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Prep Your Gutters for Winter Weather

While you may have taken care of a variety of tasks in order to button up your home for winter weather—from replacing weather stripping to closing-up the fireplace—chances are, you neglected your gutters.

The problem is, ignored, clogged or underperforming gutters have the potential to wreak havoc on your home during the coldest months of the year, according to The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, Ken and Ryan Parsons. Here, they share the top five ways to get your gutters ready for winter weather.

  1. Clean out debris. Remove leaves and other debris from gutters, as waste will clog your gutter system and create an environment ripe for ice dams. Ice dams can degrade your home’s roof, walls, foundation and ability to insulate.
  2. Install guards. Adding gutter guards will help prevent such buildup in the first place. Available in a variety of styles and finishes, make your selection based on your budget and climate.
  3. Use heat. Installing a deicing cable as a heating system for your gutters and roof is a viable option to prevent ice dams and even melt away ones that have begun to form.
  4. Repair holes. Find and repair any holes in your gutters immediately, as leaks will divert water from the appropriate downspouts and cause it to trickle down the side of your home. This can cause water damage like rot and mold, as well as weaken your home’s foundation. You can make a patch with the same material as your gutters and install it with roofing cement.
  5. Look for malformations. Check for sagging gutters and fix or replace them. Slumping gutters will cause a buildup of water and debris. Remove problem areas and replace damaged screws, brackets or entire sections as needed.

While it is possible to complete some or all of the above tasks on your own, you may save time and money by hiring a professional. This will also help provide the peace of mind that your gutters are in good shape and your home is protected.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Here’s Why You Should Buy a Home During the Winter

With the holidays over, heading into the coldest months of the year, many people might assume that now is a terrible time to buy a home. However, now is the best time to score a deal on that dream house!

Here are a few reasons why it may be in your best interest to buy a house this winter:

Motivated Sellers
The colder months tend to see less activity as far as listings and sales go. This may seem like a disadvantage; however, if you’re able to find a house that meets your needs, chances are you’ll also have found a motivated seller. The majority of homes are listed in the spring/summer, so if you’ve stumbled upon a listing that’s been on the market for a while, the seller will likely be ready to negotiate.

If the home is newly listed, the seller may be eager to sign a contract before the new year. Tax implications or forced relocation are a few reasons sellers will be willing to accept lower offers. 

Less Competition
We’ve all heard the story of the dreaded bidding war. It seems today’s market is seeing this happen more than ever. Not only can it drive the price of the home above asking; you also run the risk of emotional overspending or losing the property altogether. 

With the majority of buyers taking a break from house-hunting, now is an optimal time to start your search. With the likelihood of competing offers dropping significantly, buyers can regain some control during negotiations.  

Lower Interest Rates
This is not a guarantee, however. Loan and mortgages interest rates fluctuate throughout the year, and historically hit lows during the holiday season. With less people looking to buy and borrow right now, interest rates tend to dip, which is a bonus for borrowers.

It may appear to be an insignificant rate difference; however, over the term of your mortgage, you’ll be in for some serious savings! So while you’re out and about this winter, make a trip to your bank for a mortgage pre-approval!

Professional Availability
With fewer homes on the market, real estate agents tend to find themselves with more overall availability. If you’re ready to buy a home, you’ll benefit, as your REALTOR® will have more time to dedicate to your search and negotiation once your dream home is found. 

Not only does the real estate market slow down during the winter, so do related professions. Mortgage brokers, home inspectors and legal professionals all may have some extra time on their hands, meaning your deal may be able to close quicker. 

Buying a new home during the winter can seem like a daunting task; however, if you’re able to close on a deal in January or February, chances are you’ll be enjoying the benefits for years to come! Lower purchase price and better interest rates are just a couple of the reasons why buying that dream house right now may be worth it!

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

5 Home Materials That Look Better with Age

If we’re being honest, some home materials can simply stand the test of time better than others. This is especially true if your house is exposed to a harsh climate or undergoes the everyday wear and tear that comes with kids and pets running around. While some materials are at their best when they’re shiny and new, others can develop a beautiful patina that adds character. Here are a few such materials that will continue to look better with age.

copper bathroom

Copper can be used for a variety of applications around the home, from gutters and cladding to sinks, bathtubs and light fixtures. Wherever you choose to use it, eventually copper will oxidize and its shiny dark orange appearance will develop a distinguished look with shades of blue and green. This will happen noticeably faster when used outside and there’s no greater example of this than the Statue of Liberty.

