Should I sell my home during a recession?

It’s inescapable. Discussions about a possible upcoming U.S. economic recession have become daily media fodder.

Speculation and reality, as we all know, are two entirely different things.

What many Americans don’t understand is that the U.S. economy runs through four periods, or phases.

  • Expansion
  • Peak
  • Recession
  • Trough

Movement of the economy through the four periods is known as “the business cycle.” Although no two cycles are identical, they look a bit like this:

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service claims that “the average expansion has lasted about 58 months (about 4.8 years), and the average recession has lasted about 11 months.”

On July 1, 2019, our economy reached a milestone: 11 straight years of growth, marking this as the longest expansion in the country’s history.

What goes up must come down, right? Which explains the media’s frenzy over a supposed coming recession.

Just today we read an article promising a recession in 2021 from a news outlet who swore in 2018 that it would happen in 2019. Moving the goal post seems to be a favorite pastime of many journalists.

Of course, a recession is coming. It’s part of our business cycle. Pinpointing when it will happen, however, is a bit of a challenge. But it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that a recession is coming. There is always one “coming.” Eventually.

While we urge you to use common sense when reading or listening to the news, especially lately, we understand the power of the media to create fear and doubt in the minds of Americans.

So, on to today’s questions: Is it wise to buy or sell a home during a recession?

Do you need to buy or sell?

The “best” time to buy or sell a home is when you need to. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But it’s true. The market could be red-hot for sellers but if you don’t need or want to sell, what difference does it make? It’s not the best time for you.

Confusion reigns among the public during recessionary periods and, as we see lately, even when there’s merely speculation about an impending recession.

Everything seems so uncertain and it’s easy to feel paralyzed. Should I turn this way or that?

There really is no clear course, no crystal ball to let us know when a recession will begin or end. Everybody sort of plays it by ear, or by gut.

The truth, at least statistically, is that aside from the last recession, when home prices hit rock bottom and interest rates were the lowest they’d been in a very long time, home prices typically increase during a recession.

Surprised?

Recessions typically present an ideal time to sell a home. If you are selling your current home and hope to purchase another one, however, that can present a problem.

It isn’t just your home that is higher priced, so if you wait for a recession to sell, be prepared to pay more for the new home than you would were we not in a recession.

The first thing to consider is how much, if any, equity you have in your current home. When all is said and done, after the lender has been paid, the real estate broker has been paid, how much do you stand to make from the proceeds?

Is that enough money to put you into your next home?

Consider, as well, any repairs or upgrades you would like to perform on the new place. Perhaps, if you can’t do them immediately, you are willing to wait until finances aren’t quite as tight.

If the foreclosure rate is high, understand that there may be more and cheaper competition for your home, the buyer pool will naturally shrink as folks lose jobs or tighten their belts. The time it will take to sell your home may be significantly longer than it is today.

If you are at all considering selling your home, we urge you to do so soon. Trying to time the market is a recipe for financial disaster.

Should I sell my home during a downturn in the economy? It’s a common question among homeowners who plan to sell, but it requires some careful thought.

Besides, you will most likely get the highest price possible right now, while there are few homes for sale and lots of buyers wanting one.

Finally, whether or not to sell your home during a recession is question that you should probably run by your accountant, if and when the time comes.

Here they come! Is your guest room ready?

The winter holidays are when we tend to get the most use out of our guest room. Other than that, and perhaps a summer weekend or two, it sits empty, just another room to dust.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, now is the time to ensure that it’s whipped into shape, updated if needed and made cozy for family and friends who visit.

Be the guest

One of the best ways to gauge what your guests will experience when they stay in your home is to actually bed down in the guest room for a night or two.

Is the bed comfy? Does it need new sheets and more blankets? Do the curtains provide enough privacy? Read a book in bed to ascertain the lighting situation, sit in the chairs, watch TV.

In other words, use the room in exactly the same way as your guests might, then get to work improving their experience.

Freshen the bed

Laundering the bed linens just before your guests’ arrival ensures that they’re crisp and fresh-smelling.

Decorating pros recommend that the bed have both a lightweight and heavier blanket plus the comforter or bedspread.

Stacking pillows isn’t exactly a science; choose an arrangement that appeals to you. For instance, stack king pillows against the headboard and then arrange three Euro pillows (26”x26”) in front.

