Southeast Florida Real Estate News


Nov. 27, 2018

Always Add This to Your Dishwasher Before You Run It

Always Add This to Your Dishwasher Before You Run It

a close up of a cage: loaded-dishwasher

Do you ever open your dishwasher after it runs only to be disappointed? (Even when you load your dishwasher the right way.) It can be so frustrating when "clean" dishes are covered in water spots. But don't rush out to buy a brand-new dishwasher yet. Learning how to prevent water spots will only take you about 30 seconds. The secret is: plain old vinegar. You can use vinegar to clean your housekeep towels soft and fluffyfreshen up your coffeepot and make the microwave sparkle. Yes—it also removes water spots from your dishes!

What causes water spots?

The problem is most likely your water. Hard water has a high mineral content, and over time it causes build-up on your dishes (as well as your faucets, shower heads and bathroom tile). The long-term fix is to buy a water softener that will remove calcium from your water. Not everyone can afford a water softener. The good news is that vinegar is a much, much cheaper solution.

Why does vinegar fix the problem?

Common white vinegar is actually a mild acid. That's exactly what you need to combat hard water! But unlike other store-bought cleaners and acids, it's safe and non-toxic. Have we mentioned that it's cheap? You can buy a gallon of store-brand vinegar for about $2. Compared to other dishwasher rinse aids, you'll save a chunk of change. Pro Tip:Because vinegar is an acid, don't use it in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher. Vinegar can actually damage the rubber components of the machine, and leave you with a bigger problem than spotty dishes.

How to prevent water spots with vinegar

Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with vinegar. Place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher. Then, run the dishwasher as usual. That's it! Your plates, glasses and silverware will be squeaky clean without a spot in sight. To make your dishes even cleaner, learn how to clean your dishwasher.

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Posted in News
Nov. 26, 2018

Love to Entertain? 7 Features Your Home Must Have to Host Right

Do you love hosting dinner parties, holiday gatherings, even full-on New Year's Eve bashes at home? Then you'll want to make sure your house is rigged with a few essential features that make entertaining a breeze. Whether you're looking to buy a new place or considering a renovation of the place you already have, put these seven must-haves at the top of your list—and then let the good times roll!

1. Adequate parking

It seems pretty obvious, but without a sizable driveway that you can designate for parking, it'll quickly become a royal pain to have more than a few friends over for dinner. If the new home you're thinking about doesn't have a long drive, check posted signs and local regulations for street parking. "Cul-de-sacs need a nearby roadway for parked cars, or else your tiny street will become cluttered and may cause an illegal parking situation—and you'll end up with annoyed neighbors," explains Reba Haas, a real estate agent in Seattle and CEO of Team Reba at Re/Max Metro Eastside. Or think about getting a quote from a contractor or paver to see whether the existing space you have can be reconfigured for more cars.

2. A large kitchen island

A kitchen island is all the rage these days for good reason: It allows plenty of people to linger in your kitchen, perched on barstools, without cramping your cooking style as you maneuver around them to get stuff done.

"When I have clients who say they love to have people over, we discuss 'how many butts' they want in the kitchen," notes Haas. Do a little math when you're house hunting or thinking of expanding this room, and decide how many people you want space for around your island—and then factor in a bunch of hangers-on. You probably need to add several more to your number, because people like to congregate in the kitchen, she says.

3. Outdoor space

Feeling a little tight in the living room? Send them out!

Any porch, deck, or patio space in a potential new home is a boon for born entertainers. And even if your outdoor area is on the small side, it can still be a plus at a party. Use it to set up the bar, as a lounge for smokers or a place to serve cocktails and appetizers. "Outdoor living space has become very popular in the past couple of years," says Haas. In areas with inclement weather, like the Pacific Northwest, covered space is truly a premium item—right up there with outdoor fire pits and kitchens.

4. A powder room on the main floor

A powder room on the first floor is a definite must-have when you're entertaining, because it saves your guests from traipsing upstairs or (worse) using your own master bath. And if its location is well away from the main entertaining rooms, all the better. "It's preferred if the half-bath isn't placed in the middle of your public space," recommends Haas. "You'd be amazed how many builders come up with designs where privacy in the loo isn't really thought out!"

