Extend The Lifespan Of Home Fixtures And Appliances

Something goes wrong with the air conditioner or the toilet clogs when you least expect it. If you’re not a Mr. or Ms. Fixit, you’ll have to go through the expense of calling a plumber, electrician or appliance expert to solve the problem. Unless a part has worn out, pilot error (that’s you or someone in the household) caused the malfunction.

Appliances and fixtures can be temperamental because they’re only designed to work under certain conditions, so take time to learn a little about how each product functions. Even if you don’t think you’re handy, you can do a little preventive maintenance and make a quick fix to handle minor problems.

To extend the life of your appliances and systems, here are 10 helpful suggestions:

  1. Keep all booklets, warranties and operating instructions for every system and appliance in one convenient place.
  2. Follow suggested scheduled maintenance, such as bi-annual checkups for air conditioning systems.
  3. Keep supplies on hand – a plunger, drain cleaner, filters, etc.
  4. Change heating and air filters once a month.
  5. Clothes need room to tumble to get clean, so don’t overload washers.
  6. Empty dryer filters with every load.
  7. Don’t put potato peelings, fibrous vegetables such as celery, cooking oil or grease down any drain or disposal.
  8. Run water before during and after using the disposal.
  9. Put a mesh trap in your shower drain to catch hair and soap buildup.
  10. Paper towels, Kleenex, baby wipes and cat litter can quickly clog a toilet, even if the box says the contents are safe to flush.

Make Your Small Home Inviting

Downsizing or buying a small first home may make you feel squeezed, but follow these tips, and you’ll soon appreciate what a treasure your petite new home is:

Go for quality. A smaller home in a sought-after neighborhood that’s closer to the jobs, schools, and amenities you need is better than a long commute for a more spacious home. Instead, choose fine furniture and accessories that make a statement about who you are.

Minimize clutter. Nothing makes a space feel cramped like overcrowding. If you’re sidestepping furniture, sports equipment or clothes on the floor, it’s time to declutter.

Be clever. Decorating a small space can be a lot of fun if you think in terms of furniture doing double duty. Ottomans can triple up as a footrest, coffee table or extra seating. Nesting tables can provide extra tabletop space when needed and store compactly.

Let the light in. Bright spaces look larger than dark spaces. Light cheerful colors on walls and in your décor can expand any room. Reduce the need for bulky lamps and tables by installing sconces and recessed lighting.

The trick is having what you want but recognizing that there’s no need for extras or excess.


What Makes A House Seem Spooky?

Have you ever toured a home and just wanted to run right back outside? Maybe something hit you negatively, but it could be easily fixed. If the location and price are good, updates could be the answer. Ask yourself: what would you do to make a creepy home warm and inviting?

Improve lighting –Dark rooms can be spooky. Low light, especially from too few windows, can also be depressing. Can windows be enlarged? Can the electrical be updated to allow for the installation of sconces and ceiling lights? 

Re-design living areas – Low ceilings, awkward layouts, or rooms too small for their purpose can make a home feel claustrophobic. Can the ceilings be raised into the attic? Can a wall or two be removed? Can space be “borrowed” from another room for better flow?  

Simple maintenance – Keeping a home in good condition shows that it’s loved, while neglect makes homebuyers feel uncomfortable. Can obvious flaws be fixed and at what cost? 

Freshen – If the problem is odor, it could be pets, smoking, old furnishings, or musty spaces. Dampness can suggest a leak in bathrooms or kitchens.  Can the smell be identified and eliminated through cleaning or remodeling?

Modern updates – Homes stuck in the past need updating which can eliminate a lot of problems? Is there enough room in the budget to remodel to get the home to meet your criteria?

You could turn the spookiest house in the neighborhood into the home of your dreams.


What Post-Covid Buyers Seek in Their Next Home

Do homebuyers want the same things in their next home as they did before the COVID pandemic? In some ways, yes, and in others, no. According to the latest summer Realtor.com survey, post-COVID homebuyers are willing to spend more money on a home, have saved more money toward a down payment as they sheltered in place, and plan to buy a home sooner than they did in the spring of 2020.