Or, use the Euro pillows as the backdrop and stack the king pillows in front. You’ll find additional ideas on pillow arrangement at Mantouk.com.

Lighten up

If the room lacks any lighting other than an overhead light, consider adding a few lamps. A reading lamp next to the bed is a necessity, or use wall-sconces on each side of the bed.

Ensure that the lamps or other lighting solutions you choose are in scale to the rest of the room. Big guest rooms need big lamps whereas the smaller room would look overwhelmed by a large lamp.

Find additional lighting tips at DestinationLighting.com and Pinterest.com.

Amp up the resort feel

If you travel, even occasionally, you understand the frustration when you realize you’ve forgotten something. When staying in a hotel, essentials such as shampoo and soap are provided.

And, they should be in your guest bedroom or bathroom as well. Many grocers and most big-box department stores carry travel-size toiletries, so creating a “guest essentials” kit is easy and inexpensive.

Use baskets or bins and fill them with some of the following:

  • Soap or body wash
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower cap
  • Disposable razors and shaving cream
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hair spray
  • First aid supplies (bandages, antibiotic ointment, OTC pain medication)
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Facial moisturizer
  • A small flashlight
  • A notepad and pen
  • Toys, coloring books, crayons
  • Favorite DVDs

Leave a note for your guests that includes any of your home’s particulars of which they should be made aware. For instance, your Wi-Fi password, the home’s security system password, instructions on using smart-home devices, your emergency contact information (work number, etc.).

Ensure there are enough hangers in the closet, stack some fresh fluffy towels on a shelf, clean the bathroom thoroughly and you’re done!

Find additional tips to help you get ready for holiday guests at Pinterest.com, CountryLiving.com and GoodHousekeeping.com.

 

5 of our favorite DIY home improvement/maintenance blogs

What did we DIY project folks do before the internet? Make a lot of huge mistakes, for certain.

Today’s DIYers have it made, with step-by-step instructions and videos on everything from planting the perfect lawn to installing their own windows.

If you’re searching for home improvement or maintenance projects that you can tackle by your lonesome, we’ve found some sites you should visit.

1. PrettyHandyGirl.com

If you need to be empowered to “create it, build it, fix it and do it yourself,” PrettyHandyGirl.com is a good place to get started.

Brittany, the handy girl, is, among other things, a licensed general contractor so she knows her stuff.

Her projects include building, plumbing, electrical, home repairs, home maintenance, landscaping and more.

One of our favorites is 16 DIY Built In Storage and Shelving Ideas but all of her projects include a list of the supplies you’ll need and easy-to-follow DIY instructions. You’ll even find a list of what’s in Brittany’s toolbox.

2. Remodelaholic.com

Cassity, the beauty and brawn behind Remodelaholic.com is an interior decorator by trade, although she doesn’t work in the industry. Instead, she and her husband (who apparently remains nameless – at least on the blog) putter around their home, fixing, repairing and remodeling stuff.

DIY projects and tutorials are the name of this blog’s game and, if you’re on a tight budget, this is the blog for you.

“Our motto is reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose, remodel. We try to use old things in creative ways and reuse our old building supplies in other projects,” Cassity says on the blog.

It’s challenging to find a favorite project but we finally settled on a unique Ikea hack. You know that cupboard over the refrigerator? Many of us don’t use it. It’s impossibly high and hard to get-to.

If you use yours, you’ll love this hack: DIY Over the Fridge Cabinet Organizer for Cookie Sheets and Cutting Boards.

3. FamilyHandyman.com

This is our go-to site whenever a DIY repair project comes up. Since the site is known as the “DIYers’ Best Friend,” I think others feels as we do.

Owned by the same company that owns Readers’ Digest, they’ll hopefully be around for a long time.

It’s challenging to come up with one reason we love this site, but we’ll try. No matter what we need to fix, build or plant, we typically find out how at TheFamilyHandyMan.com.

For instance, in the “Parts of the House” section, you’ll find advice and information on:

  • Ceilings
  • Masonry
  • Roof
  • Siding
  • Tiling
  • Walls
  • Windows

With plenty of videos to supplement the text walk-throughs there is no way you can come away from a project without a thorough understanding.

