3 tips to make buying a home less stressful

Buying your first home is exciting. At first.

If you’re like most, at some point the anxiety creeps in. It’s normal. As with anything new, you have questions, you may have fears and, at times, may even feel stressed out. Even repeat homebuyers feel anxious during the homebuying process.

“As it turns out, many Americans, about 40%, say buying a new home is the most stressful event in modern life …” according to housingwire.com’s Kelsey Ramirez, citing a survey by a nation-wide real estate website.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said they were reduced to tears at some point during the homebuying process.

It all boils down to a lack of confidence-the same malady that afflicts all of us when learning a new process.

There are certain points in the process that are more stressful than others so today we’ll introduce you to those and point you to where you can learn more.

Learn all you can about the mortgage process

Surveys say that most consumers know very little about mortgages. For instance, “Many people believe that if you don’t have at least 20% down, you can’t buy a home,” according to the folks at rocketmortgage.com.

It’s a myth. There are many home loans on the market with only a 3% down payment requirement. Some have zero down payment terms.

Rules for qualifying for a mortgage are also misunderstood. Many consumers are under the impression that the qualification process is stricter than it is. Yet, when asked about qualification standards, such as debt-to-income ratio, about half of the buyers surveyed didn’t know anything about them.

If you don’t think you can afford a home, you may be laboring under some common misconceptions. When you clear those up, you’ll go into the mortgage application process far more confidently. Here are some websites to help you get up to speed:

Once you’re familiar with the process, start searching for a lender. Ask friends, family and colleagues who they used (if they had a good experience).

Then, start applying for mortgages, keeping an eye out for the lender that is the best at getting back to you promptly and that is able to explain things in easy-to-understand terms.

Go ahead and apply to several. You are under no obligation if they say yes and, it gives you a chance to compare lenders to find the best rates and terms.

If you’re worried about your credit score from all of credit pulls, don’t be. “Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), the creator of the FICO model, states that multiple mortgage inquiries that occur within 30 days of one another do not affect your FICO score,” according to Greg Depersio at investopedia.com.

To be safe, according to Craig Berry at themortgagereports.com, try to submit all of your loan applications within a two week period.

Stressed about the down payment?

Earlier, we discussed the down payment myth. For some homebuyers, however, even a 3% down payment is a fortune. It shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream of homeownership, however.

If you serve, or have served in our nation’s military, or you are the surviving spouse of someone who served, you may qualify for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan. These loans require zero down payment. Learn more about this program at va.gov.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers a no-down mortgage for those who wish to purchase in eligible rural areas. To learn if the home you have your eye on is considered “eligible,” enter the address here.

The USDA offers several programs and you can learn more about them online at usda.gov.

You’ll can also apply for the various municipality, state and federal down payment assistance programs. Ask your lender for a list or search online.

Hire the right real estate agent

Interview real estate agents carefully to ensure that you find the right one for your needs. After all, your real estate agent will be your advocate during the homebuying process; you’ll be doing a lot of leaning on your agent.

During the interviews, ask questions, share your concerns and pay attention to the responses. Choose someone who understands how stressful the process can be and helps put you at ease.

It has been said that “knowledge is power.” The more you know about the process of buying a home, the more empowered and less stressed you’ll feel.

How to hire a roofer

Expensive? Yes. A huge job? Definitely. Applying a new roof is one massive undertaking and, unless you install them for a living, it’s not a DIY project.

It starts with finding the right roofing contractor from what may seem like a sea of them. The key is to take the time required to research carefully.

Get referrals

We’ve always found the best-of-the-best at what they do by asking others for their recommendations. If you know and trust a general contractor, ask him or her. Real estate agents are also excellent sources of information about various trades people.

Then, seek out referrals from family members, friends, neighbors and even colleagues. If you still can’t find at least three to interview, check reviews on Yelp.com and the rosters at the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA.net).

Get bids

Now that you have a list of referrals, call each roofing contractor and set an appointment for them to come out to the home and provide a written bid. You’ll want the bid in writing so that you have something to compare to other roofers.

The bids should describe the scope of the project, “… including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures,” according to the experts at NRCA.

Is the roofer licensed and insured? Don’t be like our trusting friend who recently hired a painter. She did ask him if he was licensed and insured and she believed him when he said he was.

