Thinking of becoming a landlord?

for rent sign

Landlords are a bit like dentists; folks typically try to avoid them as much as possible. But, it’s the dentist and the investment property owner who have the last laugh, all the way to the bank. For the latter to actually make bank, however, requires careful planning and a tried-and-true system. We’ll try to help you out with both of those.

Types of residential income property

When you make the decision that you’d like to invest in rental property the next step is to determine what type of property you want. If you’d rather deal with just one tenant then you’ll want to look at single-family homes, townhomes or condos. If you don’t mind dealing with multiple tenants, or hiring someone to do it for you, a multi-unit property, such as a duplex, triplex or apartment building might be for you.

Each has its benefits and drawbacks. While the income for multi-unit properties is typically higher, you will be dealing with multiple tenants (and their multiple problems) which can become a time suck.

Consider the tax benefits of an income property

Tax laws change, so speak with your accountant to find out just what tax benefits you’ll realize. Basic rental investment property-related tax deductions include:

  • Interest – Interest deductions include mortgage interest and credit card interest, as long as the card is used solely for your landlord expenses.
  • Depreciation – Landlords recover the cost of income-producing property through yearly tax deductions ― deducting some of the cost each year on their tax returns.
  • Repairs and maintenance  – Deductible expenses include plumbing and other system repairs, replacing a malfunctioning appliance, repairing broken locks and windows and other routine repair and maintenance costs.
  • Travel – Travel expenses, both local and long distance, to deal with your income property, are deductible.
  • Insurance – The cost of most insurance premiums, including Private Mortgage Insurance are deductible.
  • Legal and professional services – Fees paid to an accountant, attorney, investment advisor, property manager and other professionals are operating expenses so they are deductible on your tax return.

 Disadvantages to becoming a landlord

The life of a landlord is full of pitfalls that many first-time investors aren’t aware of. These include:

  • Operating expenses may take up to 45 percent of your gross rent receipts. This is important information when considering cash flow on a particular property.
  • Mortgages for investors typically carry higher interest rates and higher down payment requirements than those for owner-occupied homes
  • Although vacancy rates are low now, that may not always be the case. Will you be able to cover the monthly nut during vacancies?
  • Evictions are a nasty fact of life for landlords. It’s a lengthy, expensive and emotionally draining process.
  • Maintenance emergencies happen and for some reason they tend to occur at the least convenient time.
  • It may cost more to insure the property than it would if it were owner-occupied.

What to look for in investment property

That old real estate mantra “location, location, location” matters as much, if not more so, when considering rental property as it does for your personal residence. Tenants initially look at properties in their price range in a preferred location. Then, there are families, who – if they can afford it – prefer to live near the best schools. Your first consideration, then, is to find a property in what tenants consider an attractive location.

If yours will be a vacation rental, think about your ideal tenants and what will appeal to them. Whether they are families or singles, they’ll have their hot buttons, especially when it comes to location and amenities. The tax treatment for vacation rentals is different than for other investment properties so a conversation with your accountant is crucial before deciding on this option.

After you’ve found the right property in the right community, hire a professional home inspector and, if you decide to purchase it, be ready to address the home inspection results to ensure the home is in safe and habitable condition.

Finally, it’s just as important to know when to sell your income property as it is when to buy. When the property costs more money to own than you make from it, sell it. In the meantime, reasonably priced rentals are in short supply, while rents continue rising, so it’s the ideal time to get into the landlord business.

Should I get a C.L.U.E.?

should i get a c.l.u.e. report

In the information age the chances are pretty good that your personal information is in at least several databases that you may not even be aware of. Auto and homeowner insurance companies, for instance, have a handy tool to help them make underwriting decisions – a database of previous insurance claims. The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, also known as C.L.U.E., is generated by LexisNexis® and insurers will base the yay or nay of your insurance application, at least partially, on what they find in the C.L.U.E. report.

The database includes basic information on folks who have filed claims, including name, date of birth, address and, of course, the actual information about the claim filed (date filed, type of claim and the amount of money it took to satisfy it).

For instance, if a tree fell on your home during a wicked storm, causing roof damage, and you filed an insurance claim, it may appear in the database along with information pertaining to whether or not you were reimbursed for the damage. All claims reported, by the way, paid for or not, remain in the C.L.U.E. database for seven years.

