Should I buy a new or existing home?

That letter from the bank: You know the one — it says you’re approved to buy a home for a certain amount of money. It’s burning a hole in your pocket.

Now it comes down to deciding what type of home to buy, within your budget. Condo or townhome? Existing home or a newly constructed house?

The latter is a question we hear frequently from our clients. Let’s take a look at the differences between buying a new home and an existing home.

The Basics

A brand-new house gives you a blank canvas on which to create your dream home. And, while an older home can be remodeled to suit your lifestyle and tastes, it requires time and lots of money.

If you like the idea of being part of the numerous decisions that go into building a home from the ground up, new construction may be right up your alley.

Keep in mind, however, that there are typically delays, so if you’re easily frustrated, consider an existing home.

Cost

When you buy a new home, you’ll pay more for it compared to similar existing homes. This is known as the “new home premium” or “new construction premium.”

While there is no set amount, last summer, new homes sold for 28 percent more (nationwide average) than existing homes, according to Prashant Gopal at Bloomberg.com.

In a 2018 National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) poll, 31 percent of the homebuyers surveyed said they prefer new homes, while 46 percent said they prefer existing homes.

Yet, when a Harris poll asked those who prefer new homes if they were willing to pay a new construction premium most respondents said they were not.

You’ll need to decide if the new home premium is in your budget and you’re willing to pay it.

Ongoing costs of home ownership, however, are typically lower in a new home, at least for the first four years, according to the American Housing Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For instance, the owner of a newly-constructed home most likely won’t be faced with unexpected repairs and, at least for the first few years, maintenance costs will be negligible.

“In fact, 73 percent of new homeowners spent less than $25 a month on routine maintenance costs,” suggests Peter Bennett at MyBankTracker.com.

New construction homes may have energy efficient features — another money-saving aspect of choosing new over old. Monthly savings on utility bills further decrease the new home premium.

Finally, many new home developers offer incentives when the buyer agrees to use the in-house lender. Incentives may include a significant closing cost credit or points paid on the loan, further bringing down the new home premium.

There is one significant financial drawback: new construction homeowners usually pay higher property taxes. Because new home communities are usually built in less-developed areas, property taxes subsidize development of the area’s infrastructure.

Taxes will be part of your monthly mortgage payment, so pay close attention to this detail when making your decision.

When weighing the pros and cons of buying new construction, crunch all the numbers before making your choice.

Location, Location, Location

Sure, it’s a well-worn mantra, but location usually is the most important consideration when shopping for a home.

The reality is that location determines whether a home will hold its value and appreciate over time. Homes in some school districts, for instance, hold their value better than those located in others.

With existing structures, what you see is what you get when it comes to the neighborhood. You can tour the area and get a feel for the type of neighbors you’ll have if you choose to purchase there, how well they maintain their homes, helping or hindering the area’s home values.

If you have children, you have no way of knowing if other families will be drawn to the community, providing playmates for your kids.

In new home subdivisions, especially in brand new ones where sales are few, the neighborhood is a wildcard. Only when all the homes are sold will you know what type of neighborhood you have on your hands.

In many cases, but not all, new neighborhoods are located on the outskirts, while established ones frequently are located nearer to town.

Choosing between these two locations is a lifestyle decision that requires factoring in your daily commute and determining how important proximity to town is to you.

It’s a matter of taste

If you need a home with lots of space for storage, hobbies or a home office, a customized, new construction home may be the ticket.

If your wish list includes a home with mature landscaping in an established neighborhood, older homes may work better.

The decision between old and new may just come down to whether your lifestyle includes walking to the movies and to dinner at your favorite downtown restaurant or having an extensive hiking trail right outside your door.

Should you decide to go the new construction route in your home purchase, go into the process with representation. Make no mistake – the builder’s real estate agent represents the builder’s best interests.

Although it may seem easier to use the same agent, it isn’t wise. Feel free to reach out – we’re always available to answer questions.

What credit score do I need to buy a house?

Three digits. They may be all that is standing between you and your own home or continuing to rent. Known as your “credit score,” those digits reflect how risky it will be to lend you money. The score may also impact other aspects of the homebuying process as well.