The warm earth tones of terracotta often contribute to a timeless aesthetic, whether it’s used for tile floors or pottery in your garden. One of the reasons this material has been around for so long is that it fares well in the elements and, in fact, the texture gets even richer. When you decide to splurge on beautiful handmade terracotta for your home, you can rest assured that it will endure.

Reclaimed Wood
One of the best parts about using reclaimed wood in your home is that its flaws are actually part of the appeal. The scuffs and scratches that developed over time tell the story of its past life and eventually turn into an inimitable patina. Rather than having to worry about keeping your floors flawless, it can be nice to embrace the imperfections with a rustic look. This is especially true if you have dogs, which can take a toll on hardwood floors.

Natural Stone
If you have natural stone floors, like travertine or sandstone, you can certainly expect this surface to change over time. As the stone takes on a weathered look, the texture will become smoother and develop a soft luster that many people find desirable.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

First Time Buyers: What NOT to Do

If this is going to be the year you break out into your own place, you likely want to be sure your path is as clear as possible. First and foremost, buying one’s first home is one of the most exciting – and challenging – life experiences. 

To come out ahead, don’t make any of the common mistakes that could put your home-buying experience in peril. The U.S. Farm Bureau (fbfs.com) advises first-timers against doing any of the following leading up to or during your closing:

Don’t Open New Lines of Credit. Taking on new debt, no matter how small, could throw off your debt-to-income ratio — a magic number in mortgage lending — and disqualify you.

Don’t Miss Bill Payments. In the stress of preparing to buy a house, it’s easy to miss a payment, but it could have serious consequences that will make you ineligible for a loan from certain lenders for at least a year, the bureau says.

Don’t Change Jobs. During the mortgage loan process, change — even good change — could set you back. Avoid a change in job status that will cause a lender to question your financial stability.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

4 Resolutions for Home Improvements to Make in 2020

With the New Year just beginning, it’s time to think about resolutions to improve your life. Many people give up bad habits related to their health or finances while others start something new, such as taking a college class or changing jobs.

One of the most important improvements you can make this year involves your home. Make 2020 the year when you make key home improvements, such as these, that’ll make it more valuable and appealing:

Foundation and Roof
Start with the basic essentials of your home. Check the foundation for cracks, settling or movement, and have those problems expertly assessed. Do the same for your roof to ensure adequate protection from the elements and to prevent interior damage from leaks due to excessive rain, snow or ice. Keeping these two areas secure will help to ensure your home remains sturdy for years to come.

To increase efficiency and save money on utility bills, schedule inspection and maintenance service calls for your home’s utilities. Typically, these include the HVAC system, plumbing and electricity. If those systems are operating effectively but your utility costs remain high, it may be a good idea to add more insulation to your attic or behind the walls for extra protection in keeping your house warm during the colder months. Update your electric panel or wiring if needed to avoid possible shocks or fire in case of a short circuit or lightning strike. Repair plumbing drips and leaks and ensure drainage is working as it should, so water leaks or backups don’t cause problems.

Fresh Paint
If your walls and floors are in generally good condition, consider giving your rooms a fresh coat of paint. New colors will brighten your home, and it’s a fairly basic and inexpensive way to change the look of various areas. Add coordinating accents like throw pillows or area rugs, and your house can be automatically updated with a clean, attractive look.

When the weather permits, give your lawn a makeover in time for the spring growing season. Lay down fresh mulch to replace the old and trim dead branches from trees and shrubs. Replace dead plants with new ones, and consider adding patio pavers to enhance the outdoor look of your property.

With minimal cost and effort, you can keep these home improvement resolutions in the year ahead. Benefits include a sense of pride in achieving your goals, as well as daily enjoyment of your renovated living space and lawn!

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Home Prices Now 15 Percent Higher Than Last Peak

In October, home prices rose 3.3 percent year-over-year, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic/Case-Shiller Indices, bringing them a milestone 15 percent-plus higher than their last peak, in July 2006.

Kleine grüne Häuschen stehen auf Stapeln aus Münzen.

