Americans spend $400 billion per year remodeling their homes.
So, which remodeling investment gives the best return when it comes to resale value?
It should come as no surprise, especially leading up to Thanksgiving, that the best money to spend upgrading your home is in the kitchen.
It’s the place where most homeowners spend most of their waking hours.
According to the research from the National Association of Realtors, it’s where remodelers will see the biggest return on investment.
Here is the ranking of various projects in terms of the value it adds to the home:
- Complete kitchen remodel
- Kitchen upgrade
- HVAC replacement
- Owner’s suite renovation
- Bathroom renovation
- Finishing a basement
- Adding a bathroom
The holiday season can bring joy and peace, but it can also bring package thieves and burglary. Stay safe this winter by taking a few precautions with your home security. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe and preserving that sensibility.
Upgrade your locks:
A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your door frames are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.
It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.
Exterior and interior home lighting:
Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers. Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.
If you will be gone from your home for an extended period, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.
If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems. If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24-hour call service for an extra fee.
Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.
If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.
Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options and professional systems that come along with monitoring services. There are even options that will work with your smartphone.
If the cost of security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.
Build your community:
Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.
As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:
Cracks & Leaks
Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.
Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.
Windows & Doors:
Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.
Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.
Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.
Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.
Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.
Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves:
Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.
Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.
If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
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A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.
When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.
While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step:
Ask to see the seller disclosure form
In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.
In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.
The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.
Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.
Ask Google about the history of the home
In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today, we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.
Ask the neighbors and your agent
This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.
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As wildfires rage throughout the West Coast, many homeowners are being evacuated from their homes, while others stand by for information as the spread continues. The following tips are meant to inform your household’s wildfire evacuation protocol, whatever your evacuation timeline may be.
Evacuation orders come from local law enforcement agencies, but if you have not received an official evacuation notice and feel threatened by wildfires in your area, do not hesitate to leave. Take only essential vehicles on the road, this will minimize traffic and reduce the chance of gridlock when evacuating the area. Keep the windows rolled up to avoid inhaling smoke and tune into local radio for updates as you head toward safer ground. And remember your masks!
What to bring
The Six P’s
- People and pets
- Phones and personal computer
- Chargers, any additional computer hardware
- Papers and important documents
- Birth certificates, passports, insurance, legal documents
- Medication, eyeglasses, contacts
- Pictures and irreplaceable keepsakes
- Payment (credit & debit cards, bank cards, cash)
- Face masks or coverings
- Extra clothing
- First aid kit
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents
- Three-day supply of food and water
If you live in an area that is not being evacuated, there are steps you can take now to prepare your home and family, if and when the time comes.
- Create a “defensible space”
- Clear your home’s surroundings of brush and vegetation
- Turn off sprinklers and main gas lines
- Clean out roof and gutters
- Move furniture away from windows toward the center of the room
- Remove flammable household items
- Prepare your emergency kit
- Include useful items listed above in “Go bag”
For additional information on protecting yourself from smoke while addressing COVID-19 health concerns, Click Here. Be sure to check your local news and emergency alert radio stations and social media profiles for the most up-to-date information and helpful resources.
Wildfires are unpredictable. Knowing what to do both in preparation for and during an emergency evacuation will have your household prepared in the event that a wildfire spreads to your area, neighborhood, or home.
When it comes to household expenses, staying at home has brought about savings in some areas, while increasing expenses in others. The laundry room has likely seen an uptick in usage, with its associated costs following suit. Save your energy and money by keeping these tips in mind as we continue to adapt to being home more often.
Master your machine settings
Review the owner’s manuals for your washer and dryer. There may very well be energy-saving settings you’re not using. For example, your washer’s “high-speed” or “extended wash” cycles will remove more moisture, which can help reduce drying time. A dryer’s “cool down cycle” allows clothes to finish drying using only residual heat.
Think twice before washing
Once you’re aware of the costs associated with washing and drying, and the natural resources this consumes, you may decide you don’t need to launder certain clothes as often – which can also extend the life of these garments. Some clothing, like jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, can be worn a few times without a cleaning. Washing these items only when necessary will help you cut down. Another tip – keep another laundry basket in your room for those lightly worn clothes that you could wear again, so they keep separate from your clean clothes.
