Houston and Gulf Coast Real Estate News & Updates

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Aug. 11, 2020

How Much Will It Cost Me To Sell My House?

How Much Will It Cost to Sell My House?

 

Are you thinking about selling your home? Whether you are sizing up, sizing down, or moving out of town, it’s important to be aware of the typical and often standard costs to selling a house. It’s helpful, for example, to know which costs are unavoidable and the likely dollar amounts they may cost. It’s also good to know which costs you may be able to avoid and which ones may be negotiable, either before or during close. In the end, like every home seller, you want to know how much money you can expect to walk away with at close. Understanding more about the costs to sell your home can help you better calculate your likely proceeds.

 

Set Your Expectations

The current seller’s market may provide potential advantages as a home seller, including more power at the negotiating table on selling costs; nevertheless, you should anticipate that about 10% of the selling price may go to commissions and various fees. Simply having that percentage in mind can help you set good expectations around likely net proceeds from a home sale.

 

Once you have contracted with a real estate agent, be sure you also take advantage of their expertise. Talk with your agent about the following eight costs and take an active approach in the selling process. Your agent is a pro and there to walk you through this big step in your life.

 

Listing Agent Commission

The first cost to expect if you sell your home is the payment to your agent in the form of a commission for the work they do. Your agent’s work includes marketing your home and all that entails, listing your home on the multiple listings service (MLS), fielding calls, reviewing offers with you, negotiating with buyers, scheduling inspections, managing the transaction, and much more.

 

Typically, the commission for the agent’s work is 6% of the cost of the sale of your house. Bear in mind, though, that the commission will also be split between your agent and the buyer’s agent and it may not be an even split between them. Additionally, the lenders for both you and the buyer will also take their fees out of the commission.

 

To determine what 6% means to you as the home seller, use the example of a $300K closing price for a home--the agent’s commission would be $18,000. Once you and your agent decide on the right price for your home, subtract 6% from that price in your mind to set your expectation about final proceeds right from the beginning.

 

Note: All examples in this article will use the same closing price of $300,000.

 

Home staging costs

You may think your stuff is great—and it is—but it may not help you sell your home. Your agent may suggest you stage your home using furniture that is not your own. That’s because “on average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than non-staged homes,” according to Realtor.com.

 

However, staging can be costly. The same article stated, “the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.” You need to consider the square footage of your home when you calculate the potential cost. Weigh that against factors such as how quickly homes are currently selling in your area, rooms that may not need staging, and any added storage cost for your own stuff. Your agent can help you with these and help you determine whether staging will be cost-positive for you.

 

Home Inspection Cost

Typically, the buyer or buyer’s agent schedules a home inspection and the cost is included in the buyer’s closing costs. How much the fee will be depends on the square footage of a home, but fees range between $200 and $500 for a basic inspection. As a seller, you can be at your home at the time of the inspection, but if you would like to be prepared ahead of time and perhaps avoid any costly surprise repairs you may have to make, you can also order a home inspection report before you’re ready to sell.

 

Home Repairs

As a seller, be prepared to fix certain problems if a home inspection discovers them. These typically can include safety standard and building code violations, structural problems, and plumbing or roofing leaks. If you have followed the 1 percent rule as a homeowner—setting aside 1% of your home’s value each year to a savings fund for home maintenance—you can use those funds to repair any big problems that could arise when it’s time to sell.

 

Often, certain home repairs are negotiable and your agent can help with these details. In a seller's market, you also may have more negotiating power on paying for repairs.

 

Transition Costs

Most home sellers are also buying their next home. If that’s you, it’s a good idea to estimate the cost to rent back or lease your former home for a period of time, before you can move. Most agents recommend estimating 1% of the closing price for transition or overlap costs. Using our example of $300K house, estimate $3,000 for this cost.

 

Mortgage Payoff

You know how much you owe on your existing mortgage, so the payoff amount obviously is specific to your loan. In addition to paying off your mortgage, find out if you will have any other payments to factor into this cost. These can include a pre-payment penalty, missed payments, late fees, or any interest that accrues after your expected payoff date. Do your homework early in the closing process to avoid these sorts of surprises at close.

 

Attorney fees

While not required in every state, your agent will know whether you can avoid the closing services and/or the presence of an attorney to sell a home where you live. Your agent can also be a good resource if you need a real estate attorney recommendation. Typically, most attorneys charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate, but expect the bill to range between $500 and $1,500 for a straightforward real estate transaction.

