Misconceptions Than Can End Up Cost You Part Two

If you saw my last article, you learned that there were quite a few misconceptions about homeownership that could actually end up costing you quite a bit of money and time. Whether you are buying a house with my help or maintaining the one you already have, I want to make sure that you have all the information necessary to keep your home up to the standards you want.

So, let’s take a look at some more myths that you want to avoid.

A Recommendation Isn’t Always Enough to Hire a Contractor

While recommendations from friends help you find friendly people who do great work, they aren’t always enough when you want to hire a contractor. This is because they don’t only need to look like they’ve done a good job, but the work has to be stable enough to last for years, follow all necessary code, and they need to be reliable.

After you get a recommendation from a friend, check sites to see if you can find an online presence for them with reviews to see how others’ experience with them was.

If you are undertaking a large project and want to be certain that your contractor will do everything as they should, talk to a local building inspector to see if your potential contractor has met code on past properties that they’ve worked on.

Other questions you can ask before hiring your contractor is for some past clients you can talk to and how often they do projects like yours. If you think of this as a job interview, it makes more sense. After all, if you’re spending a lot of money on a large, time-consuming project, you want to make sure that it’s done correctly.

Turning Off Your AC Might Not Be the Best Choice

You want to save money on your air conditioning bill while helping the environment at the same time, but turning off your air conditioning might not be the best choice. In fact, this could end up costing you more money.

In the summertime, if you turn off your air completely, the house can dramatically heat up. This means that when you come home and turn it back on, it has to work overtime to cool the entire house.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave the temperature very low in the summer months when you’re not home. Instead, turn it up 5-10 degrees when you’re gone so that it saves you money while you’re gone, but still only has to adjust to a smaller change when you get back to your house.

If you want to take the high-tech options, you can install a programmable thermostat that changes temperatures at different times of the day, many of which you can change directly from your smartphone.

Duct Tape Does Not Actually Work to Seal Ductwork

Even though the names sound familiar, you shouldn’t try to fix your HVAC’s ductwork with duct tape. Duct tape does not seal leaks well because the hot air from the HVAC system degrades the glue. This means that it deteriorates over just a few years, meaning that air conditioning will escape before cooling off your house.

So, what should you do instead? You can use duct mastic to seal metal and flexible ductwork. This is a gooey substance that dries after it is applied. Combine it with a layer of fiberglass mesh if the gap is bigger than 1/16 of an inch wide.

Bleach is Not Enough to Get Rid of Mold

Well, sometimes it is. Bleach can actually destroy the mold on non-porous surfaces. However, it doesn’t work well on absorbent materials, such as grout, drywall, caulk, carpet, and insulation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the bleach seems to remove the mold, it only takes away the color so it isn’t visible anymore. Additionally, if you attempt to use bleach combined with water to clean it, this could actually create more mold because the surface could absorb the water.

Instead, buy an anti-fungal product that kills the mold from its roots. If you need to get rid of mold that is larger than about 10 square feet, you should hire a professional who can get rid of it safely and permanently.

You Should Never Put Dryer Sheets in Air Vents

Someone had the idea that putting a dryer sheet in your air vent will help your house smell good at all times, and it was widely circulated throughout social media. However, this is extremely unsafe.

It blocks the flow of air in the air vents, meaning that not only do you have to pay more for the extra energy the HVAC system has to use, but this could also pose a fire risk in the winter.

All you have to do to is buy candles, scented plug-ins, sprays, or any other number of options to make your house smell great without the extra energy expenditure or risk of fire.

An additional misconception about air vents that we hear a lot is that you have to change them every single month. This isn’t actually true. While it’s best if you check them every month, they typically need to be changed about every three months (sometimes sooner, but never later).

While you won’t save a lot of money on this one, it could save you about $100/year and your time.

Now that you understand the misconceptions that can cost you time, safety, and money, you can be sure to avoid them and keep your home nice for your whole family.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

Misconceptions That Can End Up Costing You

Today, misconceptions about your home are being spread faster than ever. From viral posts shared on Facebook to the popularity of TV programs that discuss buying, selling, or flipping homes, more misinformation is out there than ever before.

Let’s take a look at some of these myths to make sure you avoid them.

How careful are you with your stone countertop?

Unless your countertop is made of incredibly tough diamond, it can be damaged. Many people proport the popular myth that countertops made of marble, quartz, travertine, soapstone, and limestone can’t be stained, but this is false. In fact, all of these can be stained.

Your marble countertops might have cost you a pretty penny, but it can be scratched and stained easily. Not only this, but any type of acidic beverage like soda or coffee creates a cloudy spot in marble. This process is known as etching. This means that you should immediately clean any acidic beverage, including wine or lemon juice, to avoid any problems.

However, typical household cleaners can dull the surface of any type of stone countertop, so be sure to buy a cleaner that is specifically made for your countertop stone type.

Another issue that can come up is discoloration of stone countertops. This happens under direct heat, so make sure you don’t put a hot pan directly on the surface.

If you’d like to not worry about your countertops so much, your best bet is granite because it doesn’t stain or scratch like the other options.

Does your smoke detector really work?

This one isn’t as much of a misconception as it is a simple and understandable mistake. First of all, if you check your smoke detector like you should twice a year by using the test button, you deserve a gold star.