Not all insurance companies contribute to C.L.U.E.

Have you ever visited one of the big real estate listing aggregator websites such as Trulia or Zillow? Did you know that not all of the nation’s Multiple Listing Services supply listing information to them? The same holds true for the C.L.U.E. database. So, just as you aren’t getting the whole story on the number of listings of homes for sale in our area from one of those big sites, so too you’re not getting the entire claims history from C.L.U.E.

Do I need a C.L.U.E. report?

While the report may not contain all of a home’s claim history, you may still find some valuable information in it. Michelle Lerner with Money Crashers suggests that even a basic report may give hints about ongoing problems with a home, “particularly claims that involve water damage,” she said. “For example, if a home has had even one claim involving water, investigate the existence of mold or perhaps explore the need for flood insurance,” she continues.

Other clues you may find in a report include multiple reports of burglary, which might indicate a crime problem in the neighborhood. More than one house fire may be an indication of electrical problems in the home.

The amounts of money required to remedy the claim are also worth a look as these indicate how severe the problem was.

What if the home I want has a long claim history?

 It’s not the length of the claim history that matters, it is the dispensation of the claim you want to pay attention to. For instance, in the aforementioned roof damage claim, if the homeowner’s insurance company replaced the roof, the home “becomes more desirable to an insurance company,” according to Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute in New York. You may even receive a break on the price of your premiums (depending on the insurance company, of course).

Even repeated burglaries or vandalism need not be deal breakers, but merely a tip to install a robust security system if you’re head-over-heels and must have the home.

How to get a C.L.U.E. report

The C.L.U.E. database is available to insurance companies, lenders and homeowners. As a buyer, you’ll need to request a report from the homeowner who is entitled to one free copy per year.

If you’re a homeowner and would like to get your hands on a copy of your C.L.U.E. report, call LexisNexis® at 866-312-8076 or visit Like your credit report, it’s possible that your C.L.U.E. report contains errors, so inspect it and file a dispute with LexisNexis if you find any.

Hooray for the FHA!

hooray for the fha

In case you missed it, last summer Congress passed H.R. 3700, The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. By the way, the bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate– not an easy feat, right?

This law, among other aims, is supposed to help ease homelessness and improve “ . . . low-income tenants’ access to low-poverty areas with less crime and well-performing schools,” according to Barbara Sard, vice president for housing policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While those aspects of the Act are certainly worth a look, one is of particular interest to folks hoping to purchase a condo using an FHA-backed loan. These buyers typically include older Americans, those with low incomes and first-time buyers, so making condos easier to finance makes the dream of home ownership a reality to these groups of Americans.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers condo communities a complex and lengthy process to become FHA-approved. It is so challenging, in fact, that many homeowner associations don’t bother pursuing it. Therefore, there are not as many condos available to FHA buyers as the industry would like to see. Because of this, FHA condo lending has been steadily down trending over the past few years. In fact, it fell an additional 8.6 percent during the first quarter of 2016.

One of the criteria for a condo community to become approved is that 50 percent of the units must be owner occupied. H.R. 3700 changes that requirement to 35 percent, opening up many more communities to possible FHA approval, providing more condos for buyers.

That was then. . .and this is now

While all of the above changes took place several months ago, there was even more good news released recently. If you obtain an FHA-backed mortgage you will be required to pay both an upfront mortgage insurance premium and a monthly premium for the life of the loan. Not, that’s not the good news.

The good news is that the amount of the premium is going down. As of January 26 of this year, FHA’s MIP will be cut from .85 percent to .60 percent of the base loan amount.

HUD estimates that this will create at least 250,000 new homeowners and save them, on average, $900 per year (or $75 per month). Sure, that may not sound like much, but for the buyer on a tight budget, that $75 a month helps buy groceries or put gas in the tank.

The reduction in the cost of the mortgage insurance premium applies only to loans with case numbers assigned on or after January 26, 2017. So, if you recently closed on a home, using an FHA-backed mortgage, it won’t apply to your loan. The only way for current homeowners with FHA loans to receive this reduced MIP is to refinance.

Questions? Get the answers, here, or speak with your lender.