 

Closing costs

You can expect to spend an additional 2% of your home’s price on this expense, or approximately $6,000 on our example $300K home sale.

 

Seller’s closing costs tend to be fixed and include items such as title search and insurance, property or deed transfer taxes, recording fees, and outstanding liens on the property. You’ll also pay remaining property taxes and a negotiated proportion of any outstanding utility bills.

Posted in Home Seller's
Aug. 10, 2020

Bought a New Home in the Last Year?

New Homeowner Tips and Resources

Wouldn’t it be great if homeownership came with a manual? Or at least a cheat sheet? These tips and resources can help. You'll find help with what you need to do first, when and how to do home maintenance tasks you may have never had to do before, and ways to budget and save money. No matter when you bought your home in the last year, these tips can help you ease into homeownership.

 

First Things First

1. Change Your Locks

You never know how many spare keys there could be (and who could have them) when you buy a new home. If you have a First American home warranty that was included with your home purchase, rekey service may be included in your coverage.

 

If you have traditional locks with a key, consider hiding an extra key in a lockbox. Tired of losing your keys? Consider switching to a keyless door lock that you can open with a code entered into the keypad, or a smart lock you can unlock with your mobile device, voice activation, and more.

 

2. Learn Where Your Utility Shutoff Valves and Switches Are Located

Take a few minutes to walk around your house and learn where the shutoff values and switches are located. For your water, you’ll want to know where your main shutoff valve is located, as well as the shutoff for any irrigation or sprinklers. If a pipe bursts and you need to shut off the water in a hurry, you’ll want to know where to go. It’s also a good idea to label your circuits in your electrical box so you can easily tell if a circuit gets tripped and you have to reset it.

 

Not sure where to find your utility valves and switches? Here are tips on where to look. 

 

3. Create a Toolbox

Buying a home probably hasn’t left you with a lot of extra money, but every homeowner needs a few key items for their toolbox. Don’t worry—there will be plenty of time for you to grow your toolbox over the years. Here are 16 essential tools you can start with for your toolbox.

 

4. Get One or More Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are like insurance – you hope you never need them, but you wouldn’t want to be without them. And unlike homeowners insurance, fire extinguishers are fairly inexpensive.

 

If you only have one fire extinguisher, make sure it is in your kitchen, as this where over half of home fires occur. You should also consider keeping a fire extinguisher somewhere central in your home, where you can grab it in a hurry. If you have multiple stories, then consider keeping an extinguisher on each floor.

 

5. Make or Buy a Home Emergency Kit

If a natural disaster or unexpected emergency occurs, it’s important to have a home emergency kit ready to go. Here's how to get started building an emergency kit that you and your loved ones can rely on when you need it quick.

 

6. Create a Home Inventory

Take photos or create a video walk-through of your home to record all of your personal property. You’re paying for homeowners insurance, which you’ll hopefully never need to use, but if you do, the last thing you’re going to want to do is make lists of items from memory. A great way to make a fast inventory is to walk through your house video recording the contents and describing them as you go. If you want to go a little more in-depth, there are many home inventory apps.

 

Home Maintenance How-Tos

Maintaining your home is one of the new expenses that comes with owning a home. If it helps, think of it as maintaining one of your largest investments. Upkeep of home maintenance tasks not only keeps your home running smoothly, it can also help prevent headaches – or big repair bills – down the line. Fortunately, you can do many of these maintenance tasks yourself, even if you’re not that handy.

 

Get Organized with a Home Maintenance Log

Half the battle of home maintenance is knowing what needs to be done, and when. A home maintenance log can help you track maintenance and repair for your home and where you can keep track of improvements, updates, and upgrades you make. You can also use it to store appliance and system manuals and instructions, warranties, and other resources. Learn how to make your own home maintenance log.

 

Schedule HVAC Maintenance for Spring and Fall

Your heating and cooling systems work hard behind the scenes to keep you and your family comfortable all year long. Scheduling an off-season air conditioner tune-up is a great way to make sure these systems run efficiently to keep your heating and cooling costs down. Technicians can often spot small problems before they become big ones—and who wants their AC to suddenly stop working on the first really hot day of the season?  One thing you can do on your own is to stay on top of changing your HVAC air filter.

