4 Super-Easy Curb Appeal Projects to Max Out Your Home’s Value

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#1 Add or Replace a Few Landscaping Basics

Every few years, you overhaul your closet, replacing your worn-out basics with a few new pieces to ramp up your wardrobe. Why not do the same with your yard? Give it a basic makeover so it has some good, classic, value-boosting “bones” to build upon.

Landscape design basics like:

  • A winding flagstone walkway
  • A couple of stone planters (6 feet by 2 feet)
  • A few flowering shrubs
  • A deciduous tree about 15 feet tall
  • Quality mulch

Why you can’t go wrong: The median cost for this makeover is $5,000. But the recoup (how much more your house would sell for after doing this project) is $4,000! Pretty sweet, right?

#2 Take Care of Your Trees

Dead or dying trees definitely hurt resale value. And if you remove dead trees and take care of your healthy trees, you won’t be throwing money away.

REALTORS® who advised their clients to do some tree triage before putting their home on the market say their clients almost always get their money back.

The typical cost to pay a pro to remove a dead tree and take care of the healthy ones with fertilizing, pruning and trimming is $2,000. And if you sell, you can expect 100% return on your investment in most cases, according to the RIR report.

Why you can’t go wrong: Just three trees in the right location can save up to $250 a year in heating and cooling costs, says the source for energy-saving stats: the U.S. Department of Energy.

#3 Build a Deck If You Don’t Have One

If you’re spending sunny days admiring the great outdoors from indoors, it’s time for a change to get you outside… like finally building that deck you’ve been dreaming of.

Why you can’t go wrong: A new deck costs about $10,000 and recoups 80% at resale. Plus, how can you put a price on all those evening cookouts and Sunday brunches al fresco?

#4 Heap Loads of Love on Your Lawn

Yep, you read that right. Especially if you know you’re going to sell in the next year or so.

It’s the easiest project to do — and it has a whopping ROI of 267%!

Lawn maintenance is simple:

  • Fertilize
  • Aerate
  • Weed
  • Rake

Why you can’t go wrong: It’s the cheapest project to do with an annual cost of only $375. Every year, you’ll reap the benefits of a lush, barefoot-friendly lawn.

(But note that unlike the other landscaping features listed in this article — deck, patio, hardscaping, trees, etc. — you’ll only get that fabulous 267% ROI on your maintenance costs for the year right before you sell. That’s because lawn maintenance has to be repeated annually, unlike the other projects).

Until next time….

*info provided by houselogic.com

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5 Bathroom Trends You Might Want to Reconsider

#1 Intricately Patterned Tiny Tiles

So bohemian, so fresh-looking — and, yet, retro. Every time you see a shower, vanity, or entire bath with those (gorgeous!) mosaics of tiny colored tiles, you get giddy with anticipation for your remodel.

Why you should reconsider: There’s a reason tiny tiles disappeared over the past few decades in favor of larger ones. They’re a friggin’ pain.

Those tiny tiles mean there’s more grout to clean and maintain.

If you can think of 24,305 other things you’d rather do with your time than clean and replace grout, it might not be for you.

Still gotta have tiny tiles? Use them as an accent, maybe on the wall around your vanity, or anywhere they won’t get as wet as they would on the floor, or in your tub, shower, or sink.

8 Myths All New Homeowners Fall For

Myth #1: Only Homes In Warm Climates Need Roof Vents

Yes, roof vents do suck hot, humid air up and out through the roof. That act is called ventilation. Which is why you need roof vents if you live in a colder climate.

Huh?

Because ventilation pushes the warm away from your snow-covered roof and gutters. If warm air lingers under your roof, it could cause the snow to melt just enough to easily refreeze at night, melt again, refreeze (you get the picture) creating ice dams instead of pretty, fluffy snow on your roof.

And when those ice dams melt come spring, that water could funnel into your insulation and walls causing mold, mildew — and a busted bank account.

Myth #2: I Should Re-Up On My Home Warranty

A home warranty is like a $500 bottle of wine. If someone else pays for it, why not enjoy it?