The Pros and Cons of the USDA Guaranteed Loan

pros and cons of usda mortgage

If you can’t pay cash for your new home you’ll need a mortgage and, if you’re not in the market for a luxury home, you’ll need a mortgage created for those with a more modest income.

Thankfully, the United States government offers several programs, including the VA loan, the FHA-backed loan and the USDA Rural Development guaranteed loan. If you aren’t a current or former member of the military, you’ll have only the FHA and USDA products to choose from if you want a government-guaranteed loan. While both products have advantages and disadvantages, let’s take a look at those of the USDA guaranteed loan.

Advantages of the USDA Guaranteed Mortgage

If you are short on cash and long on the desire to own a home, you’ll be glad to learn that the USDA loan was created specifically for low-to-medium income homebuyers. It requires no down payment and the borrower can use gift money to cover closing costs and even accept up to 6 percent of the sales price from the seller in the form of closing cost concessions.

These are, of course, compelling reasons to consider using the USDA mortgage program, but there are other advantages as well:

  • The government’s repayment guarantee (should the buyer default) allows lenders to be more generous with interest rate offerings and more lenient credit standards than they would be on a comparable conventional loan.
  • There is no pre-payment penalty for a USDA-backed loan.
  • The mortgage can also be used to purchase some manufactured homes.
  • The USDA loan can be used to refinance a home as well.

Disadvantages of the USDA Guaranteed Mortgage

Taking the bad with the good may be the name of the game if you’re interested in participating in this zero-down loan program, so let’s get to the “cons” of the USDA guaranteed mortgage.

While the fact that you must earn a low-to-moderate income to qualify for the USDA guaranteed loan may be considered an advantage, it may be a disadvantage if you earn over the maximum allowable income (see your lender to determine the current limits).

There are also eligibility requirements for the property you hope to purchase. Chief among these is that it must be considered “modest,” without luxury features, such as a swimming pool. The home must also be located in an area designated as “rural” by the USDA.

The USDA defines rural areas as “open countryside, rural towns (places with fewer than 2,500 people).”

If you hope to use the home as a rental, you won’t qualify for the program—it’s open only to those borrowers who intend on living in the home.

Here are a few other “cons” of the USDA Guaranteed Loan program.

  • There is an upfront fee of 2.75 percent of the loan amount. Now, there is a bright side to this – it will be added to the loan so it’s not money you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket.
  • There is another fee, amounting to 0.50 percent, that is similar to the mortgage insurance premium for FHA loans or private mortgage insurance on conventional loans. This fee stays in force for the life of the loan and is paid annually.
  • Both the lender and the USDA subjects the loan to underwriting so expect closing to take a few weeks longer than other loans.

There is more to know about this program and we aren’t lenders but we are happy to put you in touch with the appropriate professional.

Garden resolutions for 2017

plant a water wise garden

Sure, we’re knee-deep in winter right now but before you know it, temperatures will warm, the garden will beckon and you’ll trade high heating bills for monstrous water bills. “Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day,” claims the EPA; a frightening statistic, when one considers that less than 1 percent of the earth’s water is available for human use.

As you consider your gardening plan for 2017, why not resolve to use less water? You’ll not only save money, but help save the planet as well.

Reconsider those containers

Container gardens seem to be water efficient but, sadly, the opposite is true. Soil in containers tends to dry out quicker than the garden’s soil, requiring more water, more frequently. Unless you’re an apartment or condo dweller with limited space, consider foregoing the terra cotta planters this season and vow to plant everything in the ground.

Lawns are water hogs

Consider this: A lawn requires, on average, 1 inch of water, or a bit more than a half-gallon of water per square foot, according to Ben Erickson at He goes on to say that every 10-foot square area lawn requires 62 gallons of water at each irrigation. “That doesn’t sound like much until you consider that a 100’ x 100’ lawn uses 6,230 gallons of water every time you turn on the sprinklers!” he adds.

How much does your water cost? Using $2.00 per 1,000 gallons as an estimate, plan on paying about $50 a month just to water your lawn during the growing season.

Sure, a lush, green lawn can amp up a home’s curb appeal, but if you plan on staying put for a while, consider getting rid of it or at the very least, cutting down its size or replanting with a less thirsty variety of turfgrass.