 How your credit score is calculated

The road to your credit score, also known as a FICO® Score, begins with the credit reporting agencies. Known as “the big three,” they include Equifax, TransUnion® and Experian®.

The information the agencies collect ends up in the hands of the Fair Isaac Corporation (or, the aforementioned FICO®, for short), one of the nation’s top two credit scoring companies.

Ninety percent of what FICO calls “top lenders” rely on your FICO score to determine your credit risk and how much they will charge you for the money you borrow.

FICO’s score calculation is complicated and secret. What they end up producing, however, is a three-digit score from each of the reporting agencies.

“Mortgage lenders usually take the middle score” from this subset, according to Craig Anthony at investopedia.com.

“For example,” he continues, “if your credit scores from the above agencies are 710, 690 and 610, the lender typically makes its decision based on the 690 score.”

Learn more about how FICO determines your score at myfico.com.

What is considered “good” credit for a mortgage?

FICO Scores can range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. According to FICO, about 1.4 percent of Americans with credit scores have a perfect 850.

Last summer, however, the company announced that the average score in the United States reached an all-time high of 704, up four points from 2017’s average.

So, what’s the magic number you’ll need to buy a house?

It depends on the type of loan you’ll be pursuing.

  • FHA – 580 and above to qualify for the 3.5 percent down payment and 500 and above with a 10 percent down payment.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) – The VA doesn’t loan money so it doesn’t mandate a minimum credit score. Most VA lenders want to see at least a 620 score, although some lenders may approve a borrower with a 580 score.
  • Rural Development (USDA) – 640 and above.
  • Conventional loans – 620 and above

Since requirements change occasionally, use the above minimum scores as a general guideline and consult with a lender for current requirements.

How does a low score impact the homebuying process?

If you find your credit score on the borderline, just barely acceptable to a lender, you may run into the following problems along the road to homeownership.

You’ll pay more for your house payment every month

First, your credit score will determine the interest rate on your loan.

Use  FICO’s Loan Savings Calculator to determine how much money you can save by raising your credit score before applying for a loan.

Home insurance rates are higher for those with poor credit

If you won’t be paying cash for the home, the lender will demand that the home be insured. And, if you’re credit is poor, you’ll pay more than homeowners with good credit pay.

“People with poor credit pay at least twice as much as people with excellent credit in 37 states and Washington, D.C.,” according to Laura Adams, InsuranceQuotes’ senior analyst.

Live in West Virginia? A poor credit score may doom you to paying more than twice the rate (208 percent).

And, since insurance is one of the four components of your mortgage payment (principal, interest, taxes and insurance), a higher premium will impact how much you pay for the home each month.

How quickly can I raise my credit score?

The first step to take when trying to raise your credit score quickly is to look for errors in your credit reports. You are entitled to a free copy of your reports every 12 months, from all three credit reporting bureaus.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you order these reports from annualcreditreport.com, the only agency authorized by the U.S. government.

Items to look for in your credit report include:

  • Personal information – Ensure that your name, address and Social Security number are accurate.
  • Check all listed account numbers for accuracy.
  • Check that there are no accounts listed as closed which are actually open.
  • Look for accounts that are incorrectly listed as delinquent.

You will find more tips on what to look for in your credit report online, at consumerfinance.gov. If you find errors, dispute them according to the bureau’s instructions. These are listed on each credit report.

In the meantime, don’t open any new credit accounts. Since the credit bureaus don’t know how you’ll use this credit, they consider you a higher credit risk with new credit and it may result in as much as a 10-point reduction in your score.

Don’t close any credit card accounts, either. The lack of installment credit makes you appear riskier.

Pay your bills on time

Since your payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score, late payments are brutal on your credit score. Start meeting those payment deadlines.

Consider putting the accounts that you typically pay late on an automatic payment schedule with your bank.

Don’t be shy about obtaining financial counselling. You’ll find a list of approved credit counseling agencies on the Department of Justice website.

Or, consider meeting with a non-profit housing counselor in your area. You’ll find a list of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved counselors online at consumerfinance.gov.

