Sweat Equity in Real Estate: What It Is and How It Works

Don’t you wish that every drop of sweat shed during a hard day’s work was actually a form of investment? Well, in real estate, it can be.

This is known as sweat equity. Sweat equity, in essence, is the value you add to a property through your own hard work and effort rather than through financial investment. It’s a way to increase a property’s worth without spending a dime.

But how exactly does this work, and how can you make it work for you? Consider this your invitation to step inside the world of sweat equity in real estate.

what is sweat equity in real estate

Understanding the Concept of Sweat Equity

When diving into the world of real estate, it’s crucial for you to grasp the concept of sweat equity. It’s not simply the physical labor you put into a property; it can also include time, effort, and skills spent on improving a property’s value. But, don’t be misled by common sweat equity misconceptions. It’s not always a dollar-for-dollar return on investment. The value you add mightn’t directly correlate with the amount you’ve sweated.

When it comes to sweat equity tax implications, things get more complicated. If you’re trading sweat equity for ownership, it’s typically seen as income by the IRS. However, if you’re improving your own property, the sweat equity isn’t taxed. Instead, it potentially reduces your capital gains tax when you sell.

Importance of Sweat Equity in Real Estate

Now that you’re familiar with the concept and tax implications of sweat equity, let’s explore why it’s so significant in the real estate sector.

  1. Value Addition: Sweat equity can lead to substantial increases in property value. By investing time and effort into improvements and repairs, you can significantly enhance the market value of a property.
  2. Tax implications: In certain situations, sweat equity may offer tax benefits. It’s crucial to consult with a tax professional to fully understand these potential advantages and ensure you’re within the legal boundaries.
  3. Legal considerations: Sweat equity also has legal implications. It can play a crucial role in property rights, especially in cases of joint ownership or partnership disputes. Legal considerations for real estate buyers and sellers encompass various factors, including sweat equity, particularly in scenarios involving disputes over ownership or shared usage rights.
  4. Financial Flexibility: Sweat equity can provide you with financial flexibility. It allows you to invest in property without having to put up a large amount of capital upfront. Instead, you can invest your skills and labor into the property.

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Calculating Sweat Equity: A Guide

To accurately determine the value of your sweat equity, it’s essential to understand how it’s calculated. Sweat equity valuation is derived by subtracting the original property value from the enhanced property value, then deducting any additional costs incurred.

Here’s a practical illustration:

Stages Original Property Value Enhanced Property Value
Before Sweat Equity $100,000
After Sweat Equity $150,000
Additional Costs $20,000
Sweat Equity Value $30,000

In this case, you’ve added $30,000 worth of sweat equity to the property.

However, consider the tax implications of sweat equity. Depending on your jurisdiction, sweat equity may be considered income and thus taxable. This could potentially reduce the overall gain you make from your sweat equity. It’s advisable to seek professional tax advice to ensure you’re aware of all the implications and can plan accordingly.

what is sweat equity in real estateSweat Equity: Pros and Cons

While understanding the calculation and tax implications of sweat equity is important, it’s equally vital to weigh the advantages and potential drawbacks of this investment strategy.

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons:

  1. Pro – Cost Savings: Sweat equity can significantly reduce your investment costs. Instead of paying others, you’re using your skills and time.
  2. Con – Time Commitment: Sweat equity requires significant time and effort. It’s not just a financial investment; it’s a personal one too.
  3. Pro – Tax Implications: The IRS allows certain deductions for sweat equity, which can lower your tax obligation. But be aware, there are strict guidelines to follow.
  4. Con – Legal Considerations: There can be legal complications if sweat equity contributors aren’t formally recognized as partners or shareholders. Always ensure that legal documentation is in place.

what is sweat equity in real estate

Real-Life Examples of Sweat Equity

Let’s dive into some real-world examples that illustrate the concept and impact of sweat equity in the realm of investment.

Consider John, a skilled carpenter, who purchases a dilapidated property. He rehabs the house, investing countless hours of his own labor. His sweat equity increases the property’s value, transforming it from a rundown house into a desirable home.

Next, let’s look at a couple, Jane and Joe. They buy an outdated condo and spend weekends modernizing it. Their effort, or sweat equity, enhances the condo’s appeal and boosts its market value.

Finally, there’s Sarah, a landscaper who invests time and effort into beautifying her property’s exterior. Her sweat equity significantly improves curb appeal, thus raising the home’s overall worth.

Example Initial State Sweat Equity Improvements
John Dilapidated property Rehabbed house
Jane and Joe Outdated condo Modernized interior
Sarah Plain exterior Landscaped yard

These examples highlight the importance of sweat equity and its potential implications for sweat equity taxation and legislation. Remember, your hard work can translate into tangible financial value when investing in real estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sweat equity be used in lieu of a down payment for a real estate purchase?

Yes, you can use sweat equity as part of your down payment. You’ll need a sweat equity valuation and proper documentation to prove the work’s value. However, not all lenders accept sweat equity, so check first.

What Are Some Legal Considerations When Using Sweat Equity in Real Estate Transactions?

When using sweat equity in real estate transactions, you’ll need to consider equity valuation and partnership agreements. It’s crucial to ensure that your contributions are legally recognized and properly valued for fairness.

