7 Maintenance Skills all Homeowners Should Know

7 Maintenance Skills all Homeowners Should Know

Once you make the leap into homeownership there are no landlords or building superintendents to rely on for help. While we wish homeownership came with an instruction manual, it’s likely you will have to learn through hands on experience. We can’t possibly know how to do everything when it comes to home maintenance skills, but it’s helpful to know how to do minor repairs around your home. Here are a few basic home maintenance skills every homeowner should master.

Changing Your HVAC Filter

It’s important to schedule a maintenance checkup for your HVAC system every spring and fall. But in the meantime, filters need to be checked once a month. When they’re dirty, change them. Dirty filters shorten the lifespan of your system. Fortunately, it’s easy to do. First, check your owner’s manual for the right part number in order to buy a new filter. Then turn off your HVAC system while you work, remove the old filter, and slide the new one in place.

Resetting the Circuit Breaker

If your house was built after 1960, your electrical panel is likely filled with circuit breakers, which supply power to appliances and lighting in every room. When a circuit becomes overloaded, the designated breaker trips, shutting off juice to that area. When this happens, you’ll need to reset the breaker. Just open the panel cover and look for the breaker that’s sitting in the off position; then push it to on. If you can’t find the errant breaker, you’ll have to turn each breaker off, then on again.

Repairing Drywall

No wall stays perfect forever. Nails pop, and furniture or broom handles cause dents, making your once-flawless walls look all banged up. Learning how to repair drywall can save a homeowner time and potentially a fair amount of money. Luckily, it’s easy to repair drywall yourself; all you need is some putty and a spackling knife!

Cleaning the Gutters

When gutters get clogged, water can be trapped on the board behind the gutter and even be forced under your roof shingles, causing damage. So clean them twice a year in spring and fall. Start near a downspout by removing large debris, and then use a hose to flush a stream of water through the downspout to clear out fine grit. If your downspout is blocked, it may need to be removed and cleaned out; if it leads to an underground pipe that’s blocked, that pipe can usually be cleaned out with a handheld snake.

Turning Off the Water Supply

If you ever come home to a flooded floor, you need to be able to shut off the water to the whole house ASAP, especially if the source of the water leak is unclear. That’s why every homeowner should know where their main shutoff valve is. Look near the perimeter of the house at ground level nearest your water meter. The shutoff valve might be in a basement, crawlspace, closet or garage. In an emergency, you can also shut off your water from the outside water meter, but the valve might require special tools to turn.

Dealing with a Flooded Basement

If you come home to standing water in your basement, time is of the essence. You have 48 hours to get the water out and get it dry. After two days, mold will start to grow, and once that starts you have to rip everything out. Call your insurance agent right away and take pictures; then get to work pumping out the water and removing all furniture to be dried off. Important: make sure the power is off if there’s standing water! As long as the water is below boot level, you can safely shut off the power from a basement panel if you wear rubber boots and gloves and use a wooden stick or hammer handle to trip the main power switch.

Unclogging a Drain

Harsh, pricey chemicals shouldn’t be your first option when a sink drain gets clogged — better to keep a small plunger and a drain snake on hand to work out the problem mechanically. After you’ve removed the primary clog, clean out smelly gunk by putting a cup of baking soda in the drain followed by four cups of boiling water; then end with a cup of vinegar. The vigorous chemical reaction will jar any remaining debris loose and leave the drain smelling fresh.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Kentwood Marketing

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Remodel then Re-list in Luxury Real Estate: Yay or Nay?

Remodel then Re-list in Luxury Real Estate: Yay or Nay?

For luxury homebuyers, the desire to purchase a home requiring renovations is becoming a thing of the past. Today’s affluent real estate shoppers are looking for turnkey, move-in ready properties with all of the amenities and none of the extra work.

And it looks like that’s not changing any time soon. According to a forecast from Persistence Market Research, the move-in ready luxury home market is expected to hit $920 billion by the end of 2025. That’s up from $550 billion just two years ago.

As an agent serving these ever-evolving high-end clients, it begs the question: should your affluent sellers remodel before listing their properties? Would it make their homes more marketable? More valuable? More appealing?

Here are the pros and cons The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing recommends you consider before advising sellers to implement renovations.

Advantages of renovating before listing:

  •     It typically enables a faster sales time.
  •     It makes for better listing photos.
  •     It can improve the marketability of a property.
  •     It allows you to maximize your asking price — and justify it.
  •     It gives your sellers more leverage in negotiations.

If your clients are looking to move fast (particularly relocation clients who are on tight timelines), this can be a big deal, but generally, there are very few people who truly want to sit and wait for their home to sell!