It turns out, he wasn’t.

Ask each roofer to bring along a copy of their license, proof of insurance coverage (especially workers’ compensation and liability). Finally, ask for a list of the names and contact information for his or her last three clients. Then, call each one for a reference.

If any roofer can’t or won’t provide the requested information, consider hiring someone else.

Perform background checks

Go online to your local Better Business Bureau’s website (bbb.org) and plug in the name of each contractor. Check their record carefully.

Then, find your state licensing board for contractors and ensure that the roofer’s license is valid and not suspended or revoked. You’ll find various directories online, such as the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies website and also at liennow.com.

Finally, head back to Yelp.com and enter the roofing company’s name. Read each review carefully.

Roof warranties

Avoid basing your hiring decision on any warranty offered. In fact, the pros at NRCA suggest that you “Keep a healthy skepticism” when it comes to these warranties. Many of them are merely marketing gimmicks, they explain.

Run the warranty by your attorney or read it carefully if you understand legalese. “Watch for provisions that would void it,” cautions the folks at NRCA. Read more about roof system warranties on the NRCA website.

“Nationally, the average homeowner spends about $7,636 to install a new roof, and most spend within a range of $5,202 and $10,120,” according to the pros at HomeAdvisor.com. When faced with a job that costs that much, it pays to research carefully before hiring.

When choosing someone to install your new roof, ensure that the contractor is licensed, insured, highly experienced, has few customer complaints and offers a guarantee, in writing, of her or his work.

Top 5 ways to lose money on your home sale

It doesn’t take much to turn off buyers. Right now, however, there are so many in the market, clamoring for homes in decent areas and in good condition, that homes are practically selling themselves.

Getting the most money possible for your home, however, requires a bit of work. Skipping the following, basic tips, is like throwing money away.

Let’s see if we can step up your home’s game so you can reap maximum rewards.

1. Ignore your home’s appearance from the curb

“Curb appeal” isn’t just a concept from home and garden TV shows; it’s actually what gets homebuyers out of the car and into the house.

Stand at the curb and take a look at the exterior of your home and the landscaping. Like what you see?

If not, a little bit of elbow grease can change that.

If your home needs painting, paint it. Stick with neutral colors, such as gray, taupe and white, according to the experts at Benjamin Moore.

For a pop of interest, paint the door a coordinating color. Black is popular right now, but red and blue are attractive as well.

Next, turn your attention to the landscaping. Just as you’ll need to do to the interior, clean the landscaping of any debris. If the lawn isn’t dormant, mow it and add fresh mulch to the beds.

Then, add attractive plants (even if they’re potted). Ensure that the exterior of the home is as inviting as possible.

2. Assuming since you can’t smell it, buyers won’t either

We’ve all walked into a home and been blasted by stinky, stale odors. Whether they come from pets, kids, cooking or cigarettes, these odors can have potential buyers running for the door.

Fabrics hold odors so consider having upholstered furniture professionally cleaned. Change the HVAC filters for they, too, tend to hold odors. Dry-clean or launder drapes, curtains and throw rugs.

If the odor is cigarette smoke, you may need to paint. Wash the ceilings and walls first with ammonia and water. Then, use a shellac-based primer, such as Zinsser B-I-N, before applying the paint.

3. Your bathroom seen better days

Yes, we understand how difficult it is to keep the hardest-working room in the home tidy. But bathrooms are important to buyers, so yours should be spotless and completely depersonalized.

After cleaning and painting (if necessary), remove personal items, such as toothbrushes, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. from the countertop and the /tub shower’s interior. Ensure that the shower curtain and the toilet lid are closed.

A good rule of thumb for the bathroom is that if something is not decorative, remove it from view.

4. Your home’s interior gives off a“cave” vibe

For as long as we can remember, homebuyers value a light and bright atmosphere over all else. Most of the time they don’t know why a dark home feels uncomfortable; it’s more of a perception.

It’s imperative to remedy a lack of natural light in the home. You can do this with additional lighting and by opening all window coverings.

Dark and gloomy doesn’t sell homes. Light and bright does. Light up every dark space in the home.

5. Assume buyers won’t look at your garage.

You won’t like this one.

Clean the garage.

In their efforts to de-clutter their homes for sale, we see many clients shove all the excess into the garage. Bad move, especially in light of the fact that 86 percent of homebuyers want garage storage space.

