Consumer Real Estate News

  • How to Build the Best Deck

    19 April 2018

    If you're planning to add a deck to your house, don't break ground before considering the following factors:

    Location, location. If you're lucky enough to have multiple places your deck could go, then consider important environmental factors like what area gets the most sun, the direction of the wind, and so forth, when choosing the placement of your deck. This will not only help your deck last longer, but can allow you to dodge some unexpected surprises, like sideways rain all spring that renders your covered deck almost unusable,

    Mull over material. Talk to a professional about what material would be best for your area and the positioning of your deck. Wood is gorgeous, but if you live in a rainy area and your deck will be uncovered, you may be begging for rot.Other options include composite materials, which often come with 25-year warranties.

    Collect several bids. Don't go with the first contractor to offer a bid, even if the bid is reasonable. Multiple bids help you get a good feel of what the project is worth, and chat with a handful of different competent professionals, who can offer insight and ideas.  

    Pull a permit. Sure, it may seem easier and cheaper to skip the permitting process, especially if you live in a remote area; however, acquiring a permit not only makes your deck more valuable when it comes time to sell, but also the professional whose job it is to review your building plan may have some insights on best practices and code requirements, and are usually happy to share their expertise.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Hiring a Home Inspector? Read This First

    19 April 2018

    If you're hiring a home inspector for the first time to look at a house you'd like to purchase, you may be unsure what to expect. A professional home inspection can not only educate you on the condition of the home, but can also minimize costly surprises later on; however, not all home inspectors are created equal. Before hiring that inspector, read these tips from HouseMaster.

    Check experience and training. Ask how long the company has been in business and about the specific formal training and ongoing education the inspectors have, and verify the company carries professional liability insurance, also known as "errors & omissions" (E&O). If the company doesn't carry this insurance, it could indicate a poor track record or lack of experience.

    Ensure accountability. Buyers want to know their inspector is committed to doing their best every time. Only hire a home inspector who will be accountable to you for the quality of their service with their own written guarantee. Many home inspectors today pay third-party companies to cover issues they may miss.    

    Discuss confidentiality. It's not uncommon for home inspectors to offer customers certain extras, such as discounts on products and services needed during a home purchase. While everyone loves a deal, you will want to ensure your contact information is not distributed to third parties you don't know about in exchange for these so-called savings.

    Inspect ancillary systems. It's hard for first-time homebuyers to know what they need, so ask what additional services the company offers. If the home you are considering has a septic system, for example, a professional home inspection company may offer septic system inspections or can coordinate that service for you. Generally, the company will offer you a multiple services discount. That also provides you the added convenience of only having to attend one inspection appointment. Other common services offered by home inspectors are termite inspections, mold screening, water testing and radon testing.

    Go along on the inspection. Ask the inspection company if they encourage buyers to tag along on the inspection. If the inspector discourages you from going along and asking questions, find another inspector. A home inspection is not simply a laundry list of what is wrong with the home; in addition to documenting issues and needed repairs that may exist, a professional home inspector will also show the new buyer how to operate the various systems in the home and provide tips on improving energy efficiency and maintaining the home in general. Being present during the inspection will make the final written report that much more meaningful.


    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • 5 Ways to Eat More Veggies

    19 April 2018

    Looking to add more veggies to your diet, but sick of salads and steamed sides? Below are a handful of ways you can up your veggie count with ease.

    Blend them. If you're a smoothie fan, you'd be thrilled to know adding a handful or two of baby spinach to your morning blend won't alter the flavor or texture of your favorite drink. It will, however, give you an added vitamin punch and a bright color.

    Juice them. Dust off that unused juicer and aim to make a fresh juice at least once a week. Enlist the help of your family to prep veggies and wash the juicer when you're done. Unsure of what blend to go with? Try green apple, spinach, cucumber and fennel.

    Chop them. Skip the chips! Keep chopped celery, peppers and carrots in the fridge for dipping into salsa and hummus.

    Shred them. Shred carrots, broccoli or cabbage and toss them into soups, stir fries, salads or casseroles, or toss them together with your favorite herbs and dressings for a savory slaw. To make this easier, shred up a bag at the beginning of the week and get to sprinkling.

