5 Home Updates to Make Before The Winter

While September is still underway, October's cool winds are just around the corner. To smooth your transition from summer to Fall, we offer a few home maintenance tips.

Service your systems. Checking your furnace and changing your furnace filter before the cold creeps in will put you ahead of the game, says Finn. Make an appointment with a professional to have your heating system tune up.

Freeze-proof your faucets. The mere mention of a busted water pipe is enough to make any homeowner cringe. The pipe that is most likely to freeze is your outdoor faucets for hoses and sprinklers. To avoid cold-weather damage, install a freeze-proof faucet and sleep soundly.

Weather-proof those windows. Solidly sealed windows will help control your home's temperature. When is the last time you checked your window's weathering? As soon as the temperatures begin to drop, replace those breezy summer drapes with heavier versions to keep your living space cozy until spring.

Clear gutters. It's best to clear out your gutters at the change of every season. Before fall begins dropping its leaves, give your gutters a purge.

Sweep that chimney. Do you have a working fireplace? If so, it's best to have a professional chimney sweep come take a look to make sure you don't have any dangerous build up that could cause damage when you strike that first match come fall.

Flexibility is the Key to Quick Sale

When selling your home, it's important to understand that your life will be temporarily inconvenienced. Nobody enjoys having strangers traipse through their home on a regular basis, but it's important to put your need for peace and privacy on hold while your home is for sale.

When an agent – yours as well as others – calls wishing to bring a buyer to see the home at the last minute, respond favorably, even if it means postponing that brunch you were hosting or your Friday night stay-in pizza and movie tradition.

Remember, your goal is to get the home sold, and that can only be accomplished if people get to see it. Flexibility is the key to a quick sale.

It's best to plan not to be present when buyers pass through. It can be awkward for the buyers if the owner is present during a walk-through. They may feel uncomfortable making honest observations and critiques. So, run a few errands or take a walk around the neighborhood. If you cannot leave, sit in the backyard. But do not attempt to have conversations with the buyer. Speak only when spoken to; be brief and polite.

Another component of staying flexible is being diligent with the upkeep of your home, as you never know when a buyer will be coming through. This weighs in on big factors, like home improvement projects, but even the little things count, too.

You want buyers to feel welcomed and not turned off by unmade beds, cluttered floors, and grungy bathrooms. And remember to keep an eye on your pets. Take them with you when you leave if possible, and be sure to keep kitty's litter box clean.

And of course, hone in on your home's appearance. Remaining flexible is crucial here. You may be crazy about the bold colors in your bathrooms, or that unique craft station you constructed in the third bedroom, but try and view your space from the buyer's eyes. So keep things relatively neutral, and of course, spruce up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.

If you remain flexible in your schedule when showing your home, and keep an open mind about layout and design during necessary pre-sale improvements, selling your home will be a much easier process for you, the buyer, and your agent.

Need a New Roof? Weigh the Options

Homeowners needing to re-roof want low-cost, attractive options that will last the best part of a lifetime.

There are several reasonably priced and attractive options in the roofing industry today. By choosing the right roof, having it installed properly, and doing a little regular maintenance, most homeowners can look forward to a worry-free twenty years or more.

Composition shingles – Versatile and easy to install, composition shingles offer a clean look at the most affordable price. Higher quality options made of asphalt or fiberglass are easy to install, may be laid over an existing roof, and offer Class A fire protection. They may be walked upon without damage. On the negative side, shingles may be blown off in high winds, and they do not have the dimensional look of tile or wood shake.

Wood shake – Wood shake roofs offer lots of natural character because of variances in the cut and thickness of the wood, generally cedar. They are energy-efficient, insulating the attic and allowing the house to 'breathe.' But they are more expensive and will not last as long as fiberglass or tile because they are subject to damage by mold, rot, and insects. Today's pressure-treated shakes are impregnated with fire-retardant that meet national fire standards, but they require regular maintenance.

Clay tile – A good choice for houses of Southwestern or Mediterranean design, clay tile roofs are attractive, won't rot or burn, and comes in many colors and styles. They will last a long time, but they can be very heavy and may require extra roof support to hold the weight. Proper installation is important, and maintenance is minimal, but tiles are fragile and could break if walked upon.