A greater majority of homebuyers surveyed also said they want a three-bedroom home, with two bathrooms, an updated kitchen, and a garage. In a comparison of surveys conducted in both the spring and summer, a notable share of homebuyers wanting move-in ready homes has gone up 10 percent and six percent more buyers are willing to take on longer commutes to get the home they want. In addition, low mortgage interest rates, combined with additional personal savings, are making conditions attractive for them to buy a larger home in a nicer neighborhood.

Six percent fewer homebuyers plan to put more earnest money down, plan to offer above listing price, or offer all cash. Three percent plan to put down more than a 20 percent down-payment.    

The trend in these numbers appears to point toward less willingness on the part of homebuyers to compromise on what they want. They may spend more for a home, but plan to preserve as much cash as possible. Homebuyers may be planning to stay in their next homes for a longer period. 


How Fast Does Equity Build During Homeownership?

Building equity in your home is like a savings account – the more you put toward it, the better. Your home’s equity grows with each mortgage payment you make and with time.

According to BankofAmerica.com, you can calculate your equity based on current appraised value less any mortgages tied to your home. If your home is appraised at $400,000 and you owe $120,000, then your equity is $280,000. But that doesn’t mean you have savings of $280K; it just means that you have a general idea of how much your home will yield should you sell it at that moment, less closing costs, of course.

Lenders consider equity differently. You can begin building equity the moment you purchase your home with your down-payment. ($400K – 20% = $320K) Your loan amount would be $320K and the equity in your home would be $80,000. You can increase your equity by paying your mortgage regularly and paying a little extra every month, which speeds up the amortization of your loan.

To approve a home improvement loan or to determine whether to eliminate private mortgage insurance, lenders take the appraised amount and divide it by your loan balance to get a percentage of how much equity you have.  Divide your current loan balance by your home’s appraised value, then multiply by 100. ($120K ÷ $400K = 35%) That means you own 65% of your home. 

These numbers are theoretical until you sell your home. Meanwhile, watch your savings grow on your monthly mortgage statement!


Making Gutters Usefully Beautiful

One pleasure in buying an older home is the beauty of mature trees on your property and their dazzling display of fall colors when the weather turns cool. But, what happens to the leaves when they fall?

What you don’t want is leaves clogging your gutters, preventing them doing their most important job – to route roof water away from vulnerable areas of the home’s exterior and garden. If your new home doesn’t have gutters or needs new ones, consider investing in them as an important and elegant part of your home’s curb appeal.  

Today’s gutters are far from the boring half-pipe gullies of the past. You can choose gutters in an array of sizes, materials and designs that add style and value to your home.  A general rule is the more durable and valuable the material, the higher the cost, but the longer it will last, according to Bankrate.com.

Vinyl is the most economical, but least durable. Aluminum is more durable but can crack like vinyl, but not as quickly. Some lower cost options may be available in faux-metal finishes. If your home is surrounded by trees, or your area experiences strong winds, choose steel, zinc or copper which can carry much more weight and last a lifetime.

A popular choice for gutters is the K-style which has a staircase design that resembles crown molding, so your home appears finished in finer detail from the street. Choose gutters with leaf and debris guards to minimize home maintenance chores.


BUYING A HOME IN THE AGE OF COVID-19

While the U.S. wrestles with social distancing and a disrupted economy, you may not feel it’s the best time to buy a home, but you may be missing a great opportunity. Many buyers prefer to wait and sit on the bench, giving you more access to homes with less competition.

The real estate industry is still very much in business, but there have been many changes in how homes are being bought and sold. Here’s what you can expect.

Higher credit scores/down payments are requiredNews outlets are reporting that some banks, such as JP Morgan-Chase, are requiring higher credit scores as well as larger down payments to limit risk as people lose jobs and the economy wobbles. If you are in an essential business, that’s good, but you may need to sign a statement to that effect.

Virtual showings are the new normal. Virtual tours have been around for decades, but how they’re different is that your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional may hold the “camera” themselves, helping you zoom in details, features and concerns as you request them to. They can also conduct open houses, thanks to Zoom or other conference software. You can still see homes in person, but this is a great elimination and selection tool.