Show them how roomy yours is by removing oversized items (take them to storage) and cleaning the garage with the same zeal you did when cleaning the home. Organize what’s left so that the room screams “Look at all this storage space!”

Ensure that while it’s on the market, your home is the belle of the neighborhood. Correcting these five deal breakers is inexpensive and easy but play a big role in your home’s presentation.

2021 Floor covering trends

If you read through home listing descriptions, several things stand out: stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and hardwood floors.

Listing agents of homes that feature any of these items highlight them prominently, under the often-mistaken notion that these are the end-all be-all dreams of every potential homebuyer.

We’ll save the countertops and kitchen appliances for later. Today we’d like to share with you what we’ve learned about flooring trends – what is in demand and what isn’t, in 2021.

We start with what isn’t.

Hardwood

Since hardwood floors are so often assumed to be the darling of the flooring world, we thought we’d start here. Ready for some myth busting?

Hardwood floors have been steadily losing their appeal over the past decade. In fact, “… wood continued to lose share to LVT [luxury vinyl tile] and its cousins,” in new home construction, according to Jonathan Trivers at floorcoveringweekly.com.

Floor and Décor, one of the country’s most successful flooring outlets, sells more flooring installation material than it does hardwood flooring.

Armstrong flooring at one time “… owned more than 50 percent of the wood flooring business,” according to Trivers. In 2019 it sold its entire wood flooring line for almost pennies on the dollar.

If consumers aren’t buying something, it’s safe to say that it is no longer popular.

Carpet

If you’re thinking of selling your home and will be adding updated flooring, avoid carpet. Since we’re using sales as a measure of a product’s popularity, let’s take a look at Home Depot.

Last year the company saw a 7.5% decrease in sales of carpet. Lowe’s also “struggled” in carpet sales, according to Trivers.

In an attempt to raise sales volume, both stores offered free or “kinda free” carpet installation. Sales didn’t improve.

If you like carpet and don’t plan on selling your home soon, by all means, buy it. Now is a great time, with carpet prices at all-time lows.

Laminate flooring

For some time, laminate flooring was among the most popular. It was the ideal way to get the look of real wood at a substantial savings.

With the explosion in the popularity of luxury vinyl floors, laminate has lost its luster among consumers.

One of the chief complaints about the flooring is that it’s high maintenance. Surprised?

Manufacturers and retailers love to tout that the flooring is low maintenance. However, sweeping it is not recommended because the dirt particles may scratch the flooring. Mopping must be done with care for the same reason. Moisture intrudes and can buckle the planks.

Yes, it undoubtedly requires vastly less maintenance than a hardwood floor, but with the introduction of new types of flooring, which give the same look as laminate yet cost less and offer waterproof options, laminate became less popular.

Tile floors

Once the best choice for “wet areas,” such as the laundry room, kitchen and bathroom, tile can now be found in every room in the home. And, because it can be manufactured from a number of different materials, the colors and styles available are almost unlimited.

Tile flooring’s popularity varies by region. Homeowners in warm climates choose it because it remains cool; cold weather homeowners eschew it for the same reason.

Stone is durable, holding up to the abuse from a busy family with pets. But they’re expensive floors and homeowners complain that they’re not only cold, but very slippery when wet.

In 2021, look for stone floors to take a backseat to ceramic tile floors. New methods of manufacturing ceramic tile allow it to mimic natural stone. In fact, some brands offer high-end looks that are impossible to find with real stone, according to Jessica Chevalier at floordaily.net.

Luxury vinyl flooring

There was a time when folks would laugh at the thought of using the word “luxury” anywhere near “vinyl.” But not anymore.

Known in the industry at LVT, for “luxury vinyl tile,” the flooring’s popularity grows every year. Expect 2021 to be no different.

In its infancy, homeowners avoided the product because of the VOC emission problem. That’s been cured and several manufacturers’ flooring actually carry the Indoor Air Quality Certification.

Luxury vinyl tiles and planks are easy to install, with a glue-down, self-adhesive or snap-together process, making them popular with the DIY crowd.