The complete data for the 20 markets measured by S&P:

Atlanta, Ga.
October/September: 0.4%
Year-Over-Year: 4.2%

Boston, Mass.
October/September: 0%
Year-Over-Year: 3.4%

Charlotte, N.C.
October/September: 0.4%
Year-Over-Year: 4.8%

Chicago, Ill.
October/September: -0.4%
Year-Over-Year: 0.5%

Cleveland, Ohio
October/September: -0.5%
Year-Over-Year: 3.3%

Dallas, Texas
October/September: -0.1%
Year-Over-Year: 2.9%

Denver, Colo.
October/September: 0%
Year-Over-Year: 3.3%

Detroit, Mich.
October/September: -0.5%
Year-Over-Year: 3.1%

Las Vegas, Nev.
October/September: -0.2%
Year-Over-Year: 2.3%

Los Angeles, Calif.
October/September: 0.4%
Year-Over-Year: 2%

Miami, Fla.
October/September: 0.3%
Year-Over-Year: 3.3%

Minneapolis, Minn.
October/September: -0.2%
Year-Over-Year: 4.2%

New York, N.Y.
October/September: 0.3%
Year-Over-Year: 0.8%

Phoenix, Ariz.
October/September: 0.5%
Year-Over-Year: 5.8%

Portland, Ore.
October/September: -0.5%
Year-Over-Year: 2.7%

San Diego, Calif.
October/September: -0.2%
Year-Over-Year: 2.9%

San Francisco, Calif.
October/September: -0.4%
Year-Over-Year: -0.4%

Seattle, Wash.
October/September: -0.3%
Year-Over-Year: 2.5%

Tampa, Fla.
October/September: 0.6%
Year-Over-Year: 4.9%

Washington, D.C.
October/September: 0.3%
Year-Over-Year: 3%

“With October’s 3.3 percent increase in the national composite index, home prices are currently more than 15 percent above the pre-financial crisis peak reached July 2006,” Craig J. Lazzara, of the S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. “As was the case last month, after a long period of decelerating price increases, the national, 10-city and 20-city composites all rose at a modestly faster rate in October compared to September. This stability was broad-based, reflecting data in 12 of 20 cities.

However, “it is, of course, still too soon to say whether this marks an end to the deceleration or is merely a pause in the longer-term trend,” cautioned Lazzara.

Heading into 2020, appreciation could temper, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, if builders expand inventory options.

“Demand remains strong and supply is lacking,” says Yun. “Moreover, faster price appreciation in warmer Southern states reflect the ongoing migratory trend of people moving out of expensive regions of the country to more affordable parts. In 2020, more home-building activity and consequent growth in supply should tame down home price gains. That’s a healthy development for potential homebuyers. Southern cities should once again do better than most other markets.”

At the local scale, home prices varied.

“Price trends varied across cities depending in part on affordability constraints and population growth pressures,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, says. “High-cost markets, where the lack of affordable housing remains a critical issue, had the largest deceleration in price growth from one year ago, with prices declining in San Francisco on an annual basis for the third month in a row. Of the cities in the composite index, Phoenix and Tampa top the list of annual appreciation, reflecting rising demand from strong population growth in Arizona and Florida.”

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

5 Home Areas to Purge in the New Year

While the new year is often a time of revitalized goals, it is also an excellent time for purchasing unwanted clutter and junk, Circle a weekend in the first few months of the year and plan for purging. The following areas are a great place to start.

Kitchen cabinets. Pull everything out of your kitchen cabinets and examine your items for frequency of use. If you have duplicates, worn items or well-intentioned gadgets you rarely use, pull them aside for donation or re-sell. 

Linen closets. When was the last time you itemized your linen closet? Empty out your space and look for linens that are stained, damaged, faded or, in general, have seen better days. Cut them up into rags or store them for drop cloths for your next painting project.

Storage spaces. Storage spots–whether it’s the attic, garage or that closet in the basement–are often packed with items that we really got let go of. Go through each storage space and be brutal with your elimination tactics. If you haven’t used it in over a year and it isn’t highly sentimental, it should go.

Media collections. Do you have stacks of DVDs, books, magazines, and more that you rarely use? Dig through your collection and consider donating items to your local library. 

Clothes. Your clothes closet is likely stuffed full of items you rarely wear. Having trouble letting go? Pull everything out, put on a fashion show for yourself, and toss anything that doesn’t make you feel excellent. If you have items that are similar, let your least favorite one go. Anything with holes or stains should be tossed, cut up for rags, or stored for gardening or painting clothes. Consign your nicer pieces, and donate the rest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

New Home? Use This Move-In Checklist

After an exhaustive search, you’ve finally found and closed on your new home and are ready to move in! While your mind might be all about painting, decorating and buying furniture, don’t overlook the important practical steps that should be taken upon arrival.