The most recent project we’ve learned about is 10 Interior House Painting Tips & Painting Techniques for the Perfect Paint Job.

4. OldHouseWeb.com

For home remodeling, repair and improvement of your historic or just-plain “old” house, head over to OldHouseWeb.com.

Nearly half of the site’s users who responded to a poll claim that their homes were built between 1900 and 1945. Surprisingly, more than one-third of the respondents are the proud owners of homes built between 1800 and 1899.

Our only wish is that they posted to their blog more often. As it is, they haven’t posted since 2016. But, the information and advice is brilliant.

Post we love: Finding the History in your Home

5. DIYNetwork.com

Part of the Discovery family of companies, DIYNetwork.com has the bucks to do it right. From the slick website to the hiring of celebs for many of their videos, the site is full of DIY information for the novice to the pro.

Outdoor spaces loom large on the site. Recent topics include how to choose the right groundcover to a yummy display of backyard gazebo ideas.

They even offer DIY projects for kids, like this one on how to build a floor lamp.

Post we love: 6 Creative ways to Freshen up your Front Porch (on a budget!)

Understanding Property Taxes

Property Tax

I don’t know about you, but my brain shuts down when the word “tax” is mentioned. I think many of us would rather have a root canal than talk taxes. So, let’s try to keep this light-hearted and hit just the basics.

Property taxes vary by the local government that imposes them and are based on the assessed value of your property.

According to WalletHub.com’s John S. Kiernan, folks in New Jersey pay the highest property taxes – 2.44 percent, while Hawaii’s homeowners pay the least, at 0.27 percent of assessed value.

Your property taxes, along with those of your neighbors, are used to fund schools, libraries, and other county and city services.

How Is Property Tax Determined?

Property taxes are usually, but not always, based on two factors:

  • The value of the land you own.
  • The value of any structures that sit on the land (often referred to as “improvements” to the land).

These two values are then fed into a pre-determined formula and out pops your property tax bill. Most municipalities reassess a property’s value every few years, some do it annually. This means that the amount of property tax you owe may change over time.

In some regions, property taxes are based on the market value of the land plus the replacement cost of the home, less “statutory depreciation.”

And many municipalities offer a tax exemption for all or part of the property taxes for certain groups of people, such as older homeowners or disabled veterans.

Deducting Property Taxes on your Tax Return

Tax laws change more often than the politicians who push for them, so it’s best to speak with your tax professional about where the deduction of your property taxes falls within the current tax code.

As of 2019, tax filers can deduct up to $10,000, or $5,000 if they’re married but filing separately.

This total is the maximum amount allowed for a combination of “your total state and local taxes, including taxes (or general sales taxes, if elected instead of income taxes), real estate taxes, and personal property taxes,” according to IRS Publication 530.

Again, speak with your tax specialist for the details.

How to Appeal your Property Tax Assessment

The housing market is a bit like a roller coaster, changing frequently, going up and down.

Therefore, it’s quite possible that your assessment is based on a market value that’s no longer valid.

If home values are rising quickly, such as they did over the past few years, you’ll want to keep quiet. Although your home’s market value is higher, your taxes may be based on a lower value, keeping them low.

When values are falling, however, you’ll want to ensure that your taxes are as well.

While the statistics vary according to region, an estimated 30 to 60 percent of homeowners in this country are over-taxed, according to the National Taxpayer’s Union.

Furthermore, homeowners who disagree with the assessor’s valuation of the house have a right to appeal a property tax assessment. Despite this, fewer than 5 percent actually appeal, even though most of those who do so eventually win.

The National Taxpayer’s Union offers a handy Homeowner’s Checklist, outlining the steps to take when filing a property tax assessment appeal.

Be aware that you are still required to pay the taxes when due, despite an open appeal. Penalties for nonpayment may include penalty and interest charges on the unpaid balance.

The assessor may also place a lien against the property and typically has the ability to seize and sell the property for unpaid taxes.

Always consult with your accountant or tax specialist if you have any questions about your property taxes.

The life expectancy of home appliances

Whether you’re shopping for a home or already own one, knowing the current age of the appliances is important. Like us, they have an average life span. Unlike us, they can be replaced. But it’s pricey to do so.