5. Smart storage

For this feature, you'll want to seek out lots of kitchen shelving, a walk-in or butler's pantry, built-in china cabinets, or multipurpose units. "Home entertainers are always looking for lots of creative storage, particularly those who live in houses that don't have an attic or basement," says Kathleen Mathien, a designer at Closet Factory. For these homes, wall units are a brilliant fix. "They can incorporate a wine rack, extra refrigerator, and cabinets for glassware and dishes, as well as a countertop that functions as a buffet for serving food," she explains.

6. Home bar

One of the most requested home features for entertaining is a wet bar, reports Haas. But if the house you're in love with doesn't have this item, an extra closet or nook underneath a staircase might be the perfect spot to install one. "Be sure to request space to store wine, drawers for cocktail napkins and bottle openers, and adjustable shelves behind clear or frosted glass, so you can fit liquor in all shapes and sizes," recommends Andrew Newcomb of Closet Factory.

7. Wall bed

A party house with extra bedrooms is a bonus for overnight guests, but sometimes you can't devote a whole room to a single purpose. The solution: a pull-down Murphy bed.

"A wall bed system gives homeowners the ability to make the space multifunctional," explains Kayla Patterson of Closet Factory. "I've worked with several clients who want to host out-of-town guests but can't completely give up their home office." A wall bed offers a sleep spot, as well as added shelves and drawers that can be built in to the design.

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Posted in News
Nov. 14, 2018

'Tis the Season (to Sell): 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take Your Home Off the Market for the Holidays


As we careen at warp speed toward Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all of the joyous (read: stressful) festivities in between, you might be tempted to take your home off the market—or hold off on listing it—until after the new year. After all, you’re swamped with cooking, shopping, and decorating, and the last thing you need is a bunch of potential buyers traipsing through your house, right?

Wrong, says Tg Glazer, branch vice president and managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Bernardsville, NJ.

“It’s a huge, huge mistake to either remove your home from the market during the holiday season, or to not put your home on the market if you're getting ready to sell,” Glazer says.

Why? The first reason is painfully obvious: Your house can't actually sell if it’s off the market, says Nora Ling Lane, executive vice president for Allie Beth Allman & Associates, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate in Dallas.

“I'm pretty adamant about leaving a home on during the holidays,” Lane says. “Sure, people are busy, but I'd rather buyers see a house messy with baking in the kitchen than miss the house. Let somebody else take their house off the market and miss out.”

In fact, this time of year can actually be ideal for selling. Here’s why.

1. Your listing will rise to the top

If homeowners in your hood take a break from the market because they don't want to bother keeping their properties in show-ready condition over the holidays, that makes for reduced inventory. And that means buyers who are actively searching will be more likely to uncover your listing.

“During the busy spring market, for example, you have way more competition than during the holidays," Glazer explains. "So you're much more likely to get your home sold when you're not competing with more potential sellers."

2. Your house looks (and smells) amazing during the holidays

With festive greenery, the sweet aroma of cookies baking, and a warm fire in the hearth, you've got built-in ambiance—meaning you can appeal to buyers’ senses in a way that you can't during other times of the year, Glazer says.

“With that nice, homey feeling, homes tend to show a lot better during the holidays, while making people feel really good,” he explains.

Plus, chances are good you'll tap into some buyer sentimentality: During the holidays, we tend to feel nostalgic about family, home, and memories. That can cause a nesting instinct to kick in—and that often results in a sale, Glazer says.

Don’t go overboard with decorations, though.

“I tell sellers not to put a Santa Claus in every corner; you don't want clutter,” Lane cautions.

And remember: Buyers need to imagine their furniture in each room, so avoid blocking important selling features such as large windows and fireplace mantels.

And if you live in a colder climate, be sure walkways and stairs are always shoveled clean, and turn your thermostat up before each showing to keep things toasty.

“When you walk in and it's warm and cozy, that helps in the selling process,” Lane says.

3. Holiday buyers aren't messing around

Yes, things typically slow down in the weeks leading up to the holidays. But there are still people actively looking for homes and ready to pounce—or those who just entered the market on a short timeline and need to buy fast.