Consider this helpful move-in guideline from Lowe’s to make sure you’re safe and sound in your new home…then you can focus on being stylish, too!

1. Change the locks. You can’t be sure that the keys to your new home are the only ones in existence, so play it safe and change the locks. Now is a good time to consider home automation with smart locks and keyless entry, too.

2. Reprogram the garage door opener. This is another important safety step for your new home. Most remotes have a reset button, but contact the manufacturer if you’re unsure about how to go about it.

3. Know how to shut off the water. This is essential for any new homeowner to know in case of a water emergency. Find the main water shutoff, as well as all outside water spigots. Ask the previous homeowner if you can’t find them.

4. Find the main circuit breaker. Make sure you understand how it’s labeled, and which switch turns off what. If you’re moving into a new construction home, identify the circuits and make your own labels.

5. Test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure there’s one smoke detector in every room. Carbon monoxide detectors are needed on each floor. Also, place a fire extinguisher on every level—and learn how to use it.

6. Know what to do if you’re locked out. Find a good hiding spot for a spare key, or make friends with a neighbor who can hold onto a spare set.

7. Get to know your HVAC system so that you’re comfortable controlling your heating and cooling systems. This will be essential to keeping your energy bills in check. You may also want to install a smart thermostat. 

8. Check out your lightbulbs. Look both inside and out and see if you need to make the switch to energy efficient lightbulbs. 

9. Replace all toilet seats. It’s always a good idea to go with a fresh start in the bathroom!

10. Create an emergency exit plan. Investigate your new home thoroughly and come up with an exit plan for all members of your family in the event of an emergency. Make this your No. 1 priority so you can sleep soundly on your very first night.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

4 Signs Termites Have Made Themselves at Home in Your Home

Having a pest problem in your home, although irritating, happens more often than you may think. Likely, every homeowner will experience battling pests at some point.

Although you’ve probably heard of people having rat and roach infestations, people often forget about termites because their effects aren’t as visible. Termites are small insects that eat through and live in wood. If you reside in an area where termites are common, it’s important you know what to look for:

The Sounds
Despite their small size, termites are actually pretty noisy creatures. In fact, one of the most notable signs that you have termites is the sound they produce, often described as a loud banging. You may be wondering how something so small can make that kind of noise. It’s because the worker termites are very loud eaters. If you start hearing this sound, then you may need to call an exterminator.

You Think You Have Ants
At first glance, a termite looks very similar to an ant. Small in size and large in numbers, it’s easy to mistake them for ants. However, there’s one distinct feature that termites have that ants do not: their color. Termites are often white, which makes them look somewhat transparent. Ants, on the other hand, are either red, brown or black. There’s no such thing as a white ant, so if you see an ant that looks transparent, call a termite expert immediately.
Doors and Windows Aren’t as Easy to Open

You may be thinking that since termites tend to eat through door and window frames that these areas would be loose and more easy to open; however, this usually is not the case. As termites chew their way through the wood, they leave behind moisture, which causes the wood to become warped. When wood starts to warp, it can make opening your windows and doors more difficult than usual. There are plenty of termite solutions for this, but be sure to act quickly to avoid further restoration costs.

Termite Droppings
The last notable sign that you have termites are finding their droppings. Also known as frass, termite droppings will surround the area they’re inhabiting. Frass is usually black in color and the pellets are tiny. The frass they push out of their tunnels may resemble a mound of black pepper.

If left untreated, termites can cause devastating damage to your home. Make sure to take precautions in preventing them, and call an exterminator should the need arise!

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Tips for Buying a Foreclosure

Are you considering buying a foreclosure or bank-owned home? It can be tempting to look at foreclosed properties if you want a bargain, but are the lower prices really worth the potential problems? A different approach is needed when you are looking to buy a foreclosed house. Below are some tips and tricks to make the process smoother.