And sellers often do offer them as an incentive to help buyers (especially first-timers who often have limited budgets) feel more secure about having financial help for any unexpected repairs.

If your seller tosses one into your deal, great. Use it. But when the warranty runs out, resist the temptation to continue it. Put the money into a home maintenance savings account instead.

Because home warranties aren’t cost-effective for homeowners to purchase themselves. The coverage is often limited, and warranty companies have oodles of red tape that can delay repairs for days, even weeks.

Myth #3: Mowing Grass Extra Short Means Mowing Less Often

Grass blades collect sunlight. Cut them too short and they can’t soak up enough to survive, which makes for brown, patchy grass and weeds galore. Which means you just killed your curb appeal, too.

Save the grass — and your home’s good looks — by cutting your lawn no more than one-third the length of the blades at each mowing. Overall, aim to keep the grass between two-and-a-half and three inches high.

Myth #4: If My Water Main Springs a Leak, The Water Company Will Cover It

Nope. The city fixes the public water lines from the road to your property, but you’re responsible for the main that runs from your property line to your dwelling.

broken water main can cost anywhere from $500 to a shocking $3,000 (or more!) to repair. Plus: all that water everywhere.

And you may have to pay for that water too, which also can run into the thousands, especially if you don’t address the leak quickly.

The most common cause of water main breaks is tree roots getting into older pipes. If you have mature trees with roots pushing up the sidewalk or driveway, that could be a hint that you might encounter a water main break — or sewer line break (yup, just like the water line, the sewer line on your property is your responsibility).

And don’t waste money on special water pipe insurance. It’s not worth it. You’re better off putting that money into a home maintenance account. Besides it only covers fresh-water pipes.

Myth #5: I Can Remove a Tree or Paint My Mailbox Any Color

Before yelling “Timber!” or choosing paint colors, think about your neighbors. If you bought a condo, co-op, or a home in a neighborhood with an HOA (homeowners’ association) you may not actually have the right to do that — without your neighbors’ consent, that is.

What an HOA (or condo association or co-op board) may control is surprising. Things like pet ownership, outdoor clotheslines, or even (true story) parking in the driveway instead of your garage.

So check the rules. Because breaking them could cost you — by making you redo a remodel, or fining you.

But keep in mind that HOAs are there to protect your home value. They’ve got your back. Just stay in touch with the rules so you don’t make a costly mistake.

Myth #6: When The Pipes Clog, Pour In a Bottle of Drain Cleaner

While drain cleaners are quick and convenient, they can cause more (and bigger) problems than they fix. They don’t typically remove the entire clog, making it more likely to recur — and their caustic chemicals can wear away the insides of the pipes, causing leaks.

Instead, invest in a $15, manually-operated drain snake at the hardware store, or rent an electric one to clear bigger clogs. Then use screens to prevent food scraps and hair from getting in your pipes.

And keep everything but sewage and TP out of the toilets. Always.

Myth #7: My Neighbor’s Tree Fell In My Yard, So They’ll Pay For It

Well …  that depends. Your first step, no matter what, is to call your insurance company. They’ll restore your property and then decide whether to pursue the neighbor for reimbursement.

That may be tough, though, (and awkward) because in order to collect the insurance company needs proof that the neighbor knew the tree was old or damaged, and didn’t maintain it.

The good news is that your policy should cover tree damage caused by wind, water, and storms. It may also cover hauling away tree debris if it damaged your home.

Likewise, if your tree falls on a neighbor’s property, don’t rush over with a wad of cash. Offer your sympathies, and let them know you’ll wait to proceed until their insurance company contacts you.

And always keep receipts for trimming and other tree care, should you need to prove your diligence.

Myth #8: I’ll Save Time And Money By Reroofing Over Old Shingles

Reroofing, or adding new shingles over existing roofing, may be cheaper than replacing the roof entirely.

But it’s not wise. A roof is like a cake of wooden sheathing beneath an icing of shingles. If the cake is spoiled, you can’t fix it (or even find out about it) by putting an extra layer of icing on top.

If there’s damage to your roof, get a new roof. Period.

 

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Until next time….

*Info provided by houselogic.com

Renovation Projects on Your Wish List (and What They’ll Cost!)

