Every homeowner knows that there are things that simply have to be done, either every three months, every six months or yearly, to keep your biggest investment in tip-top shape. Here is a tidy little check-list to keep on hand to make sure you are staying on track:
- Inspect those gutters to make sure they are securely attached and free of leaves and debris
- Inspect your chimney to determine if a professional cleaning is needed
- Furnace must be inspected and cleaned by a professional
- Hot water tank inspection…by a professional
- Clean and seal your wood deck and its railings
- Vacuum all that lint from your clothes dryer duct and vent
- Check your septic tank’s level
- Re-caulk your exterior windows, doors, siding base and trim
- Re-caulk along the fronts of tubs and showers
- Inspect for worn fittings and connection on all plumbing fixtures in your home
- Have your carpets cleaned by a professional
- Garage Doors: oil the track, roller, hinges, pulleys and springs with a light gauge oil
- Have your sprinkler system inspected and winterized
- Drain and remove all hoses from the exterior of your house
- Shut off all of your outside faucets before freezing temperatures
- Prune trees
Every Six Months:
- Vacuum vents and coils at the back of your refrigerator
- Clean your stove’s vent and fan
- Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
Every Three Months:
- Clean or replace your furnace filter and air-conditioner filter
- Fertilize your lawn
For more home maintenance information go to This Old House.
Despite the current economy, the United States green building market is growing at a steady clip. Statistics show it at $49 billion for this year, a huge increase over the $10 billion dollars in 2005. Experts are speculating that number could triple by 2013.
One green builder has a very smart plan: to focus on building green homes for the middle class. Green Builders Incorporated, out of Austin, Texas builds homes that have an average asking price of $225,000. Green features of this home include:
- Square footage which ranges from 1,600 square feet to 3,500 square feet
- Bamboo flooring
- On-Demand Water Heaters
- Rain Barrels
- Insulated Windows
- High efficiency heat pumps
- Icynene spray foam insulation
- Non-toxic finishes minus those nasty volatile organic compounds
- Formaldehyde-free kitchen cabinets
- All homes come complete with Energy Star specs
- All homes meet the National Association of Home Builders green building standards
How, you are probably asking yourself, does this builder manage all of this with that svelte price tag? Well, for starters, this builder’s thirty years of experience has helped them to figure that certain higher-cost “green”” items actually save them money in other places. For example, when installing that thicker insulation, a smaller air conditioner is needed. Shorter duct runs are a savings when the attic is well-sealed. Facing and runs of soffit are reduced due to their Craftsman style, which amounts to the windows being placed farther up into the eves. In addition, the marketing of this type of home appeals to those looking to save up to as much as 50% on utilities, the health-conscious and environmentalists who are looking to live in a green home.
For more information about green building see Green Builders Inc.
If you need to sell your home and find that you are having trouble selling it, why not rent it? For many, this is a frightening idea because people believe there are so many ways for problems to arise within this particular arrangement. To avoid any possible problems, homeowners simply need to arm themselves with a few key pieces of information.
For starters, you must be able to emotionally disconnect from the house. You need to approach this new situation in the way you would if you were selling the house, since tenants do have privacy rights.
Secondly and most importantly, you must screen each and every tenant that you consider. You may consult the Landlord Protection Agency website for screening worksheets. Beware of “professional tenants” who seek out landlords that do not screen and bank on the idea that you may not know how to remove them from the house.
Thirdly, learn the laws in your state. There are many laws that protect the tenant and you must tailor your lease to your state’s rules.
Fourth, be smart about what you charge for rent. Consulting a real estate agent to learn about competition and rental prices is always wise.
Finally, be prepared to decide who is responsible for which repairs and upgrades. A basic rule of thumb is that if something breaks that affects quality of life or poses a danger to your tenant, you are responsible for it. Upgrades are obviously not requirements, although you may want to consider them if you find an agreeable tenant that you wish to keep long-term.
For all landlord related questions see The Landlord Protection Agency Website.
When the cold weather season begins, nothing is more enjoyable than sitting in front of a warm, crackling fire. Not only does it warm the body, but it also adds wonderful atmosphere for any occasion that simply cannot be duplicated. If problems with your chimney are getting in the way of your enjoyment of this small pleasure, please read on as there are always solutions.
Many homeowners complain of smoke coming out of their fireplaces when it is windy outside.
- This is caused when wind currents force air back down the chimney.
- Most of the time, large trees near the house can cause these downdrafts.
- You can fix this problem by placing a chimney cap on the chimney.
- If you already have a cap on your chimney, you may want to try installing a cap of different design.
Another common problem some homeowners experience is smoke that continuously pours out of the fireplace.
- This could be due to a blocked flue, or the flue is partially filled with soot and creosote.
- You can check for blockage with a flashlight for bird’s nests, or branches and leaves.
- If you find that you have creosote build-up, you will need a professional cleaning.
Another cause of smoke is that you may be using wet and/or green wood.
- Make sure that you dry your wood out properly before use, or purchase only seasoned dry wood.
- In a worst-case scenario you may find that you have a crack or leak in your flue lining.
- If this is the case you will need to have the liner replaced.
For more information on smoky fireplaces see The Garden Web.