Although some of us accidentally ‘test’ our smoke detectors by not being the best chefs, this is an incredibly important aspect of your safety that you shouldn’t disregard.

However, even if you’re using the test button twice a year, you still might not be doing what you should. Essentially, this check will only alert you to whether your alarm sound works or not. Well, what else do you need to know? Even if your alarm sound works, the actual sensor that detects the smoke might not.

This means that you should actually regularly test the detector with smoke. The easiest way to do this is to blow out a match directly under the unit. From here, you can see if both the alarm and sensor are working.

Do you really have to clean gutter guards too?

Most people think that cleaning their gutters is all that’s necessary and buy gutter guards to lighten up the work they need to do outside of the house. However, believe it or not, you have to clean gutter guards as well.

Of course, leaves shouldn’t be able to fit into gutter guards, but this doesn’t stop all of the small debris from clogging it up. Seeds, flower buds, and more, can get through them, meaning that while you’ll have a lot less work than without gutter guards, you’ll still need to keep an eye on them and clean them when necessary.

Can a lemon help you clean your garbage disposal?

Unfortunately, no. Of course, this natural way to clean would be better for the environment, it isn’t better for your pipes because of the lemon’s acidic properties. In fact, it eventually would corrode any metal in your disposal.

Others claim to use coffee grounds, instead, to clean it, but this isn’t the best decision either. While they can clean the blades, the coffee then clogs the pipes, leaving you in a worse mess than what you started with.

Your best natural disposal cleaning option is actually baking soda. It cleans the blades well because of its slight abrasiveness, but won’t damage the metal, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.

How short should you really mow your lawn?

Many people seem to say that if you cut your grass very short, you won’t have to mow it as often. This piece of misinformation is actually slightly based in fact because if you cut your grass too short, it will actually die.

Technically, then, this is true because you would have to mow less, but no one wants a lawn with grass that’s completely dead.

If you cut your grass too short, this plant won’t have the energy to fight off weeds, pests, or the heat of the sun’s rays. While you might have to mow a little more often if you don’t cut your grass super short, your lawn will look much, much better.

Should I redo my kitchen before I sell my house?

I’ve actually written an article before about which remodels will increase the value of your home and which won’t. After TV show after TV show came out showing people the fun and value of remodeling their homes (especially the kitchen), this became extremely popular.

Unfortunately, remodeling your kitchen with decorative pieces and trendy cabinets won’t increase the value. This is because trends change, sometimes quickly. For example, remember how popular wallpaper used to be? Now, almost no new homes have this touch.

In addition to this, everyone has different tastes, so you don’t want to design your home flashy way someone else wouldn’t like. If you do redo your kitchen or other parts of your home, aim for neutral styles and colors. One thing that could truly help your home sell is a fresh coat of neutral paint.

Save your money from these misconceptions

Now that you know some of the most common misconceptions that homeowners believe, you can easily avoid them, saving yourself money and problems in the long run.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

 

How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Now that the weather is starting to get colder, it’s time to think about preparing your home for winter. Even though here in East Tennessee it doesn’t always get too cold in the winter, it certainly reaches a point that requires some home maintenance.

With just a few simple tips, you can make sure that your home doesn’t have any major problems as the temperature continues to drop.

Take a look at your furnace

If you have a furnace, make sure to call an HVAC specialist that can come out and inspect your furnace and clean out your ducts. Of course, don’t forget to also stock up on furnace filters and swap them out each month.

Don’t forget to move any material away from your furnace that you might have placed on or near it during the warmer months.

Additionally, if you heat your home with a hot-water radiator,  bleed the values. This consists of opening them slightly until water begins to come out, then closing them again.

This can help make sure that nothing goes wrong so you can stay warm and toasty even when the weather outside is brisk.

Double check all doors and windows

Almost everything regarding your doors and windows can be completed on your own, but a few will require a professional.

First, walk around the inside and outside of your home to make sure there aren’t any cracks or exposed areas around pipes or openings. If there are, seal them up. You should also look at the weatherstripping around your doors. If any doors bordering outside don’t have weatherstripping, add it. If, on the other hand, any of them seem slightly destroyed, replace them.

Another simple fix to make sure your house stays warm and you don’t waste money on heating costs is to re-caulk any windows that could use it. Caulk is economical to buy, simple to use, and can help keep a lot of heat inside your house.

Of course, if you have any cracks in your windows or ones that don’t close properly, it would be prudent to simply replace the glass or window completely. Additionally, installing storm windows if you have them can help keep the heat inside your home.

Pad pipes

If your pipe freezes in the winter, it could potentially burst, causing a lot damage and costing you quite a bit of money. You can avoid this by buying some tubular pipe insulation sleeves from any hardware store.

Then, cover all exposed pipes in unheated areas, including the attic, basement, and crawl space. Make sure you also cover the bends and joints and seal the seams with duct tape.

You should be able to accomplish this simple task yourself as the sleeves aren’t difficult to apply and can be easily cut to fit your specific pipes. With this, you’ll be able to conserve energy while saving yourself from potentially damaging and costly water damage.

