How to Avoid Problems With Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

By Susanne Dwyer

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau’s Howard Schwartz, who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check bbb.org to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a “today only” special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule, and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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Planning Your Spring ‘To Do’ List? Don’t Forget to Go Outside!

By Susanne Dwyer

I know it’s warm and cozy doing your spring cleaning inside, but remember that spring cleaning plans should include a thorough walk around outside, as well.

The Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC (MMA) in Minneapolis tells homeowners that an early inspection and maintenance of their property is extremely important to prevent risk. To assist in that, MMA has compiled a checklist of things to inspect each year:

Review the roof. The company suggests starting by inspecting your roof for broken or missing shingles and interior rafters for water stains. Most water stains will be found around or below an inadequately flashed chimney, skylight and other openings.

Gut the gutters. MMA says gutters are able to perform when kept clean, so remove dirt and debris from all gutters and downspouts.

Look at lights. Lighting maintenance includes inspecting street lights, outdoor light fixtures, and indoor common-area lighting to promote safety and security. Make sure lights are clean and void of any dust, dirt or salt, which can result in lost energy and money. If lights are burnt out, think about replacing them with high efficiency CFL or LED bulbs.

Don’t miss the deck. When inspecting a deck or porch, look for peeling, splintering or rotting boards, and whether the wood is unprotected. If left unprotected, wood will soak up moisture and could lead to very serious damage. If a deck or porch needs to be resealed, clean it first with soap and water to clear off any mildew or mold, then after it is clean and dry, apply sealant, stain or paint.

Take care of trees. Remove dead wood and broken branches from trees or bushes. Replant shrubs, bushes and/or flowers that have worked their way out of the soil, and rake the ground.

Freshen with fertilizer. If necessary, add new soil, mulch and/or sod and lay fertilizer. Then, plant any new seeds or plants and implement a watering schedule.

Patch potholes. Finally, MMA says spring is a great time to repair cracks and potholes. First, determine the source of the issue so you can address and fix the root of the problem. It is always best to make these repairs as quickly as possible to prevent any type of hazardous conditions.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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How to Catch the Lowest Possible Airfares

By Susanne Dwyer

(TNS)—Let’s get one thing clear from the start. Airfares are volatile. While it’s true that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is cheaper than on a Friday or Sunday, there is no magic time of day, day of week or month of year to book a low airfare. Airfares can change in a heartbeat, high one minute and low the next, and the trick is to buy when a fare on your route becomes a bargain.

Fare Drop Alerts
First, sign up for airfare price drop alerts. Many websites now offer these at no charge, sending out lists of unusually cheap fares (some of them “fat finger” mistake fares), that while valid for travel over several months, usually expire quickly. Take a look at theflightdeal.com, hitlistapp.com, secretflying.com, exitfares.com and Fly4free.com. They often have the same deals, but I suggest signing up for all of them and to follow them on Twitter if you use it. Other sites, such as Kayak.com, Yapta.com and GoogleFlights.com, will track fares on specific flights and dates and alert you to price drops. When you see a great deal, buy it (you can always change your mind and cancel within 24 hours, per U.S. DOT regulations).

Here’s What I Use
My go-to sites when I arrange personal travel are Kayak.com (I love using its flexible month and flexible weekend options) and two Google offerings: Google.com/flights/explore and Google.com/flights. The “explore” site allows you to choose a trip length, departure city and an arrival city or region (such as “United States,” “Europe” or “Boston”) and then displays a selection of the lowest fares available over the next few months. It’s perfect for anyone with flexible travel dates and destinations. The “flights” site asks you to choose origin city and destination along with specific travel dates so it’s more geared to those with less flexibility; however, none of these sites include Southwest Airlines, so you also need to compare at Southwest.com. If you’re date-flexible, use Southwest’s low-fare calendar option.

Don’t Forget Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
It may be cheaper to fly out on one airline and back on another using one-way fares, and OTAs such as Expedia and Priceline are a good place to find out. They also sell air plus hotel packages that usually cost less than buying separately and they sometimes have fares that are much lower than the same flights and dates sold directly by the airline sites (I recently saw fares on Priceline to South Africa on Dutch airline KLM that were hundreds less than if bought on KLM.com and fares on Delta to Italy that were much cheaper on Expedia than on Delta.com).

