaning company, you’ll guarantee that not only is your home spotless but that you’re going to make a great impression on homebuyers when they tour your house.

Not addressing the exterior of your house

Over the years, your home’s exterior has taken a beating from the elements. With everything mother nature throws at it every year, the paint on your home’s exterior and the stain on your deck have likely lost a bit of their luster. So before listing, be sure to pressure wash your house first. In addition to making sure your house looks its best in the listing photos, you will also enhance the overall curb appeal when buyers eventually show up for a tour. In addition to pressure washing your house and deck, you can also take the time to pressure wash your garage door, fence, patio, driveway, and any walkways you may have.

You never got around to repainting

One of the first things a potential buyer will notice when they pull up to your home is the paint. If you want to make a good first impression, then you’ll need to ensure that your home is painted an inviting color and that the quality of your paint job is top-notch. While the job of repainting your house might take a few days, the value of painting your house before selling will be well worth the effort.  A recent study found that painting the exterior of your home has a 51 percent return on investment. Don’t stop with the exterior though! We’ve all seen some pretty questionable color choices on the walls of homes. If you happen to have a lime green or bright purple wall, you’ll want to repaint them to be a more buyer-friendly neutral color. Doing so will make it easier for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in your home as it makes them think of your walls as a blank canvas.

Selling a home with a yard in need of some TLC

The other way to make a great first impression is by wowing potential buyers with your yard. Start by cleaning up anything that may be cluttering your yard, porch, or pathways (things like gardening equipment or a child’s bicycle). Then you can move onto mowing the lawn, weeding your garden, and planting some new flowers. If your yard has a damaged pathway, you may also want to think about fixing or even replacing it as well. If these touch-ups seem like a lot to tackle while you’re trying to sell your home, don’t be afraid to hire a landscaper as the cost is well worth it. A study by Turf Magazine found that a home’s value tended to increase by as much as 10 to 12 percent after making upgrades to the landscaping.

You have mismatched appliances

Maybe your black stove died a couple of years ago and you replaced it with a brand new stainless steel one. Or maybe you swapped out that white kitchen faucet you always hated with a copper one that caught your eye. Either way, the result is mismatched appliances. While it won’t necessarily impact the overall sale price of your home, many homebuyers are going to find the mismatched color scheme off-putting, so consider making some changes before you sell – the kitchen below is great inspiration. kitchen with matched appliances The best way to proceed is to decide which kitchen appliances are your favorite and base the color scheme off of them. So if that fancy new stove you bought last year is stainless steel, then make sure your other appliances are too. Luckily, many appliance manufacturers offer discounts if you purchase multiple appliances with them at once.

Lingering during a home tour

Nobody likes a lingerer, especially when they also happen to be the owner of the home you’re currently touring. If you don’t leave the home during a showing, then potential buyers feel awkward as they attempt to discuss what they like and dislike about the house. You also prevent your listing agent from being able to do their job to the best of their abilities as you’re naturally going to want to answer any questions the buyers have rather than leaving those questions to your agent. So instead of staying in your home during a showing, try taking the opportunity to go shopping, run errands, or visit some friends instead. Your agent will thank you.

Taking a Lowball Offer Personally

Regardless of your reasons for moving, the fact that you’ve probably lived in your home for years means that you have a lot of strong feelings attached to it. So when you receive a lowball offer, it’s natural to be offended. Instead of walking away, send them back a counteroffer that you and your real estate agent think is fair. If they really are interested, then you’ll be glad you didn’t let your emotions get the better of you.
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Are You Sure You Own Your Fence?

As Robert Frost (somewhat facetiously) said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While many people have much better relationships with their neighbors than the saying implies, there is something to be said for a good fence on your property. Not only can fences add some visual appeal to the property, but they can also be functional. Fences are often a godsend if you own animals and don’t want to keep them chained up outside, and a fence around your backyard can afford you some privacy with your family or friends as well.Sometimes, though, fences need to be updated, removed or replaced. At these times, homeowners have found themselves in conflict with their good neighbors over the question of who actually owns the fence between their properties. While this might seem like an odd question, if the fence was already there when you moved in, are you completely sure that it belongs to you? Just whose side of the property line does it really fall on?

Figuring Out Ownership

Before you start tearing down an existing fence, it’s important to figure out if you actually have legal ownership of the fence itself. Friendly neighbors can become bitter enemies pretty quickly if you start tearing down a fence that belongs to the people living next door. You can also cause some hurt feelings if you start taking the fence down and accidentally tear up gardens or other plants that grow next to or on the fence. This is why it’s essential to determine ownership before you make any move on the fence. Not clearing things beforehand can not only cause hurt feelings and ruin a neighborly relationship, but in some cases a neighbor might even get the police or lawyers involved.

