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Monday, September 14 2020 21:55

How to Prepare Your Home for Cozy Fall Weather

The leaves on the trees are finally changing and that means one thing: fall is here. Grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte and say hello to all things sugar, spice, and of course, everything nice.

With an autumn scented candle wafting through your home, you can tackle anything, including preparing your home for the fall season. Here are some tips to create the coziest atmosphere for your home this fall.

Last year, we took a look at a booming trend in multigenerational living: the in-law suite. Now, with more families staying home than ever and many sharing concerns about the health of older Americans, it's no wonder that families are getting creative when it comes to expanding the possibilities for the extended family. Hence, we're serving up some thoughts on building an in-law suite, 2020 style!

Although 90% of seniors say they'd want to remain in their own homes as they age, living alone isn't always a possibility (nor is it always recommended). However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to consider assisted living facilities or nursing homes nearby. In some cases, building an in-law suite -- also known as a granny suite -- may allow your older loved one to retain their independence and privacy while remaining safe and well cared for.

With winter finally gone, it’s time to usher in spring — the time of year when flowers begin to blossom and trees regain some semblance of life. If you’ve been thinking about selling your home, perhaps now is the best time to get down to business. Spring tends to bring out the most home buyers as buyers time their move with the school year.

Home improvement is big business, with the industry roughly worth $394 billion. Curb appeal improvements are just as important to consider as interior repairs — and in some cases, they're even more so. Think of your curb appeal as your home’s first impression to potential buyers. Making curb appeal improvements is a great way to ensure your home receives the best offer and often proves a high return on investment.

According to Houzz, approximately 58% of homeowners completed some form of a home renovation project in 2017. Approximately 40% of homes are over 50 years old, so it makes sense that repairs and updates need to get done. Whether you’re one of the 90% of Americans who prefer to be surrounded by green lawns or a foodie wanting to upgrade your kitchen, you’re bound to have an interesting time renovating your home. Plus, your house will become even more valuable should you choose to sell it in the future.

Thursday, February 20 2020 20:17

7 Telltale Signs of Water Damage in Your Home

About 90% of American homeowners surveyed stated that it's important to have a home inspection before moving in. And yet, many of us fail to investigate homes we've lived in for years for evidence of serious damage. It's critical to pay attention to signs of water damage. Not only can this type of damage have significant effects on the value of your home and the protection of your belongings, but it can have major health consequences, too. Mold, for instance, can grow and spread just 48 hours after the formation of a leak, which can lead to the need for expensive remediation -- and if left unaddressed, it can put your well-being at risk.

To that end, here are seven signs of water damage you should look for every two months, as well as the risks involved if you don't get them fixed as soon as possible.

The new year is thought of as a fresh start -- and if citizens of the world fail to take action to protect the planet, we might not have many fresh starts (or years ahead of us) left. That's why many homeowners are making a pledge to be more energy efficient and eco-friendly overall in 2020. But if you don't want to take on massive renovations or even sacrifice your relative comfort, can you still be sustainable?

The answer is a resounding "yes." By implementing some simple changes, you can make your home more environmentally sound, reduce your carbon footprint, and maybe even save some money in the coming year. Here are a few ways to go about it.

Add Some Green

If you want to go green, you might want to add green. That might mean spending some green up front, as well, but most people will tell you that it'll pay off in the end. Not only can landscaping add as much as 14% to your home's resale value, but it can potentially do wonders for your surrounding community. In fact, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year, equalling 11,000 miles of car emissions! Although it may mean a bit more yard work for you to take care of, planting some trees can improve air quality. And if you're strategic about where you place your trees, you can provide some shade that will keep your home cooler and reduce how hard your HVAC system will need to work. Planting a vegetable garden can allow you to save money on groceries, as well, while focusing on native plants can support local wildlife (like our endangered and oh-so-important bees and other pollinators). Ultimately, a more self-sustaining life will translate to one with greater energy efficiency. This is also a great option for the almost 43 million renters in the United States who can't modify their homes to their liking.