The experts at Consumer Reports recommend that you replace appliances if the cost to repair them is more than half the price of a new one. While that’s a good rule of thumb, it’s something you can put off with care and proper maintenance of your home’s appliances.

As a bonus, your appliances won’t become energy hogs.

 

Kick stink bugs out of the house, naturally

Stink Bug

If you haven’t met your fair share of stink bugs this year, brace yourself. Although stink bug season is officially from March through September, the cooler it gets outdoors, the bigger the problem.

Brown marmorated stink bugs infest both the interior of homes and the garden. In the garden, they feed on fruit and vegetable crops, causing spots and decay.

They prefer to overwinter indoors, in homes. While they aren’t considered harmful to humans or to the home, they create lots of noise and, if bothered, quite a stink.

Once inside the home, they are a challenge to control.

Death by drowning

The least smelly way of ridding the home of stink bugs is also the most labor intensive. But, because stink bugs can’t swim, it’s an effective way of killing them.

Fill a bucket three-fourths of the way with water. Some homeowners add three to four drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the water, although it isn’t necessary.

Use a broom or other item with a long handle to knock the stink bugs off the wall and into the bucket. Those on the floor may be quickly scooped up with a small dustpan, a spatula or other tool and dropped into the water.

Use your vacuum

Entomologists at Virginia Tech suggest using your vacuum to suck the bugs off the walls, floors, drapes and furniture. The problem with this method is that the stink bugs release their scent, smelling up the vacuum and the home.

The scientists suggest replacing the vacuum bag after each use. Once the new bag is in place, sprinkle some perfumed talc, such as room or pet deodorizer onto the floor and vacuum it up to rid the machine of stink bug odor.

If you are the victim of repeated sting bug invasions, invest in an inexpensive shop vac and reserve its use exclusive to stink bug removal.

Insecticidal soap to protect houseplants

While stink bugs don’t hurt people and are considered non-destructive in the home, they may go after your houseplants. Insecticidal soap spray will help discourage stink bugs from feeding on them.

These organic insecticides are available at nurseries and gardening centers or you can make your own.

Combine 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of liquid soap (not dishwashing liquid) and 2 cups of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the plants with it. The oil has a tendency to separate, so shake the bottle periodically as you spray.

Dishwashing liquid is detergent and may harm your plants. Look for a liquid soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap.

Preventing an infestation

Stick the end of a screwdriver into the opening between the bottom of  your door and the floor. If it fits easily, so will a stink bug.

Like many pests, stink bugs have the ability to squish their bodies down to fit into tight spaces. To prevent their entry into the home, seal all openings to the outdoors.

Virginia Tech entomologists suggest caulking cracks, around doors and windows, baseboards and any other area where the bugs may gain entry.

Cover roof vents with window screening. Replace screens that have holes and seal openings around ceiling fixtures and exhaust fans.

 

Quick fixes for a stinky home

Stinky house remedies

Inured.

That’s just a fancy way of explaining how we humans can, over time, become accustomed to something unpleasant.

If you’ve ever lived near railroad tracks or under the flight path of a local airport you know what we’re talking about. At first, the noise was torture. After time, however, you may have barely noticed it.

It’s the same with smells. We become accustomed to the odors in our home and it’s not until either someone very honest comes to visit or we return home after some time away that we realize just how stinky the home is.

While pets and smokers are obvious causes of home odors, other sources are a bit harder to track down. Let’s take a look at some of the first places to check if you have stinky house.

That “smell” coming from the kitchen drain

If you’ve ever been hit in the face with a sewer-like odor coming from the kitchen sink’s drain, getting rid of it almost becomes your life’s mission.

Plumbers recommend that you start with the simple causes during the process of elimination. In this case, start with the garbage disposal.

After time, food particles can become stuck on the blades. As they build up, and decay, they’ll become smelly.

Empty a tray of ice cubes down the drain and let the disposal run until they’re ground up. Then, run cold water through the drain for about 30 seconds.

This is the fun part: pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar (white or apple cider – it doesn’t matter).

Like a child’s science project, the drain will begin to foam and fizz and pop. Allow the self-made volcano to erupt to its fullest and when it’s finished, run hot water down the drain.

If the stench remains, and it resembles the smell of rotten eggs, you may have a larger problem.