Inspections, final walk-throughs and closings are social distanced. To protect appraisers, inspectors, real estate personnel, etc., you may have to stay firmly six feet or more away, wear a medical-grade mask, and use sanitizer or wear gloves.


How to Unpack Mortgage News

In June 2020, average mortgage interest rates fell below three percent for the 30-year-fixed-rate mortgage – the lowest level in modern recorded history, according to Mortgage News Daily. What caused such a dip?

A stock market sell-off sent investors to the relative safety of the bond market, wrote housing journalist Diana Olick. Mortgage rates loosely follow the yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds. As more bonds were purchased, the yields went down, and mortgage rates followed. But that’s not all that happened.

Also in June, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index hit its lowest number since June 2014. The simple reason is that lenders don’t like uncertainty, so to secure those lower interest rates, borrowers are subjected to higher credit score qualifications (700 or higher per JP Morgan Chase), the temporary shelving of some loan programs (no new jumbo loans per Wells Fargo) and higher down payments (at least 20 percent). Other criteria lenders use to limit risk includes lower loan-to-value ratios and higher income-to-debt ratios from borrowers.

Yet, despite a rocky economy, June mortgage applications were up a whopping 13 percent over the previous year. Freddie Mac forecasts that interest rates will remain at or near record lows and that housing prices will moderate throughout 2021.

So, what does this mean to you, the homebuyer or homeowner? If you have good credit, steady employment, and a sizable down-payment, you’re in great shape to get or refinance a mortgage loan. In other words, nothing’s changed except tighter qualifications for higher-risk borrowers.


How Long Should a Roof Last?

Angieslist.com suggests that a typical asphalt shingle roof will last about 20 to 25 years, depending on variables such as the quality of the shingles, the professionalism of the installation, homeowner maintenance over the years, and, of course, the weather.

Your roof should have several lines of defense or redundancies. If one part fails, such as when a shingle blows off, there should be other protective layers such as an underlying membrane, flashing around chimneys and sealants that prevent the roof from leaking.

Because 70 percent of U.S. homes have asphalt or composition shingle roofs, replacement roofs tend to be similar. According to Roofingcalc.com, the average roof size in the U.S. is 1,700 square feet. Professional roofers calculate area by 100 square feet, so it would take 17 “squares” to reroof the average home. Materials and labor can run anywhere between $350 and $550 per square, or approximately $6000 to $9350.

Leaks through the ceiling, missing shingles, frayed or curling shingle edges, or erosion of the mineral granules are all signs that it’s time to repair or replace your roof.  Have your roof inspected by a reputable roofing contractor, who can tell you if the roof was properly installed and maintained.

Check with your homeowner’s insurance company about coverage. Insurance.com warns that many companies will amortize coverage according to the age of the roof and refuse coverage if the roof has two or more previous layers of roofs or if the roof is 20 years or older.


Don’t Give Up Hope, Millennials!

It’s no secret that Millennials, ages 24 to 34, have been hit hard in 2020. The triple whammies of student loans, COVID-19 and record job losses are huge challenges to face. It would be easy to give up your dream of owning a home, but we say where there’s a will, there’s a way.

How you manage your expectations, resources and opportunities will make all the difference in achieving what you want out of life, including owning a home.

First, don’t give up. Your timeline may be busted for buying a home this summer, but you can still make it happen sooner than you think.

Look for ways to save money. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Make your own Starbucks coffee and take your Teva and a packed lunch to work. Take advantage of interest deferrals on your student loan. Open a high-yield savings account that pays compound interest.

Move to a less expensive apartment, get a roommate to share expenses or move back home temporarily. Pay your parents a reasonable rent for food and board and save the difference of what you’re paying now or use it to pay off debt.

Look for ways to make money. Do you have a hobby or skill that you could turn into a side hustle, like carpentry, quilting, baking or small business accounting?

Don’t worry about what others think. Instead, encourage each other. It will be worth it when you move into your own home.