Consumer Real Estate News


    • Homeowners: Avoid These Common Yard Maintenance Errors

      20 June 2019

      Whether you're a new homeowner or a seasoned pro, yard maintenance often feels like trial and error. To help, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares the following common yard pitfalls, and offers advice on how to avoid them.

      Investing in the wrong equipment. Make sure the lawn mower is the right size for the lawn. If the lot is more wooded, a chainsaw and/or hedge trimmer may be required. Or perhaps a homeowner is moving from an apartment to a single-family home for the first time and needs all new equipment.

      Choosing the wrong plants. Homeowners need to consider the microclimate so their living landscapes thrive. Check the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which plants will do best.

      Not considering lifestyle needs. Homeowners also need to consider their lifestyle when selecting and placing their living landscapes. Those who travel frequently will want to choose low-maintenance plants, flowers and shrubs. Homeowners with a family and/or pets need a large area of sturdy turfgrass for running and playing. Pro tip: plants can be used strategically to designate “activity zones” in the yard—separating a children’s play area from the dining space, for example.

      Watering incorrectly. Plants will grow stronger and work harder—creating deeper, healthier roots—if they have to seek out water. Watering deeply, but less frequently, allows moisture to reach the roots of the grass and trees. Also, watering early in the morning reduces excess evaporation. Those who want to take the guesswork out of watering should install soil moisture sensors and drip irrigation systems.

      Cutting the grass too short. Proper mowing helps create a lower-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn. Preferred length varies by grass type, but the general rule of thumb is to cut only the top third of the grass blades off at any given time. Taller grass blades shade the soil and keep it cooler, helping control weeds. Taller grass is also softer to walk on, which is important for little feet and paws.

      Source: OPEI, SaveLivingLandscapes.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Find an Energy-Efficient Home

      20 June 2019

      While a home designed with energy efficiency in mind certainly has long-term benefits for the environment, it also means additional dollars in your pocket. The U.S. Department of Energy developed the Home Energy Score, a national rating system that assesses your home’s energy efficiency based on its structure, heating, cooling and hot water systems. From there, you can learn what improvements you can make in order to raise your score and save money.

      If you’re in the market for a home, you can get a head start by sizing up the energy efficiency of homes you’re looking at. Here are some suggestions from Nerd Wallet:

      Look for clues in listings. Read listing descriptions carefully, looking for mentions of third-party green certification, recent energy audits or energy-efficient upgrades that have been done to the home. Bear in mind that not all sellers will think to include these details in their listings, so be sure to ask your agent about energy efficiency specifically.

      Find out if your agent has eco skills. When interviewing agents to work with, find out what knowledge they have about green and energy-efficient properties. Some may even have an EcoBroker designation or the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Green Designation. Such designations mean agents have completed specific coursework to become certified in these specialty areas.

      Look at past bills. To get a true gauge of the energy efficiency of homes you’re considering, ask to see the utility data or past bills during the shopping stage or as a provision in the sales contract.

      Find out if an energy-efficient mortgage may be possible. While modern homes may be up to today’s energy standards, older homes simply weren’t built with the same set of guidelines. If this is the case with the house you fall in love with, your lender may offer an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM), which builds the expense of energy-efficient improvements into the mortgage payment. In time, the savings on energy bills will offset the extra cost.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Tips For Your First Home Purchase

      20 June 2019

      Buying a home for the first time? Congratulations! If navigating this new process seems scary, don't worry...you're not alone. Realtor.com® recently released a new book titled "The Essential First-Time Home Buyer's Book." Below are five hot starter tips from the book to help you with your first home purchase.

      Identify your home buying power. Understanding how much house you can afford can give you a leg up when it comes to buying a new home. Estimating your monthly housing payments using the realtor.com® Home Affordability Calculators can help to determine how much monthly mortgage payment you can afford and calculate a feasible home price range.