Slate – An expensive choice selected for upscale homes, slate roofs provide a natural look in a variety of patterns. They offer a very long lifespan, good fire protection, and low maintenance, and are not vulnerable to rot or insects. Like tile, slate can be very heavy, sometimes requiring expensive extra support. It is also breakable enough that walking on it is difficult for a non-professional, complicating such tasks as maintenance and gutter cleaning.

Classic Acts: Renovating Your Historic Home

If you have a historic house and care about maintaining authenticity, then you may be facing unique challenge when attempting to renovate. Renovation of an older house can be very rewarding, yet comes with its own unique challenges. "It's natural for an owner to want modern conveniences," says Lawrence Finn, CEO Owner/Broker of Coach Realtors.

"To maintain the character of your property, you may have to do a little extra work--or at least provide extra forethought--so that both goals can be accomplished." And if you aren't sure whether or not you want to keep the authenticity of your home intact, remember: Many states offer tax incentives, reductions and abatement programs for owners of residential historic homes. Historic structures offer a 20 percent investment tax credit for qualified rehabilitation expenses, if they are income producing properties.

A historic structure is one listed in the National Register of Historic Places or so designated by an appropriate state or local historic district that is certified by the government. The tax code does not allow deductions for the demolition or significant alteration of a historic structure.

Patterns Matter "Understand the architectural history of your building before starting a construction project," recommends Finn. "Look for reoccurring building patterns and construct accordingly. For instance, if you're planning an addition, use the same patterns in the new portion of the house."

Repair over Replace Another thing to keep in mind is repairing--rather than replacing--historic materials. "Masonry, wood and architectural metals can often be easily repaired if you find the right specialist," Finn comments. "Remember that historic preservation is often based on the retention of historic materials."

Maintain, Maintain, Maintain One of the best ways to keep your old home in prime condition is to maintain it regularly. Clean your gutters, refresh paint, keep up with your roof and siding and make sure to check for and manage all leaks. "Before starting a project, be sure to find a specialist who deals with older homes and talk about what you have in mind. Stress the importance of keeping your home authentic," Finn recommends.

A Check-Up for Your Garage Door

As the American home has evolved over the years, so too has the garage—both in the way it looks as well as its newfound functionality as the main entranceway to the home. In fact, more than 70 percent of homeowners enter and exit their home through the garage door, relying on it as the new front door.

Since the garage door now plays such a key role in many homeowners' daily lives, garage industry professionals, installers and leading manufacturers of garage doors and openers have teamed up to offer easy-to-follow tips for maintaining the safety and security of this access point, such as the following from LiftMaster:

    Maintenance. To keep the garage door properly maintained and functioning safely, be sure to keep all moving parts of the door clean and lubricated, including the steel rollers.

    Balance. To check balance, start with the door closed and pull the opener release mechanism so you can maneuver the door by hand. If the door is balanced (properly spring-loaded and running freely on its tracks), you should be able to lift the door smoothly without much effort and it should stay open about three or four feet above the floor.

    Safety reverse. Since 1993, all automatic openers manufactured for the U.S. must include a safety reversing feature such as infrared sensors or "photo eyes." These sensors are installed near the floor on either side of the garage door opening. Once the invisible laser beam between the two sensors is broken by an obstruction, the door reverses automatically. If your opener lacks a similar safety reversing feature, it's time to get a new opener.

    The six-inch rule. The photo eyes mentioned above should not be installed higher than six inches above the garage floor. If the eyes are installed higher, a person or pet could get under the beam and not be detected by the photo eyes.

    Sensitive technology. Test your door's sensitivity by placing a two-inch thick piece of wood or a roll of paper towels in the path of the door before closing it. If the garage door does not automatically reverse and retract back to the open position, then the opener needs to be adjusted or purchase a newer model that comes with photo eyes.

    Prepare for weather. Be prepared as summer heat and storms turn to summer outages. Once power is lost to the home, an automatic garage door opener will also be impacted. Ensure your opener is equipped with a battery back-up system.

Source: LiftMaster

Want to Sell Faster? Optimize Your Home's Best Features

Recent data has shown it looks as if the market may be turning! Home prices have crept upward for the second month in a row, according to a recent S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. However, if you're trying to sell your home, this news doesn't mean you should be sitting back and waiting. Draw in buyers by focusing on certain focal points that can give your property a selling edge, ensuring a faster sale--and a higher selling price.

Don't worry--there is no need to build a pricey addition or completely gut your existing property. By evaluating your home's top selling points, you can add modern touches to these features to create a new, fresh feel without doing major renovations.