Can sweat equity be converted into shares in a real estate corporation?

Yes, you can convert sweat equity into shares in a real estate corporation. It’s termed sweat equity valuation. You’ll need a thorough understanding of equity distribution methods to ensure it’s done legally and fairly.

What Are the Tax Implications of Using Sweat Equity in a Real Estate Transaction?

When using sweat equity in a real estate transaction, it’s important to understand its tax property implications. Sweat equity valuation could impact your tax liability. However, there are also potential tax deduction opportunities. Always consult with a tax professional.

How is sweat equity treated in a divorce or separation scenario?

In a divorce, sweat equity’s treated like other assets. Equity valuation determines its worth. Property rights are divided, possibly awarding you a portion of your partner’s sweat equity, depending on your jurisdiction’s laws.

Conclusion

So, you’ve got the scoop on sweat equity in real estate. It’s all about putting in effort to increase home value, a key factor in property investment.

But remember, it’s not just about hard work; calculating sweat equity is essential. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though; consider the pros and cons.

Understanding how others have benefited can guide you. Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and build your own sweat equity.

 

Sellers Disclosure Made Easy: What You Need to Disclose

Navigating the seller’s disclosure process might feel like trying to decode hieroglyphics, but it doesn’t have to. When you’re selling your home, you’re required by law to disclose certain information to prospective buyers. But how can you be sure you’re covering everything you need to?

And what could happen if you don’t? Let’s demystify this crucial step in the home-selling process, so you can approach it with confidence and avoid potential pitfalls.

Wondering where to start? Keep following, there’s more to uncover.

Understanding the Seller’s Disclosure

As a seller, it’s crucial that you thoroughly understand the Seller’s Disclosure, a document outlining the condition of your property and any potential issues or defects. This document isn’t merely a formality; it’s a critical part of the selling process. Yet, several disclosure misconceptions persist, leading to unnecessary complications.

Some sellers believe that it’s better to avoid disclosing defects, thinking it will make their property more attractive. This is a misconception. Full disclosure actually benefits you as a seller. It fosters trust, reduces the risk of lawsuits, and helps to set realistic expectations about the sale price.

The disclosure benefits are extensive. It serves to protect you from future legal action. If a buyer discovers a problem after the sale, they can’t accuse you of hiding information if it was included in the seller’s disclosure. Furthermore, it allows potential buyers to make an informed decision, ensuring a smoother transaction process.

But remember, honesty is the best policy. Disclosing all known issues, even minor ones, will save you headaches down the line. Don’t let misconceptions cloud your judgment. Embrace transparency and reap the benefits that come with it.

Legal Requirements for Disclosure

Navigating the legal requirements for disclosure can seem daunting, but it’s essential to get it right. You must disclose any known defects or issues with the property to potential buyers. This not only aids in transparency but also protects you from future legal disputes.

It’s important to understand that each state has its own set of laws regarding seller disclosures. These state variations dictate what you’re required to reveal about your property. Some states have extensive lists, while others are more lenient. In some cases, you may need to fill out a specific form or follow a particular procedure laid out by the state.

Ignoring or avoiding these legal requirements can lead to hefty disclosure penalties. For instance, if you intentionally conceal a defect, you could face legal action from the buyer. Penalties vary state by state, but they can include fines, lawsuits, or even the cancellation of the sale.

sellers disclosure 2

Essential Items to Disclose

When selling your home, it’s crucial to know which items you’re legally obligated to disclose to potential buyers. This isn’t a step you can afford to skip, since it’s all about establishing trust and avoiding future legal disputes.

First on the list are structural issues. If your house has any hidden defects, like a crumbling foundation or a leaky roof, you’re obliged to reveal them. Don’t try to sweep these under the rug; it’s better to be upfront.

Past issues with pests, such as termites or rats, should also be disclosed. Even if you’ve addressed these nuisances, potential buyers have the right to know the property’s history.

Then comes the disclosure timeline. You can’t delay this process. As soon as you decide to sell, you need to start preparing your disclosure. It’s typically presented to buyers after an offer is made, but before the sale is finalized.

Any significant events, like fires or floods, should be revealed. If these have impacted the property, you must disclose them.

Impact of Non-Disclosure

Failing to disclose vital information about your property can lead to serious consequences down the line. Known as non-disclosure consequences, these can range from financial penalties to legal action. This is because Consumer Protection Laws are in place to ensure that buyers are fully informed about the property they’re investing in.

Consider this table to understand the possible impacts:

Potential Consequences Emotional Impact Financial Impact
Legal Action Stress High Costs
Financial Penalties Frustration Monetary Loss
Loss of Trust Embarrassment Lost Opportunities

Legal action could result in high costs and stress, while financial penalties could lead to monetary loss and frustration. Moreover, non-disclosure can damage your reputation, leading to embarrassment and lost opportunities.

In essence, honesty is the best policy when it comes to selling property. Disclose all relevant information to avoid any non-disclosure consequences, maintain trust with buyers, and uphold the principles of consumer protection laws. After all, a successful sale is based on mutual trust and transparency. Don’t let non-disclosure derail your selling process.