      Give up unnecessary expenses and save more. Saving cash for a down payment takes time. A good way to get started is to trim unnecessary spending. Find simple ways to save extra cash, like skipping the extra coffee and saving that money in a dedicated account so you can watch your progress. If you struggle to save, automating the process can help. You can have your employer deposit some of your paycheck into a savings account or have your bank automatically deposit money into your savings account.

      Work with a local agent. Purchasing a new home is a huge financial decision that can be fairly complicated. Work with a local real estate agent who has the experience, negotiating chops, a large network and local knowledge to help get you through the process to close on the right home for you.

      Interview several real estate agent. It's wise to connect with several agents before deciding who you'll work with in your home-buying journey. Ask questions like:
      - How long have you worked in real estate?
      - How long have you lived in the area?
      - Do you have a team, or do you work alone?
      - What's your schedule like?
      - Are you taking any time off in the next few months?

      Create a must-have list and stick with it. Before you begin your search, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs. The more specific you can be, the better. If a home doesn't have everything on the list, skip seeing it to avoid compromising. For the listings that do have all your must-haves, document your open house or showing visits by taking notes and photos of each property so you can review them later when making a decision on which house is right for you.

      Source: realtor.com®

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 10 Ways to Use a Generator Safely

      19 June 2019

      With storm season kicking into high gear, many homeowners will turn to their generators to keep things running during sustained power outages. While they can be life-saving during emergency situations, generators do involve a degree of risk, and operating them properly is critical. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) reminds consumers to never place a generator in the garage or inside a home or building, and to keep it a safe distance from the structure, away from any air intakes. OPEI also offers the following 10 tips for safe generator usage:

      1. Assess your generator’s condition now, before a storm hits. Make sure it’s in good working order before starting and using it.

      2. Review the manufacturer’s directions. Go over the owner’s manual to make sure you know how to operate the equipment safely. Can’t find the manual? No problem—just look it up online.

      3. Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home. This alarm will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide enter the building.

      4. Have the right fuel on hand. Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. It’s illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment. It’s best to use fresh fuel, but if you’re using fuel that’s been sitting in a gas can for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to it. Store gas only in an approved container and away from heat sources.

      5. Ensure portable generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home, a building, or a garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to drift indoors.

      6. Keep the generator dry. Do not use a generator in wet conditions. Cover and vent a generator. Model-specific tents or generator covers can be found online for purchase and at home centers and hardware stores.

      7. Only add fuel to a cool generator. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.

      8. Plug in safely. If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use. It should be rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Make sure the cord is free of cuts, and the plug has all three prongs.

      9. Install a transfer switch. A transfer switch connects the generator to the circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances. Most transfer switches also help avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.

      10. Do not use the generator to “backfeed” power into your home electrical system. Trying to power your home’s electrical wiring by “backfeeding”—where you plug the generator into a wall outlet—is dangerous. You could hurt utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer. Backfeeding bypasses built-in circuit protection devices, which could damage your electronics or start an electrical fire.   

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Keeping Your Pet Cool This Summer

      19 June 2019

      If you have an outdoor pet, the summer months can be a fun time for playing and lounging in the grass. However, it can also be extremely hot. Consider the following tips for keeping your pet cool.

      Shade. Make sure there is ample shade for your pup or kitty to hang out in. If you don't have a covered porch or garage, consider stringing a tarp to make a cool cover for your animal to hang under.

      Multiple water sources. Keep a minimum of two water sources full of fresh drinking water at all times, should one dry out or get kicked over. If you live a busy lifestyle, consider a large, self-filling water receptacle for your pet, or Google how to make one DIY-style.

      A summer shave. If your dog has a heavy coat, consider a seasonal "puppy cut" to lighten up their fur for the summer.

      Avoid mid-day walks. Mid-day walks in high heat can lead to heat exhaustion or burned pup paws. Walk your dog in the early morning or early evening when things are naturally cooler.

      Puppy pool. If you're in the midst of a real scorcher, consider filling a kiddie pool with water for your pup to cool off in. Warning: If your pup comes indoors at night, you may have a muddy mess on your hands, so plan accordingly.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.