Seal the Escape Routes

This section may sound extreme, but we're not talking about barring your windows and doors completely shut. Your home's doors and windows need to stay accessible to you, of course, but they need to keep air from being able to travel in and out. If there are gaps, you'll end up wasting energy. In fact, 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through its windows. That means you're paying extra for your HVAC system to work overtime. And since a good portion of your home is probably made up of windows, you'll have a bit of work to do to ensure your home stays comfortable and your bills stay low. Conduct an assessment of where your home seems drafty and seal or caulk any areas where air can escape. You may also want to call in a professional to take a look at your home's insulation, as air can easily escape through the attic, roof, or crawl spaces. These small adjustments can ensure the warm or cool air stays inside and the extreme weather stays out. Subsequently, you'll feel a lot better in your home and won't be stuck with unnecessary expenses each month. As a bonus, your heating and cooling system can work more efficiently and will likely last a lot longer.

Ponder Your Power and Appliances

Speaking of your heating and cooling system, it's time to consider your appliances -- and what's powering them. Although many American homes still rely on conventional utilities to supply electricity, solar panels are becoming more popular with each passing year. It's easy to see why, as cost reductions have made them far more accessible to the masses. If PV panels were installed on just 0.6% of the nation's total land area, these panels could supply enough energy to power the entire country. If you've been considering swapping out your utility company for solar panel installation, the new year might be a good time to finally take the plunge. Eventually, you'll be able to provide all the power you need and you'll end up saving money. This is essential given that 30% of Americans have bad credit. And because you'll probably be a bit more aware of the power you use, you'll likely end up being a bit more conservative with your usage.

Of course, if you're going to completely change your power supply, you might want to rethink your major appliances, too. Homes that are a bit older may come equipped with appliances, but these appliances may not meet current energy efficiency standards. This means you'll end up requiring (and wasting) more energy to use them. Some statistics show that a refrigerator that's a decade old can use twice the energy that a new model does! If you haven't yet switched to Energy Star models, there's no time like the present. You may even be able to take advantage of seasonal deals to save a bit of money -- though you'll end up lowering your energy bills as a result anyway.

Setting -- and keeping -- New Year's resolutions may not seem easy, but it's simpler than you think to make your home more energy efficient in 2020. By opting for eco-friendly practices, you can reduce your adverse impact on the world and reduce costs at the same time.

The end of the year is fast approaching and many of us have still failed to complete our new year's resolutions for 2019. But don't fret: before the year is done, you can at least meet your financial goals.

While you might not be able to save up for that new car by the end of the year, you can definitely get your finances ready for the year to come. After all, establishing a plan now will help you start the new year off on the right foot. If you're one of the many people who want to better their finances for 2020, try to meet these goals before the big ball hits zero.

Limit your holiday spending

Each holiday season, we fall victim to buying more than our budget can handle. Even though you want to gift your loved ones everything they deserve, it's not worth digging yourself into a financial hole. Studies show that Millennials spend over $800 each month on unnecessary expenses, and that's before we account for the holidays. If you spend so much that you're struggling to pay rent, you need to take a second look at your finances.

The first step to limiting your holiday spending involves tallying up all of your bills and necessary expenses, including food and the occasional night out. Then, you have to subtract those numbers from your monthly salary. Whatever is leftover from that can be used for holiday goodies. Odds are, this number will be a lot less than you think, but it gives you a realistic budget to work with.

Remember that the best gifts come from the heart. It can be tempting to rack up credit card debt in the name of Christmas, but the loved ones in your life would rather see you flourish than go into debt over a simple gift. If you simply must buy a large gift, make sure it counts. Look for long-lasting options that are sure to give your loved one plenty of use, like home decor, cutlery, or new furniture. Estimates show that the average sofa will last about eight years before it needs to be replaced. If you spend big, don't waste the purchase on superfluous items without any real value.