A Neighborly Conversation

One of the first things that you should do if there’s any question about the ownership of the fence is go over and have a chat with your neighbor. Explain that you want to replace the fence, provide your reasoning on why the fence has to go, and ask if they know whose property the fence falls on. If the fence is on your property, the neighbor should tell you; if it’s on theirs, then you can open up a larger conversation about replacing it. This also gives you an opportunity to talk about any plants or other features that might be disturbed during the process and make accommodations for pets or other animals that gaps in the fence might put at risk. Be sure to approach the topic casually and with a friendly tone; if you come across as too aggressive or seem defensive about the question then it can cause the conversation to head south pretty quickly.

Checking That Property Line

Unless your conversation with your neighbor sorts things out neatly, it’s a good idea to get a survey done to settle the matter of where the fence lies. A surveyor will ensure that the property line is clearly marked so you can see exactly where the fence lies on the property line. In some cases, it will clear the matter up readily, since the fence will obviously fall on one property or the other. In other cases, you might find that the fence actually straddles the line or moves from one property to the other. In this case you may need to discuss the issue more with your neighbor or consult the property deed or other official description of the property to see whether the fence is mentioned. Regardless, knowing where the property line falls gives you a lot of leverage in solving the issue.

Solving Your Fencing Woes

Whether you’re in need of a surveyor to help you figure out ownership or a contractor to replace the fence, HomeKeepr is here to help. With a free HomeKeepr account you can connect with professionals in your area that will assist you in getting your fencing issues cleared up in no time. Sign up for a free account today so you can get started on your fencing project tomorrow.
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Bargain Buying 101: Things to Look for In a Deal

When you’re shopping for a new home, it’s not uncommon to face a little bit of sticker shock when it comes to price. This often leads to buyers trying to find a good balance between what they want and what they can afford. However, if you’re smart (and maybe a little lucky), you may be able to find some really great deals if you know what to look for. One of the keys to finding a good deal is to look for properties that have qualities that might seem unappealing at first but that can be corrected fairly easily. Some of these things can drive prices down significantly but won’t require a major renovation to fix. If you’re hoping to find a bargain, here are a few things to look out for.

Ugly Paint

Even though there’s a lot of damage that can make your paint look ugly, sometimes the paint is just ugly because someone chose to bring together colors that should never coexist. It could be awful colors, it could be cheap paint that’s faded over time or it could even be an amateur paint job that never got touched up. Regardless of the reason for the ugly paint job, it can drive the price of the property down by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t even have to be the entire house; one ugly room can give you an opportunity to find a good deal on an otherwise nice property.

Landscaping Issues

A property’s yard is one of the first things that potential buyers see. If it’s obviously been neglected or has bald patches and overgrown flower beds, this can make a negative first impression because it suggests that the house itself might not have been taken care of either. That isn’t always the case, though. Even if the house is in good condition, a yard that needs some TLC can usually shave some money off the asking price and help you to net a great deal.

Fixtures and Accents

There are a lot of cosmetic elements in houses that can start looking rough over time. Handles and knobs can come loose or become tarnished, shutters can get loose, bathroom tiles can become cracked… the list goes on. While updating these issues won’t break the bank, many sellers will drop their asking price quite a bit due to how these little things make the house look.

Bathroom Concerns

A lot of buyers shy away from houses that have obvious bathroom problems, causing those sellers to bring the price down significantly in many cases. Depending on the extent of the issues in the bathroom, though, there could be a real opportunity here. If the problem with the bathroom is mostly cosmetic, then you may be able to fix it on the relatively cheap side and save a lot of money in the process. Just be sure to keep an eye out for signs of water damage or mold, since that could indicate problems that would be much more expensive to fix.

Previous Foreclosure

One other strategy for finding a deal is to look for bank-owned properties that were previous foreclosures. These properties are often sold at a discount because the bank isn’t necessarily trying to sell the house at market value, it’s simply trying to recoup the money it lost when it had to foreclose. The amount you can save will depend on both the bank and the amount of equity that was in the home when it was foreclosed, but you may luck into a great deal on a nice house this way. Just be aware that while there are legitimate programs that can help you find a foreclosed property, there are also some scammy ones out there as well.

Call in the Experts

Having your Realtor help you with your search is another way to find hidden gems and get a bargain on your next home. They can find you properties that need some of these little fixes and give you an idea of what sort of updates the property could need.
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The Post-Inspection Negotiation Two-Step: What You Can Expect

Inspections are an important part of the home-selling process. The home inspector will locate any potential problems with the property, making sure that all involved know what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. What happens then, though? Whose responsibility is it to fix the issues that the home inspector discovered? As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”

Gauging Severity

One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.

Loan Program Requirements

Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.

Negotiating Repairs

In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)

Market Strength

The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.

Need Some Help?

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
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