Save water and money by choosing from among these alternatives:

  • Dig up the lawn and build a patio in its place.
  • Reduce the size of the lawn.
  • Dig up the lawn and replace it with a water-smart alternative, such as buffalo grass, clover or silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae).
  • Keep the lawn but work toward decreasing the amount of water it requires. Aerate the soil, fertilize only in the fall and mow less frequently (taller grass cools the soil, keeping it moist longer). Weeds steal water from the lawn, so keep it weed-free. Have a professional inspect your lawn’s irrigation system for leaks and consider replacing it if it isn’t efficient.

Install a drip system

Drip irrigation is the least expensive and most efficient way to water a garden. By slowly dripping water to the plants’ root systems, the soil is able to absorb the moisture and avoid runoff. In fact, according to the EPA, drip irrigation systems use .”. . .20 to 50 percent less water than conventional pop-up sprinkler systems and can save up to 30,000 gallons per year.”

If you must use a sprinkler system, the EPA recommends that you choose one with rotary spray heads rather than mist spray heads.

Go native

Do some research before heading out to your local nursery when the first signs of spring arrive. Find out which plants are native to our area and consider using as many as possible in your garden plan. Native plants are adapted to local weather conditions and soil and require far less water than non-natives.

If in doubt about how much water a plant requires, avoid purchasing plants with glossy, large, dark-colored leaves. These leaves “absorb more heat and require a lot of water, and a larger leaf surface area equals greater water loss,” according to National Geographic’s Carolyn Bistline.

Additional water-saving ideas

  • Know how much water each plant requires and change the irrigation system’s output to match those needs.
  • Water established plants, including trees, at the dripline, not near the main stem or trunk. This is the area where most of the water-absorbing roots are located.
  • Mulch the soil to insulate plant roots from heat and conserve moisture.
  • Keep pruning to a minimum to avoid stimulating new growth (which requires additional water).
  • Avoid plants that will smash your budget by sucking your yard dry. These include the tropicals, such as hibiscus and banana; annual plants, such as impatiens; lemon, kiwi, apple and other water-guzzling fruit trees. Some of the more popular garden plants, such as hydrangea, canna and mint are also heavy drinkers.


January is the ideal time to start planning the spring garden. Gather up those seed catalogs and nursery flyers and plan a water smart landscape in 2017.

Decisions: How to choose between two houses

how to choose between two homes for sale

Sometimes, it’s feast or famine in the house-hunting game. Depending on the market, you may find few, if any, suitable homes in your price range. Then there are times when you may find several that seem perfect. When that happens, how do you decide which home to pursue and which to leave behind?

It’s an age-old solution, but one we’ve found quite effective with our clients: the pros and cons list. Naturally, the list works best for singles and couples – the more members of a family there are, the more compromises you’ll need to make.

Read on for a roadmap of sorts to help you compile the pros and cons list.


Since location is typically paramount in determining a home’s economic value, let’s start here to determine its functional value to you.

If you have children, choosing between neighborhoods is a bit easier than it is for childless folks. A neighborhood with other children for yours to play with and its proximity to schools, parks and recreation may rule the decision-making process.

Other homebuyers may need to dig deeper. What do you know about the neighbors? Sure, how well they keep up the exterior of their home will tell you a great deal about them, but a trip through each neighborhood during different parts of the week and during the day will tell you even more about whether this is the community for you. Depending on when you visit you may be fortunate enough to hear or see something intolerable — such as that yapping dog or loud music — that will knock the home out of consideration.

Use and to research the nearest schools. You may not be thinking about future value right now but that doesn’t lessen its importance. Homes near quality schools hold their value better than those near poor-performing schools.

Additional considerations about the homes’ locations include:

  • If you use public transportation, determine the distance to the nearest stop.
  • Is the neighborhood near the conveniences you frequently use?
  • If homes in one neighborhood are increasing in value faster than the others, make note of that.
  • If you’re concerned about crime rates, contact the local law enforcement agency with questions.

Comparing the homes

When comparing homes, try to look beyond the attractive staging (or lack of) to see what architects call the “bones” of each home. This includes the design, the floorplan and the home’s soundness of structure.

Your primary concern should be your lifestyle, so determine how well each home fits. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms are important, but what about storage space, room to entertain (if this is important to you) and outdoor features?