Posted in Home Owner Tips
Aug. 10, 2020

3 Smart Home Devices That Help Sell Your Home

3 Smart Home Devices That Can Help Sell Your Home

If you are ready to sell your home and looking for ways to help your real estate listing stand out, adding these three simple, low-cost smart home upgrades may offer you a win-win opportunity. Why? Because adding these smart home devices will not only appeal to your eventual homebuyer, they can also benefit you in the short-term as the current homeowner!

 

And, if you are planning to sell your home, chances are, you are buying another one, so when you install these smart devices in your current home, you will already know how to use the technology in your next home and be ready to use them when you move in.

 

A recent survey provides data that seems to back up the growing appeal of these three smart home devices for buyers. According to the survey, more than 60% of homebuyers were interested in smart security upgrades and more than 70% said that smart thermostats and smart smoke alarms were attractive features they look for in listings.

 

1. Smart Security

No matter which generation your potential homebuyers were born into, it seems they agree with their neighboring gens on the importance of buying a home in a safe neighborhood. With more than 90% of boomers, gen xers, and millennials all agreeing on this one idea, according to recent data, it’s a safe bet that if your home has smart security features, your listing will be equally appealing to nearly every age set of potential homebuyers. Any upgrades that can have such broad appeal are a good idea to have in a home for sale.

 

When it comes to smart security, here are two inexpensive upgrades you can install with ease:

 

Smart door locks

Smart locks pair with Bluetooth on your smart phone to your deadbolt making the need to find your keys a thing of the past. Smart locks can also detect your presence, reducing the chance of getting locked out of the house. Keyless entry via a smart lock also means you can easily share your "e-key" with family members and, as a home seller, even your real estate agent. Finally, if you drive off on an errand, you can remotely lock the door--no more driving home to check if your locked the front door.

 

Smart doorbell

Smart doorbells are internet-connected devices that alert you when someone is at the door. If a visitor presses the smart doorbell button, your smart phone chimes--it can sound just like a traditional doorbell. But unlike those, when you install a smart doorbell, it uses a video camera that lets you see who it is. You can even speak to the person without having to open the door. It's a safer way to be sure you know the person before you open your door, and even at night, you can clearly see who it is because of built-in night vision technology. The video camera in smart doorbells also let's you see who came to the door while you were away, and most of these smart devices can be integrated with an existing surveillance system.

 

2. Smart Thermostat

The biggest appeal to installing a smart thermostat for homebuyers and homeowners alike is that using one can help lower heating and cooling costs, typically a homeowner’s most expensive year-round utility bill to pay. Smart thermostats are WiFi-connected devices that you can control from your smart phone or tablet. From your phone, you can schedule temperature settings for different times of the day and evening, and if you have a home automation system, you can usually integrate a smart thermostat.

 

3. Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Thought experiment: If your smoke alarm sounds off while you are in woods, will anyone hear it? Traditional smoke alarms require you to hear them. If no one is home to hear the alarm, that can spell trouble. (Though any type of working smoke alarm in your home is still a better than none).

 

The biggest benefit to installing both smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is you do not need to be at your home to be alerted to trouble.

Posted in Home Seller's
July 21, 2020

Home Maintenance Top Tips

Your home is likely your biggest investment and keeping it maintained is one of the best ways to help protect that investment. When you stay on top of home maintenance, it can also help:

  • Keep home systems and appliances working safely and efficiently.  
  • Save on utility bills. Did you know an HVAC unit that’s not regularly maintained can lose from 5% to 15% percent in efficiency each year? Small water leaks can also add up on your water bill.
  • Identify small problems before they become larger, more expensive ones. Don’t let a water leak turn from minor irritation to major water damage.

Regular home maintenance can also save you from unnecessary expenses and the headaches that happen when thing break.

Here are home maintenance tips that you can do yourself or with the help of a service professional.

Change HVAC Filters Regularly

Replacing your air filter regularly is probably one of the simplest things you can do to keep your heating and air conditioning system working its best. Keeping filters changed regularly will also help with indoor air quality and prevent contaminates and allergens build up in your home.

Dirty HVAC air filter

Most higher-end pleated filters have a three-month life (cheap ones don’t last as long). If constant air conditioning or heating is necessary where you live, you may need to replace your filter more often—even monthly. You may also need to replace your filter more often if you have allergies or asthma, and if you have pets.

Keep Your HVAC System Maintained

Have your HVAC system serviced twice yearly: once for the air conditioning system and again for the heater.