Check your credit report

Did you know each of the top three credit bureaus offer one free credit report each year? If you have checked your score with Experian, you can still determine how well your score is with Equifax or TransUnion before the year is done.

Becoming aware of your credit score is the first step to improving it. After all, bad credit could bar you from achieving a good mortgage rate, buying a new car, or taking out future loans for home projects. You might even get turned down by a rental application or a homeowners association. Since homebuyers have a 20% chance of buying a home that a part of an HOA, a good credit score could mean the difference between achieving your dream home or looking for other options. Luckily, talking to a financial advisor can help set you on the path for success. That, or you can sign up for auto-pay to help you never miss a payment again.

Get your taxes in order

April might seem lightyears away, but it's much closer than you think. Additionally, the IRS can audit a business's tax return within the first three years of filing. If you don't keep track of these records, you might accidentally commit tax fraud without even realizing that you have done so. Avoid paying fees you didn't know you had by keeping your tax information in a safe place, like a filing cabinet or easily accessible accordion binder.

Open that savings account

There's no better time to open a savings account than yesterday. This helpful online piggy bank is one of the best ways to accumulate wealth over time. It also serves as a great way to keep you accountable for your spending. Once you establish a savings goal that works for your budget -- say $50 per month -- you can even choose to automatically transfer that amount from your checking account to your savings account without lifting a finger.

If you're struggling to save throughout the month, you can also rely on mobile apps to help track your spending. You'd be surprised how much that daily cup of coffee costs when you actually make note of each purchase.

Establish an emergency fund

When you live on ends meat, it can be hard to account for any emergency costs that might arise. But you never know when a sudden hospitalization or bothersome home repair needs to be dealt with. When only 60% of people are covered by health insurance, the other 40% will have to struggle to pay medical bills. Whether you have insurance or not, an emergency fund is vital.

By establishing a well-stocked emergency fund, perhaps stored in a separate savings account, you can rest easy knowing that you have a cushion should any disaster arise.

While you're not going to be able to shovel thousands of dollars into this fund before the end of the year, simply opening this fund is a healthy start.

Reign in wild bills

Now is the perfect time to weatherproof your home before heating and electric bills start to add up. With winter right around the corner, investing in a new thermostat and sealing your ducts should be at the top of your home improvement list. In fact, it's estimated that simply sealing and insulating your heating ducts can improve your HVAC system's efficiency by more than 20%. This simple fix will help keep your home more comfortable during the dreaded months of winter and keep money in your pocket for years to come. Don't wait until cold weather strikes to work on money-saving home improvement projects.

Rely on these tips for a better new year

Why wait to start on a new year's resolution? Before the end of the year arrives, follow these tips to help pad your wallet and get some peace of mind.

When it comes to buying a home, Millennials far outpace Baby Boomers in their interest. In fact, 96% of Millennial investors are interested in making a real estate investment, compared to 83% of Baby Boomers. While Millennials might be the ones buying the homes more often, that doesn't mean they're the only ones living in them.

More and more frequently, this generation finds themselves living in a multi-generational home with both their children and their parents. Sometimes, these homes even include other extended family from older generations. A whopping 12% of home buyers purchased a multi-generational home, to take care of aging parents, because of children over the age of 18 moving back home, and for cost-saving. If you've found yourself living with more generations under one roof than you originally planned, use these tips to create a home that's more ready to welcome varying age groups.

Buy With More Generations in Mind

If you're in the process of purchasing a new home for your increased family size, be sure to let your real estate agent know what your situation is. As many as 78% of recent buyers found their real estate agent to be a very useful information source. However, your real estate agent will only be able to help you if you give them the most useful information to work with. Let your real estate agent know specifically how many people you're planning to have in the house, and emphasize age differences. This will change the style of home they're more likely to suggest to you during your shopping.