Prepare your fireplace

First, make sure you have a screen at the top of your chimney so rodents and birds don’t sneak into your warm house. I know from personal experience that birds can make a nest inside of your unused fireplace, so don’t skip this step.

Then, call a chimney sweep to get rid of all that soot at creosote so you have a more efficient fireplace and take a look at the fireplace damper to guarantee it has a proper opening and closing, sealing tightly.

You should also make sure there aren’t any cracks in your fireplace or broken bricks or crumbling mortar on the outside. If so, fix it.

Another good idea is to stock up on firewood and make sure you have a lot of wood chopped in advance. This way, as long as you store it in a dry place far from the exterior of your home, you won’t be forced to go outside in the freezing cold and chop of the firewood you need.

Inspect your roof, gutters, and downspouts

First, it’s always a good idea to add extra insulation to your attic if the weather gets below freezing in the winter. This way, not only will you keep your home warmer, but you’ll prevent warm air from getting to your roof, potentially causing ice dams.

You should replace all worn roof shingles or tiles and double check flashing to make sure water can’t get into your house. Then, while you should make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean all year round, this is especially important in the winter.

If your gutters are clogged and block the drainage of rain and melted snow, this can cause leaks and damage to your home. They become particularly cluttered in the autumn with the falling leaves, so it’s important to keep on top of this before winter.

You can make sure that the entire system is unclogged and leak free by running water through it.

Double check all of your weather-specific equipment

This one isn’t very necessary for your home but is very useful when cold winter temperatures roll around.

Take a look at your snow blower and fix it if it isn’t working, find your snow shovel and rake and replace them if necessary, and buy bags of salt for your driveway in case it’s frozen and you need to drive somewhere.

Check your foundation

First, make sure you rake all debris away from your foundation. Then, check the perimeter and make sure you seal any small holes to keep out small animals and rodents searching for warmth in the winter. Even if you think a foundation crack is too small for a mouse to fit through, seal it. You’d be surprised.

Then, secure all crawlspace entrances and inspect sill plates for pest infestation or dry rot.

After these tips, you’ll keep your home warm and trouble-free all winter long.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

 

How to prepare to move with kids

Moving can be hard. With kids, things can be even more difficult. Will you be in your new home before school starts? Will your gets get emotional leaving their home and neighbors? What about scheduling around nap time (especially if you’re looking in a different time zone)?

 

Otherwise, learn how to make age-appropriate plans so you can find the perfect home for you and your family with the least amount of stress.

Infants

The age of your child or children matters quite a bit when you’re planning how to schedule showings and deal with the emotional response to moving.

 

Luckily, if you have an infant, you don’t have to worry about your child wanting to stay in the same neighborhood or fighting you when you ask them to pack up their toys. If they’re very young, they can just be brought along with no problem, hopefully sleeping most of the time.

Make sure you bring all supplies for feeding and changing and try to not linger in the homes so you can get your baby back in their normal schedule as soon as possible.

If you’re driving a long way to see the homes, this can be more difficult, but make sure to plan some breaks into your day.

Toddlers

Toddlers are, of course, more difficult than infants when it comes to looking at houses and moving. Anyone with a child this age knows that they don’t have a very long attention span and can get bored pretty quickly.

If you don’t have a babysitter for the day, make sure you bring some distractions for your toddler. Bring more than one toy in case they get bored or restless because sometimes things can take longer than you plan for, with things like traffic and other potential buyers viewing the same house.

You don’t have to overthink it; just bring some things you know your toddler will enjoy, like their favorite toy and game. If you are busy the entire day looking at homes, maybe even pack some new surprises that will be sure to hold their attention when the normal toys have become boring.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it is probably better to avoid open houses with children this age. There are a couple reasons for this.

First, you might feel like you can’t spend as much time as you would like really looking at all the nooks and crannies in the home because of all the other people around. Additionally, you might feel pressured to rush because you can’t help keep your children entertained with a toy or game if there are many other people in the house.

Over age 6

Of course, you should still keep your children occupied while shopping for homes by bringing games and toys. Depending on their age, you can also bring an iPad or tablet pre-loaded with many different age-appropriate apps to keep them busy for hours.

Beyond this, though, it’s time to start focusing on the more emotional aspect of moving, not just making sure they don’t get too bored. Kids should start to be mentally prepared for an upcoming move as soon as the details about when and what city are definite. If you as an adult need time to mentally adjust to a move, your child does, too.

Moves can either be a time of great happiness or excitement, like your family is expecting another child and wants to upgrade, or less so like a parent got laid off from a job and now the family is downsizing. Whether out of happiness or not, moving can be very emotional.

Sometimes, you need to be more gentle about preparing your kids for the move than others. For example, if the child perceives the move as coming from something negative, like their parents getting divorced, they should be given more time to adjust.

How can you help them get ready for this change?

Help them see the new life they’ll have in their new home

After you’ve decided on a particular area, drive your child around and show them what could grow to be their new favorite places.

Take them to the community soccer field or swimming pool and grab some ice cream at a local shop. Make sure they know that just because they’re moving, their favorite activities can continue.

Once you’ve decided on a house, make a list of the things your child wants in it to make it feel like more of a home. Help them envision themselves living there by asking exactly where they want to put their bed or their prized rock collection. For a bit more fun, maybe you can make plans build a treehouse in the backyard, too.