We recommend having your air conditioning system checked in late winter or early spring, before the temps heat up, to uncover any potential problems. You should also keep leaves, branches, dirt, and other debris away from your air conditioner’s outdoor condenser. Many people like to surround their condenser with plants to block it from view, but you try to keep foliage trimmed at least two feet away from the unit.

Your furnace or central heating system should also be serviced yearly, typically in the early fall before temperatures turn chilly.

Help Your Washing Machine Wash its Best

You may not think of cleaning your washing machine, but doing so will keep it cleaning (and smelling) its best. Many newer washers have a “self clean” feature, or you can clean it yourself using the hot water cycle with a cup of oxygen bleach or vinegar and baking soda. For front-loading machines, the pump or debris filter that should be cleaned monthly.

You should also regularly inspect the water hoses that attach to back of the washer. Check to make sure hoses attach securely to the drain hose and there are no leaks. Tighten them if necessary. Replace them if you notice any cracks or kinks. Hoses usually last about three to five years.

Washing machine hoses being tightened

Tips to prevent mold and mildew or odors:

  • Leave the washer lid or door open between cycles to help it air out.
  • Don’t leave wet clothes in the washer.
  • For front-loaders, dry off the rubber gasket around the door after each load.

Clean Your Dryer Vent

Dryer lint can build up in the ducting, reducing dryer efficiency, and even creating a fire hazard. At least once per year, inspect and clean your dryer vent and ducting. If you’re reasonably handy around the house you can clean the dryer ducting yourself, or you can hire a professional who will take care of it for you.

Cleaning dryer vent and ducting

In addition, you should:

  • Clean your lint screen after every load.
  • Occasionally, wash the lint screen with warm, soapy water to remove buildup from fabric softeners. Use a long-handled, narrow brush to remove excess lint from your lint trap opening.

Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Most newer dishwashers have a manual filter that needs to be cleaned regularly. The dishwasher filter is typically a removable cylinder located at the bottom of the dishwasher tub, under the rotating arm.

A dirty or clogged filter means dishes won’t get as clean, and can also create unpleasant odors. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned the filter, you may want to clean the dishwasher by running an empty cycle with a cup of white vinegar. This can help deodorize it and clear out old food particles, as well as removing hard water deposits and stains.

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

Being smart about what you do and don’t put down your garbage disposal is the best way to keep it clean and working well. That said, food particles do build up in the disposal, so an easy way to keep it clean and odor free is to turn it on and pour ice cubes into it while running cold water. Small strips of lemon peel (not a half of a lemon peel) or white vinegar can also help keep it clean and odor free.

Prevent Plumbing Problems

For your plumbing system, prevention rather than maintenance is the key to avoiding many problems and larger issues.

  • Be cautious of what goes down the drain in your showers, sinks, and toilets. Install screens over your drains in your showers to catch loose hair, and only flush sewage and toilet paper.
  • Even if you have a garbage disposal, limit the amount of food scraps that go down your kitchen drain. Never pour grease down the drain since it can harden in your pipes and cause issues.
  • Take care of leaks promptly, before they become larger issues and cause problems such as water damage or mold and mildew.
  • Know where your shutoff valves are located. Your home’s washing machine, sink, toilet, and water heater all have shutoff valves. Know where they are as well as your home’s main water shutoff valve.
  • If you have a clog, follow these tips for how to clear clogged drains.

Prevent plumbing problems

Flush Your Water Heater

Many manufacturers recommend having your water heater tank flushed regularly to remove sediment and minerals that can build up, particularly in areas with hard water. This buildup can cause the water heater to work harder and use more energy to heat water. The anode rod protects your water heater tank from corrosion, and should be replaced every few years, or according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

Although tankless water heaters don’t store hot water, mineral deposits can still build up in the heating chamber (heat exchanger) and cause problems. How often you need to flush a tankless water heater will depend on the hardness of the water where you live.

Clean Your Roof Gutters

Keeping your roof gutters clean may be one of the single most important ways you can keep your roof leak-free. Clean gutters and downspouts keep water channeled away from your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape. When leaves and debris pile up, this can damage your roof as well as your gutters. If your home is surrounded by trees, you may need to clean gutters several times per year.

Gutter covers or “leaf guards” can be a good investment as they help prevent most debris buildup. Even with gutter covers, you should still do a visual check at least once per year.