Deck or Patio: $6,400 – $9,450

Decks and patios, which are among the most-loved projects by homeowners, are legit investments. Both can return more than 100% of your renovation costs if you sell. (A free deck isn’t bad, eh?)

So get that Adirondack out of the dirt. Treating yourself to a patio or deck is an investment you can love and profit from.

New Hardwood Floors: $5,500

A span of luscious hardwood is some seriously rewarding eye candy: It lasts for decades and typically returns 91% of your investment.

Tip that ROI scale closer to 100% with these money-saving tips:

  • Keep the layout simple (no intricate borders or inlaid patterns) to save $1 to $2 per square foot.
  • Handle prep work, like removing and disposing of the old flooring and removing furniture, to cut labor costs.

Full Kitchen Renovation: $65,000

Big money for big joy: That’s one way to describe a full kitchen reno.

Homeowners in the RIR survey scored it a perfect 10 for the amount of joy it brings to their lives. (Which makes sense, since we spend so much time there.)

And if you need an excuse, er, reason, to get cooking on a renovation, consider this: You could recoup $40,000, so you’re basically getting a $65,000 kitchen for a mere $15,000 — plus years of enjoyment.

To keep from busting your budget (most homeowners do), spend at least six months deciding what you really want so you’re less likely to create costly changes along the way. Work added on after the contract is signed bumps up homeowners’ budgets by an average of 10%.

Bath Redo: $30,000

For a room that occupies so little of the house, the bath packs a lot of pricey items. Countertops, cabinetry, flooring, tubs, and plumbing fixtures add up.

To make sure the renovation looks as good 10 years from now, and to recoup most of your investment (typically 50% — more if you mostly DIY it):

  • Consider tile flooring that looks like wood but performs like porcelain. Splashed water and humid air will warp real wood.
  • Limit the amount of tiny tile you use. All that grout requires serious upkeep to keep clean.
  • Opt for white tubs and sinks that will never go out of style. Just think about all those 1950s aqua toilets you’re glad you don’t have. Right. White would have been a better choice.

Landscaping: $4,750

Talk about curb appeal that pays you back.

A typical landscaping project with bushes, mulch, a stone walkway, flowering shrubs and a tree or two has great impact on your home’s curb appeal — just another way of saying “cha-ching” when you sell.

Because you almost always get your full investment back on landscaping projects. In fact, you usually get a bit more.

Basement Conversion: $40,000

Talk about the possibilities: a home theater, playroom, office, or even a rentable apartment. And, much like the kitchen and bath, you’ll get a good bit back — typically a little more than 60%.

To keep costs down and bring the ROI up, think about what you need from the finished basement:

  • Is a bathroom a necessity? Does that bar actually need to be wet? Adding basement plumbing will significantly boost your budget because of the whole making-water-defy-gravity thing.
  • Would finished concrete floors with rugs suffice, rather than getting into the costs of vapor barriers, subflooring, and carpet padding? Plain old concrete sure makes for easy clean-up in a rec room or play space.
  • Do you need separate rooms? Create one open space and you’ll save on doors, studs, and drywall. Plus, nothing feels like a better add to your home than a new, giant, woo-wee, look-at-all-this-space room.

New Roof: $7,500

You can finally understand just what your parents meant when they said, “I put this roof over your head …”

It’s kind of a big deal. You rely on a good, healthy roof to keep costly threats — namely water, insects, mold, and wildlife — out of the house and keep conditioned air inside.

While it may not be a “dream” investment, the ROI for a roof is pretty dreamy, often more than 100%.

Some homeowners opt to shingle over an existing roof rather than springing for a new one, but that’s a waste of money. You won’t be able to see (much less repair) damage to the actual roof unless you take the shingles off.

Until next time…

*info provided by houselogic.com

What to Do ASAP as a New Homeowner (“Future You” Will Thank You)

Security & Safety

These are the very first things you should do after buying a house (for obvious reasons):

1. Change locks. Spares could be floating around anywhere.

2. Hide an extra key in a lockbox. Thieves look under flower pots.

3. Reset the key codes for garage doors, gates, etc. The former owners might’ve trusted half the neighborhood.

4. Test fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Who knows when the last time was. Definitely install them if there are none.