“The people who are out there looking at homes during the holidays are serious buyers,” Glazer says. “And in areas where you have bad weather, these buyers are going to weather the storms—pun intended—to visit your property.”

Potential buyers who take the time to set up home tours during the holiday season are also more motivated to move forward if they like what they see, Lane notes.

“These are not tire-kickers just looking around because it's fun; those are all weeded out,” she says.

4. Families often search during school breaks

Speaking of serious buyers: Relocating families often capitalize on the holidays as a time to move without tumult on the kids. They want to find the right property, have stress-free negotiations, and get their brood settled before school starts up again in January, Lane says.

“It's a good time to show your house to people from out of town,” she says.

5. It can be easier to close a transaction in December

Buyers can often get their loans processed and approved faster in November or December than they would in the traditionally busy spring months, says Bill Gassett, a Realtor® with Re/Max Executive Realty in Hopkinton, MA. It all comes down to the holiday slowdown: Fewer home sales are on deck to process, plus lenders are motivated to close deals before the end of the year.

“I’ve seen from personal experience that because of the low volume of business, things move quicker with lenders,” says Gassett, who has been in the business for 31 years.

6. The holidays give you a chance to adjust your selling strategy

If your home's been languishing on the market for several weeks—or months (eek!)—you might be feeling antsy. Maybe the best solution is to take it off the market and try again after the new year.

Fight the urge! You're better off staying the course and using this slow time to tweak your selling strategy. Would home staging draw in buyers? Do you need to tackle that paint job you'd been putting off? Should you reassess your asking price?

“Generally, the reason a house does not sell is because it’s not priced right, and if it’s been sitting on the market, nothing will change over a 30-day period if you're pricing it the same,” Glazer says. “You're much better off getting the price in line with where it should be, and leaving it on through the holidays.”

Lane recently had clients who wanted to take their home off the market during the holidays and relist in January. She talked them out of it, had several showings, and signed the contract on Christmas Eve.

“I've sold more houses in December than in most months," Lane says. "It's always a busy month for me."

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Posted in Market Updates, News
Nov. 13, 2018

How Much Energy Do Holiday Lights Use?

Did you know that the U.S. uses more electricity during the month of December than some countries do in an entire year?

The Rockefeller Center Tree in New York City uses five miles of lights and uses 20,000+ watts of electricity. Thankfully, they’re LED and powered by solar panels. But if you deck out your home for the holidays, how much more will you spend in electricity to light it?

To calculate your holiday energy bills, we’ll help you find and plug in these factors:

  • Watts for LED or incandescent bulbs
  • How many days your display is active
  • The number of bulbs that you are powering
  • The total wattage of your display

Christmas Light Wattage

You may be able to find the wattage of your Christmas lights on the side of the box. If it doesn’t or if you’ve thrown it away, don’t worry. On average, a string of 100 incandescent minis run 40 watts and comparable LED lights are less than 5 watts.

In its simplest terms, the number of watts used is essentially the amount of energy used. Knowing the wattage will help as we dive into calculations of kilowatt-hours of electricity. AND, it may keep you from tripping your circuit breaker (for the third time!) as you’re adding lights to your home.

Do Christmas lights use a lot of energy?

It depends which of the two most popular types you plug in. Strings of incandescent bulbs use about six times the wattage of LED–which translates to about six times the cost to power it. LED lights are your most energy-efficient option.

LED bulbs have a lower wattage rating, helping you keep your energy bill lower and reducing your risk of overloading your breaker. Using LED can also prevent you from tripping your circuit breaker, which can be expensive. Hiring an electrician to to replace a circuit breaker switch costs anywhere from $100 up to $160 depending on your location and the extent of the damage. This makes it important to understand wattage.

How Long Should Christmas Lights Be On?

Most displays are on from 5pm to 10pm. How long you keep your tree lights on depends on whether they’re LED or not. If they are several years old, they are likely incandescent. These are extremely inexpensive, but there is a serious trade-off: only 10% of this energy is used to produce light. Nearly 90% of the energy used to power an incandescent bulb floats off into the air in the form of heat. High temperatures created by some displays can be a fire hazard.

The frightening reality is that according to the National Fire Protection Association40% of holiday fires are started by electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Over 13,000 people end up in emergency rooms around the country each season due to accidents surrounding their holiday decor. 