Gutter covers

Other Important Home Maintenance Tips

These home maintenance tips are a good starting point. Consider creating (or downloading) a home maintenance checklist that you can use to remind you what appliances and home systems need to be maintained, and when. A home maintenance log can also help keep track of service and repairs to important systems and appliances. If you really want to stay organized, you can create your own home maintenance manual

Posted in Home Owner Tips
July 8, 2020

Final Walk Through For Home Buyers

Final Walkthrough Checklist and Tips for Homebuyers

REAL ESTATE

One of the last steps in the home-buying process is the final walkthrough. Right before the close of a home sale is a busy time, so buyers might be tempted to skip this important step, but they shouldn’t!

As the name implies, the final walkthrough is the buyer’s last chance to walk through the home before the sale is final. This is the last chance to confirm that everything is working as it should and any necessary repairs have been made. This process is not intended to redo a home inspection or find new issues. It is to confirm that everything is in the expected and agreed-upon condition, as detailed in the purchase agreement.

The final walkthrough usually happens a day or two before the closing day. This often ensures that the sellers have moved out and the home is empty. If this is the case, the seller should have left the utilities on and the home should be move-in ready.

How long the final walkthrough will be depends on the type and size of property you are buying. For the average single-family home, plan to spend at least a couple hours walking through the home.

 

What Should You Bring to the Final Walkthrough?

  1. Your real estate agent. Make sure your agent is with you for the final walkthrough. They understand home buying and selling and can guide you through the process.
  2. The purchase agreement, which details the specifics of what is included in the sale. This document will list any appliances or other items that are part of the purchase as well as any repairs the seller has agreed to make.
  3. Your home inspection report.
  4. Your phone charger or a device to check electrical outlets.

What to Look for During the Final Walkthrough:

  • Confirm that any needed repairs were made.

Often times the home inspection will uncover problems that should be addressed before the sale is complete. If you requested that the seller fix any items, and they agreed, these repairs or replacements should be completed before the final walkthrough.

  • Make sure everything you expect is still there.

In general, anything that is bolted, mounted or nailed down is considered part of the house and should be present. Often the seller will agree to leave items such as kitchen appliances, window treatments/coverings, or furniture. These items should be detailed in the purchase agreement.

  • Check doors and windows.

Open and close all the doors and windows to make sure they work properly and latches, locks, or deadbolts work as expected. If any screens are missing you will want to make note of that.

  • Check the plumbing fixtures.

As you walk through the bathrooms be sure to flush the toilets and check all of the bathroom faucets (including showerhead) and kitchen sink. Confirm hot water works in all faucets, and that sinks and tubs drain as expected.

  • Test the electrical.

As you move through the house, test the electrical switches and outlets. You can use your phone charger or your real estate agent may have an outlet tester. Also check doorbells, the garage door, and any security system.

  • Test the heating and air conditioning.

No matter the actual temperature the day of your walkthrough, make sure to check the heating and air conditioning systems to confirm they are in working order.

  • Test any appliances.

If the seller agreed to leave appliances, make sure to test them all. Confirm the garbage disposal works and that the oven heats and burners operate correctly. Run the dishwasher through a cycle. Run the washer and dryer. Ditto for any other appliances that are included with the home purchase.

  • Walk around the outside.

Check outside hose bibs for water and the irrigation system for water and power (if necessary). Again, make sure everything is working as expected. Check sheds or storage buildings to make sure there are no unwanted items that have been left behind.

 

 

Depending on the purchase agreement, the seller typically waits until closing to hand over certain items like community pool, clubhouse, or mail keys as well as remotes, manuals, and warranties. If any of the appliances or systems are still under warranty, the seller can also provide those, and any user guides or manuals.

Being prepared and willing to spend a little time on the final walkthrough is definitely a worthwhile investment of your time. You don’t want to move in only to discover a sudden plumbing problem, a non-working appliance, or other issue that could have been discovered before closing.

Sometimes, however, things do break when you least expect or can afford to fix them. This is where a home warranty can help both homebuyers and sellers. If a covered appliance or home system breaks during closing or after the sale, a home warranty can help take care of the hassle and protect everyone’s budget. Talk to your real estate agent about how a home warranty can help.

 

Posted in Home Buyers
July 6, 2020

July Newsletter

Brought to you by

Hidden Paradise Realty Team

Office: 281-616-8401
sales@OwnYourParadise.com
www.OwnYourParadise.com
OwnYourParadise!

UTR-TEXAS REALTORS®
17000 El Camino Real Ste 107
Houston, TX 77058

 

 

3 Ways to Stop Stress in Its Tracks

In light of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, many of us continue to feel stressed and anxious about the future. However, constant stress can strain your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick. Try adopting these simple habits to help you reduce daily anxiety and maintain better health.