5. Check the temperature on your water heater, especially if you have young ones, so it won’t accidentally scald. Manufacturers tend to set them high. (but the best temperature setting for hot water is 120 degrees).

6. Make sure motion lights and other security lights have working bulbs.

7. Put a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and each additional floor.

Maintenance Planning

Start your master maintenance plan (and good home-keeping habits) by setting reminders in your calendar to do these basic maintenance tasks:

8. Clean out the dryer hose and vent yearly. Clogged ones burn down houses. And you don’t know the last time the previous homeowner did it.

9. Change your HVAC filters at least once a season. You’ll save on heating and cooling — and your unit will last longer. (While you’re at it, go ahead and stock up on them, too.)

10. Schedule HVAC maintenance for spring and fall.

11. Clean your fridge coils at least once a year. It’ll run better and last longer. (Don’t see any coils? Lucky you! Newer fridges often have coils insulated, so there’s no need for annual cleaning.)

12. Drain your water heater once a year.

13. Clean your gutters at least twice a year.

14. And if all items on your inspection report were not addressed, make a plan to fix them — before they become bigger and more expensive repairs.

Emergency Preparedness

You really really don’t want to be figuring any of this out in a real emergency. Do it now. You’ll sleep better and be less likely to ruin your home.

15. Locate the main water shut-off valve. Because busted pipes happen to almost every homeowner at least once. And water damage is value-busting and pricey to fix.

16. Find the circuit box, and label all circuit breakers.

17. Find the gas shut-off valve, too, if you have gas.

18. Test the sump pump if you have one. Especially before the rainy season starts.

19. List emergency contacts. You already know 911. These are the other numbers you often need in an emergency. You should have them posted where they’re easy to see.

  • Your utility companies
  • Your insurance agent
  • Plumber
  • Electrician

20. Assemble an emergency supply kit. Some key items are:

  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • A radio, TV, or cell phone with backup batteries

Home & Mortgage Documents

In case there’s a dispute with your mortgage lender or a neighbor over property lines, or if you’re a bit forgetful about due dates.

21. Store copies (the originals should be in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box) of important home documents so they’re readily available. Go paper, cloud, or better, yet, both.

  • Lender contact information
  • Property survey
  • Inspection report
  • Final closing documents
  • Insurance documents

22. Set mortgage and other bills to auto-pay so you’re never late.

Until next time….

*info provided by houselogic.com

 

June Is the Best Time to Do These 5 Things

#1 Update Outdoor Lighting

In June, winter nights are probably the last thing on your mind. But early summer is the perfect time to plan for those “OMG it’s only 4:30, and it’s already dark ” moments by adding or updating landscape lighting.

The most energy-efficient, easy-to-install option is solar lighting, but it won’t perform as well on dark or snowy days. For light no matter the weather, install electric.

LED bulbs last up to five times longer and also use less energy than comparable bulbs.

#2 Clean Your House’s Siding

With a bit of preventative maintenance, your home’s siding will stay clean and trouble-free for up to 50 years. Fifty years! Clean it this month with a soft cloth or a long-handled, soft-bristled brush to guarantee that longevity.

Start at the bottom of the house and work up, rinsing completely before it dries. That’s how you avoid streaks.

#3 Focus on Your Foundation

There’s no better time for inspecting your foundation than warm, dry June. Eyeball it for crumbling mortar, cracks in the stucco, or persistently damp spots (especially under faucets). Then call a pro to fix any outstanding issues now, before it becomes an emergency later.

#4 Seal Your Driveway Asphalt

Your driveway takes a daily beating. Weather, sunlight, cars, bikes, and foot traffic – all of these deteriorate the asphalt. Help it last by sealing it. Tip: The temperature must be 50 degrees or higher for the sealer to stick, making June a good month for this easy, cost-effective job.

#5 Buy Tools

Thanks to Father’s Day, June is the month everyone can get a deal on tools, tool bags, and that multitool you’ve had your eye on. If it’s time to replace a bunch of tools, or you’re starting from scratch, look for package deals that offer several at once. These can pack a savings wallop, offering 30% off or more over buying the tools individually.