If you’re worried about overloading your electrical system or other potential hazards, hire a local Christmas light installer who specializes in safely powering your holiday spirit.

How Long Do Christmas Lights Last?

Incandescent bulbs have an average effective life of 1,000-1,200 hours. LED lights producing approximately the same amount of light can provide up to 25,000 hours of illumination.

Calculating the Cost

The cost of your holiday display will be the cost of the bulbs or projectors, the cost of Christmas light installation if you decide to hire a pro, and the cost of the energy to power them.

The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is 13.15 cents per kilowatt-hour. This doesn’t sound like much until you take into account the hundreds or even thousands of kilowatt-hours required to power the average Christmas lights and Halloween displays. So far, LED lights sound great in theory, right? Let’s see how the cost breaks down over a season.

Here’s the math:

We’ll keep the it simple. Let’s say an average incandescent string of 1,000 mini lights is approximately 408 watts, while a similar strand with LED bulbs is 69 watts.

Let’s say we’re using 10 strings of 1,000 lights. Total watts for incandescent bulbs would be 4,080. LED bulbs would only be 690.

Multiply the total wattage by 0.001 to find the total kilowatt-hours of electricity that will be used. In our example, incandescent bulbs will utilize 4.08 while LED bulbs will be 0.69.

Determine how many hours per day the lights will be on. We’ll use the average of five hours giving us 20.4 kilowatt-hours per day for incandescent bulbs and 3.45 for LEDs.

Multiply by the number of days your display will be active. If we estimate 30 days, we’ve got 612 kilowatt-hours per season for incandescent bulbs and only 103.5 for LEDs. 

Multiply each by your cost of power usage. You can use the exact figure found on your energy bill, but we’ll use the national average of 13.15 cents per kilowatt-hour. That gives us a total cost per season of $80.48 for 10 strands of 1,000 incandescent mini lights and $13.97 for the same number of LED bulbs. 

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Posted in News
Nov. 7, 2018

Buying a Home? 7 Unsettling Emotions You'll Feel Before the Deal Is Done


Buying a home may be a financial transaction, but it's a highly emotional one, too. And while there are highs—like the moments you know you've found The One or you get the keys to your new home—you may also go through periods of high anxiety or hopelessness before you close the deal.

Ask any homeowner about their experiences buying a home, and you’ll hear a similar refrain: Purchasing property is utterly nerve-racking. With so many moving pieces, buying a home can feel like a high-stakes juggling act—only you don’t have time to practice.

As a real estate agent over the past four years, I’ve specialized in working with first-time buyers. Although each home sale is unique, I’ve noticed buyers experience some of the same ups and downs during the home-buying process.

1. Online photos can be deceiving

Odds are good you’ll be spending a huge chunk of time looking at properties online, but listing photos can be misleading. Professional photographers and listing agents alike are capable of disguising flaws of all shapes and sizes. The only way to truly know what a house looks like is to see it in person.

2. Open houses are fun—until they're not

Going to open houses gives you the opportunity to see properties without having to deal with the hassle of coordinating showings. However, it’s easy to get worn out. If you’re serious about buying a home, you’re attending open houses every weekend—which can get quite cumbersome, especially if you'd prefer to be out brunching with friends or attending Junior's soccer matches. The important thing to remember is that your house hunt won't last forever, in spite of how it may feel in the thick of things (see our next point).

3. Buying a home can feel like a never-ending slog

Finding a great home—one that meets your needs and (hopefully) checks off a lot of your “wants”—takes time. With all of my past clients, I showed each of them at least five properties before we made an offer on a home. (One buyer looked at probably close to 30 homes before we found The One.)

The lesson: You have to be patient, because it could take a while for you to find a house that you love.

4. Anxiously waiting to hear back on an offer

No one likes playing the waiting game after submitting an offer on a home but, unfortunately, this is simply part of the home-buying process. Whether or not you're going up against other offers, the seller needs time to review each bid carefully. Furthermore, each state has its own legal contract that home buyers must use when making an offer on a property, and some jurisdictions require you to submit a mound of paperwork.