Are the kids involved in the decision?

Families have many different opinions on this, and there’s certainly not one right answer, and it greatly depends on the age of your child.

With some families, the opinion of the child is immensely important. If they truly dislike the house, yard, or neighborhood, the parents might not buy it. The older the child is, the more likely this is going to happen.

However, some parents, especially if they are moving because of a divorce or loss of a job, find the child’s opinion distracting and don’t ask for it.

Of course, sometimes children can’t understand that the price of the home they want might be out of the family’s budget. If you don’t take their opinion into consideration because of budgeting concerns, try explaining this in age-appropriate terms. While they might not immediately forgive you, they’ll understand in time.

Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, though. Maybe you can narrow down the houses in your budget to your top three favorites, then ask your child’s opinion from there. This leaves everyone happy with the choice.

Then, don’t forget to let your young kids help so they feel like they are really a part of the move. If they aren’t old enough to actually pack, give them stickers to ‘label’ the boxes so they feel like they’re helping.

Enjoy your new home

Taking a few tips and tricks into account will make shopping for a house and moving into your new home much easier so you can enjoy the exciting process of buying a new home!

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or her office at 865-577-6600.

 

How to Avoid Contractor Scams

To be clear, the majority of contractors are hardworking and honest people who are great professionals to work with. However, there are some scams that are commonly reported to the Better Business Bureau.

Like they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Whether you need a contractor for some work you’re doing to get your home ready to sell, to fix up a foreclosure you just bought with our help, or some additions you’re adding to your new home, take a quick read through this article to make sure that you don’t fall prey to these scams.

If they need all or most of the money up front

While your immediate thought might be that of course, you would never give a large percentage of the money up front, this is actually the most common scam that’s reported to the Better Business Bureau.

The thing is, contractors don’t just perform work for you. They also have to buy all of the necessary materials, rent machines and equipment, and other exceptions that is different from just paying employees. The contractor explains this to you, and it sounds reasonable. So, people willingly give up 50% of the project up front and save the other half for a well-completed job.

However, this now gives the contractor two options to be untrustworthy. One: he can just take the money and leave. This is less common because you likely live in the same community, and in today’s world of online reviews, it’s harder to escape.

The second opportunity for a shady businessman is that he can do subpar work and go over your scheduled time because if you already have given him thousands of dollars, chances are, it’s going to take quite a lot to fire him.

If your contractor truly does good, regular work and pays his bills, he’ll either have a good business plan to pay for the necessary equipment and materials or suppliers will provide these on credit.

This means that you should never pay more than 10% of the total amount of the job or $1,000, whichever one ends up being less. In fact, this is even the legal maximum in some states. It gives contractors some upfront capital for materials (which shouldn’t be necessary) and establishes the fact that you are a series customer to a busy professional.

If you don’t add it all to the contract

After you make an initial written agreement with a contractor and he starts working, things might change a little bit. Whether you noticed that you’d actually like a slightly different upgrade here or he suggests a nice extra touch there, these last-minute details are sometimes agreed upon verbally.

After all, you’ve already completed the contract, your verbal agreement was very clear, and he seems like a great guy. Unfortunately, your contractor is under no legal necessity to complete these verbal agreements whether you paid him extra or not.

Even if he is truly a great guy who would honor these agreements, numerous other problems could take place. Say, for example, he has to take time off work for a personal emergency and his company finishes up the job. If they’re unable to reach the original contractor, there’s no way for them to know that you have paid for extra services.

This is advice true both for contractors and everything else that’s important: always get it in writing. If you’re revising a contract that was already written, add any missing items and put your initials and ask the contractor to initial each change.

This is the only way you can have legal protection if things are completed as agreed.

There were some problems they didn’t expect

I hate to add this one because after working with real estate for some many years, I know that unforeseen consequences happen extremely regularly. However, some contractors could use this fact as a way to get more money, even when it’s not fully necessary.

Your contractor might inform you that they ran into some problems that couldn’t have possibly been predicted, making the price of the job shoot way up. Like I said, he might be being fully honest because this kind of thing can, unfortunately, happen.

To find out if your contractor is being honest, you can get an outside inspector to come take a look. If you need help finding a good inspector, you can take a look at our other article on the subject.

Even if the problems are legitimate, it’s also possible that the contractor gave you a low offer that you would agree to, knowing they could greatly raise the prices later.

In order to make sure that you don’t fall prey to this scheme, make sure your contract contains a procedure in case these events do happen and you need to adjust the order, a mini contract that includes a work description and fixed price for anything that could need to get added to the job in progress.

Additionally, make sure to conclude that the extra work can only proceed after the change order is signed by both of you. This way, you’ll be protected both from unforeseen consequences and an unscrupulous contractor.

Now you know

The thing is, most contractors are excellent businessmen who want to help make your home great. Another way you can make sure that you get an honest business owner is by asking them for references and checking out their licensing info.

But, now that you’ve read this article, you know the scams those unlikely few might pull, and, if you get unlucky enough to run into one, you won’t be fooled.

If you need help finding a great contractor in the East Tennessee area, please give us a call at Priority Real Estate and we’ll help you out.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

How to Find a Good Home Inspector

Home inspections can be a very important and potentially revealing part of your home buying experience. If you aren’t buying something that you know is a fixer-upper, it’s important that you have all the facts about the home and its potential problems.