Making Disclosure Process Simpler

Despite the potential hurdles, there are ways to make the disclosure process less daunting and more straightforward for sellers. You might feel overwhelmed with all the technical jargon and legal obligations. But don’t worry, help is on the way. It’s all about simplifying disclosure language and embracing disclosure technology advancements.

First, let’s tackle the language issue. Instead of getting lost in a sea of legalese, seek ways to simplify the disclosure language. Use plain English where possible, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if something isn’t clear. Remember, this is about protecting both you as the seller and the potential buyer.

Now, let’s talk about technology. Disclosure technology advancements have made the process easier and more efficient than ever. There are now software platforms and apps specifically designed to guide sellers through the disclosure process, making it less of a chore and more of a checklist. This helps ensure you’re covering all your bases without getting bogged down in the details.

sellers disclosure 3

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Does a Seller’s Disclosure Need to be Updated?

You’ll need to update your seller’s disclosure whenever there’s a significant change to the property. Disclosure frequency isn’t set in stone; it’s more about the update necessity when changes occur. Stay proactive for transparency’s sake.

What Sort of Information Do I Need to Gather Before Filling in a Seller’s Disclosure?

You’ll need to gather details about your property’s condition, improvements, defects, and legal issues. Remember, preparing documents thoroughly and understanding disclosure timelines is crucial in avoiding potential legal problems down the line.

Are there any penalties for giving incorrect information in a seller’s disclosure?

Yes, there are penalties for disclosure inaccuracies. If you provide incorrect data, you’re risking legal implications. Dishonesty can lead to lawsuits, fines, or even the sale’s cancellation. Always verify your information’s accuracy.

Can I change my seller’s disclosure after it has been submitted?

Yes, you can change your seller’s disclosure after submission through disclosure amendments. It’s not uncommon to make post submission changes if you’ve forgotten or omitted information. Be sure to do it promptly.

What Happens if I Don’t Know the Answer to a Question on the Seller’s Disclosure Form?

When dealing with disclosure uncertainties, it’s fine if you don’t know every answer. Leave unanswered queries blank or write ‘unknown’. Honesty is crucial, so don’t guess or provide misleading information on your seller’s disclosure.

Conclusion

In wrapping up, don’t let the seller’s disclosure intimidate you. It’s legally required and critical for a smooth real estate transaction.

Remember, it’s all about honesty. Don’t hide major issues, as non-disclosure can lead to lawsuits. Keep it simple, provide essential details, and you’ll avoid potential complications.

The disclosure process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a clear understanding and approach, you’ve got this!

 

Beginner’s Guide: How to Calculate Budget for Buying a Home

Buying a home can be exhilarating, intimidating, and confusing all at the same time. You’re excited about the possibilities, anxious about the financial commitment, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the complex calculations involved. But don’t worry; you’re not alone in this journey.

In order to make a sound financial decision, you need to figure out how much you can afford, what kind of mortgage suits your lifestyle, and how to prepare for unexpected costs. Stick around, and we’ll guide you through the ins and outs of calculating your home buying budget.

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Understanding Your Financial Picture

Before you even start browsing for homes, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your current financial situation. It’s not just about how much money you have in the bank, but also about your credit score impact and your debt-to-income ratio.

Your credit score is a crucial factor in the home-buying process. It can impact your ability to secure a mortgage, the interest rate you’re offered, and even the types of homes you can afford. If you’ve got a low credit score, it might be worth taking some time to improve it before diving into the housing market.

On the other hand, your debt-to-income ratio is another significant aspect of your financial health. It’s calculated by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. The lower this ratio, the better. A high ratio might indicate you’re living beyond your means and could struggle to keep up with additional mortgage payments. That’s why lenders often use this ratio to assess your ability to repay a home loan.

Evaluating Homeownership Costs

Now, let’s dive into the various costs of homeownership you’ll need to consider when setting your budget. It’s crucial to understand these expenses to anticipate your financial obligations accurately.

To start, conduct a thorough mortgage type comparison. Different loans come with different interest rates, repayment periods, and requirements. This comparison will help you choose the mortgage that best fits your financial situation.

Secondly, don’t overlook the insurance cost analysis. Home insurance varies depending on the property’s location, size, and value, among other factors. It’s a necessary expense that protects your investment against unforeseen damages.

There are also other costs to consider:

  • Property taxes: These are usually a percentage of the home’s assessed value.
  • Maintenance and repair costs: Regular upkeep is essential to maintaining your property’s value.
  • Homeowners association fees (if applicable): These can cover costs for shared community amenities.
  • Utilities: This includes electricity, water, gas, and other essentials.
  • Closing costs: These are one-time fees paid at the closing of a real estate transaction.

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Preparing for Unexpected Expenses

While you’ve accounted for the known costs of homeownership, it’s equally important to prepare for unexpected expenses that could arise. These could take the form of emergency repairs, sudden increases in property taxes, or unexpected hikes in insurance premiums.

First, consider setting aside emergency funds. This is money you keep on hand specifically for unforeseen expenses. It’s advisable to have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. This can act as a financial cushion, providing you the flexibility to handle any surprise costs without disrupting your budget.

Next, think about insurance considerations. Do you have the right coverage for your property, and are you prepared for any changes in your premiums? It’s vital to reassess your insurance needs regularly and adjust your budget accordingly.