Once you’ve submitted an offer, though, the best thing you can do is wait. To minimize the pain though, I typically recommend home buyers attach an addendum stating that their offer expires in 24 hours. I do this for two reasons: It prevents the seller from being able to use your offer to shop around for a better one, and it gives you an exit strategy if you decide you want to walk away and look for another home.

5. Disclosures and home inspections? Terrifying

Unless you’re buying a brand-new house, the seller is required to provide you with property disclosures about the home’s condition. These documents can be a bit unsettling, as can a home inspection.

But don't fret: These documents err on the side of too much detail, and often make a problem seem far worse than it really is. Make sure to talk them over with your real estate agent so you know what the repair work will truly entail.

6. The disappointment of not getting everything you want

If you’re buying a house, you'd better be prepared to negotiate. When you submit a lowball offer on a property, you should expect the seller to make a counteroffer. Both parties may have to make concessions in order to agree on a sales price.

request for home repairs is another big point of contention. Home inspectors are trained to find every single flaw with a house, no matter how big or small. If the inspection reveals a major issue (e.g., a cracked foundation), that should absolutely be something you discuss with the sellers to see who will pay for repairs. However, you shouldn’t nickel-and-dime the sellers by asking them to fix every minor thing that’s wrong with the house; if you do, the deal could fall through.

Note: I always recommend including a home inspection contingency when making an offer on a property, unless the house is a short sale or it’s being sold as is, in which case you don’t typically have room to ask for repairs. A typical home inspection costs $300 to $500.

7. Getting a hand cramp at closing from signing all those forms

At settlement, home buyers sign a lot of paperwork to make the sale official—meaning your hand will definitely be sore by the time you’re finished writing your John Hancock on the last document. But trust me, it's all par for the course—and well worth it, as I've seen time and again home buyers' eyes light up once they're handed the keys.

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Posted in News
Nov. 5, 2018

Existing-Home Sales Increase for the First Time in Six Months

October existing-home sales increased last month, after six straight months of decreases, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. Three of four major regions saw gains in sales activity last month.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 1.4 percent from September to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.22 million in October. Sales are now down 5.1 percent from a year ago (5.5 million in October 2017).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says increasing housing inventory has brought more buyers to the market. “After six consecutive months of decline, buyers are finally stepping back into the housing market,” he said. “Gains in the Northeast, South and West—a reversal from last month’s steep decline or plateau in all regions—helped overall sales activity rise for the first time since March 2018.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in October was $255,400, up 3.8 percent from October 2017 ($246,000). October’s price increase marks the 80th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of October decreased from 1.88 million in September to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale, but that represents an increase from 1.80 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.4 last month and up from 3.9 months a year ago.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 33 days in October, up from 32 days in September but down from 34 days a year ago. Forty-six percent of homes sold in October were on the market for less than a month.

“As more inventory enters the market and we head into the winter season, home price growth has begun to slow more meaningfully,” said Yun. “This allows for much more manageable, less frenzied buying conditions.”®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listings views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in October were Midland, Texas; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Odessa, Texas; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.; and Columbus, Ohio.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.83 percent in October from 4.63 percent in September. The average commitment rate for all of 2017 was 3.99 percent.

“Rising interest rates and increasing home prices continue to suppress the rate of first-time homebuyers. Home sales could further decline before stabilizing. The Federal Reserve should, therefore, re-evaluate its monetary policy of tightening credit, especially in light of softening inflationary pressures, to help ease the financial burden on potential first-time buyers and assure a slump in the market causes no lasting damage to the economy,” says Yun.

First-time buyers were responsible for 31 percent of sales in October, down from last month and a year ago (32 percent). NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased in late 2018—revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33 percent.

“Despite this much-welcomed month over month gain, sales are still down from a year ago, a large reason for which is affordability challenges from higher interest rates,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. “Prospective buyers looking for their dream home in this market should contact a Realtor® as a first step in the buying process to help them navigate this more challenging environment.”

All-cash sales accounted for 23 percent of transactions in October, up from September and a year ago (21 and 20 percent, respectively). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in October, up from September and a year ago (both 13 percent).