Create your dream patio in just 5 steps

Wisteria blooms elegantly along the back fence, temperatures are gradually nudging their way up, grilling season is oh, so close and you’re ready to give your patio or balcony a shot of pre-summer sprucing.

Few things in a busy life feel more luxurious than breakfast on the patio, deck or balcony on a gorgeous spring or summer day, so it’s worth the investment in time, a bit of money and elbow grease to create the patio of your dreams.

This week we offer up 5 steps to get your patio ready for the outdoor-living season.

1. Restore or replace?

If your patio furniture isn’t too terribly shabby, consider restoring it to its former splendor. It’s an easy and inexpensive DIY project, especially if the pieces are made of wood. Wicker or metal furniture are good candidates for restoration as well, but they’ll take a few extra steps.

Use a wire brush or sandpaper to rid metal furniture of built-up grime and rust, thoroughly clean wicker furniture and allow to dry. Then, slap on some gorgeous paint.

The Wicker Woman walks you through the process of painting wicker furniture here. Restoring wood furniture is a snap and you can learn how at Today’s Homeowner.

Need to buy new patio furniture? You can find it at bargain prices at Craigslist.org.

2. Cushions?

It does you no good to refurbish the furniture if you plan on topping it with worn, ratty cushions. New cushions or pillows will add a pop of color and texture. They don’t have to be a budget buster either. Ikea and Walmart carry reasonably-priced cushions.

Prefer to shop online? Check Lowes.com, Amazon.com or Overstock.com.

3. Provide some shade

Your patio will need a shady spot in which to escape the summer sun and there are several brilliant ways to provide it.

If you have money to burn, check out retractable awnings that will cover your patio.  Home Depot and Costco offer them. Read up on the pros and cons of retractable awnings at AngiesList.com.

If you’re on a budget, consider shade sails, which you can purchase at the major home improvement stores or online at retailers such as Coolaroo. Even an inexpensive umbrella can provide shade for people and/or plants.

Need some inspiration? Check out these cool ideas on Pinterest.

4. Water and summer – the perfect pairing

Every patio oasis needs some sort of water feature. Waterfalls and fountains are the most popular and you don’t need an elaborate electrical and irrigation system to build one.

Many of today’s fountains are solar-powered, so you won’t need to perform a major electrical system hack to accommodate them either.

Check out the selection at wayfair.com.

Need inspiration? Find it on Pinterest.

5. Light it up

Is there anything better than al fresco dining? And, no, you don’t need to visit our high-end eateries to experience it.

Once your patio is whipped into shape, all you need to do is add lighting to provide the perfect ambiance.

Get ideas on pinterest.com, hgtv.com and yardenvy.com.

If you live in a condo, the board may have restrictions on what you can do with your balcony or patio, so check with them before spending any money.

Budget your way to a new home

Buying a home isn’t as easy as walking up to a lender and requesting a mortgage. You’ll need cash for a down payment and the loan’s closing costs, unless you’re applying for a VA or USDA loan.

If you’ll be going after a conventional loan, you’ll typically (but not always) need 20 percent of the loan amount as the down payment.

Right now, the median sales price of a home in the U.S. is $240,000. Based on that price, you’ll need to come up with between $8,400 and $48,000 (depending on the loan program) just for the down payment.

Then, there are closing costs to consider. These vary, but they are typically between 2 and 5 percent of the loan amount.

Unless you have a stack of cash sitting around, you’ll need to start saving, and that takes careful planning. A well-though out budget is your road map.

The Budget

It’s important to get your budget in writing, whether that means using a spreadsheet, paper and pencil or personal finance software. Financial guru Dave Ramsey recommends the free budgeting software at everydollar.com or try Microsoft Money Plus Sunset Deluxe

The most basic of budgets includes your income and your outgo. Income should include all money from all sources.

Outgo includes not only your fixed expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments and installment loan payments, but variable expenses (utilities, telephone, etc.) and every single penny you spend on a daily basis.

Some spending that is frequently overlooked by budgeters includes:

  • Money given to charity
  • Dining out (yes, even that bagel and coffee you stop for each morning)
  • Transportation expenses (fuel, insurance, tolls and parking)
  • Auto maintenance
  • Pets (food, accessories, vet visits)

Keep a small notebook on you while you’re away from home so that you can quickly jot down the small purchases we all make every day. These may include items such as coffee and bus fare.