If you’re unlucky, you can find yourself with a home inspector who just wants to get the job done, not caring about inspecting very well. Or perhaps you find a home inspector at the other end of the spectrum–one who writes down every single tiny issue, scaring the buyers away from buying what was actually a great house.

However, if you find yourself a good inspector, he or she can save you time, money, and problems that could be much bigger in the future.

What do most home inspections cover?

Typically, home inspections will check out the structural integrity of the house, different cosmetic features, and any important mechanical systems. This includes heating and cooling systems, electrical, plumbing, built-in appliances, the foundation, insulation, ventilation, and more.

A thorough inspection looks for all of the basics in addition to leaks, typical insect infestation, unsafe wiring, mold and mildew, and any type of safety hazard.

It’s important that you get someone who is knowledgeable because home inspectors have to cover quite a bit of ground and have a lot of expertise. While it’s impossible to expect them to find every single potential problem, we can help you find the best possible inspector.

One thing to keep in mind is that, if you choose to check for termites, you’ll typically have to hire a different type of inspector who specializes in this.

The time and complexity of a home inspection is completely dependent on the house. Sometimes a home inspector can be in and out in a couple hours, whereas other times it can take half the day. For typical homes, they’ll usually cost from $300 to $800, but this can range depending on the structure and age of the house.

While this range is very wide and it is important to shop around to find the best price, make sure that you don’t sacrifice quality in this regard. Your home is likely the most expensive purchase in your lifetime. This means that if you need to spend an extra $100 for the home inspector with 10 more years of experience who comes highly recommended, you’re likely getting more bang for your buck.

After they’ve completed the job, the home inspector will give you a written report with photographs and descriptions of any issues they found. This way, you’ll be able to understand the damage and get repair estimates much easier.

Make sure that your home inspector offers a real, written report about the inspection with details specific about your home, not a simple one-size-fits-all checklist. The report will have a detailed picture of the house on the day they performed the inspection, itemizing each major component and its condition.

Then, it’ll include all items that are in need of typical maintenance or attention, making it so you can be proactive in your approach to home maintenance. After this, it’ll show you each item that needs major repairs. Oftentimes, the seller will pay for these items to be repaired.

How to find your home inspector

If you’re in East Tennessee, we at Priority Real Estate can give you great recommendations for expert home inspectors in our area.

Otherwise, you can check out a list of your local inspectors on the American Society of Home Inspectors website at www.ashi.org. Make sure you check for someone that isn’t just a specialist like a plumber but instead has a background in home inspections. If they have a background in building, this is a big plus.

Ask how long they’ve been in the business and if they can provide you with any references, and make sure to double check that they have a verified license with the state agency (if your state regulates inspectors).

If your state doesn’t regulate inspectors, try to see if they are on the ASHI’s website. Some other respectable organizations include the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).

Of course, they don’t need to be a part of these organizations, but if they are, it can help you have some insight into their background and involvement.

Sometimes, inspectors can get certifications obtained through just a couple weeks of studying or even buy a certificate through trade organizations. That’s why it’s very important to learn about your inspector’s experience. There’s really no equivalent to years of experience inspecting homes.

Your inspector should have errors and omissions insurance and double check that their schedule can work with when you’d like to close on your house.

Another thing that you might want to take into consideration is the tools that your potential home inspector is planning on using. While it might be common for talented and experienced inspectors to bring almost nothing more than a flashlight, paper, and pencil to a home, there are many new technologies available today that can help them stay ahead of the curve.

Taking advantage of the best testing equipment available today means that they are likely dedicated to providing you with the best possible services, even if sometimes that can mean an investment in new technology.

This equipment can be anything from electronic carbon monoxide analyzers to moisture meters to electrical circuit analyzers. These tools are often necessary for making sure that your home is up to the standards that it should be reaching.

Finding a home inspector can be a daunting task. After all, they do need to know a lot about your future home. If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your path to finding the best possible specialist for your home. Instead, if you’re in East Tennessee, give us a call at 865-577-6600 for the best recommendations.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

When should you lock in your mortgage rate?

What does it mean to lock in an interest rate?

First things first, there’s no point in wondering when to lock in your mortgage rate if you don’t even fully understand what that means.

Every mortgage comes with an interest rate. This varies on many different things that you can control, such as your credit score. However, it also deals with a lot of things completely beyond your control.

For example, because Donald Trump was not expected by many to become president, his presidency is slightly unpredictable, which means that the interest rates could be too. When our neighbors across the ocean voted yes to “Brexit,” interest rates went way down by .125% or 125 points.

So, with this new presidency, rates could go way up, way down, or stay relatively the same. Right now, they’re at an almost one-year high from the presidency, but that isn’t to say they couldn’t go down again.

Basically, it’s mostly guesswork. There are financial experts that spend every day, all day attempting to understand what the interest rates will do, and they still get it wrong sometimes.

Because the interest rate is unpredictable, “locking in” a rate means that the bank promises to lend you the money at the rate during the time when you locked it in, not the rate on the day of closing on your new house.