  1. Breathe. Following a short breathing sequence or a guided meditation session is a great way to slow your heart rate, connect with your body and reduce stress. Just a few minutes of focused breathing per day can have a positive impact on your health.
  2. Connect with your stress. Talking with a loved one or journaling about your worries allows you to identify what's troubling you. The simple act of putting your concerns into words can help you release some of your anxiety.
  3. Exercise. A brisk walk, a bike ride or a few minutes of yoga can go a long way toward curbing anxious thoughts. When stress overwhelms you, get up and get moving.

 


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Supporting Your Community Is Vital to Its Recovery

Everyone has been affected in one way or another by COVID-19. As cities begin to reopen this summer, it's important to support your community. Consider these three suggestions.

  • If you really stocked up and now find yourself with excess pantry items, contact your local food bank to see what donations they need to continue providing for people who still face economic insecurity.
  • Offer to get groceries or household supplies for your neighbors who are at a higher risk of exposure.
  • When you order takeout, try to support local eateries and don't forget to tip. You can also donate to groups that support service industry professionals, such as your city or state restaurant association.

 


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Tips for Battling Fatigue

Feeling tired all the time? Struggling to make it through the day without longing for a nap? Boost your energy levels by making these lifestyle changes.

Drink more water. Being dehydrated can lead to low energy and decrease your ability to concentrate. Increase your water consumption by keeping a large reusable water bottle handy. Drinking sparkling water or adding fresh fruit to your glass can also motivate you to stay hydrated.

Make sleep a priority. With busy family schedules, pressing work demands and plenty of concerns about the future, many of us struggle to get enough uninterrupted sleep. Prioritize sleeping by setting a consistent bedtime and sticking to it. Adjusting the lighting, temperature and noise levels in your room can also help to improve your quality of sleep.

Avoid refined carbs. While it's true that carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy, the subsequent spike and drop in your blood sugar levels can leave you feeling even more fatigued. To maintain your energy throughout the day, replace sugar and refined carbs with whole foods that contain fiber, such as apples, avocados, raspberries, carrots, almonds, or pistachios.

 


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5 Ideas for Summertime Cooking

As the temperature outside rises, cooking over a hot stove often becomes less appealing. The summer season is an opportunity to try new dishes that both celebrate fresh produce and avoid an overheated kitchen. Here are five suggestions to help you enjoy summer cooking.

  1. Cook outside. If you have an outdoor grill, use it in creative new ways. Don't limit yourself to burgers and hot dogs – try grilling fish and shrimp, or go vegetarian with veggies cooked on skewers or in foil packs. Create irresistible summer desserts by grilling fresh peaches or other fruit to serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt.
  2. Take advantage of cooler temperatures. If you need to turn on the stove for cooking or the oven for baking, do so first thing in the morning while temperatures are relatively cool outside. By minimizing the number of hours you run the air conditioner in your home, you'll reduce the cost of the most expensive, energy-using appliance you own.
  3. Explore cold dishes. Make the most of the season's fresh produce by creating salads, sandwiches and wraps loaded with raw veggies and cold meats. Try your hand at a chilled soup, such as a cucumber soup or melon gazpacho. No-bake dessert recipes allow you to enjoy sweet treats while leaving the oven off.
  4. Cook with small appliances. Air fryers, electronic pressure cookers, slow cookers, and microwaves all enable you to cook food thoroughly without heating up the entire kitchen. Prep dinner ingredients in the morning and allow them to simmer all day in a slow cooker. Or, cook meals quickly in a pressure cooker or air fryer.
  5. Double up. When you're using the oven, make a double batch of the recipe or cook foods for two meals at one time. You'll save on cooling costs and be able to spend more time outdoors with your friends and family.

 


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Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Ingredients
1 ripe avocado
½ large fennel bulb
1 large cucumber, diced
2 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice cubes
½ cup cold water
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

For garnish:
Heavy whipping cream
Parsley, freshly chopped

Directions
Slice avocado in half, remove pit and scoop flesh into a high-powered blender. Remove outer layer and core from fennel bulb, then chop and add to blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend on high until completely smooth. If soup is too thick, add more water until it reaches desired consistency. Garnish with drizzles of cream and chopped parsley. Serve cold.