Use hot water only when necessary
Using warm water instead of hot can significantly cut down your washer’s energy expense. Using cold water puts less pressure on electricity grids, saving your household even more money and energy. Cold water washes are less likely to shrink or fade your clothing as well. To ensure your clothes still get clean, try using a cold-water detergent.
Right-size your loads
For both washing and drying, taking into consideration the size of your load can factor greatly into your savings. No matter the size of the load you wash, it costs the same amount to run a cycle. So instead of doing two small loads, wait until you have one large load. When drying, keep in mind that an overly full dryer will take longer to dry the clothes. A dryer with too few items inside costs more to operate.
Clean the dryer vent and filter
When the lint filter in your dryer gets clogged, airflow is reduced, and the dryer can’t operate effectively. Make a point to clean the filter after every use. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter every month to remove any film buildup. The venting that attaches to the back of your dryer also needs to be kept clean and clear.
When the weather is sunny and warm, consider putting your clothes out to hang-dry. Doing so will keep your drying expenses to a minimum. It can also be a better drying method for clothing with delicate tailoring.
With staying at home being the new status quo, taking a look at the ways our homes use energy and incur expenses is more relevant than ever. These small changes in the laundry room are just some of the minor adjustments you can make in your household during these unique times.
Every component of your home has a lifespan. Common questions asked by homeowners include when to replace the flooring or how long to expect their siding to last. This information can help when budgeting for improvements or deciding between repairing and replacing when the time comes. We’re all familiar with the cliché: They just don’t build things like they used to. And while this may be true when it comes to brick siding or slate roofing, lifespans of other household components have increased in recent years. Here are the life expectancies of the most common household items (courtesy of NAHB):
Appliances: Among major appliances, gas ranges have a longer life expectancy than things like dishwashers and microwaves.
|Oil-burning Furnace||20 years|
|Heat Pump||16 years|
|Gas Range||15 years|
|Electric range / Refrigerator / Dryer||13 years|
|Electric / Gas Water Heater||10 years|
|Garbage disposal||10 years|
|Dishwasher / Microwave / Mini Fridge||9 years|
Kitchen & Bath: When choosing your countertops, factor in the life expectancies of different materials.
Kitchen / Bath Item
|Wood / Tile / Natural Stone Countertops||Lifetime|
|Toilets (parts will require maintenance)||50+ years|
|Stainless steel sink||30+ years|
|Bathroom faucet||20+ years|
|Cultured marble countertops||20 years|
|Kitchen faucet||15 years|
Flooring: If you’re looking for longevity, wood floors are the way to go. Certain rooms in your home will be better suited for carpeting, but you can expect they’ll need replacing within a decade.
|Wood / Bamboo||Lifetime|
|Brick Pavers / Granite / Marble / Slate||100+ years|
|Carpet||8 – 10 years|
Siding & Roofing: When choosing roofing and siding for your home, climate and maintenance level factor into the life expectancy of the material. However, brick siding and slate roofing are known to be dependable for decades.
Siding / Roofing Material
|Brick Siding||100+ years|
|Aluminum Siding||80 years|
|Slate / Tile Roofing||50+ years|
|Wood Shingles||30 years|
|Wood Siding||10 – 100 years (depending on climate)|
Are extended warranties warranted?
Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty.
You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you. For some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also consider if the cost outweighs the value of the item. In some cases it may be less expensive to replace a broken appliance than to pay for insurance or a warranty.
For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that every homeowner must overcome during the process of selling a home, but it’s a useful tool for sellers looking to get the greatest possible value from their home.
When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.
In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.
When does a home inspection make sense?
In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:
- Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
- If you are an older homeowner who intends to make upgrades in order to stay in the home, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
- An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead, or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
- Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.
What doesn’t your home inspection cover?
For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include a sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.
Hire a professional
If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.
What to ask your home inspector
Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.
How long have you been in the business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.
Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.
Can I be there for the inspection? Will you go over the inspection report with me?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.
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Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization in order to be successful.
Having a designated workspace is one of the most important elements to your success when you make the switch to telecommuting. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating their work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance. Choose which options works best for you by playing with both options, or something in between and see which one lets you be more productive with the least amount of stress.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb appeal of your house.
For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition, which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
Some communities have regulations against “mother-in-law” units so they have zone-approval requirements.
In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exits, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple of years later? The answer to that question depends on a number of variables, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.