    Cream them. Colorful carrots with a dash of ginger, chopped onion, salt, pepper and veggie stock can make an easy, creamy, low-fat soup. Just boil the ingredients up in a pot, then blend with an immersion blender for an easy, filling meal.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Minimize Springtime Allergies at Home

    18 April 2018

    Pollen counts are on the rise, which means allergy-sufferers need to prepare their homes to minimize the impact. Try these tips from air-quality experts Aire Serve:

    - You bedroom is especially prone to allergens, so start by encasing your pillows, box spring and mattress in a sealed tight, dust mite-proof cover. Also be sure to wash your sheets once a week to rid your bedding of any unwanted allergens.

    - Give your carpets a deep cleaning and vacuum at least once a week.

    - If you’re in the market for furniture, choose items that are accessible and easy to clean, especially for the living room.

    - Get rid of unnecessary clutter, such as old knick-knacks and piles of books and papers, that collect dust. Store items that you wish to save in plastic bins, and store them in your attic or a storage unit.

    - Open windows to allow for cross ventilation in your home. The air quality inside your home is usually much worse than outside, so allow the fresh air to come in and purify your home.

    - Check your indoor plants for mold build-up. Try covering them with aquarium gravel to prevent mold growth.

    - Use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and avoid moisture build-up when cooking.

    - A hot, humid house fosters mold growth and dust mites, so maintain a temperature of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Replacing air filters monthly will also help with this problem.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Sprinkler Tune-Up Tips

    18 April 2018

    Dragging the sprinkler out of the garage for the spring and summer? Before you begin your first water, consider the following sprinkler tune-up tips from Rain Bird.

    Make sure spring has sprung. Although all signs might be pointing to the arrival of spring, the soil beneath the landscape is always the last to thaw, especially in colder climates. Starting the sprinkler system while the ground is still frozen can result in damage to the pipes. Use a shovel to make sure that the soil is frost-free 12 inches deep. If it is still frozen, wait another week and test it again before starting the sprinkler system. (Before digging, make sure there aren't any utility lines to hit!)

    Take control. Run a check of the irrigation controls and programs. This includes dusting away the cobwebs on the timer, making sure the date and time are correct, and that the settings are appropriate for your landscape's watering needs and meet local watering regulations. Replace the back-up battery in the timer/controller annually and keep a copy of the watering schedule in a handy location.

    Check for blockages. Check for rocks, dirt, sand and other types of debris that may block the even flow of water from the sprinkler heads. Uneven distribution can lead to too much water in some areas and not enough in others, resulting in an unhealthy landscape and wasted water. Inspect spray heads and make sure they haven't become buried. Clear any debris that may have accumulated around them during the winter.

    Inspect for broken or worn components. Nozzles and sprinkler heads are designed to withstand normal wear and tear of irrigation, but are no match for errant lawn mowers, the neighbor's dog or snowplows. Replace cracked, chipped or worn components, such as sprinkler heads, nozzles, valves or pipes. A broken sprinkler can wreak havoc on lawns, gardens and water bills, so it is important to check and replace them periodically.

    Examine the valves. Valves are the heart of any irrigation system; they regulate the distribution of water throughout the entire system. A leaky valve will waste water and increase water bills. Visually inspect each valve to make sure they are operating properly. Before turning on any water to the system, make sure all manual drain valves are returned to the closed position. Be aware that overly wet areas in the lawn, resulting in muddy and/or barren patches, may be a result of a leaky valve.

    Restore water pressure slowly and pressure-check the system. When restoring water to the sprinkler system, open the main water valve slowly to allow pipes to fill with water in a gradual and controlled manner, thus preventing pressure surge and costly damage. It's a good idea to get a pressure gauge that attaches to a hose faucet to make sure the pressure is at a safe operating range for sprinkler systems—typically between 40-65 PSI. A system with too much pressure will result in cracked pipes, busted valves, sprinkler head leaks and inefficient watering. If your water pressure is too high, consider adding a pressure regulator.

    Time for an upgrade? Spring is also a good opportunity to consider upgrading your system to take advantage of improvements in sprinkler and controller technology. Pressure-regulated and water-efficient sprinkler options can reduce overall irrigation water use. These upgrades can save money on water usage and possibly qualify for a rebate from the government.

    By following these seven simple steps, homeowners can have more than luck on their side to avoid some of the more common—and expensive—problems with automatic sprinkler systems.


    Published with permission from RISMedia.