Give it a Trial Run

Take the new budget for a spin for a month or two and see how it fits and adjust where necessary.

Your budget will show you where you spend your money every week. More important, it will show you areas you can cut ― unnecessary spending that you can add to your house fund instead.

By the way, open an online savings account in which to stash your house fund and forego the debit card. Without a debit card, these accounts are a bit harder to access than a brick and mortar bank so you’ll be less tempted to raid the account.

Choose a fee-free account such as those offered by:

Today’s homebuyer has options when it comes to buying a home for the least amount of cash out-of-pocket. Go for one of the low-down payment programs and ensure your real estate agent requests that the seller pay a closing cost credit.

These two items alone will slash your cash out-lay tremendously and you’ll be in your new home sooner, rather than later.

Must-have tech gadgets for the home

Last week I came across an article about the latest tech gadgets for the home. There is some pretty cool stuff out there, some of it new and some that has been around for a few years. If you’re in the market for home tech to help make life easier, read on.

Alexa

How can any homeowner get along without Alexa? Once she moves in, you’ll be saying her name more than anyone else’s.

I recently attended a family get together and, when I got home, I realized I’d left my phone behind. I had no way to call them to determine if, indeed, it was sitting on their kitchen counter.

So, I asked Alexa. “Hey, Alexa, can you make phone calls?” She then promptly asked who in my contact list I wished to call and within seconds I was speaking with my uncle over my Echo device.

Echo, for the uninitiated, is a device that has a built-in voice assistant. This assistant is Alexa and she can perform a variety of tasks from singing you to sleep, or playing music and telling jokes to locking the doors at home or turning on the thermostat (if they are enabled to work with Alexa).

In fact, Alexa has more than 7,000 skills, with more added frequently. I turn to Alexa multiple times during the day to remind me of things I need to do, to ask when it will stop raining and to answer questions that I’m too lazy to “Google” for an answer.

If you have no other tech gadget in your home, get an Echo. To learn more about Alexa, visit digitaltrends.com and to see current prices of the Echo device, visit Amazon.com.

 

The food sniffer

Ok, so it’s not life changing, like Alexa, but it may be life-saving. The Food Sniffer has been around for a couple of years, helping you avoid throwing away perfectly good leftovers or, prompting you to throw away those that are spoiled.

The Peres Company describes the Food Sniffer as an “electronic nose.” Run it over the food in question and it “sniffs out the gasses” (such as ammonia) that decomposing meat and fish release.

It isn’t able to sniff out bacteria, however.

A small device, it works via an app that’s available for both iOS and Android devices. It sells for about $130 and you can learn more about it at MyFoodSniffer.com.

 

Tile Pro

Who doesn’t misplace their keys occasionally? Or their phone?

The size of a keychain, Tile Pro attaches to anything you frequently misplace. When you need it, you can locate the item via the TileMate app.

Since it’s the phone we tend to misplace most often, Tile Mate still finds the item for you without having to consult the app — “by remotely making the Tile vibrate, flash, or ring.”

We look forward to if and when this device is compatible with Alexa. Then, she can tell us where it is.

The Tile Mate is a step down from Tile Pro, with a shorter range and less volume. Both are available at Amazon.com, Best Buy and Target.

 

Neato Botvac

Robot vacuums are nothing new, but pair one with smart tech and your housecleaning regime gets a whole lot easier. In fact, the Cnet.com review team calls it “the best-performing robot vacuum we’ve ever tested.”

Best of all? You can control it with Alexa.

Neato Botvac Connected pairs its Wi-Fi with an app for both iOS or Android devices, making it completely controllable via your smartphone. Start it, stop it, schedule it and “even steer it, right from your phone,” claims Ry Crist at Cnet.com.

Watch it in action at YouTube.com.

3 Critical Home Seller Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Real estate isn’t a game for the faint of heart. To ensure that you walk away from the deal with the maximum amount of money possible requires following a time-tested process.

Unfortunately, not all real estate agents counsel their clients on the do’s and don’ts of selling a home so mistakes happen frequently.