Experts agree that adding value to your home and property is not as costly as you may think. There are many simple ways to add value that you can even do yourself without the help of a professional.
The first and most popular is paint. We all know how either the exterior of a home or an interior room can be magically transformed with the right shade of paint. If nothing else, it changes old and dingy to fresh and new.
Replacing that dated or worn front door can make a tremendous improvement in the way your home looks from the curb.
Changing old and worn light fixtures is another way to update and freshen your home’s exterior.
Adding foundation shrubs, bushes and flowers is another smart and inexpensive way to boost your home’s value, while adding a whole lot of curb appeal.
Inside the home, studies have shown that chrome fixtures are highly preferred to the more dated gold fixtures and that a fixed glass screen is preferred over a shower curtain.
If you plan to add window treatments, simple blinds are the most popular choice.
Consider changing your bathroom and kitchen drawer pulls and light fixtures with more modern choices – and see how it can transform the look of the room.
Studies also show that upgrading your appliances to more energy efficient models will add great value to your home.
For more information about adding value to your home go to HGTV.com.
Since there are several easy ways to cut your home energy costs, what better time to start implementing them than right now? You may have already heard many of these tips repeated by experts, but they are tried and true and really do help you save.
- Washer and Dryer Use: By simply by changing the temperature from hot to warm on your clothes washer you can halve your energy usage. And if you line dry just half of your clothing on an indoor drying rack, you can save up to $52 per year.
- Replace your upright freezer for a chest freezer. Chest freezers consume up to 25% less energy because the cold air does not pour out each time you open the door. You can calculate what your current model versus a new one would save you at recyclemyoldfridge.com.
- Change all of your bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs or light-emitting diodes. Incandescents only use 10% of their energy for light, the remaining 90% is turned to heat.
- Make it possible to unplug devices when not in use. Many of these devices use power even in their stand-by mode. A simple way to do this is to plug your televisions, printers, iPods and cellphones into a power surge protector. By switching one button, you can even turn them all off at once. This small change could save you up to $100 per year.
- By weather stripping drafty doors and caulking windows can save you up to 20% on heating and air conditioning costs.
- Installing double-paned Low Emissivity windows can save you up to $450 per year in energy costs. See which windows are classified as Energy Star on energystar.gov.
- Choose an Energy Star Appliance when the time comes to replace your home’s leading energy guzzlers. These include your refrigerator, clothes washer, clothes dryer and dishwasher. You will save up to $75 per year.
- Wood Burning stoves can save you anywhere from 20% – 40% on your home heating bills.
When choosing flooring for your kitchen, you may find yourself second-guessing hardwood. Although the beauty of hardwood flooring is hard to deny, the eventual cost to maintain it may cancel out your desire for its natural beauty. Unfortunately, wood absorbs moisture which can cause cracking and warping over time. In a worst-case scenario it could even end up cupping or crowning in spots. Your only solutions to these problems are to either sand down the affected section and re-finish, or replace it entirely.
Since the kitchen demands a flooring material that can withstand high foot traffic, stain-resistance and comfort, laminate flooring may be the perfect solution. There are a myriad of styles and colors available and it is moisture-resistant. Stains can be cleaned quite easily as well. This material is not only affordable, but is relatively simple to install. If you decide upon it, just allow the tiles to sit in their future home for a few days so that they can adjust to the atmosphere they will eventually be installed in. The individual tiles will expand and contract. When installing, don’t forget to leave a quarter of an inch between the wall and the flooring. A wet tile saw is perfect for cutting this material to size. As always, before installation make sure to fill in any holes or dings, and sand away any bumps on your sub-flooring. These things could affect the final result. For help with installation try viewing these DIY instructions.
Homeowners should tackle some of these jobs very soon, if they have not done so already. Beating the snow with the following tips is a very good idea!
- Clear away all items of clutter on the exterior of your home. Piles of firewood too close to the house can become a warm home for rodents.
- Rake your lawn one last time and apply winterizing fertilizer. You still have about one week past Thanksgiving to do this. Running the mower over stray, left-over leaves is allright as it can create a nice mulch for your lawn. Winterizing fertilizer can even help break down those leaves to feed your lawn over winter.
- Change any outdoor bulbs which are high enough that you need a ladder to change. Do you really want to be climbing up a ladder on a freezing cold, dark, possibly snowy night?
- Consider applying weather-stripping to doors and applying window film to your drafty windows. This can increase your energy efficiency by a whopping 70%.
- Prune any trees that require fall pruning.
- Clear those gutters of all leaves.
Despite this current economic downturn, there are some real estate websites that are faring quite positively during this time. At the top of the pile is Trulia. Trulia, Inc. is a national residential real estate search site that was started in San Francisco in 2005. It was a venture capital-backed startup. According to Comscore, Trulia had 2.58 million visitors in the month of October, which unbelievably was one hundred percent higher than October of last year. Trulia’s officials report that their website receives five million hits per month.
Trulia’s revenue comes mostly from advertising and Realtor membership payments. Its co-founder and C.O.O. Sami Inkinen claims that their revenue is growing by double digits each month, and that they expect the company to become profitable by the first half of 2009. Two other Real Estate websites that are doing remarkably well are a real estate brokerage site named ZipRealty, and the national commercial Real Estate search site named LoopNet Inc.