Finishes include wood- and stone-look, among others. Other reasons for the flooring’s explosion in popularity include:

  • It’s easier and softer on the feet than stone
  • Many styles are waterproof, making it ideal for families with kids and pets
  • Luxury vinyl floors are easy to maintain

When it comes to trends, designers, home builders and bloggers can only guess what will be popular in the year ahead. A more reliable method to choose trends is to track a product’s sales over several seasons.

In the case of flooring, ceramic tile and vinyl will continue to attract the interest of homeowners and homebuyers in 2021.

10 must-read tips to get your home ready for the inspection

You have only one chance to impress the home inspector. Of course, you can’t possibly know everything that might show up on the inspection report, but you can make your home appear well-maintained and take care of some common problems before the inspector knocks on the door.

  1. Clear all access points that the inspector will use. These include the attic, water heater and electrical panel.
  2. Change the HVAC filters and clean the fuzz off the vent covers.
  3. Ensure that all light switches work and replace burned-out bulbs.
  4. Clean out the fireplace. Check the damper to ensure that it is operating properly. Cracks in the brick? Seal them with a high-temp silicone sealant.
  5. How are those windows? Replace cracked glass and torn screens. Then, open every window in the home to make sure they slide smoothly (both upon opening and closing). While they’re open, take a rag and some cleaning solution to the tracks. Finally, clean both inside and outside glass.
  6. Another common problem that makes its way onto too many inspection reports is water-damaged wood, especially the soffits, fascia, window sills (and here you thought you were finished with those windows!) and door trim.
  7. Cracks and holes in stucco should be sealed. We found a YouTube video (“How to Repair Cracks and Holes in Stucco”) that will walk you through the process.
  8. The pros at TheBuildingInspector.net suggest that owners of wood-framed homes should ensure that mulch isn’t piled up the foundation. “You should be able to see 4 inches of exposed foundation,” they suggest.
  9. Those same pros urge you to ensure that your kitchen appliances are clean and that they work properly. (Ice maker as well).
  10. Fix any leaks in the ceiling. Then, seal the stain and paint.

Remember, the home inspector will perform a visual inspection of the home and its components. This includes the HVAC system, plumbing, heating, gas lines and electrical panel.

The inspection will take between two and three hours and, as tempting as it may be to be present, the buyer (who hired the inspector) will often tag along, with his or her real estate agent, naturally.

If you have any questions about the home inspection process, please feel free to ask. We’re happy to provide all the information you need.

 

Selling your home? Get ready for the legal paperwork

The home selling process is unlike any other. Sell a car and pretty much all you do is hand over the keys and the pink slip.

Selling a home requires mountains of legal paperwork, however. From listing to closing, get ready to sign a lot of papers.

Sadly, it can become so burdensome that many home sellers (and buyers too), become overwhelmed and stop reading what they’re signing. Big mistake.

If you can’t stomach reading another document, run them by your attorney. This is important stuff and you need to understand what your signing.

Today we introduce you to two forms that you’ll receive and help you understand their importance.

Listing Agreement or Contract

When you choose a real estate agent to represent you in the sale of your home you are actually hiring his or her broker. Only the broker is legally able to enter into a contract with home sellers and buyers.

Real estate agents (unless he or she is also the broker) act as the broker’s representative (which is why they are called “agents”).

This is important information that most real estate consumers don’t understand. The listing agreement is a contract between you and the real estate broker who is being represented by a real estate agent.

There are certain items that must be included in this contract according to federal and state law and the National Association of REALTORS® (if the broker is a member).

The basics include:

  • The offering price
  • The date the contract begins and ends
  • The amount of the broker’s fee (the commission you’ll be expected to pay at closing)
  • Your agreement for your agent’s broker to cooperate with other brokers and how that other broker (the one who brings the buyer) will be compensated.
  • Whether or not your broker can reveal previous offers.

Other items you may see include:

  • Your permission to allow the broker to put up a sign in the yard and a lockbox on the door.
  • Your permission to allow the broker to list the home in the Multiple Listing Service and online.
  • A list of items that are not included in the home sale (such as appliances).
  • Your promise that you own the home and there is no pending notice of default on the property. 

Seller’s Disclosure

Real estate brokers have legal and ethical duties to both parties in the transaction – duties that their agents must carry out.

Sellers, too, have duties and one of them is a legal duty: disclosure.

Failure to disclose aspects of the home that may impact the buyer’s safety and comfort or the home’s value can land a home seller in court, facing huge fines.