It could be hydrogen sulfide gas, also known as “sewer gas,” coming from the main sewer line. “Sewer drains that have dry traps can allow hydrogen sulfide gas to enter the home,” according to experts at the Illinois Department of Health.

While breathing low levels of sewer gas won’t typically cause health problems, at high levels, “hydrogen sulfide gas can make you sick and could be fatal,” according to the health department.

While we can’t vouch for this detection method (published at WomansDay.com), it may be worth a try. Pour one teaspoon of peppermint oil down the kitchen drain, followed by hot water.

Walk around the home, especially to rooms with sinks (bathroom, laundry room). If you can smell the peppermint, call a plumber. The trap may be dry or even cracked.

Wait – while you’re in the laundry room

Laundry rooms centrally located within the home are often an overlooked cause of household odors.

Naturally you’ll want to be more mindful if you are one of us who allows the wet load to sit too long. After a load is finished, and you’ve removed the items from the washer, allow the washer door to remain open so that the moisture dries.

If your washer has a rubber seal around the door, clean it periodically with a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and warm water.

Newer washers have self-cleaning cycles that should be set in motion once a month. If your front-loading washer lacks this feature, run an empty load of hot water to which you’ve added 2 cups of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser.

Allow the cycle to complete and then run another, long, hot cycle with 1 cup of baking soda added to the drum.

Top loaders get a bit of a twist on the procedure, according to the experts interviewed by Today.com.

Again, set the washer to the hottest setting, at the highest water level. Place four cups of white vinegar in the detergent dispenser (or in the drum if your washer lacks a dispenser). When the machine fills and begins agitating, set it to pause and wait one hour before allowing the cycle to continue.

Run a second cycle with 1 cup of baking soda added to the hot water.

Are you really going to eat off those dishes?

Our dishwasher is the workhorse of the kitchen. Experts say it should be cleaned once a month and it’s an easy process. Run a load, without dishes, but with 1 cup of vinegar added.

You may also want to do a deep cleaning to get rid of the food debris that can cause quite the stench. This process is a bit more complicated, but worth it if it gets rid of odors.

Your owner’s manual may have deep-clean instructions. If not, the following procedure should help.

  • Remove the bottom rack from the empty dishwasher.
  • Inspect the drain and remove any debris.
  • Wipe up food scraps and other nasties from the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Locate the dishwasher’s filter (if it has one) and remove it. Open it and clean out debris trapped inside. Rinse it well in hot water before replacing it.
  • Use a damp rag to which you’ve added a few drops of liquid dish detergent or vinegar to wipe down the dishwasher door along with its seals and the dishwasher’s racks and spray arm.
  • Use a toothpick to pick out any debris in the holes in the spray arm.
  • Check for other areas where food debris or a buildup of soap may be causing odors (for instance, around the soap dispenser and the inside of the door).
  • Run an empty load to which you’ve added dishwasher cleaner or 2 cups of vinegar.

Appliance owners’ manuals contain a wealth of valuable maintenance and cleaning information.

If you’ve lost yours you may find one online. Go to your favorite search engine and enter the name of the manufacturer and your appliance’s model number.

Autumn: the perfect time to whip that mudroom into shape

Mudroom

Folks who live in areas of the country with wild winter weather use a vocabulary that sounds like a foreign language to those who live in more mild climes.

One of the words not in the Hawaiian’s or Floridian’s vocabulary is “mudroom.”

But, whether it’s an entryway retrofitted in the winter to hold wet, muddy shoes or an entire room devoted to winter over-clothes, boots and recreational equipment, a mudroom is something many Americans can’t fathom living without.

After all, it helps keep the rest of the home clean.

That’s the beauty of the mudroom. Located at a home’s entry point, it’s a corral for grimy gear.

Whether you need to create a mudroom or want to deck out the one you already have, we’ve rounded up some brilliant tips for its floors and walls.

The best location for a mudroom

If you’re starting from scratch (creating a new mudroom), the first thing to know is that it needs to be a room off of an exterior door.

Depending on how much space you have, you’ll ideally want it out-of-sight from the rest of the house. Sure, that’s not always possible, but it’s the ideal.

After that, the sky is the limit.

Here are some tips to consider if you’ll be creating a mudroom:

If the design and décor will be more utilitarian than decorative, site the mudroom near a side or rear entryway.