Point 1: Glam up your bathroom and kitchen. Nice bathrooms and kitchens are attractive qualities in a house, and you can make yours look luxurious without going overboard.

If you can't afford double sinks, a whirlpool tub or a walk-in shower in your bathroom, try making subtle adjustments. Small tweaks, like a new mirror or updated lighting, can have a huge effect on the atmosphere of a room.

Expand the range of your kitchen by adding a center island with barstools, updating major appliances and giving a second thought to your countertops. Slab countertops, especially granite, are really popular choices. And as far as appliances go, stainless steel is the real deal.

Point 2: Opt for wood. Does your home have large, open rooms? Make them appear even larger with the right flooring. Hardwood floors are timeless. Consider ripping up old carpet and refinishing the wood beneath. Hardwood too expensive? There are many synthetic alternatives that are nearly as appealing as hardwood, at a fraction of the cost.

Point 3: Organization is key. Do you have a ton of open wall space? Make the most of them with built-ins. Buyers love built-in organizational systems, like entertainment credenzas or bookshelves. Built-ins are relatively easy to have installed, and can give your home a unique edge.

Don't forget about closets! Expanding the closets in bedrooms and bathrooms, or adding a walk-in pantry in the kitchen, can add additional sparkle to your home.

Point 4: Don't forget to landscape. Do you have a large yard? Be sure to keep the grass neatly mowed and any gardens well tended. Adding a deck or patio is a great idea, but if your budget won't allow it, simply place some outdoor furniture around the yard in small clusters, so buyers can imagine themselves spending time outside with family and friends.

Redo Your Deck for Summer

With Spring in full bloom, homeowners are taking advantage of the weather and prepping their outdoor living spaces for the summer season.

One main hangout for many is the deck. "There are a handful of different low-cost deck trends for 2012, and homeowners can freshen up their existing space without breaking the bank by highlighting a few key elements," explains Lawrence Finn, CEO Owner/Broker of Coach Real Estate Associates.

According to a survey by Trex Company, a composite deck company, 83 percent of Americans favor low-maintenance home improvement projects--and who can blame them? The following updates are as easy as they are wallet-friendly.

Rock the railing:

"The railing is often the first thing guests see when they take a look at your deck from the yard or street view, so it's important to realize that this is more than just a safety feature--although functionality is important, too," remarks Finn. Make a statement and allow your railing to stand-out by switching up building materials. If you have a wood deck, it doesn't mean you need to have wood railings. "Glass railings are hot right now," says Finn. Want to pass on glass? Look into composite or aluminum.

Pump up the posts:

Your deck posts can get a quick revamp with post caps. "Planter pots are becoming increasingly popular," says Finn. "Plant an herb garden or your favorite perennial right on your deck post." You can also look into posts with built-in lighting--some are even solar.

Add spark to your spindles:

The spindles between your rail posts, also known as balusters, can also be updated. Get a unique look by mixing and matching materials.

Love the lights:

If you're already proud of your outdoor space, spruce up your lighting to show it off at night. Look into recessed lights for the stairs, ornamental post lights, soft illuminating floor lights or eco friendly solar options.

If you want to take on a bigger project and give your deck a major facelift, consider redoing the base. Natural wood continues to be popular, but if you don't have the time or money for wood, you can consider composite decking. "Lots of consumers favor composite because it's durable and low maintenance," explains Finn. "And, many designs closely mimic real wood so you still have the aesthetic appeal."

Home Staging Secrets: The Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the hottest selling points for any listing, as it is the center for a lot of activity within a home. While you may renovate your kitchen before selling--or at least replace outdated appliances and add some fresh paint--staging is another crucial part of making your kitchen buyer-ready.

Make it sparkle. Cleaning your kitchen top to bottom is the first step in home staging. Polish all fixtures, clean out the inside of the stove, dust that ceiling fan, wash windows, scrub your baseboards, clean cabinets and polish or replace knobs and handles.

De-clutter. Remove all appliances from the counter, take magnets and photos off the fridge and most of the photos off the wall. Don't remove everything, or it will look cold and unlived in. Instead, allow an opportunity for the buyer to imagine their own lives enfolding in the room.

Make use of space and color. Replace your large kitchen table with a smaller one to make the space seem roomier. Replace heavy drapes with lighter ones to brighten the room. Make sure your color scheme is subtle and complimentary, not extreme or jarring.