Consider the table below to understand where these costs can come from:

Unexpected Expenses Potential Solutions
Emergency Repairs Emergency funds
Property Tax Hikes Regular budget reviews
Insurance Premium Increases Regular insurance reassessments

Setting a Realistic Home-Buying Budget

To set a realistic home-buying budget, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your income, expenses, and long-term financial goals. It’s not just about how much you can borrow; you also have to consider how much you can afford. This includes thinking about your lifestyle, your future plans, and your comfort level with a mortgage payment.

Here are some steps for setting a realistic budget:

  • Determine your monthly income
  • Track your monthly expenses
  • Identify your financial goals
  • Understand your debt-to-income ratio
  • Keep room for unexpected costs

This process is known as budget prioritization. It’s crucial not to overlook this step, as it forms the groundwork for your property selection.

Armed with a solid understanding of your finances, you’ll be in a position to make an informed choice about the type of property you can realistically afford. Remember, buying a home is a long-term commitment and can impact your financial health for years to come. So, take your time to get the numbers right and make a plan that you can stick to. This will set you up for success in your home buying journey.

Importance of Pre-approval Process

After setting your home buying budget, it’s smart to get pre-approved for a mortgage, a step that showcases its own importance in the home buying process. Why? Well, it’s all about the credit score implications and lender selection tips.

Pre-approval provides a clear picture of your financial health and whether you can afford a home. Lenders examine your credit history, income, and debt, then decide the mortgage amount they’re willing to lend. This process can potentially improve your credit score, as making timely payments on a new mortgage can showcase your financial responsibility.

But that’s not all. Pre-approval can also help you choose the right lender. Not all lenders offer the same interest rates or loan terms. By getting pre-approved, you can compare different lenders and choose the one that best fits your needs.

In other words, the pre-approval process is more than just a formality. It’s an invaluable tool in your home buying journey, helping you understand your financial standing and choose a lender that suits your unique situation. So, don’t skip this step; embrace it, and you’ll be one step closer to owning your dream home.

 Calculate Budget for Buying a Home

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Real Estate Agent When Buying a Home?

Hiring a real estate agent when buying a home offers you benefits like agent expertise and understanding the commission breakdown. They’ll guide you, negotiate prices, and ensure you’re making a sound investment.

How Can I Negotiate the Price of a Home Before Buying?

You can negotiate a home’s price by understanding the seller’s motivation and using inspection leverage. If there’s a rush to sell or issues are found during inspection, you’ve got room to negotiate a lower price.

What Is the Process of Applying for a Mortgage Loan?

To apply for a mortgage loan, you’ll first need a loan pre-approval. Then, you’ll choose from various mortgage types that suit your financial situation. You’ll submit your application and wait for approval or denial.

How Does My Credit Score Affect the Home Buying Process?

Your credit score greatly impacts your home buying process. A higher score can get you lower interest rates. If it’s low, you’ll need to focus on credit improvement to secure a better mortgage deal.

Can I buy a home even if I have existing debts or loans?

Yes, you can buy a home even with existing debts. Utilizing debt management strategies and loan consolidation benefits can help you manage your financial obligations while still allowing you to pursue homeownership.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s crucial to understand your finances, evaluate homeownership costs, prepare for unexpected expenses, and set a realistic home buying budget.

Don’t forget the importance of getting pre-approved. It’s not just about buying a house; it’s about making a wise financial decision.

Take your time, do your homework, and ensure your dream home doesn’t turn into a financial nightmare. Your future self will thank you.

For Realtors and Sellers: The Must-Keep Documents Post-Home Sale

The conclusion of a home sale marks the beginning of a new chapter for sellers and the realtors who guide them through this intricate process. While the exchange of keys might signify the end of transactions, the importance of retaining certain documents after the sale cannot be overstated. These documents not only serve as proof of your compliance with legal and financial obligations but also safeguard against future liabilities.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into why these documents are essential, which ones you should keep, and the potential consequences of neglecting this important step.

The Importance of Documents Post-Home Sale

Keeping thorough records post-home sale is not just about staying organized; it’s a crucial practice that can safeguard sellers from future legal issues, tax implications, and other potential disputes. These documents serve as a concrete history of the transaction, providing proof of your compliance with all legal and financial obligations.

What Documents to Keep After Selling a Home

Buyer’s Agent Agreement

This is a contract between the seller and the real estate agent or broker. It outlines the terms of the agent’s representation, including the commission rate and the duration of the agreement.
Retaining this agreement is crucial for referencing the terms of your arrangement, including any obligations or fees you agreed upon. It can also serve as evidence in any disputes over commission or representation.

The Must-Keep Documents Post-Home Sale

Purchase Agreement

The purchase agreement is the core legal document in any real estate transaction. It includes the agreed-upon sale price, closing date, and specific terms and conditions of the sale, such as contingencies that must be met before the sale can proceed.
This document is a binding contract that outlines the rights and duties of both buyer and seller. Keeping it ensures you have a record of what was agreed upon, which is invaluable in resolving any post-sale disagreements or legal issues.

Addenda, Amendments, or Riders

These are changes or additions to the original purchase agreement, often necessitated by issues discovered during the home inspection or changes in financing terms.