It’s essential to know that these kinds of real estate transactions can be a bit riskier than your traditional purchase. Quite often, first-time homebuyers are under the impression that foreclosure properties are the bargain of the century. While at times there is a discount, don’t expect it to be monumental. If only going from a renter to a homeowner translated into instant equity. Unfortunately, it rarely ever works that way.
Keep your eyes wide open and use these simple tips for buying a foreclosure:

Is It a Good Idea to Buy a Foreclosed Home?
A foreclosed property has been recovered by the lender when the owner was unable to keep up their mortgage payments. The lender wants to get as much of their money back, and they want to do it quickly. This leads to foreclosed homes coming on the market for less than the value they really offer.

For buyers, this can present an excellent opportunity to save thousands on the house. There are some downsides and potential pitfalls to purchasing a foreclosed property, and it won’t be for everybody. If you’re happy with the higher risks involved and can move quickly on a deal, this could be a way to get a decent discount on a home. Here’s what you’ll need to do to secure a foreclosure bargain:

Get the Right Real Estate Agent
It’ll be helpful to get the services of a buyer’s real estate agent who’s knowledgeable about the foreclosure market. To find an excellent REALTOR®, check the online listings for foreclosed properties in your area. Look for agents with specialized qualifications, like the Certified Distressed Property Expert and the Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource training certificates.

Buyers will sometimes go directly to the seller’s agent, which, frankly, isn’t smart. The thinking for doing so most often is getting savings in commission. Keep in mind that the listing agent works for the seller. Their fiduciary duty in every way is to the seller. Getting a discount in commission isn’t beneficial if you make a terrible mistake or overpay for the property.

If you find a great agent, you can expect them to look out for properties that meet your needs. You have to be ready to do things quickly, however, as these listing don’t usually remain on the market for long.

There are specific online search tools you can use to find foreclosure properties.

Have a Preapproved Mortgage
If you aren’t able to pay cash for the property, you’ll need to show a preapproval mortgage letter to prove that you’re serious. It will show that you can close on the property quickly, being able to pay the amount offered.

Having a loan ready will mean that you can better compete with offers from real estate investors, which will normally be offering cash. Lenders will need the property appraised to find the value. You need to take this into account when making an offer so that the loan amount isn’t below the offer you’ve made. If this happens, you may have to find the difference if the sellers won’t reduce the price to match.

Comparative Market Analysis
It can be challenging to judge the right amount to offer for a foreclosed home. Analyzing the recent sales information can provide a better understanding of the bid you should offer to get the house. Your agent should be able to run this analysis for you. They should also be able to give you some idea about how quickly sales go through, which will inform you on how much you need to bid.

Your agent needs to realize when running comparable sales data to be comparing apples to apples. The condition will play a vital role in the value. The agent will need to have decent skills at estimating necessary improvements.

Bidding Higher
If you find that foreclosures are selling quickly in your area, you will need to bid more to make sure you’re successful. Your agent should be able to help you create an offer that has a good chance of success. The foreclosure price may be discounted by the lender already, so putting in a low-ball offer may not be a reliable approach. In fact, you may find that bidding the asking price or slightly above is the best way to win the purchase. You may need to waive some of the contingencies which seem essential in a regular purchase. While it may seem crazy to do so, some buyers will waive a home inspection when buying foreclosure homes. As an agent who has been in the business for 33 years, I wouldn’t recommend it, but it certainly happens.

The waiver of a financing contingency, even when you’re not paying cash, is also a possibility. This will make sure the sale goes through faster, which is what the lender is looking for. If you decide this is the route you’re going to take, make absolutely certain you’ll have no problem getting the mortgage. Otherwise, you would be putting your earnest money at risk.

Condition of the Property
Often, a foreclosed property will be in a worse condition than you would expect from a typical house sale. The previous owner may not have cared much about the state of the property when they left it. Quite often, bank-owned properties are fixer-uppers that need quite a bit of work. The lender isn’t going to be particularly interested in making any repairs, either.

You should have a home inspection done to make sure you fully understand the problems the property may have. As previously mentioned, not having one is foolhardy. Things may be uncovered that were unknown to the lender, and a better deal could be possible if that happens.

While lenders aren’t going to care about routine maintenance items, if something significant pops up, like a non-functioning heating system, there may be some consideration.

Final Thoughts
Buying a foreclosed home is not for everyone. When purchasing this type of property, it is essential to make sure you do extra due diligence. It’s not out of the realm of possibility there could be the next problem you weren’t aware of lurking around the corner.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell Metrowest Massachusetts real estate for the past 33 years.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

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