If you lack space inside the home, consider turning a corner of the garage or carport into a mudroom. One of the trends in new-home construction is to combine the mudroom and the utility room.

This way, soiled clothing goes right into the washer instead of being piled in a basket (or on the floor) awaiting a trip to the laundry room.

The designers at HGTV claim that the best location for a mudroom is the room accessed first by the door to the home that you use most.

Durability is key in choosing mudroom flooring

Everything in a mudroom should be durable and efficient to use. Start with durability and you’ll thank yourself later.

Skip carpeting and opt for a flooring product that is easy to clean yet still slip-resistant. This means no tile (unless it’s labeled as slip-resistant).

Good options include:

  • Vinyl – There are some gorgeous luxury plank vinyl flooring options available today (see examples here). Some look and feel like wood and many are waterproof.

 

  • Natural stone – Yes, some types of natural stone can be quite slippery when wet. According to a study published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, it’s the composition of the stone product and not the rough finish that determines how slick it will be.

Products with more quartz, such as mica schist, are less slippery, but granite, with a high quartz content, is quite “slippery in wet conditions” because of other minerals included in the rock wear down easily. Shop carefully if you’re considering natural stone floors for your mudroom.

 

  • Concrete – Wait, don’t turn your nose up at the thought of a concrete floor. Installers are doing wonders with finishes nowadays. Take a look at examples of “Why Concrete Floors Rock” at HGTV.com.

Buy a bunch of throw rugs and some boot scrubbers and your floors will be a snap to clean.

Move on to the walls

Paint or wallpaper? Again, you’ll want to keep the focus on durability when considering how to cover the mudroom walls.

Either one, if chosen wisely, will stand up to the gunk that gets flung around a mudroom.

Semi-gloss painted walls are the easiest to clean, but choose a color that won’t show the grime (forego white).

The folks at HGTV recommend, aside from paint, wainscoting and beadboard.

When you’re considering wallpaper, look to the vinyl selections first. They clean up easily and hide a lot of “sins.” Take a look at how some homeowners have used wallpaper in their mudrooms at Houzz.com.

Find additional mudroom makeover ideas at ElleDecor.com and Pinterest.com.

4 signs that your HVAC system is in trouble

From handling summer’s heat to keeping us toasty when it’s chilly outside, our HVACs are one of the hardest working systems in our homes.

As they chug through their lives with nary a problem, it’s frighteningly easy to become complacent about routine maintenance and checkups.

Since a new system can run you between $1,900 and $5,100 (on average), according to HomeAdvisor.com, it only makes sense to start paying attention for signs that the system may be in trouble.

Let’s take a look at some common symptoms to watch for.

1. Something stinks

Strange, nasty odors in the air inside your home may indicate a number of problems with your HVAC system.

If the air smells like something may be burning, it could be a “problem within the motor or the wiring,” according to the pros at compactappliance.com.

They suggest that when you turn the heating system on at the beginning of the season, it may blow out stale air that may have a tinge of an odor similar to something burning.

Let the system run for about 20 or 30 minutes and if the odor doesn’t go away, call an HVAC repair specialist before using it again.

If, on the other hand, the system is emitting a rotten egg smell, turn it off, leave the home immediately and call your gas company. A rotten egg smell is the sign of a natural gas leak.

Does the air smell moldy? One of the most common problems with HVAC systems is a failure to drain moisture adequately. If the moisture gets into the ducts, it can cause mold.

Thankfully, this isn’t a serious problem and can be remedied by an HVAC technician. Don’t let the problem fester, though, or you it may cause health problems.

2. The A/C is blowing hot air

According to pippinbrothers.com, there are many reasons an air conditioning system blows hot – instead of cool – air.

The most common reasons include:

The thermostat is set incorrectly. “It may sound silly, but we’ve seen it happen before,” say the Pippin Brothers. They suggest the first thing to check when you aren’t getting cool air is the thermostat. It may be set to “heat” instead of “cool.”

If that isn’t the cause, ensure that the thermostat is set to “auto” or “on.” “If it’s set to ‘on,’ that means the fan will blow even when the air conditioner isn’t actually cooling,” according to the brothers.

Switch it to auto and adjust the temperature to start the unit. If it’s still blowing hot air, you may have a more serious problem and it’s time to call in a specialist.