They are legally binding parts of the sale contract that can significantly affect the terms of the deal. Retaining these documents helps document the final terms of the sale and can protect against future claims that the contract was not fulfilled as agreed.

Seller Disclosures

Seller disclosures are documents where the seller is required by law to disclose known defects and malfunctions within the property. This can include issues with the home’s structure, any history of pest infestations, or problems with major systems.

These disclosures serve as your declaration of the property’s condition at the time of sale and can protect you if the buyer later claims they were unaware of certain defects. Retaining these documents helps prove you were transparent about the property’s state, mitigating potential legal disputes.

Home Inspection Report

This report is generated by a professional home inspector and details the condition of the property at the time of inspection. It includes information on the home’s structural integrity, systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC), and any repairs that may be needed.

It provides a detailed account of the property’s condition before the sale, which can be crucial if disputes arise about the property’s state or if there were undisclosed defects.

Keep your Home Inspection Report

Closing Disclosure

The Closing Disclosure is a detailed financial summary of the real estate transaction, provided to both buyer and seller. It outlines the final sale price, loan information, closing costs, and other financial details.

This document is essential for tax purposes, as it details the financial aspects of your transaction. It’s also necessary for accurately reporting the sale on your tax returns and can be useful for addressing any post-closing financial queries.

Title Insurance Policy

Title insurance protects the buyer (and lender) from future claims against the property’s title. It ensures that the title to the property is free from disputes, liens, or other legal encumbrances.

While the policy primarily benefits the buyer, sellers should retain a copy to confirm that title insurance was provided and to document that they delivered a clear title at closing. It can also be useful in the event of future claims against the property’s title.

Property Deed

The property deed is the legal document that transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. It contains a description of the property and the names of the old and new owners.

Keeping a copy of the deed proves you have transferred ownership and fulfilled your contractual obligations. It’s a crucial document for resolving any future questions about the property’s ownership during your period of ownership.

FAQ

Q: How long should I keep these documents?

A: It’s advisable to keep these documents for at least seven years due to IRS auditing practices. However, some documents, like the property deed and title insurance policy, should be kept indefinitely as they have lasting legal significance.

Q: Can I store these documents digitally?

A: Yes, digital copies are acceptable and can be more convenient and secure. Ensure they are backed up in multiple locations and protected with strong security measures.

Q: Who can help if I have questions about these documents later?

A: Real estate attorneys, tax professionals, or the real estate agent who facilitated your home sale are excellent resources for any queries regarding post-sale documentation.

2 ways to quickly smarten up your home and save money

Across the country, utility bills have skyrocketed. The news is littered with horror stories, such as the couple in Ohio who are looking at a power bill of more than $850.

The rise in heating and cooling costs alone is happening so fast that it’s impossible to determine how much the average American can expect to pay for energy through 2023.

There are, thankfully, methods you can use to pare down those utility bills and they’re all offered via technology.

1. Today’s thermostats are smart, and they offer savings on heating and cooling bills

“A smart thermostat is a thermostat that can be controlled with a phone, tablet, smart speaker, or another internet-connected device, according to Erika Rawes at digitaltrends.com. Unlike traditional thermostats, the digital variety can ‘learn’ various temperature settings and when you want them to kick in.

According to a recent white paper produced by the folks who manufacture the Nest Learning Thermostat, you’ll save, on average, 10% to 12% on your heating bills and about 15% when you use your central air conditioner.

They are more stylish than the traditional thermostat as well.

2. Light up on the cheap

Lighting accounts for around 15% of an average home’s electricity use, claim the experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). To whittle that down to a more manageable level, switch your incandescent bulbs to LED smart bulbs, that are compatible with your  smart hub or voice assistant.

Once they’re set up, you’ll be able to control your lights from the comfort of your bed and even from the beach during that tropical vacay you’re dreaming of.

“Energy costs are the highest in 15 years” according to several sources and verified by Politifact.com. Using technology is an easy solution to help you save on these costs.

 

How to Fix a Stuck Garbage Disposal: A Step-by-Step Guide

The garbage disposal is the workhorse of the kitchen. Yet, it’s a device that we assume will always be at our ‘disposal’ at the flip of a switch.

Sadly, that isn’t always the case. I think most of us have, at one time or another, flipped that switch and heard the dreaded humming sound.

How a garbage disposal works 

Before diving into the troubleshooting and fixing process, it’s important to understand the basic functionality of a garbage disposal.

These units are installed under your kitchen sink and are designed to shred food waste into small particles that can safely pass through your plumbing. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how they work:

  • When you turn on the disposal by flipping a switch, it activates an electric motor.
  • The motor rotates a grinding chamber containing impellers or blades. These blades shred and break down food waste into smaller pieces.
  • Water from your faucet is used to wash the shredded particles down the drain, ensuring they are carried away through the plumbing.
  • The ground-up food waste is carried away to the sewage system or septic tank, depending on your home’s setup.

What causes a jammed garbage disposal?