Consider your future plans as well – including whether you’ll be starting a family or dealing with an empty nest.

Scrutinize those features of each home that can’t be readily changed without spending a lot of money. This includes the flow, the number of bathrooms, closets and room sizes.

Finally, don’t forget your wish list, if you compiled one. Which home hits more of your hot buttons?

Try to remain unemotional during the process. If you find yourself going back to a particular home because of the gourmet kitchen yet another home has more of what you want, your emotions will keep yanking you back to the former. Is it possible to add some gourmet features to the latter home?

Have you ever noticed something new in a movie you’ve watched for the second time? It’s the same with houses; you may have missed something during the first visit.Take an additional tour of each home to help you decide.

Naturally, a fast moving real estate market won’t accommodate your vacillation and you may need to make a quick decision. In that case, and if you’re really stymied, remember that your new home is also a financial investment so consider choosing the home that will hold its value better than the other.

Post-holiday cleaning hacks

post holiday cleaning hacks

The holidays are officially over and millions of American’s are sitting, shell-shocked, in the massive mess left behind in their homes. From grease-spattered stoves and backsplashes to gift wrap and ribbon that needs to be stowed and a tree that needs to be un-trimmed, there’s work to be done to get your home back to normal.

We’ve scoured the Internet to find the best post-holiday cleaning hacks to help you get the job done.

Storage hacks

Your first job is to take down the holiday décor and get it stowed away. It’s a big, somewhat messy job, but we’ve come across some brilliant hacks to help you.

  • Fill a plastic storage bin with plastic cups – the large red Solo brand cups seem to be among the sturdiest. Wrap each ornament in tissue or newspaper and place each one in a cup. For added protection, fold the tree skirt and place it over the cups. Place the lid on the bin and it’s ready to be stored for next year’s holidays.
  • Sure, you can purchase those long plastic bins made specifically to store wrapping paper rolls, but a less expensive option is available from the local dollar store: a tall trash can. Use ribbon or rubber bands to keep the paper connected to the roll, then stand them all up in the trash can.
  • Avoid clogging the vacuum cleaner when you try to suck up pine needles left behind when you dragged the tree out of the house. Use a rubber broom (yes, even on rugs) to sweep them into a pile and then into a dust pan, Marie Stegner, consumer health advocate for Maid Brigade suggests to The tool also works well to pick up animal fur.
  • The folks at Good Housekeeping suggest winding your tree lights around empty wrapping paper tubes. “Loop the cord around the roll, starting with the side opposite to the plug, then insert the plug into the tube’s opening.”
  • Glitter has a tendency to land and stick to anything upholstered. Use a lint roller to remove it – even from lamp shades!

Kitchen cleaning hacks

  • Greasy gas stove? Place the burner rings and grates into large plastic bags or containers and add ¼ to ½ cup of ammonia. Seal the bag or container and allow it to sit overnight where the ammonia fumes will work their magic. Wear gloves to remove the stove parts from the bag or container and rinse in hot water. Use sea salt to scrub anything that stubbornly clings to the rings. By the way, never mix ammonia with other products, especially bleach as it will emit toxic fumes.
  • How’s the stove hood looking? If you did as much cooking as we did over the holidays it’s probably one big, greasy mess. We found a surprising but brilliant method to remove the grease: mineral oil (apparently, vegetable oil works as well). Use just a few drops on a paper towel and wipe the hood until it’s grease-free. We used a soft rag to wipe off the excess oil but a paper towel will work as well.
  • Squeeze a lemon into a large glass measuring cup and fill to within 2 inches of the rim with water. Place the cup in the microwave and allow it to boil for three minutes. The steam from the boiling water will loosen the grime inside the oven and the lemon helps remove odors. Dip your sponge carefully into the hot water to remove stubborn stains.


We’d love to hear about your favorite cleaning tips — feel free to share!

Get buyers out of the car with a front yard that beckons


How to make a formal entry

Take a trip across the street and then take a good long look at your house. What you’re seeing is your home’s curb appeal, the lack of which can be detrimental to the successful sale of the home – at least for the amount of money you hope to make.

Homebuyers shopping online want to see photos and they’ll judge your home first by its exterior. Many won’t go on to view interior photos if the exterior is unattractive.