A home defect discovered after the sale is the primary court dispute in the real estate industry.

Take your time when filling out this form. If you don’t understand anything, ask. Although we aren’t licensed to practice law, we’re happy to help in any way we can.

Answer the questions honestly. If you truly don’t know if a certain defect exists, say so. If you do know, however, you have a legal duty to disclose your knowledge.

Feel like you live in a glass house? There’s a cure for that

Love your home but feel like your neighbors are so close they practically live with you?

When you find yourself feeling like you live in a fishbowl and craving privacy, turn to Mother Nature. She provides a number of landscaping techniques that will help close your home off to prying eyes and give you that feeling of solitude you crave.

Best of all, we picked the solutions that require the least maintenance.

Take the first steps to solitude

If you live in a community that is managed by a HOA, you’ll need to dig out that packet of documents you received when you bought the home. Most HOAs have landscaping rules and it’d be a shame to have to remove your privacy landscaping if you’re found in violation.

Then, decide how much privacy you want. Will you want something dense that completely blocks the view of the home from passers-by or neighbors, or do you prefer a lighter touch?

As you decide which plants to purchase, ensure that they are suited to your climate. Both the USDA and Sunset magazine have determined hardiness zones. The former lists plants based on their cold tolerance.

Consider using native plants. They are generally more tolerant of your region’s soil conditions and microclimates and are less picky in their maintenance requirements. The American Horticultural Society lists native plant societies in each state at ahsgardening.org.

Also, you may want to check which plants your county Cooperative Extension Service suggests. You’ll find a list for each state at gardenologist.org.

Hiding the full Monty

Although it doesn’t seem to be a concern for most suburban homeowners, if it bothers you that the front of the house is open to the world, consider the following options.

Your first decision is to consider whether you want an evergreen solution or deciduous. The latter defeats both the “low-maintenance” and “privacy” issues, however. Unless you don’t mind losing your privacy when the weather cools and foliage drops.

That said, the extension folks at Colorado State University recommend that you choose a woody plant so that when it loses its foliage, the twigs and branches will still help shield the home from the street.

North privet (Ligustrum x ibolium) is one to consider as it grows rapidly (up to 3 feet per year, according to the Arbor Day Foundation) and Japanese meadowsweet (Spirea japonica), a twiggy shrub with beautiful blooms, grows from 4 to 6-feet in height.

Evergreen shrubs to consider include Emerald arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’), Nigra arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Nigra’), English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and, in warmer climates, oleander (Nerium oleander). The latter is toxic, so it may not be a good choice for those with small children and/or pets who like to munch on plants.

Don’t neglect the extremely fast growth and beauty of bamboo. Clumping varieties are attractive and won’t invade the rest of yours and your neighbor’s yards. They do, however, drop litter, so keep them away from spas and swimming pools.

Choose fast-growing plants to get your privacy sooner. Whichever you decide on, however, with strategic placement you’ll be able to block those prying eyes.

Tasks most homeowners neglect when getting the house ready to sell

Preparing a home for the market is a lot like trying to get a sip of water from an open fire hydrant. Depending on how well you maintained the home, it can be overwhelming.

In the frenzy to get the big things done, some of the small, but critical tasks remain unattended to.

We see it often. An otherwise well-prepared home with just a few small items that need attending to.

Since bathrooms and kitchens are the rooms most important to most homebuyers, we’ll concentrate on them.

If you’re getting your home ready for the market, put these on your to-do list.

Get the bathroom ready for homebuyers

  1. Ring around the toilet bowl? Get rid of it. Even though we always suggest to our sellers that they leave the toilet lid closed, we often find it open.

A ring at the water line or any other part of the bowl that’s visible will be noticed by those viewing your home.

We spoke with a team of professional cleaners who offered up a few tips:

Start with bleach. Pour about 1 cup of bleach into the bowl and walk away. If the stain hasn’t calcified, it should be gone in about 30 minutes to one hour.

If it remains, grab a pumice stone. Let the water drain from the toilet as it’s flushing and use the water turn-off valve (usually behind the toilet) to turn of the water before it starts refilling.

Lightly scrub the stain with the pumice stone.

If all else fails, consider buying a product specific to removing calcium and lime, such as CLR. You can pick it up at Walmart, Home Depot and online at Amazon.com.