On top of this, pre-listing renovations can also increase the value of the property and justify a higher asking price. Throw in that today’s buyers simply prefer more move-in ready homes, and now you’ve got a property that doesn’t just command higher offers, but more buyer interest, too. It also means faster profits and faster commissions, so it’s a win-win all around.

The Institute’s program is dedicated to providing strategies to its members on ways that are proven to effectively help market and sell a property faster. Learn some amazing tips and tricks during our online training courses.

Disadvantages of renovating before listing:

  •     It could delay the listing and marketing of the property.
  •     The renovations may be a nuisance to the homeowner.
  •     It might require significant up-front cash.
  •     The renovations might pose a safety hazard.
  •     It may be difficult to choose the right projects, contractors, and vendors.

On the downside, renovations can be time-consuming and tedious. Though renovations might speed up a sale once they’re complete, it takes time to get there. If there are several contractors to hire, endless materials needed and multiple projects on the agenda, the renovations could actually delay the marketing of the property and, eventually, its sale and transfer, too.

Finally, renovating can be a hassle. If the homeowner is still living on the property, they might tire of the noise, foot traffic, and other nuisances that come with a remodel. The renovations could disrupt sleep, interrupt work schedules, or even pose a safety hazard for those living in the home. For these reasons, many sellers may shy away from this added work.

To Remodel or Not to Remodel

Should your client remodel before listing their home? There’s no hard-and-fast answer, but it could make the property more marketable and the sale more lucrative (for both of you.) Still, renovations aren’t without their drawbacks. Make sure your client is well aware of the nuisances that come with home remodeling and prepare them for the time and expense it may take to complete the renovations properly.

You should also caution your sellers that not all remodeling projects are created equal. Help them choose their renovations wisely by using resources like Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report and Zillow’s top home features, as well as your own knowledge of luxury real estate trends and best practices. Make sure they select projects that improve not only the aesthetics and marketability of the home but also the property’s value given the current market.

The most important tip we can offer is to help your sellers find the right vendors to handle their chosen renovations. Connect them with the contractors, architects, and designers who can execute their projects efficiently, successfully, and with the highest quality and attention to detail.  By taking this pressure off their shoulders and making the process simpler you will actually generate a long-lasting relationship that will be rewarded by long-term benefits such as referrals and additional business.

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Luxury Portfolio: Curated Furniture from Around the World

Luxury Portfolio: Curated Furniture from Around the World

The Global Nomad

As we all know, there is nothing quite like travel as a way to collect new experiences. Often, we seek to bring a bit of our adventures home, whether by learning to make new cuisine or decorating our homes with treasures from our travels. While some trinkets are small, increasingly some globetrotting voyagers are thinking bigger. So big in fact, it is no longer uncommon for the individual traveler to arrange to have furniture, decor and other found treasures, shipped home as design is a universal language, but one that is colored by heritage and place. Following are just a few select designers we’re currently loving and that are worthy of shipping home, wherever you live.

Roche Bobois

France
The famed French furniture brand, Roche Bobois, has multiple stores in major cities. Its glamorous cosmopolitan style is known throughout the world and collaborations with designers such as Marcel Wanders keep the brand on the cutting edge. roche-bobois.com


Oluce

Italy
Based in Milan, Italy, Oluce was founded in 1945 and was one of the leaders in the rise of modernism and its application to lighting. The minimal yet fluid styles work well with both classic and contemporary decor, evidenced by the fact that models created decades ago such as the Atollo Arte lamp are still relevant today. oluce.com


Pinda Furniture

South Africa
South African designer Siyanda Mbele’s creations are both utilitarian and distinctive, bringing together elements from Zulu symbolism, Ndebele patterns, and his years of training in interior design. His inspired tables and desks have earned a global following, especially in Europe.

ziora.co/vendor/pinda-furniture/


Differniture

India
Designer Aakriti Kumar brings together the sculptural integrity of an artistic tradition with a sensitive eye toward using reclaimed and salvaged materials and sustainable manufacturing principles in her designs. Wood pieces are finished using nontoxic oils and waxes and each piece exposes the natural story the wood has to tell. Her furnishings often have a playful note as well, such as the Dot pieces which use carved wood buttons to mimic the look of upholstery. differniture.com


Lanzavecchia + Wai

Italy & Singapore
Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai are designers, researchers and craftspeople. Together they are a prolific design force, collaborating on pieces such as the pleasingly rounded Pebble desk/vanity for Living Divani and the intricately detailed Clockwork sideboard for Exto. Each project combines a sense of joyous playfulness with a strict attention to the smallest of details. The designs themselves become stories, each one evoking a particular mood and feeling. lanzavecchia-wai.com


To view the full article, take a look at the feature in Luxury Portfolio Magazine here.