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 3 percent of sales in October (the lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008), unchanged from last month and down from 4 percent a year ago. Two percent of October sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sit at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in October, up from 4.58 million in September, and are 5.3 percent below the 4.88 million sales pace from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $257,900 in October, up 4.3 percent from October 2017.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 600,000 units in October, up 5.3 percent from last month but down 3.2 percent from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $236,200 in October, which is down 0.2 percent from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown
October existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 690,000, 6.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $280,900, which is up 3.0 percent from October 2017.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales declined 0.8 percent from last month to an annual rate of 1.27 million in October, down 3.1 percent overall from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $197,000, up 2.4 percent from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South rose 1.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.15 million in October, down 2.3 percent from last year. The median price in the South was $221,600, up 3.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West grew 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.11 million in October, 11.2 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $382,900, up 1.9 percent from October 2017.

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Posted in Market Updates
Oct. 29, 2018

What Size Storage Unit Do I Need? And Other Questions to Ask When Picking a Facility


If you need a storage unit, there are many questions you should ask before you pick one. For example: What size unit do you need? How much does a storage unit cost?

Choosing a storage unit may seem daunting at first, but if you've reached that point where you've run out of space in your home for all of your belongings, it's time to dive in. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you find the right storage unit for you.

What size storage unit do I need?

Before you begin your search for the right unit, make a list of all the items you'll be storing. This way you can save time by focusing only on storage facilities that meet your needs in terms of size.

Storage units generally range in size from 5-by-5 to 10-by-25 feet, and some may be even larger. Wondering which size is best for you? Picture these:

  • A 5-by-5 unit is the size of a small closet and could hold several small- to medium-size boxes, a dresser, or a single bed.
  • A 5-by-10 unit is comparable to a walk-in closet, which could hold larger furnishings such as a queen-size bed or couch.
  • A 10-by-10 unit could hold two bedrooms' worth of furnishings.
  • A 10-by-20 unit is equal to a standard one-car garage, and could hold the contents of a multiple-bedroom house.

Prefer not to climb over mountains of tubs and boxes to track down something stashed at the far reaches of that space? Choose a unit that allows entry on either side.

"How many times do you put something in the back of a closet only to find that you need it? The same thing happens with a storage unit," explains Willie Dvorak, owner of AAA Storage in Mellette, SD. "Ensuring you can access your goodies from both sides of the unit makes it that much easier to find what you need quickly and safely."

How much does a storage unit cost?

Unless you're filthy rich (and then you probably have a big house with ample storage), you'll want to know how much this unit will set you back each month. breaks down how much you can expect to pay on average:

  • A 5-by-5 unit costs about $40 to $50 a month.
  • A 10-by-20 unit costs about $95 to $155 a month.
  • A 20-by-20 unit costs about $225 a month.

Is this storage unit easily accessible?

What good is having a storage unit if it's hard to access, both in terms of its location and its design? Dvorak outlines what to look for when selecting a facility.

"If you can't get your vehicle close enough to the unit, you'll be lugging your stuff feet—even yards—in both directions," he says. "While it may not seem like a long walk as you look at the unit, imagine carrying all of your stuff back and forth all of that way. When you're storing stuff, every step is a nuisance. And, when you are stressed, you're more prone to accidents. Turning that rental truck around just adds to the stress. Be sure you can pull up the unit and get your vehicle turned around without any trouble."

What are the storage facility's hours?

Once you've unloaded your belongings, you still want to know that you can reach them in a hurry should you have the desire.

"It's hard to predict when you'll need that hiking gear you haven't used for years, Grandma's scrapbook, or that special award you want to show off," Dvorak notes. "Don't miss out because you think of it after they've locked things up for the night (or weekend). Make sure you can access your stuff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

What's the payment policy?

Fred Levine, founder of Little Hard Hats, recommends reading all of the fine print of the contract to determine how long the price is guaranteed.

"They routinely get you in, then shortly thereafter, once you’ve moved all your stuff in, they sometimes raise the rates," he cautions.

"Understanding the payment policy can also help you make decisions about a storage facility," says Caitlin Hoff of "What is the late fee or policy? Some facilities will auction your storage unit if rent is not paid after a certain amount of time. Does your facility allow for online payments? If it doesn't, do you have to pay in person? Knowing the full extent of the policy can narrow down a list of facilities."

What type of security is used?