What do potential buyers see when they view your home from the curb? Does it compel them to leave the car and venture into the interior or does it cause them to drive off to the next listing? If the latter is the case, get to work amping up your home’s exterior appeal.

Follow some simple guidelines

Landscaping near and around the home’s entry requires a focus on three aspects, according to Environmental Landscape Associates (ELA), a Pennsylvania landscape design firm:

  • Principles
  • Program
  • Elements

Principles of landscape design

The most important principle, according to the firm, is that the landscape’s design synchronizes with the architectural style of the home. In other words, avoid elements of a formal garden in front of a ranch-style home.

Second in importance when considering landscape principles is ensuring that “the front door is prominently visible and the landscape provides the visitor clues and signals for how to get there,” suggests ELA. Make it easy for potential buyers to get out of the car, approach the home and enter it.

Your landscape design program

How will you utilize the space? The “program” part of the process includes answering this question. Is the entry way merely for ingress and egress from the home or will you use the front porch for entertaining? The program also includes determining your focal point. If you’re selling the home, consider making the porch or front door the home’s focal point.

Landscape design elements

What elements will you incorporate into your design? Think about both the hardscape elements, such as pavers and lights, and which plants you’ll use. Remember, all elements should tie into the home’s architectural style.

Going formal?

The formal entry way is best defined by keeping everything organized and in symmetry. The easiest way to do this is to keep both sides of the entry way identical.

Shaped hedges and patterned hardscapes will also lend a formal, balanced feel to the area. Don’t neglect the area near the front door. Even identical planters and plants on either side of the door will help illustrate the landscape’s design.

Keeping it casual

Obviously, rules for a formal entryway don’t apply here so get as creative as you like. Irregular patterns, mismatched shrubbery and more casual edging materials all lend a relaxed feel.

Soften hard edges, such as walkway surfaces, by lining them with plants that bloom in pastel colors (dusty miller comes to mind) or with coleus, hosta or other plants with interesting foliage.

Plant placement

When the focus is the entryway, plant placement becomes critical. Large plants should be placed at both ends of the home and small plants closer to the front door with medium sized in between.

When grouping plants for a formal design, place them in even numbers, suggests University of Missouri Extension agents. Use odd-numbered plants in informal entryway groupings.

The path to your front door, known as your home’s welcoming “handshake” according to Sunset Magazine, should be landscaped to match or complement your home’s architecture.

Naturally if you’re planning on staying put in the house for some time, you’ll want to find a way to blend design rules with your personal taste. If you plan on putting the home on the market, however, curb appeal trumps your taste.

It’s just business: How to let go of your house

don't get emotional over home sale

Regardless of what went into the decision to sell your home, you most likely didn’t make it lightly. An addition to the family, relocation for a new job, divorce, downsizing, the death of a spouse and financial problems are just a few of the reasons Americans have for selling their homes. Your reason is, in real estate terms, your “motivation for selling.”

Sounds a bit impersonal, doesn’t it? After all, this home is full of memories – both good and bad. Your home is more than the place you store your things, and more than protection from the elements — it’s where you have celebrated holidays, raised children and spent time with the people you love most. These experiences and memories may be difficult to leave behind, or you may feel relief, depending on your motivation for selling.

So, although your motivation may be borne of tragedy or joy, it’s important to put your emotions aside for a short time and treat the sale of your house as a business deal. Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls you may encounter when selling if you’re emotionally attached to your home.

Love doesn’t equal value

Market value has nothing to do with love. So, despite how you feel about the home don’t expect that there is someone out there who will fall equally in love with it and be therefore willing to pay more for it than it’s worth.

Of course you’ll want to do all you can to raise the home’s perceived value. Get rid of dated features, repair what’s broken and stage the home to appeal to buyers.

Take nothing personally

Taking criticism is never easy and, during the sales process you may have to take a lot of it. From buyers’ agent’s negative feedback to lowball offers to requests to “get rid of the ugly carpet,” once the home is under contract, you’ll have lots of opportunities to take offense. Keep in mind during these times that no home is perfect for everyone.

Depending on the market, even a lowball offer may be worth countering, so put the emotions aside and, again, treat this like a business transaction.

