Houston and Gulf Coast Real Estate News & Updates

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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