Account For Accessibility

While you might not necessarily want to sleep on the first floor, look for houses that have a bedroom available without needing to climb stairs. Elderly relatives are likely to appreciate it, and it helps to keep your family members safe as they age. One in three elderly adults suffers a serious stairway fall each year, so it's helpful to have the most frequently used spaces be as accessible as possible. Likewise, look for first-floor bathrooms that are less likely to lead to slipping and falling. If possible, try to add adaptations to your existing spaces that make the home more accessible to those with limited mobility. This can include railing, wider hallways, ramps, and more. Even if they're not necessary right now, they could be in the future.

Look For Separate Living Spaces

While not all homes will offer this option, look for homes with separate spaces for multiple generations. Some larger homes will have entire areas that can be accessed separately from the rest of the house, more like an apartment than a separate bedroom and bathroom. These spaces can help afford some privacy in multi-generation homes, making the experience of having many ages under one roof more comfortable. If this isn't already a part of your home, consider converting a living room or family room into another bedroom. The more bedrooms you can have in your home without increasing the price, the better.

Fitting more generations under a single roof is becoming a more common struggle among Millennials and their parents. Finding the right space to begin with can help, as can increasing your home's accessibility and adding private spaces. The way many modern families are living is changing, and having additional generations in a single household is part of that shift. Hopefully, these tips can make the transition period a little bit more comfortable for everyone in living in your multi-generation home.

As summer starts turning into fall, now is the perfect time to adjust your home's energy usage for the cooler season. Energy expenses are one of the largest drains on your finances as a homeowner, and keeping up with the changing seasons for your home's energy use can help you save a shocking amount of money. If you want to save money on your utility bills just in time for back to school, use some of these hot tips to reduce your spending.

Major Renovations

While it might seem counterproductive to spend money on energy-saving items for your home, you'll actually end up saving more by spending larger amounts now. Many homes have appliances or utilities that are outdated and wasting energy, particularly if you use these appliances often. In many cases, homeowners may not even realize they're wasting energy. The bathroom, for example, is one area of the home with many potential savings in store, especially if you're willing to renovate. Remodeling your bathroom can expect a return on investment of 70%, so it's well worth the purchase.

If you've been avoiding certain renovations and fixes on your home, doing so now will not only prepare you for the new season, but it can also cut down on energy spending. Roofing is one of the many major components in a home that can improve your energy usage. A metal roof, for example, can easily help save as much as 25% off of your annual home energy bill. Consider changing up the material in order to save some energy.

Small Adjustments

Not all energy saving fixes are going to necessarily take as much effort as renovation requires. Even small adjustments to your daily life can help cut down on energy costs as we move into a cooler season. Try switching out your lights from incandescent to LED, or moving to a programmable thermostat. These are small adjustments that decrease the overall amount of energy required to keep your home in good condition. You'll hardly notice the changes to your routine, but you'll certainly recognize how much you're saving as a result.

Work With Your Company

If your main concern when it comes to saving energy is environmental, it's important to get in touch with your energy company. Not all electricity sources are the same, and many are more renewable than others. Additionally, it's possible that your provider has switched your source of energy without you realizing that it's happened. This impacts both your bills and your carbon footprint. The average American home consumes 40% less natural gas than it did 40 years ago. Energy companies will often shift to alternative fuel sources when they find a cheaper option, like carbon.

While not all providers will offer renewable source options, many smaller providers will offer unique services like these. There are nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S., and many are created with environmentally-friendly values in mind. Check out local energy providers near you to see if you can adjust your energy source to something more affordable and renewable.

Reducing your energy use and cutting down on your utility spending doesn't have to be complicated. The right energy company can work with you to help you reduce your consumption. Additionally, taking some extra steps at home, both through major steps like renovation and minor steps like routine changes, can cut down on the energy you use. What sort of changes can you see yourself making to reduce your energy spending this fall? Will you keep things the same as they were over the summer, or will you adjust for the season?

Considering that the senior population continues to grow, it's no surprise that families are flexing their creative muscles in order for older folks to remain at home. In 2014, roughly 19% of Americans (or 60.6 million people) lived with multiple generations under the same roof. And one way to ensure that your aging relatives can live comfortably while maintaining their privacy and independence is to create an in-law suite in your home. But before you begin, you'll want to know a bit more about what goes into this process and what you'll want to prioritize during the renovations.