 

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Existing-home sales rebounded in May

Existing-home sales rebounded in May

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2019) – Existing-home sales rebounded in May, recording an increase in sales for the first time in two months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major U.S. regions saw a growth in sales, with the Northeast experiencing the biggest surge last month.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 2.5% from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.34 million in May. Total sales, however, are down 1.1% from a year ago (5.40 million in May 2018).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the 2.5% jump shows that consumers are eager to take advantage of the favorable conditions. “The purchasing power to buy a home has been bolstered by falling mortgage rates, and buyers are responding.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in May was $277,700, up 4.8% from May 2018 ($265,100). May’s price increase marks the 87th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of May increased to 1.92 million, up from 1.83 million existing homes available for sale in April and a 2.7% increase from 1.87 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, up from both the 4.2 month supply in April and from 4.2 months in May 2018.

Though inventory is up, the months’ supply numbers remain near historic lows, which has a direct effect on price, according to Yun. “Solid demand along with inadequate inventory of affordable homes have pushed the median home price to a new record high,” he said.

Properties remained on the market for an average of 26 days in May, up from 24 days in April and equal to the 26 days in May of 2018. Fifty-three percent of homes sold in May were on the market for less than a month.

Given that housing and properties have been selling so quickly, Yun continues his call for new construction. “More new homes need to be built,” he said. “Otherwise, we risk worsening the housing shortage, and an increasingly number of middle-class families will be unable to achieve homeownership.”

Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in May were Rochester, N.Y.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lafayette-West Lafayette, Ind.; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.; and Midland, Texas.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.07% in May, down from 4.14% in April. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.

“The month of May ushered in the home sales upswing that we had been expecting,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. “Sales are strengthening in all regions while we see price appreciation for recent buyers.”

First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in May, unchanged from the 32% the month prior and up from the 31% recorded in May 2018. NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers — released in late 20184 — revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.

All-cash sales accounted for 19% of transactions in May, down from April and a year ago (20% and 21%, respectively). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13% of homes in May, down from 16% in April and from 14% a year ago.

Distressed sales5 — foreclosures and short sales — represented 2% of sales in May, down from 3% in April and from 3% in May 2018. Less than 1% of May 2019 sales were short sales.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million in May, up from 4.63 million in April and down 0.8% from 4.79 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $280,200 in April, up 4.6% from May 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units in May, up 1.7% from the prior month and down 3.3% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $257,100 in May, which is up 5.4% from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

May existing-home sale numbers in the Northeast increased 4.7% to an annual rate of 670,000, about equal to a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $304,100, up 6.6% from May 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 3.4% to an annual rate of 1.22 million, which is 3.9% below May 2018 levels. The median price in the Midwest was $220,500, an increase of 5.6% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South grew 1.8% to an annual rate of 2.32 million in May, up 1.3% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $241,400, up 3.6% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West grew 1.8% to an annual rate of 1.13 million in May, 3.4% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $409,100, up 4.1% from May 2018.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample — about 40% of multiple listing service data each month — and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.

3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

4Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.

5Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.

NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for May is scheduled for release on June 27, and Existing-Home Sales for June will be released July 23; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

HOME Survey: More Say Now Is a Good Time to Sell a Home

HOME Survey: More Say Now Is a Good Time to Sell a Home

WASHINGTON (June 19, 2019) – The latest consumer findings from a National Association of Realtors® survey reveal that many more Americans believe that now is a good time to sell a home.

The second quarter of 2019 saw a jump in optimism in selling, as 46% strongly held that belief, up from 37% in the first quarter.

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun notes that home prices have increased only moderately and says that is a contributing factor as to why the overwhelming majority feel that now is a good time to sell. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand that the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over.”

An increased number of Americans also think that now is a good time to buy a home, and of those respondents, 38% answered that they strongly believe that notion, and 27% said they moderately believe the present is a good time to buy. Thirty-five percent disagreed, stating that now is not a good time to make a home purchase, which is unchanged from 2019’s first quarter.

NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey1 also took a look at consumer attitudes regarding the nation’s economy. Fifty-five percent of those polled said that the economy is improving; that is up from 53% in the previous quarter. Second quarter optimism was greatest among those who earn $100,000 or more and those who reside in rural areas. Fifty-three percent of Gen Xers said they believe the economy is improving, which is also up from 50% last quarter.