The less things shoved into your space, the larger it will look. Put something simple, like a cookbook or bowl of fruit on the counter or kitchen table .

Sweat the small stuff. Go above and beyond to make your kitchen look like a place where your potential buyers will want to spend time. Try not to cook anything with a strong odor in your kitchen during the time your house is on the market, like fish, bacon or curry. Of course, baking some fresh bread has always been a go-to home selling secret.

Also, be sure never to leave any dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. Sellers like to open things, and your dishwasher is not excluded from this.

Six Inexpensive Ways to Add Curb Appeal

Many individuals interested in selling their homes are already aware that curb appeal is crucial. Making a good impression on potential buyers before they even step inside will assure that your property is memorable, but more importantly, making a bad impression will hinder your chances of selling your home--regardless of how charming it is inside. The following tips will allow you to amp up your curb appeal without breaking the bank.

"Many homeowners who are trying to sell think that increasing their curb appeal has to be a pricey affair involving landscapers or a new front porch," says Lawrence Finn, CEO of Coach Realtors. "But there are a great deal of small, inexpensive things you can do for the outside of your home that will make the overall appearance much more appealing." Mr. Finn suggests these simple do-it-yourself projects, all of which will take less than one afternoon, and cost you 100 dollars--or less!

Flower Boxes. Putting flower boxes under your windows will give your home a pop of color and increase the overall charm factor of your property. All it takes is the boxes themselves--which are usually under $35--some soil, and plants. Not interested in flower boxes? A few potted plants lining your porch, steps or walkway will do the trick as well.

Repaint Your Accents. Repainting the accents of your home--including the front door, trim and shutters--will give your house a fresh, clean look. Choosing a bold color will make your house stick out, but even playing it safe with a neutral tone will make your property appear clean and well cared for.

Replace Your Numbers. Many houses have old, faded or rusted numbers. Buying new, modern numbers--or even customized numeral plaques--can really help the look of the front of your house. This is a small detail that is often overlooked but can have a really nice effect.

Plant a Garden. Planting a small flower garden in the front of your house will give your home a warm, inviting look. Foliage adds instant curb appeal. If you don't want to tend to flowers, consider planting a tree.

Detailing. Adding interesting details, such as a bird feeder or birdbath, will improve the appeal of your front yard. Inexpensive stepping stones trailed throughout a garden or up to the front door are also attractive touches.

Mailbox Makeover. Getting an upgraded or customized mailbox adds great detailing to the front of your house. Whether you opt for a mounted box on the side of your home or a curbside container, having a mailbox that stands out is a nice touch.

"There are many different low-budget options for bolstering your curb appeal," says Finn. "Doing so will immediately make your home more inviting, assure a great first impression and enable a faster selling time."

Thanksgiving Decorating Made Simple

Thanksgiving is a relaxing holiday based solely around food and gratitude. A nice decorative atmosphere would enhance the dining experience as you and your guests are enjoying mouthfuls of turkey, yams and stuffing. Decorating for Thanksgiving doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. With these simple and affordable tips, you can give your home a festive, fall look that everyone will enjoy.

Bold fall colors should be used as much as possible when making any decision regarding décor. Use many of the same colors as some of the traditional food you'll be serving. Yellows, oranges, browns and reds set the perfect tone for any fall-themed meal. Try incorporating them any way you can, including placemats, serving utensils and dishes. A colorful centerpiece would also work nicely for your holiday table.

Go outside and get inspired. The autumn season is all around us, so go outside and look around. Brightly colored leaves, berries and pinecones are just a few examples of items that could be garnered for decoration. Fill a large vase with some of these natural beauties for a decorative centerpiece. Things like pumpkins and hay bales also make great indoor and outdoor decorations. Use them sporadically for that extra fall feel.

For those with eager children, a fall garland can be a fun project to get them involved. Use red and orange leaves, or even use construction paper for cut-out turkeys or pumpkins. This will not only decorate your home, but keep the children occupied while you get some cooking and cleaning accomplished.

Thanksgiving-themed towels, pot holders and candles are also great ideas. Hand towels in bathrooms can carry the theme outside of the kitchen, while sweet smelling candles can do the same for dining or living rooms. A few bottles of red wine can also add to any autumn-colored display or centerpiece.

With all of that cooking to do, you may not have time for complicated and time-consuming decorating. With a little creativity and these fun and festive tips, you can create a wonderful atmosphere for you and your family.

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