Serves 4

 


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The Personal Marketing Company
11511 W. 83rd Terrace
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Posted in Newsletter
July 4, 2020

Window Coverings That Insulate and Save Energy

 

Window Coverings That Insulate and Save EnergyReplacing old windows with new energy-efficient models is a great way to help reduce energy loss and keep your home comfortable all year. But new windows aren’t always an option. New windows may not be in your budget right now, or you may have a historic home, where replacement windows aren’t always feasible. No matter the reason, you still have options for your windows that can help keep your house comfy.

 

You may think of your windows coverings as just for privacy, but shades, drapes, and blinds can be a great way to save energy. And buying new window coverings will also cost a lot less than the pricetag for replacing windows. During the heat of summer and the cold of winter, your windows become a prime spot for energy loss. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “About 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows. In cooling seasons, about 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.”

 

Window coverings can reduce energy loss, lower heating and cooling bills, and improve home comfort. Many windows coverings provide some insulation that can also help save you energy. How much you save depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Type of window covering
  • Climate where you live
  • Season
  • How you use the coverings

Types of Window Coverings

Cellular Shades

Honeycomb or “cellular” shades are typically the most insulating window coverings. The air pockets created by the honeycomb shape trap air that act as insulation. Cellular shades help save energyAccording to the DOE, cellular shades can reduce heat loss through windows by 40% in winter, and reduce the amount of heat coming in your windows by 80% in summer.

 

Cellular shades come in many varieties, from light-filtering single-cell to multi-cell blackout shades. They can raise and lower from the top and bottom, can be cordless, and some offer the option of automating the shades to open and close on a set schedule.

 

Roman Shades

Roman shades are typically fabric windows coverings that draw up in evenly spaced folds. They typically fit over or just Roman shades help block suninside the window casement. These window coverings offer less insulation and are generally better for blocking sun in the summer. Heavier (and even quilted fabrics) will offer the most insulation.

 

Roller and Solar Shades

Solar shades block UV rays

These are the simplest types of shades: single sheets of material that cover the window. The difference between the two types is that roller shades are available in solid fabric or vinyl that blocks the light coming in, whereas solar shades are made from a screen-like material and block UV rays. As with roman shades, these types of shades are better for keeping out sunlight, as opposed to keeping in warmth.

 

Blinds

Horizontal and vertical slat-type blinds are also better at keeping the sun out of your home than in keeping heat in during winter. They offer more flexibility than shades, but less control over heat loss.

 

Drapes and Curtains

Did you know that drapes and curtains aren’t the same thing? Drapes are typically lined, made of thicker fabric, and usually extend from the top of the window (or the ceiling) to the floor. Curtains, on the other hand, are made of lighter, often sheer fabric, so they are less effective at providing privacy or insulation.

 

Drapes vary greatly in their ability to provide insulation, depending on the color and type of fabric, but they can be very effective at keeping the heat both out and in. For maximum effectiveness, install a cornice or valance at the top of the drapes. You can also use drapes in combination with shades or blinds for added insulation.

 

Window Coverings for Different Climates

Window Film

If you live where summers are host and winters are mild and have single pane or older double-pane windows, window films may be a way to help reduce energy costs. These coatings reflect or absorb the sun’s energy to keep your home comfortable and help prevent fading on furnishings and furniture.

 

You may not want to use window films in climates with cold winters, as the film will also block the welcome winter sun from warming your home.

 

Storm Windows

If you live where temps drop below freezing in winter (and you won’t be opening windows until spring), storm windows may be a good option for you. Storm windows can help improve insulation for existing windows. You can install them on the inside or outside of existing windows, either permanently, or just for the winter season.

 

Smart Shades: Make the Most of Your Window Coverings

Choosing the right type of window covering is only part of the equation for keeping your home comfortable. While you may want your west-facing windows uncovered on summer mornings, you’re likely going to want to cover them up as the day progresses. Most of us aren’t home all day, or if we are, we’re busy and have plenty to do besides monitoring our window coverings.

 

Now you can automate different types of window shades with your smartphone, a voice-controlled home automation device from Google, or through Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. You can schedule your shades to come down and block out the hot summer sun, or in the winter set them to open in the morning and let the sun warm your home.

Smartphone app for window covering

Next Steps: Assess Your Windows

Now that you know more about available window covering options and how they can work to keep your home comfortable, take some time to assess your home’s needs. Ask yourself these questions, before you select new windows coverings:

 

  • What direction does the windows face?