Let’s take a look at three of the most critical mistakes that home sellers make and how to avoid making them.      

1. Overpricing the Home

A home sale isn’t like a yard sale where folks haggle over prices. Sure, there may be price negotiations, but don’t count on them when coming up with a price for the home.

Pricing high to give the buyer “wiggle room” to negotiate isn’t wise.

Your agent will place your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)  database shortly after taking your listing. He or she will enter all the particulars of the home and the price.

Other agents in the area will search the MLS for homes that their buying clients may be interested in viewing. These searches are almost always based on price.

When you overprice your home, it will show up in searches for larger, newer and nicer homes – homes that yours can’t compare with.

So, it will sit on the market with view buyers viewing it in person. When a home sits for too long, buyers’ agents and their clients get the impression that you aren’t a serious seller and, in the end, your home may become stigmatized.

A home’s value is determined by what buyers are willing to pay for it, not what the homeowner wants to get for it.

To determine what buyers are willing to pay requires an analysis of homes similar to yours that have recently sold.

It doesn’t matter what your friend Connie across the street is asking for her house, it only matters what she finally realizes when the deal closes.

The biggest mistake a home seller can make is to lose that most valuable marketing period – the first few weeks after the home hits the market.

Unless the market is red-hot for sellers and multiple offers are the norm, work with your agent to determine the home’s value and price it right.

2. Not preparing the house

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression,” isn’t just excellent advice for a job interview. Houses make impressions as well and if you don’t take the time to ensure yours makes an impact immediately you may end up leaving money on the table.

Preparation starts with cleaning the home until it is immaculate. Paint any walls that need it, make repairs to dripping faucets, sagging screens and loose banisters.

Staging the home – hiring a decorator to rearrange furniture and add decorative items – isn’t a must but it has proven to bring more money at the close of the sale.

Finally, never neglect the exterior of the home. What a buyer sees when he drives up to the curb must be compelling enough to make him want to see what’s on the inside.

3. Putting restrictions on showings

Being flexible is a must when your home is on the market. This means not putting too many restrictions on showing times.

If you require a 24-hour notice or will only allow the home to be shown during certain hours, you restrict the pool of buyers that may be interested in purchasing the home.

Flexibility also means being willing to leave the home at a moment’s notice so that an agent can show it. It means leaving for the entire day if your agent wants to hold an open house.

Yes, it’s a bother and it’s inconvenient. But the homeowner hanging around during showings and open houses is intimidating to buyers and they won’t feel free to truly investigate the house.

Bonus Tip

One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is to be less-than truthful about all aspects of the home.

Disclosure is your duty non-disclosure of a known material fact can land you in court. You must tell a potential buyer both the good and the bad about the house and the neighborhood.

Ask your real estate agent any questions you may have about the disclosure process and your role in it.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes: Are you prepared?

Hurricane season in 2018 was brutal. We saw eight hurricanes, with Florence and Michael producing the most significant damage.

Hurricane season this year begins on June 1.

Last month, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency in preparation for the 2019 wildfire season. The declaration allows him to waive environmental restrictions “to speed up fire prevention projects …” according to CBS Los Angeles.

Notice the key concept in that announcement: Preparation.

With a couple of months’ lead time, even the most unprepared homeowner can take steps to keeping his or her family and home safe during natural disasters.

Family first

We’ve all seen the news reports about people who wait until the last minute to stock up on supplies when a killer storm is expected. Don’t be one of them, facing picked over hardware items and empty shelves at the grocery store.

First, make a plan. Questions to have the answers to include:

How will we contact one another?

It is especially important for children to know the plan in case of an emergency. Designate one adult family member to be the designated contact. Ready.gov recommends choosing someone who lives out of town in case cell service is down in your area.

Write down the contact’s phone number and a reminder of the meeting spots and keep it in your child’s school bag. Cell phones may not be working

Where will we meet?

If your children are older, pick a meeting spot that’s close to home and an alternative spot that is outside the neighborhood in case roads are blocked.

If we have to evacuate, what is the best route?

Plan your route before disaster strikes. Figure out where you can go if evacuation is ordered. Think friends, family members or a hotel. The experts at Ready.gov suggest that you “Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.”

Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot depending on the type of disaster.

Always keep enough fuel in your car to get to your destination.

Do you have emergency supplies set aside? You’ll need a lot more than water if the power is out for any length of time. Find a list of what to set aside for emergencies at Fema.gov.

Keep an emergency survival kit in the trunk of your automobile (especially if you live where earthquakes occur). Include, at the very minimum a portable radio, cell phone charger, matches, flashlights and batteries, blankets, extra shoes and socks in case you need to walk to your destination and drinking water.

You’ll find a list of other items to include at Almanac.com and on the National Safety Council’s website.

Don’t forget the pets

Although many Americans consider their pets as part of the family, they’re frequently left off the to-do list when considering prepping for the expected or unexpected that nature throws our way.

So, we’ve compiled that list for you and your pets:

  • Ensure that each of your pets is microchipped. Then, if a hurricane or other natural disaster is expected, ensure that they’re wearing collars with up-to-date identification tags firmly attached to the collars.
  • Don’t leave your pets behind if you need to evacuate. Have a plan on where you will take them before finding shelter for yourself. Ideas may include hotels that allow pets, boarding facilities outside of the danger zone, a friend or relative’s home, also outside the danger zone.
  • Keep a pet emergency kit. You can buy them online or create your own. TheSeniorDog.com has a brilliant list of items you’ll need in your kit.

Get more tips at ASPCA.org.

Items you’ll need for an insurance claim

Do you have an inventory of all of your belongings? If not, get that done now, before hurricane and wildfire seasons arrive. Photographs or video are ideal ways of cataloging your belongings. Be sure to include purchase dates and places and serial numbers.

If you need help visit the Insurance Information Institute’s website.

Then, keep copies of other important documents such as your driver’s license, insurance paperwork, bank account numbers, the deed to your home or your mortgage company’s contact information, vital statistics documents (birth, marriage, citizenship or Green Card).

Go to Fema.gov for more information on how to protect important documents and which ones you may need during and after a disaster.

How to sell a home as a landlord

Tenants come in two “flavors,” affable and nightmarish. We hope, for your sake, that when it comes time to sell your rental your tenants are the former. The whole process will go much smoother.

If they are disagreeable, you may want to take option 1 when deciding when to list your rental property.

Timing the sale of your rental property

Option 1: Wait

Many landlords decide that their tenants aren’t the type of people to tolerate the home sale process so they decide to wait until the lease is up.

The biggest problem with this decision is that the property will be vacant, and vacant homes don’t show as well as furnished homes. Of course, you can get around this problem by hiring a professional home stager.

If you’re on a tight budget, have only the most important rooms staged, such as the kitchen, bathrooms, master bedroom and garage.

Then, consider that you’ll be on the hook for the mortgage payments until the home closes escrow. Speak with your agent about how long it may take to ready the home for sale, market the home and to close escrow.

This will help you decide if you can afford the carrying costs of the home without tenants in place.

The lack of tenants, on the other hand, makes it easier to perform any needed repairs or updates to the home. It also offers maximum flexibility to buyers’ agents.

Option 2: List now

There are many things to consider if you choose to list the home while the tenants are still living in it. As previously mentioned, you’ll avoid having to pay the carrying costs of the home while it’s for sale.

Another advantage to listing now is that the home will be attractive to investors. If the tenants want to remain after the sale, they are much more likely to be cooperative during the process and the potential investor/buyer has the bonus of in-place tenants when the purchase closes.

The disadvantages of this scenario are many, however. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Although a furnished home is easier to sell, is the tenants’ furniture, accessories and overall taste in decor something that will appeal to the home’s target buyer or what a stager can work with?
  • Has the tenant taken care of the home?
  • Is the tenant amenable to keeping the home clean at all times?
  • Do you have a good relationship with the tenants or can you create goodwill prior to listing the home?
  • The tenants will be acting on your behalf when it comes to scheduling showings with buyers’ agents. An unhappy tenant can make or break the sale by sabotaging showings, delaying inspections and being generally uncooperative.