Follow the instructions carefully and that ring should be a thing of the past.

  1. Nasty grout

The internet is full of helpful and not-so helpful cleaning advice. One of the most common chores we’ve seen is cleaning bathroom grout. The suggestions for the job include everything from toothpaste to the ubiquitous baking-soda-and-water to vinegar.

It turns out that bleach is the best grout cleaner. Use it right out of the bottle and let it sit before scrubbing away the grime. Do wear gloves and a face mask for this job.

Too toxic for you? Try using oxygen bleach powder (sodium percarbonate). A well-known brand is OxiClean but there are others as well. Check out this list at Amazon.com.

Mix the powder with enough water to make a paste and smear it over the grout lines. Leave it there for 15 minutes.

Add more to the areas where the solution has soaked in, ensuring that the grout is always flooded with the paste.

Finally, use a toothbrush or other small scrubbing implement to scrub the grout, adding more if needed to remove the stains.

Get busy in the kitchen

  1. Look at listings of homes for sale and you’ll no doubt come across one of our pet peeves: photos, school work, etc. stuck to the front of the refrigerator. Remove them, please.
  1. Clean the glass on the oven door. Yup, it sounds like a huge headache of a job, but we promise, it’s not.

Before starting, lay an old rug or towel on the floor in front of the oven to catch any paste or other substances that may fall to the floor.

Wipe the glass surfaces down and then spread a baking soda-water paste over the glass window portion. Lay it on as thick as possible, swirling as you spread it.

Allow the paste to remain for 30 minutes then use a clean, wet rag to remove it. You may need to wring out the rag and wipe several times to remove it.

If any stubborn stains remain, use a sharp razor blade to gently scrape them away.

Repeat the procedure on the front of the glass window in the oven.

Finally, use your favorite window cleaner to shine up the glass.

3. Organize the contents of kitchen cupboards. Yes, potential buyers will open the cupboards and the pantry door.

While it may seem nosy, they’re looking to see how roomy they are and whether they will contain all of their kitchen “stuff.”

If you haven’t yet removed items you rarely use (especially larger items, such as that ice-cream maker or waffle iron), remove them now.

Then, organize what’s left so that when potential buyers peer in they see lots and lots of space.

  1. Clean the inside of the dishwasher

Remove and clean the filter. You’ll find it beneath the spray arm on the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior.

Get the water from the faucet as hot as you can tolerate and rinse the filter, using an old toothbrush to scrape away food particles stuck to it. Once it’s clean, replace it in its spot inside the dishwasher.

Use a dishwasher cleaning product to finish the job. Cascade manufactures one but there are others you can find at the supermarket, Walmart or purchase online at Amazon.com. Follow the instructions carefully.

  1. Shine up stainless-steel appliances

Buyers are in a long-time love affair with stainless steel appliances.

Yet, if you’ve look at listings of homes for sale recently, you’ll notice that many homeowners neglect to clean off the handprints and spilled food and drink.

The best way to clean these appliance fronts is with WD-40 (available at auto parts stores, big-box home improvement stores and many supermarkets).

Spray the product on a rag and wipe down the appliance. With a clean rag, wipe the surface again. Finally, use a microfiber cloth to buff the finish.

Don’t forget to replace dead lightbulbs, clean their fixtures and wash the windows in both rooms.

Now, you’re one step ahead of the competition.

Happy selling!

Cheap Ways to Revamp Your Kitchen

If you went through the winter holidays cursing your kitchen, maybe it’s time to decide, once and for all, to do something about it. Especially if you don’t plan on selling anytime soon, at least make it more pleasant to work in.

Don’t worry about this costing a fortune, because we’ve tried to stick to changes that will be impressive, yet cost little and you can do them yourself.

What color is your kitchen?

A fresh coat of paint works wonders in every room of the house, but in the kitchen, it can make even the appliances feel newer than they are.

If you think you’ll be selling the home this year or next, use a neutral shade and work with the natural lighting in your home.

For example, light colors with cool tones work best when there isn’t a lot of light coming in through the windows. You can get away with warmer tones when there is more natural light.

To get a better handle on warm and cool paint tones, check out the guide at paintzen.com.

Still not sure about the color you want? Take a look at this tool from Sherwin-Williams. This “color visualizer” will make the choice more fun and allow you to visualize your finished work.