Ask how the storage unit facility is secured. Is there a guard? Video surveillance? Alarms? Is the area well-lit? Also, don't assume the facility is going to cover damages to your possessions inside the storage unit in case of an accident. Check your homeowners policy, and purchase a rider if necessary.

Is it climate-controlled?

Depending on the items you are looking to store, you might debate whether or not you want a climate-controlled storage unit. A climate-controlled unit is better for items such as appliances or antiques that might be damaged in extreme temperatures.

How are pests handled?

No one wants to find that a family of critters has turned your family heirlooms into their home.

"If you are looking at an outdoor storage unit, you want to ask about pest control," says Hoff. "Ask if they have had issues with any insects or critters, and find out how they handle these situations."

Eric Hoffer, president of Hoffer Pest Solutions, suggests doing your own detective work when you preview the facility.

"Overgrown bushes, unkempt landscaping brushing up against the side of the building, and overflowing trash cans are not only a sign that maintenance may not be a priority for a storage facility, but these can be things that attract pests like rodents and roaches close to the building," he says. "All it takes is a small crack or gap in the wall to allow pests inside."

If you're going to the trouble of storing your items for later use, you want to know they'll be in the best shape possible when you want them. Finding the right facility can make all the difference.

Article Courtesy of

Posted in News
Oct. 26, 2018

5 affordable ways to add value and style to your home

Slide 2 of 22: If you are looking for a simple and inexpensive home improvement, you can't get more low-tech than painting. With nothing more than a gallon of paint and a few brushes and rollers, you can give any room in your home a new lease on life. Whether you want to brighten up the kitchen or create a more romantic environment in the bedroom, you can do it all with a fresh coat of color.


Posted in Market Updates
Oct. 19, 2018

How much will you have to pay for a new roof?

a close up of a piece of paper: How Much Will You Have to Pay for a New Roof?

A house that's built well and is given the proper care can last hundreds of years. But -- where's that dripping coming from? It could be your roof telling you it needs to be replaced, even if it's just a decade or so old.

If you have a 30-year mortgage and aren't likely to move during your loan term, you're likely to need a new roof at least once.

A roof isn't cheap. Let's take a look at what it's going to cost you.## Factors determining the price.

The cost of replacing a roof has many variables. A few things to consider are: the roof's size and slope; its materials; any water damage; whether there are chimneys or skylights; and removal of the old roof.

The size of the roof will obviously impact cost, because more material will be needed to cover the space. Chimneys and skylights increase the price because of the special work and materials needed to install around them.

As for the slope, the steeper the roof, the higher the costs. That's because it becomes more dangerous for roofers to do their job, and they may require safety equipment.

Removing an existing roof can cost up to $5 per square foot and can total $1,100 or more for a basic ranch-type house, according to If roofers uncover serious water damage or rot, removal can be much more expensive.

So what should you expect to pay?

The national average total cost of removing and replacing a roof is about $7,300, says HomeAdvisor.

But while the high end of the typical price range is about $10,000, a new roof made of top-of-the-line materials can cost as much as $30,000 or even $100,000.

Asphalt can run between $120 and $400 for every 100 square feet of roof. Metal costs up to $1,800. But the price of slate or tile can be as much as $4,000 per 100 square feet.

Need to save for a new roof? Calculate how much you need to save each month to reach your goal.

When is it time to replace?

A roof can be replaced for several reasons, maybe for a simple aesthetic upgrade or if you want to try making your home more energy efficient.

But often it will be very obvious that it's time for a new roof — like if your current roof leaks every time it rains.

Variables such as sun and rain exposure, the age of the existing roof when you purchased the house, and the energy efficiency of the roof can force you to replace your roof sooner, rather than later.

A flat roof will have a short lifespan: likely just 10 years. That's because water, leaves and other debris tend to accumulate on a flat roof and cause damage. Other styles of roof may last 30 to 50 years.

As for the roofing materials, asphalt shingles may last 30 or more years, while a metal, tile, or slate roof may endure for 50 years or more, says Angie's List. Note that more durable materials carry a higher price tag.

Article Courtesy Moneywise

Posted in News
Oct. 17, 2018

Your Top 5 Fireplace Questions, Answered

Ready for the snap, crackle and pop of a roaring fire? Here's everything you need to know.