There are ways to entice your tenants to be more cooperative. Consider the following concessions:

  • If it’s not already in the lease, offer the tenants the first right of refusal. This means that before accepting an offer, you must notify the tenants. At this point, they will decide whether or not they wish to buy the home. If they decline, you are free to entertain other offers.
  • Give the tenants a rent-free month.
  • Offer the tenants a reduced rent until the home sells.
  • Offer them a financial bonus for every showing. Have the showing agent sign off on a register to prove the home was shown.
  • Offer to pay their moving costs.
  • Offer a bonus when the home sells (such as an extra $500 when they move out).

Review the lease and, if necessary, consult with your attorney before you make a final decision on which path to take. We’re happy to work with you on timing the sale for your needs.

5 Outdoor Spring Cleaning Tips

Most of us homeowners consider spring cleaning as the project that clears the home’s interiors of winter’s nastiness. You know, the mud in the mud room, the stale odors, the fireplace scent clinging to draperies and rugs.

The home’s exterior rarely gets our spring-cleaning love, but it should, according to the founder of Winkelmann Design & Construction in Akron, Ohio. In fact, he provided Weather.com a list of 10 home exterior cleaning projects that are inexpensive and won’t take up too much of your time.

Is that grime on your garage door?

When the garage is at the front of the home, it’s even more important to keep the door clean – especially if you have an overly-picky HOA or your home is on the market.

Winkelmann claims that about 85 percent of garage doors today are made of fiberglass, an easy substance to clean.

In fact, all it takes is a solution of warm water and a small amount of bleach, a scrub brush and a hose with which to rinse the door after cleaning.

Winkelmann cautions owners of metal garage doors to ensure they follow up the rinse with a thorough drying. Otherwise, you may face rust in the future.

 

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk?

Your garage, when the door is closed, is a sparkling marvel for the neighbors to behold. Open that door, though, and “all that junk” is exposed for all the world to see.

But, appearances, as we all know, aren’t the only things that matter. A garage is the ultimate storage solution, whether for your autos or for belongings. But it’s useless if it’s cluttered and disorganized.

No, it’s not exactly a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but get it done and vow to keep it organized, and it may just be the one household task you are grateful you performed.

 

Ew, what’s that smell?

Our HOA demands that our trash cans and recycling bins be kept in our garage. You can imagine what they smell like right around mid-summer after sitting, full of garbage, in a hot garage.

And, if you’re blessed with an HOA that allows your cans to reside outdoors, the stench may act as an invitation to critters. You know, rats, mice, raccoons, coyotes.

Winkelmann suggests, again, using bleach to get rid of the crud and the stench. We rather like the job that ammonia does, especially when it’s allowed to sit for a time.

Then, add water and get to work wiping down the walls. An old mop works well for this job or, purchase an extendable tub and tile scrubber, like this one.

Naturally, you’ll want to wear gloves and a mask when working with either substance – they’re both pretty caustic.

And never, ever mix bleach and ammonia. Ever.

If you just can’t stand the thought of using either substance, consider a powdered cleanser or white vinegar.

 

Keep spring showers outdoors

One of the best ways to avoid moisture intrusion in the home is to clean the gutters and downspouts. After a blustery fall and winter, they’re most likely full of all kinds of stuff that will impede drainage and end up backed up into the home.

Need some inspiration and instructions on how to get the job done safely? Lowe’s has produced a brilliant video walk-through and you’ll find it on YouTube.com.

 

Summer is coming

Whether you store your patio furniture indoors or out over the winter, it’s in need of at least a wipe down. We’d wager that it probably needs more, though.

Remove the cushions and, hopefully, they have zippers and are machine washable. If not, grab a can of upholstery cleaner (Car Guys or Resolve are both highly rated) and scrub away the grime from last year.

Then, get to work cleaning the chairs, table and umbrella.

Still have some energy? Grilling season is coming up so tear into that barbecue. Steel wool and scrubbing will get the mess off the grills.

The pros at TodaysHomeonwer.com recommend using aluminum foil and vinegar. You can learn that technique, here.

The best part about exterior spring cleaning is that it can be done in chunks. Save the projects for those spring days that aren’t sunny or warm enough to beckon you out to play.