For example, let’s say that interest rates are 3.75% when you lock in your rate. 30 days later when you sign the paperwork to close on your house, the rate becomes 3.8%. You only have to pay the 3.75%!

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, this can work the other way as well and you could end up locking in a higher interest rate. This leads many people to ask the question: when is the right time to lock in an interest rate?

Is there a perfect time?

First, it’s important to know how far in advance should you lock in your interest rate if you choose to do so. You are able to lock it in any time after you are pre-approved up to a certain amount. But does that mean that you should?

Almost all experts agree that you should wait until you have a signed contract on a house first. Don’t get preapproved and lock in a rate before your realtor has even shown you all of your options. While we all hope to find the perfect house on the first day of looking, it could possibly take months.

Why does that matter, you ask? Locking in the rate costs more for the longer amount of time if the bank allows you to do it. If you want to lock it in for 120 days instead of an average 30-60, you’re going to have to pay a lot. Typically, it isn’t worth it and my advice would be to wait.

Okay, so now you’ve got a signed contract and you’re going to almost certainly purchase a house. Congrats! Is there a perfect hour, like Tuesday afternoon is said to be best for booking airline flights? Unfortunately, no.

As said before, interest rates are relatively unpredictable. As much as everyone would love to know when the best time is, it’s hard to know. That’s doesn’t mean it’s completely hopeless, though.

One day to keep your eye on to see if rates go up or down is the first Friday of every month when the jobs report is released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This report typically has an effect on interest rates.

Another good day to keep in mind is when the Federal Reserve holds its two-day policy meetings and releases its statement. The dates for these meetings can be found on their website and are almost sure to influence the rates.

So, is it smarter to lock it in or wait?

Unfortunately, a lot of this is chance. So, you have to ask what your family, specifically, can afford to do. If you wait and rates go up, will you have problems affording the house long-term? If so, the safest bet is to lock in your rates right away.

While it is true that you could lose a bit if they go down, it’s much smarter than risking losing the ability to comfortably purchase the house if they go up.

You do have one more option, called a “float down” provision. As you might suspect from the name, this means that if the interest rates go up, you will not be affected at all, but if they go down, you will get the new, lower rate (or “float down” to the lower rate).

Well, why didn’t I say that from the very beginning, right? Clearly, this is the best option that everyone would like to choose.

Banks realize this as well, so they charge quite large amounts to add this float down provision to your mortgage. While this depends on the specific bank and their rates, as well as your financial situation, the extra cost is usually not advisable. As the bank has to make money too, they usually factor out this cost so that they won’t lose much money if the interest rate does go down.

However, sometimes this could be the smartest move for your new mortgage. Talk about this in depth to your lender, real estate professional, and family, making sure you understand both the long and short-term costs of all decisions.

When making the decision to lock in your mortgage rate or not, the main question, as stated before, is just to ask yourself: what will I lose if the interest rate goes up versus down? Can I afford the risk of waiting? If not, and the initial rate you’re offered is fair, lock it in!

How to make the most of your home’s storage

No matter how big your home is, you’re always going to feel like there isn’t enough storage space. Between storing clothes from different seasons, holiday decorations, cleaning supplies, toys, and all of the other important items, your home might just be full to the point of breaking.

If you’re curious about how to make sure that your bathroom isn’t a pig sty and all those sheets will fit in your closet, read on.

Get rid of clutter

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear; buying an extra closet or storage space would be a whole lot easier than getting rid of all of your clutter, but if you really want to maximize your storage space, it’s necessary.

Go through not only your main closets, but all of those drawers and hidden closets that you try to pretend don’t exist until you have to stuff something else in them.

Organize everything in donate, sell, and trash piles, then actually follow through with the pile. Throw the trash away right away. Take all your donations to a great non-profit that very day. Take pictures of your clothes to sell and put them online or organize and plan a yard sale.

If you get rid of all of the things that aren’t actually useful to you anymore, you’ll already be amazed at the extra storage space you didn’t know that you had.

Don’t forget vertical spaces

Sometimes, you’re so used to organizing things on shelves that you forget that there’s a lot more space in your home. Hanging things from the ceiling can be stylish and helps you utilize a lot more space.

For example, a hanging pot rack can help your kitchen achieve a great look while also freeing up your cabinets. If you’re worried about purchasing a home without much kitchen storage space, don’t forget hanging pot racks.

Another option to remember for smaller kitchens is a hanging spice rack. This can go on the inside of a cabinet door, allowing you to put all of your spices away in an organized fashion without having to worry about taking up your valuable storage space!

It’s hard to overstate how much space you can save with a few hanging shoe racks. These go on the back of doors and, of course, hold shoes. However, this isn’t all.

These over-the-door hanging shoe organizers are also perfect for a bathroom that doesn’t give you enough counter or cabinet space. You can put makeup, hairbrushes, deodorant, curling irons, and everything else you could need to use in these individual pockets.

That way, you can stay clean and organized while utilizing a small space.

Hidden furniture

If you don’t have much space, practically every piece of furniture you buy should double as storage. The best you buy should have drawers underneath; your couch should be hollow inside to put games, blankets, and anything else you need away.

The places where these are most important are the living room and entryway as they typically get full of clutter the quickest. If you don’t have space for any furniture in your entryway, make sure you mount some hooks on the wall for jackets and hats.