Fireplaces are one of the most sought-after home features, but using one can be intimidating, and you’ve probably got questions.

Here’s a quick guide to get you and your fire started this fall.

How do I use a wood-burning fireplace?

If a cave man can start a fire, so can you.

1. Get your chimney inspected
Safety is your first priority! Have your fireplace and chimney inspected by a licensed professional. This is something you should do every year, before the first fire of the season.

2. Prepare the fireplace
Clean out any old ashes with a broom (make sure they’re cool, of course). Check that the damper is open and working properly.

3. Gather and prep your wood
Use seasoned hardwood that has been split and dried for at least six months — preferably for a year. Seasoned hardwood logs should be dark and cracked at the ends, and they should make a hollow sound when knocked together.

To construct a long-lasting fire, place a rolled-up ball of newspaper beneath the grates. Then lay pieces of narrow, finely split wood in a crisscross pattern on the grates.

Finish the stack by securely resting one to three dry logs over the kindling.

4. Prime the flue
This step heats the cold air inside the flue so you don’t get a backup of smoke. Before you light the fire, light a tightly rolled-up sheet of newspaper, and hold it toward the open damper. Keep it there for a minute or two until you see the smoke going up the flue.

5. Light it up!
Now you’re ready to light your fire and enjoy.

If the fire starts to go out, gently fan the flames with folded newspaper or use a poker to get the air flowing again. Add logs to the fire with tongs to provide more fuel.

When the fire has gone out for the night, close the metal or glass doors before you go to bed.

Are fireplaces efficient?

It depends. Wood-burning fireplaces, for all their old-fashioned charm, are a wildly wasteful way to heat a house. Since heat rises upward, most of it escapes through the chimney, even when the fire has gone out for the night.

Fireplaces located against an outside wall lose even more heat, since much of it is lost to the cold outdoor air.

Solution? Only use your wood-burning fireplace for special occasions. If you don’t plan on using your fireplace often, purchase an inflatable plug to add insulation.

Gas fireplaces are more efficient, and the newest models are realistic enough to make you forget that you don’t own any firewood. Switching to a gas insert is expensive, though, especially if you have to make changes to your chimney.

If aesthetics are all that matter, use your fireplace to display lit candles.

Are fireplaces safe?

Fire is the very definition of unsafe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t safely enjoy your fireplace. You just have to maintain it and practice common sense:

  • Keep flammable materials and objects away from the fireplace, and store firewood well away from the house.
  • To keep embers from flying out and igniting your unread stack of magazines, use a mesh or metal screen when the fire is lit.
  • Before lighting the first fire of the season, inspect your extinguishers, test your smoke detectors and review your family’s evacuation routes.
  • Continue to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly.
  • The glass doors, mesh screen and tools can be dangerously hot. If you have children, use a free-standing barrier to prevent burns.

Wood-burning fireplaces produce smoke that can irritate or even damage your lungs, even with a properly functioning chimney. To keep smoke from filling your house, ensure that the damper is open, your home is ventilated, and the chimney has been inspected and cleared of obstructions.

Carbon monoxide is produced by both gas and wood-burning fireplaces, and it’s especially dangerous because it’s invisible, silent and odorless. Use carbon monoxide detectors and inspect them regularly.

Why does my gas fireplace smell?

What you smell is an additive that’s been included in the propane to help you detect gas leaks.

Vent-free gas fireplaces typically come with an oxygen depletion sensor that will shut off the flame if too much carbon monoxide is detected, and vented fireplaces pull fumes away from the house.

These safety measures aren’t foolproof, however, so ensure that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed, and inspect them monthly by pressing the “Test” button.

How often should I clean my chimney?

A buildup of soot and creosote is more than unsightly: It can reduce airflow, cause smoke to back up and even create a fire risk.

To avoid a chimney fire, have your fireplace and chimney inspected annually by a licensed professional. They will likely recommend a cleaning when the layer of residue is about 1/8 of an inch thick.

To clean inside the fireplace, put on a dust mask, sweep out the ashes, and scrub the surfaces with a brush and dishwashing liquid.

Article Courtesy of

Posted in News