Several factors can lead to a jammed garbage disposal:

  • Foreign Objects: The most common cause of jams is foreign objects, such as utensils, small bones, or non-food items, accidentally falling into the disposal.
  • Overloading: Putting too much food waste into the disposal at once can overwhelm it and lead to jamming.
  • Improper Use: Running the disposal without enough water or not letting it run long enough after grinding can cause clogs. Not understanding what can and cannot be put into the disposal is also a common cause of jams.
  • Dull Blades: Over time, the blades in your disposal can become dull, making it less effective at grinding food waste.

Safety considerations before working on the disposal

Before attempting to fix a stuck garbage disposal, ensure your safety.

Turn off the Power: Always disconnect the power to the disposal to prevent accidental starts. Locate the circuit breaker or power switch for the disposal and turn it off.

Cut the Power Cord: If your disposal doesn’t have a dedicated switch or breaker, you may want to unplug it. If it’s hardwired, consult an electrician.

Use Protective Gear: Wear gloves and eye protection to safeguard against any potential debris or sharp objects.

Never Reach In: Avoid putting your hand into the disposal, even when it’s disconnected. Instead, use tools for retrieval.

Tools needed to get the job done

To fix a jammed garbage disposal, you’ll need a few essential tools:

Hex Wrench (Allen Wrench): Most disposals come with a hex wrench for manually turning the disposal’s flywheel to free obstructions. If you’ve misplaced yours, use a ¼-inch Allen wrench.

Needle Nose Pliers: Long-nose pliers are useful for extracting objects that may be causing the jam. You can also use kitchen tongs.

Bucket: To catch any water or debris that may lead while working on the disposal.

Flashlight: This helps you see inside the disposal for a better view of the problem.

Let’s get to it: Fixing a a stuck garbage disposal

Follow these steps to troubleshoot and fix a jammed garbage disposal:

Turn Off the Power: Ensure the disposal is completely disconnected from the power source.

Inspect the Jam: Use a flashlight to look inside the disposal and identify the cause of the jam. If you see any foreign objects, carefully use tongs or kitchen pliers to remove them.

Use the Hex Wrench: There is an area on the bottom of the disposal where you can insert the hex wrench. Yes, you will need to lay down under the sink to see it. Manually turn the flywheel back and forth to free any obstructions. This may require some effort, so be patient.

Reset the Disposal: After clearing the jam, press the reset button, typically located on the bottom or side of the disposal. This will reset the safety mechanism.

Turn the Power Back On: Reconnect the power and test the disposal with a small amount of food waste. Ensure it’s running smoothly before using it for larger loads.

Avoiding future jams and keeping your disposal clean 

Preventing future jams and maintaining a clean garbage disposal is crucial for its longevity and efficiency. Here’s how to do it:

Always use cold water when using the disposal: “Hot water may cause fats to congeal. When congealed, fats and oils can stick to the blades of your disposal and cause the system to work harder than necessary, impacting the motor,” cautions the pros with Smith & Keene.

Snake the drain: Smith & Keene pros also suggest snaking the drain every two years. Snakes are inexpensive at the big home improvement stores.

Be mindful of what you put in the disposal: Avoid putting hard or fibrous items like bones, fruit pits, potato and apple peels, and corn husks into the disposal. Avoid pouring grease down the drain and never throw rice, pasta or bread into the unit.

Regular Cleaning: Clean your disposal every two weeks to prevent odors and buildup. Pour ice cubes into the disposal and run it with cold water for a few seconds. This helps clean the blades and dislodges debris.

Use a degreaser: Occasionally use a degreaser to help keep down the amount of fat that can build up and cause even more problems.

Getting rid of what’s jamming a garbage disposer is a super easy DIY project. Remember to follow the safety precautions and use the right tools and your disposal should run like a champ!

 

 

DIY: Clean out that dryer vent

If you’ve ever seen those photos of the nastiness that comes out of a dryer vent, and you love DIY projects, you’ll love knowing that it’s not that difficult of a job.

You don’t have to hire a vent cleaning company because it’s a simple (and satisfying) DIY project.

You’ll need some tools, but other than that, the job is a snap.

Why clean it?

All that stuff in the vent is a safety hazard. Between “… 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average …” of 13,820 home fires involving clothes dryers, according to Marty Ahrens with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

“One-third (32 percent) of dryer fires were caused by a failure to clean. This appears to be mainly lint build-up,” Ahrens concludes.

Aside from the safety issue, all that rubbish in the vent causes the dryer to work harder and, thus, less effectively, wasting energy.

Gather your tools and get to work

You will need a dryer vent cleaning brush and a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment.

  • Disconnect the dryer from the power supply or, for a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply.
  • Drag the dryer away from the wall to give yourself enough room to get behind it.
  • Disconnect the duct connected to the back of the dryer.
  • Insert a vent cleaning brush (available at Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com) into the opening at the back of the dryer and “… gently twist it around, pulling out any lint,” suggests Jenny McFarlane and Sarah Warwick at RealHomes.com.
  • By this point, you should have a nasty pile of lint on the floor which you can then vacuum up.

Next, move on to the vent duct (the part that connects to the wall).

  • Disconnect the duct from the wall.
  • Use your hands to remove the lint.
  • Use the vacuum with the crevice attachment to carefully clean inside the vent.