Yun said Gen Xers might have more financial pressures compared to other age groups. “Many in the Generation X population find themselves needing to purchase multi-generational homes. Also, they may be feeling financial stress from caring for aging parents and children of all ages. Nonetheless, they have an optimistic outlook about the future,” he said.

To that point, 63% of those polled said they believe home prices have increased within their communities in the last 12 months, a slight jump from the first quarter’s 61%.

Respondents were also asked to share their thoughts on future home prices in their neighborhoods. Forty-three percent said they believe prices will remain the same in their communities over the next six months, a figure which is consistent with the previous quarter. Forty-nine percent said they expect to see a price increase in their communities over the coming six months.

Among those surveyed who do not currently own a home, 27% said they believe it would be very difficult to qualify for a mortgage due to their financial state; 30% said it would be somewhat difficult to qualify.

Yun said that mortgage affordability was promising over the second quarter, and he predicts this trend will continue. “Lower mortgage rates, along with job and wage growth, will lead to an increase in sales and thereby contribute positively to economic growth in the upcoming quarters.”

About NAR’s HOME Survey

From April through June, a sample of U.S. households was surveyed via a random-digit-dial, including a mix of cell phones and landlines. The survey was conducted by an established survey research firm, TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence. Each month approximately 900 qualified households responded to the survey. The data was compiled for this report representing a total of 2,708 household responses.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

1 NAR’s Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey tracks topical real estate trends, including current renters and homeowners’ views and aspirations regarding homeownership, whether or not it’s a good time to buy or sell a home, and expectations and experiences in the mortgage market. New questions are added to the survey each quarter to reflect timely topics impacting real estate. HOME survey data is collected on a monthly basis and will be reported each quarter. New questions will be added to the survey each quarter to reflect timely topics impacting the real estate marketplace.

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5 Exterior Upgrades to Add Value to Your Home

5 Exterior Upgrades to Add Value to Your Home

Exterior upgrades not only enhance the look of your property but can also offer recreational benefits. Not every renovation produces a return on investment. And some upgrades can even make your home less attractive to buyers. So, when considering upgrades to your home, it’s important to choose the ones that will add value to your property. These five upgrades are a few of the best ways to upgrade the exterior of your home while also getting the highest return on your investment.

Replace the Garage Door

You may think your current garage doors are good enough. But upgrading them will not only boost your curb appeal, it will also add some major value to your home. While replacing your garage door can get a bit pricey, you are likely to recoup almost 98% of what you spent. When prospective buyers pull up, your home will already be making a great impression. As an added perk, a new garage door can help bolster your home security.

Replace the Front Door

An impressive entryway sets the tone for the rest of the house. So, while you’re making cosmetic changes to the front of your house, consider upgrading your front door. Replace your drab door with something that draws your guests in and adds character. A new door can also help keep energy costs down and ensure safety. Swapping out your door can cost upwards of $2,000, but chances are you will make around 75% of that back.

Build an Outdoor Fire Pit

Outdoor fire pits are ranked third as the most popular outdoor living feature. While you might not be able to enjoy them year-round, they consistently poll well in surveys with buyers and homeowners. They are an addition that will make any backyard desirable. Not only will you create delightful memories, but you will also realize a 67% return on your investment. Fire pits can be very inexpensive. A simple transportable pit can start around a couple hundred dollars. While installing a fire pit starts around $1,500 and increases exponentially from there depending on design.

Refresh Your Landscape

Having luscious landscaping exponentially increases the chance of selling your home. This is because buyers perceive homes with landscaped yards, gardens with flowering plants, and trees to have higher value compared to homes with just a front lawn. Refreshing your landscaping can add up to 10% on your home’s value and instantly upgrade your curb appeal.

A simple upgrade you can do is adding flowering shrubs to your garden or along a pathway. Opt for native or drought-tolerant plants that are fairly low maintenance. Adding trees near windows will bring your home shade and keep things a little cooler in the summer. Installing a flagstone pathway or incorporating a few large stone planters can further enhance the outdoor appeal.

Add an Outdoor Living Space

An outdoor living space is another project that expands your home and enhances your outside living area while also increasing the value of your home. During the summer, your front porch and backyard become the place to be when entertaining friends and family. Keep our outdoor living spaces inviting with well-kept lawn furniture, fresh cushions in bright colors, and clean landscaping. You may even consider installing an outdoor kitchen. While this may not be on many home buyer’s must-have list, it could be the feature that seals the deal.

 

Compiled by Mara Calomino, Kentwood Real Estate

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