3. Little to no air coming from the HVAC unit

Check the filters if the airflow from the HVAC unit is restricted. Often, all it takes to remedy the situation is a new or clean air filter.

If you don’t have routine maintenance done on the unit, it may be dirty coils restricting the airflow. If you can’t determine the problem, call in a professional. Allowing this problem to fester can cause the compressor to fail.

The compressor is one of the main parts of the system and it’s costly to replace. Depending on the system, it may cost between $1,500 and $2,000 according to the pros at AceHomeServices.com.

4. Weird noises

The professionals at American Home Shield, the home warranty company, say that there are eight different noises that may come from your HVAC system.

“Ignoring the mysterious noises from your AC can turn minor issues into major expenses, as these noises could signal anything from needing a simple tune up to costly repairs, to —worst case — replacement of the entire unit,” they caution.

Banging, clanging, clicking, buzzing, squealing, screaming, humming or rattling may be an indication of

  • A refrigerant leak
  • High internal pressure within the compressor
  • Loose parts
  • A clog in the system
  • Bad fan motor or indoor blower
  • Dirty condenser coil

Any noises coming from the system indicate a problem (which may not be serious). Turn off the system and call an HVAC technician for a diagnosis.

Having the A/C fail during summer heat or the heater give out during winter can largely be prevented with routine maintenance of the system.

5 Mistakes to avoid when hiring a plumber

From $45 to $200 per hour. That’s what you’ll pay, on average, to hire a plumber, according to HomeAdvisor.com’s True Cost Guide. But, that’s for small tasks, such as faucet, toilet or sink repair.

Need a water heater installed? That will run you around $1,000, on average, nationwide.

Not all plumbers are alike, with the same amount of experience and the same skills. Assuming they are is probably the most common mistake consumers make.

Let’s take a look at five additional mistakes that homeowners commonly make when hiring a plumber.

1. Choosing “cheap” over qualified

Go to any local social media platform, such as Facebook neighborhood groups and NextDoor, or sites such as Craigslist.org and you’ll find lots of people offering their services for a variety of home repair and maintenance tasks.

Group members often offer referrals. Far too often, however, the person seeking the referral is looking for the lowest price, not the most qualified contractor. Inevitably, this same neighbor will be back posting a month later, bemoaning the horrible job that was done.

Yes, it’s always smart to save money. But, remember, you truly do get what you pay for. When the job is something important to your family’s comfort and safety, such as many plumbing tasks, hire a professional plumber.

2. Not ensuring the plumber is licensed

Some states require that plumbers be licensed, while others require registration with the state. You can find each state’s requirements at HomeAdvisor.com.

A license is proof that the plumber has passed an exam that tests his or her knowledge. Always ask if the plumber is licensed and ask to see the license.

Also ensure that the business the plumber works for is licensed.

3. Not inquiring about bonding and insurance

Ask the plumber you are interviewing if he or she carries general liability insurance. This insurance covers any damage caused as a result of the plumber’s work.

Then inquire about bonding. A bond guarantees financial protection against a number of issues, such as work that doesn’t meet local codes or an incomplete job. Ask for written proof of the bond.

Finally, if the plumber works for someone else, ask if his or her employer carries worker’s compensation insurance. This insurance pays for injuries incurred during the time the plumber is working in your home.

4. It’s a huge mistake to not ask for references

When a friend, colleague or neighbor recommends a plumber, do yourself a favor and do some additional checking.

Go to the plumber’s website to find reviews. If you can’t find any there, check Yelp.com. Then, ask the plumber for the names and phone numbers of his or her last three clients. Call each one for a review of the plumber’s work.

Finally, check to see if the plumber is rated at the Better Business Bureau and whether any complaints have been filed against the plumber and/or the business.

5. Not getting the agreement in writing

Ask that all the details of the job, the agreed upon time for completion and the price be put in writing, signed by the owner of the plumbing company.

While this agreement will keep the plumber on task, it will also protect you in the event something doesn’t occur as agreed or there is another problem.

Ensure that their refund policy is clearly outlined in the agreement.

Like those in most industries, honest, ethical plumbers suffer from those among them who are unscrupulous, dishonest and who perform substandard work.

Avoid going the “cheap” route and hire a professional.