Kitchen cabinets

You can easily update the style of your kitchen with new drawer pulls and knobs. The selection of kitchen cabinet hardware you’ll find online and in brick and mortar home improvement stores is amazing. To get you started, check out:

If you have a little more money to spend, consider new cabinet facings. This allows you to transform the appearance of your cabinets without replacing the entire cabinet.

Get kitchen cabinet refacing project tips at This Old House.

Finally, consider repainting your kitchen cabinets. Although it’s a time-consuming project (unless you have help), it’s not difficult and it will freshen up your kitchen.

You’ll find walkthroughs online at:

Prefer a video tutorial? Check out this list at YouTube.com.

Kitchen countertops

Hate your Formica (laminate) countertops but not blessed with the money it will cost to install new granite or quartz?

Resurface them. It’s one of the most popular DIY kitchen projects and, yes, it’s time consuming, but an easy job for the DIYer.

Several companies manufacture countertop refinishing kits in a number of finishes, from faux granite to cement to merely painted. Take a look at what’s on offer at:

Kitchen lighting

Light fixtures often don’t get the attention they deserve. But new lights can make an extreme difference in your kitchen.

If you have the budget to replace your fixtures, aim to do all of them at once. If not, a single fixture will work. If the kitchen lacks task lighting, such as over the counters or stove, start there.

Never underestimate the power of your finishing touches. Splurge on new kitchen rugs, curtains and linens. A little imagination is all that’s needed to revamp your kitchen on a budget.

Protect your belongings while your home is on the market

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Not everyone that shows up at an open house or requests a viewing of your home is honest.

Sure, most folks are, but some may be tempted to steal anything that catches their eye. And some of them may just act on the urge.

One of the most important steps in readying your home for the market is to protect your valuables and your information from the strangers that will be passing through.

Here’s a checklist of the most commonly “lifted” items.

Artwork

While valuable artwork isn’t exactly easy to pocket, thieves have been known to look at MLS listing pictures of luxury homes online. They aren’t in the market for a luxury home, but they do want to see what’s inside.

Before the photographer comes to the home to snap the pictures, take down anything that may catch the eye of a bad guy.

Prescription drugs

It’s not difficult to slip a bottle of pills into a pocket or purse. Plus, since most people keep their prescriptions in the bathroom, the perp has all the privacy he or she needs to rifle through the medicine cabinet.

Remove all prescription medications from the home. Keep them in your car, lock them in a safe or ask a friend to hold on to them for you.

Weapons

Most gun owners are responsible and keep their firearms under lock and key. If you don’t have a gun safe, take the weapon out of the home. The same holds true for other weapons

Technology

Laptops, iPads, smart phones, smart speakers, smart watches and earbuds are quite popular with thieves. Again, take them out of the home or lock them up.

Any tech items that are too large to remove from the home, such as a desktop computer, should be password protected and turned off.

Cash and Jewelry

Every thief’s favorite find is jewelry. In fact, the experts at The AA Home Insurance claim that jewelry is the most commonly stolen item from homes.

They are especially fond of diamonds, pearls and gold but will take anything they can pawn. Almost $1.4 billion worth of jewelry and precious metals was stolen in 2016,” according to Cannon Safe Company’s Angela Avila-McDonald, quoting FBI statistics.

Keeping cash and jewelry in a secure safe is the ideal way to foil a thief while your home is on the market.

Sensitive documents

Lock up bills, letters and anything else that may have identity information, such as social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth, Wi-Fi or computer passwords.

The following documents should be locked away or removed from the home:

  • Bank statements
  • Blank or cancelled checks
  • Mortgage statements
  • Passports
  • Social Security cards and records
  • Credit card information

Anything that can help someone steal your identity should be considered sensitive.

Car keys, house keys and garage door openers

Easy to pocket, keys and remotes allow the perp to come back at another time and gain access to your home and/or car. Don’t leave spare keys, etc. sitting in a drawer.

Pets

If your pets will remain in the home, keep them kenneled. Consider investing in a lock for the kennel, especially if you have a dog breed that is popular, rare or expensive.

Thankfully, most open houses and showings go off without a hitch. In fact, thefts are rare. But it’s always better to be proactive, especially with strangers coming into your home.