- Look for structural damage: It’s important to have your home inspected for any structural damage that may have occurred as well as other issues that may be present. Keep a close eye on your heating and cooling systems, roof, foundation, insulation, and windows.
- Take care of plumbing systems: Water damage can be very devastating, causing problems such as mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. Any water or moisture in your home including in the basement or from a running toilet should be checked out and taken care of. Make sure that sewer lines, faucets, and water lines are working properly and it’s a good idea to have a plumber come out once a year to check on these things to prevent future problems from occurring.
- Get rid of pests: Termites can be a major problem and can eat away at the foundation of a home for years without being detected. Other pests such as ants, birds, and mice can cause significant damage to a home as well and can pose a health hazard. If any signs of pests are noticed, have a terminator check it out and take preventative measures such as keeping wood piles away from the foundation of a home and ensure that water basins are draining properly.
- Check wiring and install smoke detectors: Make sure the electrical system is up to code and have a licensed technician come out and inspect it and make any necessary changes. Install smoke and fire alarms throughout the home and have each major appliance and fireplace inspected for any potential dangers.
- Invest in secure locks: An alarm system can be a great investment and can offer peace of mind and the installation of security windows and doors as well as theft proof locks can go a long way in preventing a burglary. Keep your home lit up at night as well.
- Insurance policies: Shop around for an adequate insurance policy to cover your home in the case of a disaster taking place.
- Aeration: This is an important step in caring for your lawn because it allows new grass to grow by pulling up sections of grass, creating small holes in the lawn which allows water, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the roots. If your lawn is played on regularly by kids or pets, plan to aerate your lawn twice a year, during the fall and spring. If you lawn is more just for show, aerate once a year or even every other year. This process can be done with a hand-aerating tool, which costs around $20, and is meant for small sections of grass. In order to do an entire lawn, you can rent a gas-powered aerating machine for about $20 per hour. If you want the aerating done professionally, it can cost around $150 depending on the size of the lawn.
- Seeding: During the fall when the soil temperature is about 55 degrees is the best time to seed your lawn since turf roots grow rapidly during the fall and winter. Once your lawn is seeded, water it everyday for the first 10-20 days until it germinates.
- Fertilizing: Fertilizing the lawn during late fall, before the first frost, helps the grass to survive the winter and encourages it to grow back green and lush during the spring.
- Mulching: Instead of always raking leaves and removing them from the lawn, try mowing over them with the lawnmower to grind them into mulch. The shredded leaves actually help to protect the lawn from the harsh winter and they also decompose into organic matter to feed grass roots.
Today’s kitchens are being built as ‘social kitchens’ and are being designed to accommodate more than just cooking. Electronics are finding special nooks and the heart of the home is now being used for parties, homework, more than one cook….you get the picture. Here are some tips for creating a functional hub of the home:
- Carefully open up the space: Opening up too many walls and allowing too many entrances to the kitchen can create a sense of chaos instead of openness. Half walls and arched openings are a great way to really open up the space visually while still controlling traffic. It’s also important to merge the kitchen with the rest of the home. A great way to do this is by utilizing the repetition of color such as by having artwork in the kitchen the same color hue as the walls of the adjacent room.
- Create zones: Keep guests and kids away from the work zone of the kitchen (the triangle between the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and sink) by installing a beverage and snack station near the public facing edge of the kitchen. Ideas for a drink/snack station include a wet bar with a wine fridge, or a coffee area with a coffee maker, some snacks, and a cabinet for cups and mugs. Another cool idea is a baking station for the homeowner that loves to bake; have this near the stove with space for baking supplies and equipment and a marble surface for dough rolling.
- Hide the mess: Some homeowners are opposed to an open kitchen because they don’t want the mess in the kitchen visible to guests. To avoid this, put in a raised bar on the public side of the island so that guests have a place to sit while the meal is being prepared and then the dinner mess can be hidden from view once the meal starts. Island bars can also be used for casual seating as well.
- Drop zone: Since the kitchen is the hub of most homes, that can mean lots of clutter such as paperwork, backpacks, jackets, etc. Create an area for these things such as a mudroom with durable flooring and shelving with baskets assigned for each family member or for homes short on space, try using a hallway closet as a makeshift drop zone.
- Eat in: Casual dining is an important feature of a social kitchen and is also great for resale value, ranking as one of the most desired features in a 2013 home buyer survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors. Built in banquettes are also great, providing a cozy place to eat, pay bills, do homework, etc. The base of a banquette can also have built in storage for items such as napkins or other tablescape accessories.