Additionally, if your family is one to remove shoes right away, you should invest in a small, vertical, shoe rack so they aren’t scattered all over the ground.

Shelves, shelves, shelves

Shelves can be helpful everywhere. Do you have a child with a lot of school books and nowhere to put them? Build some shelves on the wall in their bedroom. Need a place to put your keys, wallet, phone, and change when you get home from work? A shelf in the entryway will do the trick!

Shelves are also very useful in your laundry room so you can place detergent, stain removers, bleach, and anything else you use, up on the wall to free space for you to fold and sort your clothes.

Of course, kitchens can also greatly benefit from more shelves. You should certainly use as many vertical storage tricks as possible in your kitchen, like the hanging spice racks, but it’s also nice to have some more shelves for things like olive oil, salt, pepper, and other essentials.

Another place where large shelves are essential is the garage. On these shelves, you can store luggage, off-season clothes, decorations, and more. Also, they can help you stay more organized than searching your way through numerous boxes all over your garage.

Shelves built on the walls effectively gives you a lot more places to organize your things, even if your house or the house you’re considering buying doesn’t come with much space.

Buy some organizers

Do you already have a closet organizer? Because if not, you should. These were specifically built to help people utilize their small closet space, making it much more organized and useful. A closet organizer can really help you see the space you’re misusing from lack of organization.

Also, vacuum storage bags are lifesavers for when you need to store a lot of off-season clothes and you don’t have many places to put them. With these bags, you can use a vacuum to suck out the extra air inside the clothes and bags, making them much smaller than they could otherwise be.

From here, you can store them on one of those shelves you built in your garage, or simply stash them under your bed until it’s time to open them up again.

Everyone wants more space

Don’t let a home without enough cabinets or drawers prevent you from buying it. Almost everyone has a problem with not having enough storage space.

Luckily, though, this means that many, many inventions were made to help people with this problem. From desk organizers to hidden space inside of an ottoman, take advantage of everything that you can to help you utilize the small space.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

 

Will my property rise in value?

You might have heard that buying a home is always a smart investment because the value always rises over time, but is this really true?

Well, certainly home prices go up because of inflation, but you have to look at some more context to understand if your home’s value can rise over the rate of inflation.

If you’re buying your house as a primary place to live, it’s almost always a good decision. However, if you’re thinking about buying an extra investment home, read on to understand if it will rise in value.

The physical structure will depreciate

When investors talk about the home’s value appreciating they are usually referring to the land. The home itself will have more problems the older it gets, such as leaky drains, potential structural issues, and more.

The house requires average maintenance, design updates to keep it in style, and more. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows that homes depreciate and allows you to note the depreciation for tax purposes.

However, the land won’t have these same problems. Focusing on the land and its location is what is going to get you a solid, smart investment with the highest rate of return.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the property doesn’t matter at all. If you’re looking at selling an investment home, it needs to be in good condition and look well kept-up. And, of course, as the price of the land in the area rises, so will the price of your home.

However, when choosing an investment home, location is typically more important than the house itself.

The land will appreciate

Have you ever heard of an investor buying a degraded home, tearing it down, building a new one, and still making a profit when they sell it? That’s because the land and location were more important than the actual physical structure on it when purchasing an investment property.

Of course, you need to crunch the numbers to be certain that the cost of buying the home, property, and repairs will still be able to give you a profit when selling, but the bottom line is that the location matters more. That is why a beautiful house in an unpopular area might cost hundreds of thousands less than a destroyed property in a popular zone.

Land follows the normal rules of supply and demand. Because demand continues to increase with the population and there’s no way to produce more supply, land in a good area is often a stable investment.

As we know that the value will increase, we just need to understand by how much. To understand if where your potential investment home will go up in value, you need to look at the location and the future potential in this area.

Location, location, location

If you’re buying your investment to live in, it can be hard to give up the perfect house in exchange for a smaller or less beautiful home in a different area. However, if you want to maximize the investment opportunity of being a homeowner, this is the best decision.

Force yourself to look past many of the physical aspects of the home when deciding on which to purchase, and instead zone in on how the location will affect your return.

I do want to stress, though, that you should hire a contractor or someone knowledgeable in the field to understand exactly how much the repairs will cost. Even if the home is in a good area, it’s not a smart buy if you can’t afford the necessary repairs.

If the home is structurally sound and just has a few beauty problems, many of these can be fixed on your own, especially with all the DIY help out there today. Location is the most important aspect, but make sure you consider all the costs before committing to a home that needs work.

What to look for in the location

The home’s location within a home’s neighborhood matters. For example, if your potential investment property is located on a cul-de-sac or dead end, this location is more desirable within neighborhoods with others. This is because there is less traffic and is typically safer for children.

Don’t forget that smaller or less attractive homes can potentially get you much greater returns on your investment. Don’t be fooled by that beautiful looking home for a great price, and take a look at the prices of homes around it as well.

Another tip is that you should look at the area’s future development plans before buying an investment property there. Is a nice, new shopping mall moving in close by? That’s great. Some other structures, though, could decrease the area’s potential value.

It’s also important to look at its proximity to other amenities, such as grocery stores and more. If your investment property is located near a great school system, the value will probably continue to climb.