You'll have a few different options to consider when choosing the space for your future in-law suite. While you could build a new addition or a standalone structure for this purpose, neither of those options is the most cost-effective. In most cases, you'll end up converting a garage, an attic, a basement, or an unused room within the house. Garages will require HVAC setup, insulation, electrical outlets, plumbing, and other adjustments in order to meet residential building codes and to ensure comfortable and safe living will bee possible. For an attic conversion, you'll need to assess the habitable space, the stairwell, lighting, HVAC, insulation, and flooring issues. And with a basement, you'll need to ensure that it meets the legal egress requirements to prioritize safe escape or entry during an emergency, as well as dehumidification and flooding prevention. The space you choose will largely depend on your budget, the amount of square footage available, and the main priorities for these in-law suites (which we'll discuss below).

Before you launch into any renovations, you'll need to determine the features that must be included in the finished in-law suite. For one thing, privacy is a must. Certainly, you'll want to invest in window treatments, which 15.88% of survey respondents aged 18 to 29 purchased in 2018, to add some extra privacy to windows (especially if your relatives will be on the ground floor). But you'll also want to consider adding a separate entryway so that occupants can come and go without traipsing through the entire house. Ideally, the in-law suite should feel separate enough that no one feels overcrowded but connected enough that the entire family can feel free to spend time together when they want to.

Another important point to keep in mind is independence. An in-law suite needs to be a fully functional entity in and of itself. In other words, it needs its own bathroom and its own kitchen (or at least a kitchenette), as well as appliances and other conveniences, to ensure that people living there don't need to rely too heavily on the other rooms outside the suite. Since homeowners remodel more than 10.2 million kitchens and 14.2 million bathrooms each year, you'll need to add both of these rooms to your remodeling list.

When it comes time to remodel, you'll also need to consider universal design and accessibility. While your relatives may not yet have any mobility issues or disabilities to be worried about, that may not always be the case. If they wish to age in place, you'll need to make certain that the design concepts used throughout the in-law suite will remain functional even as physical or mental capacities deteriorate. That may mean adding in wider doorways, adjusting the height of toilets and bathtubs, choosing non-slip flooring, or opting for easy-to-handle hardware on doors and drawers. The better you can plan ahead for the future, the better this space will continue to serve your family as their needs change.

You may also want to consider the flexibility of this space before you start tearing walls down. It's possible that your in-law suite may be only a short-term solution or that you'd like to be able to use this area for multiple purposes. An in-law suite can also be used to accommodate out-of-town guests or may even allow you to turn your home into an income property. If you plan on turning the space into one you can rent out or use as a guest haven, you won't want to go too far overboard into aging-in-place design trends. It's definitely possible to find a happy medium between universal design and modern concepts that will appeal to guests or tenants of all ages. That's why it's important to determine the purpose of your in-law suite before you begin; otherwise, you may have to spend more money later on if your needs change.

Adding an in-law suite is a great way to ensure your loved ones are safe and comfortable during a pivotal time of their lives. It can also be an option for families to earn extra income or ensure guests enjoy their stay. But before you break ground, you'll want to put ample thought into your choice of space, the design, and the intended use. If you do that, you'll end up with an area that will add value to your home and to your lives in general.

Many people have a long list of projects in mind when they first buy their home, but these can get put off sometimes for a longer time than they originally plan. When you start looking at that long to-do list of home projects you've been waiting on, you might not necessarily know where to start. Larger renovations can take time, money, and a lot of serious effort, but before you get started, there are a few things you should know and take care of first.

Contact A Contractor

Even if you're planning on tackling the bulk of the work on your renovation yourself, it's important to have a professional weigh in. In 2017, approximately 8.4 million people were employed within the construction industry in the United States, so there are plenty of professionals you can reach out to near you. Having a professional opinion keeps you from taking on projects that are too big to handle. As about 35% of remodeling jobs involve the entire home, that professional opinion may be invaluable.