- Include an island: Islands are great because more counterspace is always good and they provide seating while meal prep is taking place and a place to sit for casual meals. Bigger isn’t always better though-there should be 42-48 inches of clearance on all sides. Islands are awesome for entertaining, as they can serve as a buffet area, or an in-island sink can be filled with ice to create a raw bar or to hold beverages.
- Charging stations: For many of us, our electronics spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so charging stations are an option that makes sense. They can be installed in a cabinet or drawer equipped with docks and outlets. Electrical outlets with built in USB ports are also available so your phone can charge while the toaster is plugged in.
- Solid wood: Costs about $5-$10 per square foot. Solid wood is nice because it has a timeless, natural look and it can be refinished many times. On the downside, it does dent easily and it is not easy to install. Solid wood floors can change color due to UV light and can be water damaged easily as well. Bamboo is more costly than solid wood but it does seem to hold up better to wear and tear.
- Engineered wood: Costs about $4-$9 per square foot. The great thing about this flooring is that it does cost less than solid wood but it still looks natural and adds warmth to the home. Using wide planks provides a modern look and it also can make a room look larger. Another positive is that many times, this material can be floated without glue or fasteners. Cons include the fact that engineered wood still dents fairly easily and can also be damaged by flooding. Also, they usually can’t be refinished since they are composed of a veneer over substrate.
- Laminate: $3-$7 per square foot. Laminate is a very durable flooring option and can appear to be a variety of natural materials. Often times laminate can be floated as well. Many laminate options are stain resistant and also resist UV damage. Cons for laminate: most laminates dent easily and this flooring can’t be refinished.
- Vinyl: $2-$6 per square foot. Vinyl is durable yet still comfortable to walk on. Some vinyls can float and many of them look similar to real wood or stone. If you are installing vinyl yourself, try to choose planks or tiles instead of sheets that need to be precisely cut. Keep in mind that off-gassing may be a concern for homes with young kids and even the best vinyl products still look like vinyl up close.
- Linoleum: $4-$8 per square foot. Linoleum is made to look like stone and other natural flooring and it’s made of tree bark and linseed oil. The best linoleum products are very scratch, stain, and fade resistant. Although linoleum is a great option, some vinyl products wear better and can be installed easier for the same price as linoleum.
- Ceramic tile: $8-$15 per square foot; $5-$8 for products that can be floated. Ceramic tile is a great authentic flooring option and is composed of minerals. Using ceramic tile that can be floated is easier to install and more cost effective. Although ceramic tile can create a very sleek look, it can be cracked easily from dropped items.
- He’s not going to do the majority of the work: General contractors often times don’t do the physical labor themselves. Normally their main role is to gain clients, manage the budget, and schedule subcontractors. Be sure to ask who will be in charge of the job site and go and meet them on the job if possible to see who you will be dealing with.
- A large deposit is not necessary: If a business is financially sound and the contractor has good relationships with his suppliers, he shouldn’t be required to pay anything up front. A small deposit should be fine to start a job and your payment plan should be based around a specified amount of work being done. With this arrangement, if the work is not going according to schedule, then the payments will be delayed. The Federal Trade Commission suggests using a credit card to pay for home improvement work so that a homeowner is protected if the project falls through.
- Both labor AND materials will be marked up: If you are able to buy your own items such as cabinets, countertops, etc. have the contractor take those items out of the bid price. Make sure to agree on specific numbers of items to purchase and ensure they are on the job site when needed. Purchasing some items on your own could save you 10%-20% off the entire project cost.
- Glasses and cups
- Toaster or toaster oven
- Dining table
- Side table
- Make sure your home is easily accessible: Make sure that your driveway, sidewalks, and pathways are all clear including any back steps if you have any.
- Keep the heat on: Keep the heat going in your home, especially if you know you have an upcoming showing. Having a warm and cozy home helps to give buyers a good first impression.
- Show off winter assets: If you have a fireplace in your home, now is the perfect time to show if off. Having a fireplace going during a showing really adds to the ambiance. If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned in awhile, make sure you have it serviced beforehand.
- Don’t forget about your outdoor features: During the warmer months it’s common for buyers to go outside to check out the yard, etc. Make sure that during these colder months you clear off a deck or patio, etc. as much as you can to make sure it’s visible. If it’s too much to clear things off out back, be sure that these outdoor assets are listed in the marketing materials so that buyers can get the whole picture.