There may be some lint stuck in the dryer vent tubing. Insert the brush into the tubing and push it forward and pull backward. Repeat this several times, at both ends of the tubing,

Don’t neglect the exterior vent

Do you know where your dryer’s exterior vent is? “For most dryer models, you can’t run the exhaust duct more than 25 feet from the dryer to the exhaust port,” according to the experts at MrAppliance.com.

They go on to suggest that if you can’t find it nearby, “… check the basement wall or the attic/roof.”

  • Remove the vent cover
  • Use the brush to loosen the lint inside the duct, and the vacuum to remove it.
  • Replace the cover and you’re finished!

Before you call it a day and a job well-done, check behind the dryer to ensure you’ve cleaned up all the lint off the floor. Otherwise, a fire hazard still exists.

Test your handiwork

  • Reconnect the dryer to the power outlet or turn the gas back on.
  • Push the dryer back into place.
  • Run the dryer for about 15 minutes on the air cycle (often called the “fluff” cycle) to ensure everything is working as it should.

 

 

It’s storm season: Protect yourself and your home from lightning strikes

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of storm season and the time when electrical storms are most likely to occur. “About 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year,” according to the National Weather Service.

These lightning strikes resulted in 51 fatalities, on average. This is why they call lightning “The Underrated Killer.”

It’s time to take it seriously and learn what to do, from the experts, during a thunderstorm.

Protect electronics

With the advances in technology, we’ve come a long way from the days of looking at the sky to determine if a storm is coming. Today, we often learn days ahead of a coming hurricane or tropical storm.

As it looms closer, however, we have work to do. First, if you lack a whole-home surge protector, buy one now.

Otherwise, unplug your electronics, such as televisions, computers, routers, etc. Why?

“… an average [lightning] stroke carries about 30 million volts,” according to the experts at StrikeCheck. Our electronics are accustomed to receiving 120 or 240 volts.

This excess voltage, when it hits a tree, power line or other structure, then travels to nearby homes (plural, if they are connected).

Back to that surge protector we mentioned earlier. There are two types, according to the editors at Dell.com. The most common device contains a metal oxide varistor (MOV) which absorbs all that overflow of voltage and redirects it to the ground.

The second type of surge protector contains a gas discharge arrestor (GDR), which is a bit harder to describe. Check out the description at Dell.com. Both, by the way, work just as effectively.

And, no, that power strip is not a surge protector. You’ll need one surge protector for each device you are going to protect.

When shopping for surge protectors, “… check the joule rating, which tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails … The higher the rating, the better,” according to the editors at Progressive.com.

They go on to caution that we should “Avoid joule ratings under 1,000.”

OK, so there was no strike, but you lost power

This is another situation you should get out in front of. Do you know anything about your home’s circuit breakers? Do you know where they are located, for instance? What it looks like when a breaker is tripped?

The first step is to locate the box, which is typically on an exterior wall, near the garage, but not always.

Open the box. Are the breakers labeled as to which breaker controls which circuit? You may see a numbered list on the interior of the box’s door. The number typically refers to the circuit breaker (they are numbered, if you look closely) and which circuit it controls is typically written next to the number.

If the power goes out during an electric storm, you will need this information to determine if a circuit breaker was tripped or if the problem is more extensive, such as at the substation, with the transformers or because of downed power lines.

You’ll find a walkthrough of how to reset the circuit breakers in this YouTube video.

Do you need backup power?

Backup generators have been all the rage in the past few years and, if there is someone who uses medical equipment in the home, a generator may be a lifesaver during an outage.

At the very least, a generator will run essential appliances, such as the refrigerator. “A generator with 2000 watts of power will be sufficient to operate the freezer and refrigerator without any difficulties,” according to Erik Watson at PowerAll.

When lightning strikes your house

“It may start a fire. In some cases, the fire may start in areas that aren’t immediately obvious, such as in your attic insulation,” according to the pros at PennyElectric.com.

They go on to say that, to avoid being electrocuted, you should not use a landline phone during an electrical storm. Other ways to protect yourself include:

  • Avoid using a desktop computer (you unplugged it, right?). Use a tablet or laptop instead.
  • Avoid bathing (shower or bath) or swimming in a pool during an electrical storm.
  • Stay away from any windows that have metal frames.

It may be tempting to leave the home, but it’s not wise unless you are in danger, such as a fire or even if you smell smoke. “You are safer in your house in the center of a room than outdoors,” say the folks at Penny Electric.

Do call the fire department as soon as possible if lightning strikes your home. They will come out and look for fire in areas of the home not visible to you.

While severe electrical storms can occur any month of the year “September is the month during which most storms strike the U.S.,” according to research from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

Stay safe this storm season!

 

 

Get Your Wood-burning Fireplace Ready for Fall

While slogging through a snowy commute, is there anything more comforting than envisioning your cozy home, complete with a crackling fire?

Now, imagine that picture also includes a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of your favorite wine. It’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

There are just a few things you need to do to make that dream a safe winter reality.

Before You Call a Chimney Sweep

Chimney sweeps handle one of the dirtiest, most unpleasant home maintenance tasks. But, (usually) they only work with fireplaces that don’t need other maintenance or repairs. You don’t want to call out a chimney sweep if what you really need is a mason … or pest control.