How to choose?

Essentially, it’s very important to look past how beautiful a home is. If it’s in the wrong location, it likely won’t rise in value beyond inflation. However, if it’s in an area that is near many amenities, good schools, and has new stores and shops opening up left and right (or planned for the near future), it’s likely a good investment decision.

Make sure you understand the full costs before buying and don’t get any investment properties that are too costly or difficult to repair, or else you might not be able to keep your property long enough to see it appreciate.

The most important things to remember are that the physical structure will depreciate in value, but the land will not. So, as long as the numbers work out, choosing a less attractive home in a better location is always the smarter decision.

If you want to track housing appreciation in your area to get a better understanding, you can visit the site of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). After you’ve found the area you want to buy an investment property in, Priority Real Estate can help you find the perfect home.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.

 

Secrets of Staging Companies

Staging companies come in and set up furniture in your house in a perfect way that appeals to buyers. This can greatly increase the number of people interested in your home, as well as how much they are willing to offer.

Luckily, you don’t have to fundamentally change anything about your house, just simply reorganize it. Do you want to know their secrets without shelling out the big bucks?

No more clutter

Speaking of clutter, it isn’t important just to make sure that you don’t have papers all over the counter or closets that are bursting with disorganization. Instead, you have to remove the clutter that you might not even notice after years of living in your house.

This is where the staging experts come in handy. Because the home is new to them, they can walk into the living room and see that there is way too much furniture. What could be a loving family room actually becomes cramped.

To avoid this, try to look at your house with new eyes. Of course, make sure all of the top-level clutter, like messiness, is gone, but also make moves like taking out some pieces of furniture to make your home feel larger and more open.

Center furniture

On the note of making your home look larger by reorganizing the furniture, make sure that you don’t have anything pushed up against the wall. Many people would assume that pushing that couch back gives more room to walk around, but this is actually the opposite of what you should do.

If you instead group furniture together, rather than pushing it up against the wall, you can help guide the room’s traffic flow, making it look less empty and more usable.

Never underestimate light

Bright lights in a home accomplish a number of different goals. It will look larger, as well as more friendly and open. Although simply adding some lights seems like such a small thing to do, don’t underestimate it.

What many consider to be a good rule is about 100 watts of lighting per every 50 square feet. Staging experts know how to utilize task light, ambient light, and accent lighting to make your house appear warmer and larger.

Soften the bedroom

As we’ve talked about in previous articles, it’s usually the kitchen that really sells the house. However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore the bedrooms. Walking into a master bedroom where future homeowners can envision themselves relaxing is very important in making a sale.

In order to accomplish this, only choose soft colors for things in the bedroom, from the paint to the comforter set on the bed. Of course, you don’t need to replace your bed, but the bedding should have soft colors paired with a neutral pattern.

Additionally, make sure the closets are as empty and organized as you could possibly make them. Everyone knows that there can never be enough storage space, but making your closet look larger is always a benefit.

Neutral tones throughout the house

Neutral tones are best used throughout the house. Even if you have a beautiful accent wall, bright colors often drive buyers away because they might not like the particular color you’ve chosen and they don’t want to invest the time and money to repaint it.

Because of this, sticking to colors like light gray, beige, or tan is perfect if you decide to repaint your house before putting it on the market. With colors like these, particularly if you are replacing wallpaper with a neutral light gray, will help give your home a more modern feel.

With these colors, people are better able to envision themselves in the home without worrying about their artwork or furniture conflicting with any bright, bold colors.

Strategically place wall decorations

First, take away the pictures of your family and friends that are scattered throughout your walls. Once again, this is about helping the potential buyers see themselves in your house. This is more difficult to do while seeing old family photos.

Then, organize those paintings and other artwork so their spacing and height are varied so more attention is drawn to them. If you’re unsure exactly how to organize your artwork, try imitating some pictures that you see in magazines or online.

Utilize every room

If you’re like my family, you might have a “junk” room, where all the miscellaneous items that you aren’t exactly sure where to put end up. If so, it’s finally time to clear out this room. First, organize, pack, and sell anything that can’t remain in this room.

Then, give the room a purpose. Is it large enough for a guest room? Great, decorate it like that. If not, or if you want to save money, perhaps simply set up some small pieces of furniture to make it a small closet. Instead, it could become an office.

Whatever you choose to do with it, make sure you give the room a purpose other than a simple extra, unused room. If you do this, you’ll add a lot of value to your home and give it that extra kick.

Any projects going on?

We all know how it goes. You start a project with all the motivation in the world after seeing a particularly inspiring HGTV episode, but then life comes along and you keep putting off this project until weeks turned into months (and possibly even years).

Now is the time to finally finish them. Buyers noticed these little unfinished projects and they are a large deterrent. Additionally, if something left unfinished could present a safety hazard, it could make it so your home does not pass inspection.

So, finish those projects and make sure everything is up to code. And, while you’re at it, make any minor repairs that won’t take very long but you’ve been putting off because they aren’t very important. Small things can make a big difference to potential buyers.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be staging like a pro in no time.

Michele Karl is the Owner/Broker of Priority Real Estate. She can be reached at her her email at [email protected] or give her a call at her office at 865-577-6600.