In general, west- and south-facing windows will get more sun exposure than north- and east-facing windows. The outside surroundings of your home can also influence how hot or cool each side of your house gets. A shady tree or lots of greenery will keep your home cooler than the heat reflecting off of a concrete patio or driveway.

 

  • How much privacy is needed for each window?

For example, a living room window that looks into the backyard has different needs than a bedroom window that faces the street.

 

  • What is the sunlight like at different times of the day and year?

Think about how the sun shines in your house throughout the day and how it changes with the season.

 

  • What is the type of window?

Are your windows single or double pane? Metal, wood, or vinyl frames? If double-pane, are they older windows, or new windows with low-e coating? Do you have windows that don’t open? What about windows you can’t easily reach?

Posted in Home Owner Tips
July 3, 2020

What To Know About Buying a Home

What Do I Do Now?

You found the home you want to buy, you made an offer, the seller accepted the offer, and you signed on the (contract’s) dotted line. At this point you are in what's typically called a "Sale Pending" status. So what happens next? While it can be difficult to be patient when all you can think about is when you’ll get those shiny new keys, there are a few more steps to take before you get to walk through your new home’s front door.

 

Steps in the Home-Buying Process

When you’re in a “Sale Pending” status it’s helpful to set your expectations. This is especially true if you're a first-time home-buyer. You are embarking on an exciting new chapter in your life that inevitably makes it difficult to be patient. Now, however, is the time for patience as there are many things that still can go awry before you close this real estate transaction. But here is the good news: you'll have many visits to the house you are buying to meet with your agent, inspectors, and more.

 

These are the 9 typical steps in a home-buying process. For all of these next steps, it helps to work closely with your real estate agent and take advantage of his or her knowledge and guidance.

 

1. Money Step

If you have not done so already, you want to get the money step over with immediately. This is crucial to being able to make more visits to your hopefully soon-to-be new home. This money step is the deposit you make to the seller that shows your good faith intention to buy the home. Your agent may refer to this deposit as earnest money, due diligence money, or the escrow deposit. Making this deposit also gives you the time you’ll need to arrange the mortgage and complete the other steps below. Bear in mind that you and the seller will need to agree to a time frame when you make the deposit, though you can ask for an extension if needed to complete the remaining steps. Ask your agent for guidance on the best time frame to set for you.

 

2. Documents Round-up

Most likely your agent has discussed the list of documents you need to provide to your lender, but typically they will include income and tax-related documents. Work with your lender to be sure you know everything they will need from you. You must gather these documents and provide them to your lender as quickly as possible. Moving fast here is important because getting lender approval can sometimes take a week or more and you want to be able to close on time, right?

 

3. Set Closing Date

If you are in a “sale pending” status, you and the seller, and your respective agents, will negotiate an agreed-upon closing date. In choosing a closing date, you’ll want to build in enough time to complete the lending process, consider availability of your lawyer (if you need one in your state), and try to find a date that’s close to your expected move-in date. Bear in mind that negotiating the closing date may also mean taking the seller's contingencies into consideration, as they will need to be met before the closing date.

 

4. Inspection Time

The next big step is getting the home inspection scheduled. You will want to work with your real estate agent to set these dates. Try to schedule the appointment as soon as possible so that if issues arise as a result of the inspection, you’ll have time to address them in negotiations with the seller. Be sure the date you set is a day you can be at the house when the inspector is there. If you have concerns that you’d like the inspector to focus on, it’s a good idea to discuss those things ahead of the scheduled date.

 

5. Contractor References

Your real estate agent is a great resource for contractors. Now is a good time to get estimates on any changes you might want to make so you can factor those costs into your plans.

 

6. Appraisal Time

Ask your lender when the home will be appraised—getting this step completed early during the deposit time frame will allow you to perhaps negotiate a better price if the home doesn't appraise.

 

7. Negotiate Repairs

When you get the inspection report(s) back, this is your opportunity to negotiate repairs with the seller. You and the seller will work out whether the seller will make the repairs or provide you with a financial concession at closing so that you can pay your contractor to do the repairs.

 

8. Do a Jig

If all goes accordingly in the previous seven steps, it means your closing date has arrived, and you’ll get those keys. Time to celebrate.

 

9. Turn on the Lights

One last thing to do before your move-in date arrives is to set up your utilities. The seller’s agent is often the best person to ask about local providers for electricity, gas, water, cable, and internet.

Posted in Home Buyers