Until next time….

*info provided by houselogic.com

7 Things You Should Paint Instead of Replace to Save Money

#1 Door, Drawer, and Cabinet Hardware

Spray paint can turn builder-grade brass locks and hinges into fashion-forward hardware with an oil-rubbed bronze, pewter, or stainless look.

  • Insert the door lock’s spindle into a square of Styrofoam, which will hold it upright while you spray around the knob.
  • Before you paint, insert a tiny strip of painter’s tape into the keyhole to make sure paint doesn’t gunk it up.
  • Prime with a metallic primer, then paint with metallic spray paint.

#2 Brick Fireplace

When you paint your red brick fireplace, you transform the entire room. But beware! Once you paint brick, it’s nearly impossible to return it to the original brick color.

You can paint brick a single color, or achieve some variation — like the variations in real brick — by sponging on slightly lighter and darker hues.

  • Paint with a semigloss latex.
  • Brick is porous and drinks paint, so buy twice what you think you’ll need.
  • Wear safety glasses and gloves when cleaning anything with a metal brush.

#3 Ceramic Tile

Imagine how sweet it is to update ceramic tile without having to bust up and cart away tons of old tile.

Play it safe and avoid painting tiles in high-traffic and high-moisture areas. Some good places are laundry room floors, backsplashes under cabinets (but not above ranges where pasta sauce splatters), and walls around tubs you rarely use.

  • To get a smooth look, apply paint in zigzags, then roll down in one, smooth motion.
  • Use 240-grit wet/dry sandpaper for prep and between coats.
  • Don’t forget safety goggles and masks when sanding tiles.

#4 Wood Floors

When wood floors are beyond another refinishing, painting can give them a second life — and give you a chance to add a personal touch to your home.

  • Before you commit to a paint color, paint a large piece of foam board with a sample of your desired color and put it on the floor to give you a good idea what the finished floor will look like.
  • Tint your primer to reduce the number of coats you’ll need of latex enamel floor paint.
  • It takes each coat about 24 hours to dry completely. So don’t jump the gun when applying the next, thin coat.
  • Your painted floor won’t completely cure for almost a month, so hold off on moving back heavy things like pianos and chests of drawers.
  • Protect your painted floor by putting mats down at the sink (wood and paint hate water) and high-traffic entryways.

#5 Carpet

We love the idea of covering stains and reviving a carpet with upholstery paint. It saves hundreds of dollars and the hassle of getting rid of an old carpet.

Kathie Smula of Spray It New upholstery paint says carpets with a short pile are the best candidates for painting; long-pile carpets become hard and matted when painted.

  • Don’t confuse upholstery paint, good for carpets, with fabric paint, good for T-shirts.
  • If you get heavy handed and paint clumps, loosen the area with a bristle brush and dab up excess paint.
  • Six cans of spray paint will cover an 8-foot-by-10-foot carpet with at least two coats.

 

#6 Vinyl Floors

Painting is an inexpensive way to get a few more years out of old vinyl floors in kitchens and laundry rooms.

  • Paint with a porch/floor paint.
  • Save your back when sanding floors by using a sanding pole, like the ones drywall installers use.
  • Highly textured vinyl floor may require another sanding and a second coat of primer.

#7 Appliances

Heat-resistant appliance paint will perk up your kitchen. Use an indoor appliance paint to change colors, or a liquid stainless steel application to give your appliance the stainless steel look.

Use a roller for small touchups; two or three thin coats of spray paint is better for total appliance coverage.

  • Make sure the front of your appliance is metal, not plastic. Plastic exteriors will require priming, while appliance paint will stick more easily to metal exteriors.
  • If you’re spray-painting, haul the appliance outdoors to avoid getting paint on cabinets and floors. If you paint indoors, open windows to assure proper ventilation.
  • For the stainless look, Liquid Stainless Steel is the go-to product. It’s got real flakes of stainless steel. Apply with a brush.

Until next time….

*info provided by houselogic.com