Know Your Restrictions

Not all renovations can happen the way you might initially plan on. Many areas have specific codes and regulations that could affect your plans for remodeling your home. Different jurisdictions, for example, may require residential fencing to be set two, four, six, or eight inches from the property line. These regulations aren't just at the state level, either. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania alone, each with slightly different building requirements. Be sure to read up and research your restrictions before you start to avoid problems later on.

Set A Strict Budget

One of the most common problems people run into when they start renovating their house is that they run out of money to tackle all of the projects they initially had in mind. It can be easy to get carried away with spending, but do your best to stick to your initial budget for your home repairs and renovations. That way, you'll be able to take on all of the projects on your list, rather than getting stuck on one particular issue that ends up costing more than you expect.

Don't Trust TV

As entertaining as the many TV shows about home renovation can be, don't look to those shows as a reliable source of information for your own build. Many of these shows have special price points worked out with regular providers, meaning the costs you see might not always be the costs you pay. Additionally, episodes are edited for time, meaning you won't be seeing the full process from start to finish on TV.

Stay Safe

Most importantly, before you start on any major home renovations, make sure the space is as safe as possible. Put up any gates or barriers needed to keep young children and pets out of areas where they could get hurt, and stock up on any protective equipment you might need. No matter what happens with your renovation, you want to keep your home as safe as possible during the process.

Home renovations can be stressful, but taking these steps before you start can simplify the process. How do you plan to tackle your major home renovations in the future?

Monday, June 10 2019 22:15

5 Cool Tips To Stay Comfy This Summer

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Summer is finally here, and with the change of seasons comes changing temperatures. Depending on where you live, summer can get incredibly uncomfortable and hot, especially during the night when you're trying to sleep. Instead of sweating through the season, use these tips to stay cool in your home all summer long.

Invest In Insulation

Insulation isn't just useful during the winter to keep you warm. Having insulation with a higher R-value can help you stay cooler in the summer by keeping your cooled air inside your house, rather than letting it escape and wasting energy. The R-value is the measure of thermal resistance, which indicates the temperature difference when a unit of heat runs through it. Essentially, the higher the R-value, the better the insulation. If you're planning on tackling some home repair this summer, this is one area you might want to address.

Lower Temperatures With Lighting

Even if you don't necessarily notice it all the time, the lights in your house could be giving off just enough heat to cause a few additional problems during the summer months. To fix this issue, try switching to LED bulbs. Unlike incandescent bulbs, which release 90% of their energy as heat, LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat. You'll have brighter lighting throughout your home without having to worry as much about beating the heat.

Fantastic Fans

Ceiling fans can be a great way to reduce your energy bill while still keeping your home cool. Just make sure you've got yours spinning the right direction; some ceiling fans are able to switch directions to help with heating your home in the wintertime, so double check to see if you've changed it back. If you don't have a ceiling fan, consider investing in a separate fan for some of the warmer spaces in your house so you aren't over-exerting your A/C unit.

Smarter Sheets

Ever wake up in the middle of the night because it's just too hot in your room? You might want to switch out your sheets. Changing to a lighter, more breathable fabric like cotton for your linens in the summer can make sleeping in hot weather a bit more comfortable. You'll be able to sleep through the night without having to drive up the energy bill by cranking up the A/C.

Don't Forget Your Furry Friends

You and your family aren't the only ones feeling the heat during the summer. According to The American Pet Products Association, almost 85 million households have a pet. Be mindful of the heat when it comes to taking care of your pets. Some animals enjoy the hot weather, but if you're starting to feel the burn, chances are your dog with a fluffy coat is too. Keep extra water out for animals and help them find ways to stay cool.

With summer just around the corner, now is the time to get your home ready so you can stay comfy and cool all season long. How do you plan to cool off your home without running up your energy bill this season?

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