Be Gumby

Life can become chaotic when your home is on the market. Time doesn’t stop – you still have to go to work and, if you have kids, they still have to get to school and to all the lessons, games and other activities. It’s especially easy to tell yourself you’re “too busy” to allow potential buyers to view the home when you’re overly attached to it. But allow them you must, if you want to get it sold.

Being flexible is key here. Understand that your life is going to be disrupted until the home is sold. Accept it, share it with the family and promise yourself that you’ll bend over backward to accommodate potential buyers.

How to cope

For most Americans, their homes are their largest financial investment as well as the icon of a life lived, of sanctuary achieved and dreams both dashed and realized. It’s only natural to feel an attachment, especially if you’ve lived in the home for some time. But letting go, without leaving claw marks, is challenging for some.

“One suggestion to help you let go of a home or other important possession is to realize that its emotional value doesn’t end when you sell it. Through your memories, you get to keep most of the value the object has had for you,” advises Rick Kahler, of Kahler Financial Group.

So, take lots of photos, even grab a handful of dirt from the garden and plant something in it at the new home. Whatever you need to do to let go emotionally will help you get your home sold, quickly and for top dollar.


6 ways to save on your home heating bills right now

ways to save money in winter


Sure, we’re knee-deep in winter weather right now and many of the tips to save money on heating bills include projects that should’ve been undertaken in autumn. But, if you’ve been feeling that your home is a bit draftier than it should be and the visions you have this holiday season are of dollar bills dancing away from your pocketbook, take heart. There are still some things you can do right now to help stop the money-bleed and warm up your home.

Turn down your thermostat – Ok, so we start with the obvious. But, “for every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you’ll save up to 5 percent on heating costs,” according to Furthermore, set the thermostat to 55 degrees at night and you’ll save an additional 5 to 20 percent off your utility bill. Bundle up in sweats and sweaters and you’ll be the one in the neighborhood laughing all the way to the bank.

Use Those Curtains – Drapes on the windows will help to hold heat in the room. Use heavy fabrics, such as velvet, in the winter and consider backing them with insulated fabric. Drapes, however, can also block the cheapest means of heating your home – the sun. If everyone returns home long after the sun has set, opening these curtains at that time may not be a means of saving energy. But, if sunshine is expected, throw those curtains that rest on south-facing windows wide before you leave for work in the morning and on the weekends. Keeping them closed at night and on dreary days will help insulate the home from the cold.

Curtains can also be used in doorways that divide rooms and will help keep the drafts in those rooms from entering others. These types of curtains are known as portieres, common in homes during the Victorian era. (Photo: Willow Bee Inspired)

Speaking of windows – Consider exterior shutters to keep the howling wind from seeping around the windows.

Reverse your ceiling fan – Reverse the direction of spin on your ceiling fan to help pull cool air up. Stand under the fan and watch the blades spin – they should rotate clockwise in the winter. To change the direction, use the remote control. If you have an older fan that lacks a remote, you should find a toggle-switch on the unit, just below the blades.

If you have vaulted or cathedral ceilings, the fan is mounted too high for this technique to work.

Close the fireplace – Since traditional fireplaces suck warm air up the chimney and pump it out of the house, suggests that you not even use it during the winter. If you decide to take them up on that, purchase a piece of insulation and use it to block the chimney. If you still want to use the fireplace, close the vent (after all hot embers have died down) when it’s not in use.

Use a Humidifier – Central heating can be very drying. And this makes everything feel a little colder than it is. Moist air, on the other hand, holds the heat better and naturally feels warmer. Using a humidifier, even in just the room you spend the most time in, will allow you to set the thermostat a little lower.

 There are also some myths that you should be aware of when trying to find ways to save energy. Let’s take a look at one of the biggest:

Close off the vents in unused rooms – We’ve all heard that we should close the heat vents in rooms that we don’t use and seal off the room from the rest of the home. Hogwash, say HVAC experts.  Modern forced air heating systems require a balanced pressure load throughout the house. Blocking one or more vents throws the load off balance, causing the system to work harder, eventually breaking down. The Family Handyman suggests that you speak to an HVAC professional before closing heat vents.

Remember, there are plenty of ways to save and if you’re serious, you might want to take a look at your insulation and HVAC as soon as the weather permits so next winter brings even more savings.