Before calling a sweep, check for:

  • Cracks in your fireplace, or on the exterior of your chimney. You’ll need a powerful flashlight and possibly a ladder. If you notice any cracking, call a licensed mason as fireplaces need special materials. If you suspect that faulty flashing is causing leaks, call a roofer.
  • Branches hanging over your chimney. These become dangerous if a spark flies out the top. It’s unlikely that your fireplace has a steel cap. Even then, branches can restrict the chimney draft causing problems inside.
  • Animal nests inside the chimney. If critters have moved into your chimney, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them arranging their nest. But you should still take a look from both sides (inside the fireplace and down the chimney). If you spot the tell-tale signs of birds or animals, you may need to call animal control.

Get the chimney cleaned

Over time, creosote, a flammable substance, can accumulate inside the chimney, increasing the risk of a chimney fire.

Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean out any creosote and ensure that your chimney is clear of debris and obstructions.

Most experts recommend a professional cleaning of your chimney about once a year (or every 80 fires). The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers advice on how to hire a chimney sweep. Also, be sure to check reviews on Yelp.com and similar review sites.

Clean the firebox

The firebox is the area where the fire burns. A clean firebox not only improves the aesthetics but also provides a better surface for the wood to burn efficiently.

Remove the grate and scoop out the burnt wood chunks, ash and other debris. Use a small hand broom to sweep down the walls and floor of the firebox.

Finally, use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to suck up any remnants that remain.

Don’t light that fire yet!

Take a tour of your home to test your smoke detectors and, if you have them, carbon monoxide detectors.

“You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper method of testing your smoke detector and fire alarm,” cautions the editors at AllState.com. Use Google to search for the model number, which is listed on the alarms.

Now all you need to do is stock up on firewood. And, during the winter, don’t forget to clean out the ashes about once a week, or whenever they’re about an inch thick.

If you’re up for it, why not store those ashes in a bucket until summer? They make a delicious treat for flower and vegetable beds, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Avoid these 7 common mistakes when hiring an exterior home painter

When it comes to giving your home a fresh new look, few things can make a bigger impact than a fresh coat of paint on the exterior. Hiring a professional exterior home painter can save you time, avoid the hassle of doing it yourself and give you peace of mind that the job was done right (or a warranty in case it wasn’t!).

However, not all painters are created equal, and making the wrong choice can lead to costly mistakes and disappointment. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when hiring an exterior home painter to ensure a successful painting project and a beautiful, long-lasting finish.

Mistake #1: Not researching the painter’s reputation

One of the most critical steps in hiring an exterior home painter is to research their reputation. Don’t simply hire the first painter you come across. Take the time to read reviews, ask for references from friends or neighbors, and check their online presence.

Look for a painter with a track record of positive customer experiences and a portfolio showcasing their past projects.

A reputable painter should be fully insured and licensed, giving you peace of mind in case of any unforeseen accidents during the job.

Mistake #2: Choosing the cheapest option

We all love to save money, but going for the cheapest painting contractor is often a recipe for disaster. Low-cost painters may cut corners on materials, use inexperienced labor, or lack the necessary insurance.

While it’s essential to find a reasonably priced painter, prioritize quality and reputation over a discounted price tag. Remember, a quality paint job can enhance your home’s curb appeal and protect it from the elements for years to come.

Mistake #3: Not getting multiple quotes

Getting quotes from multiple painters will help you gauge the average cost of the project and identify any potential red flags. Each painter may have different techniques, timelines, and material choices, so comparing quotes will give you a better understanding of what to expect.

Aim for at least three quotes from different painters, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about their process and recommendations for your home.

Mistake #4: Ignoring the contract details

A written contract is a crucial safeguard when hiring an exterior home painter. It should outline all the essential details, such as the scope of work, timeline, paint colors, specific materials to be used, and payment terms.

Be cautious of any painter who hesitates to provide a written contract or avoids discussing important details. Review the contract thoroughly before signing and seek clarification on any unclear points.

Mistake #5: Paying the painter up-front

Some painters may require a down payment. If the amount they are asking seems high, either try to negotiate or don’t hire the painter.

Never pay for the entire job up-front.

Mistake #6: Not asking what type of paint will be used

The type and quality of paint used can significantly impact the longevity and appearance of the paint job. Ask for the brand and type of paint that will be used on your home. Get that information in writing.

Make sure the pain that he or she will use is high-quality exterior paint that is appropriate for your specific climate and conditions.

Cheaper paints may save you money upfront, but they are more likely to fade, crack, or peel over time. A reputable painter will be knowledgeable about different paint options and recommend the best one for your home.

Mistake #7: Not asking about warranties or guarantees

A professional exterior home painter who stands behind their work will often provide warranties or guarantees on their services.

Inquire about the painter’s warranty policy and what it covers. A reliable painter will be willing to fix any issues that arise due to their workmanship or the quality of the paint used.

Oh, and don’t forget to obtain a copy of the warranty for your records.

The national average cost of an exterior home painting job is $3,000, according to Brionna Farney and Lowe Saddler at Forbes.com.

For many, that’s a huge amount of money, making hiring an exterior home painter a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Do your research, get multiple quotes, prioritize quality over cost, and make sure to have a detailed contract in place.

By paying attention to these essential factors, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your home’s exterior and boosting its curb appeal for years to come.