Make Sure the Site Covers Delta
Speaking of Delta, that airline restricts where its airfare data appear on some popular third-party sites such as Hopper, Hipmunk, TripAdvisor and FareCompare.com, so beware. JetBlue recently removed its fare data from several “meta search” sites as well.

Choose ‘Basic Economy’ Fares With Care
Copying ultra-low-cost airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, now Delta, American and United also sell bare-bones economy class fares. On domestic routes, they typically cost $40-$60 (round trip) less than regular economy, although the savings can be greater to international destinations. Buy one of these fares and, except on Delta, you’ll pay even for a carry-on bag, unless it’s small enough to fit under the seat in front of you; you won’t be able to choose a specific seat before check-in (which means you’ll end up in a dreaded middle seat); and your fare will be entirely non-refundable and non-changeable. Although I’d never buy one of these airfares, my millennial friends, who apparently travel with just a change of clothes and a toothbrush stuffed into a backpack that slides under the seat, tell me that they’re worth the inconvenience.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Spring: Time to Rev Your ‘High-Performing’ Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Did you know that just three basic home improvements—updating insulation, maintaining heating systems, and checking for proper ventilation and air-sealing—can transform your humble abode into a “high-performing,” clean, efficient and healthy home?

Experts at the utility company Eversource developed these three tips homeowners and renters can follow to make your home is high-performing:

1. Make sure your home is air-tight with proper insulation.
Don’t let frosty air into your home. Sealing cracks and gaps in walls, attics and crawl spaces, as well as around wires, pipes, windows and door frames, will help keep the warm inside air from escaping. Don’t forget about properly insulating those same walls, attics, and crawl spaces, and around your ducts, too.

2. Keep on top of home energy maintenance.
Be sure you have your heating and cooling system serviced annually by a qualified professional. Clean or change air filters every three months, or more often if you smoke or have pets. Consider upgrading to a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, which automatically adjusts the temperature and cuts down on energy usage when you’re not home.

3. Go for top-quality indoor climate and air.
Enjoying clean air and a comfortable climate in your home begins with proper ventilation and air-sealing, which not only keeps pollen and dust at bay, but also moderates humidity levels and temperature swings. Proper ventilation and air flow also reduces the chance for mold growth, whether it’s from leaky ducts or condensation in your attic and crawl spaces.

According to the U.S. EPA, there are many home pollutants that can accumulate in a poorly ventilated home, and can cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches or fatigue. Other pollutants cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses (such as asthma), heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions.

Learn more about household pollutants that may be compromising the air you breathe at www.epa.gov.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How Should You Gauge Your Home for Hazards and Disasters?

By Susanne Dwyer

Do you know how disaster-prone your home or community really is? Smack in the southern end of California—one of the nation’s most disaster-weary states—bloggers at inscenter.com started reaching out to clients years ago to share important data regarding residential risk assessment.

In 1992, University of Colorado’s Dr. William Gray accurately forecasted Hurricane Andrew, and predicted a sharp rise in the number and severity of hurricanes in the near future. The website also flags eerily accurate predictions about floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes, too.

While many states and localities have adopted building codes aimed at reducing damage caused by wind, flood and earthquakes, those codes may not always be enforced. Take Hurricane Andrew, for instance.

Construction industry experts found that Andrew’s posted losses could have been reduced by 30-40 percent had existing building codes been properly enforced.

Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains a Building Science Branch for developing and producing guidance on creating disaster-resilient communities? They conduct post-disaster engineering investigations for both man-made and natural hazard events.

These building scientists take a lead in developing publications, materials, tools, technical bulletins and recovery advisories incorporating the most up-to-date building codes, floodproofing requirements, seismic design standards, and wind-related requirements for new construction, and the repair of existing buildings.

For property owners, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance or HMA grants provide funding for pre- and post-disaster mitigation with a goal of reducing the risk of loss of life and property due to natural hazards.

The agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) assists in implementing long-term hazard mitigation measures following Presidential disaster declarations, and its Pre-Disaster Mitigation or PDM initiative provides funds on an annual basis for hazard mitigation planning—and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster.

The goal of the PDM program is to reduce overall risk to populations and structures while reducing reliance on federal funding from actual disaster declarations.

Source: FEMA.gov/protecting-homes

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Do You Have the Right Tools to Dig Into Spring Gardening?

By Susanne Dwyer

As sure as winter will turn to spring, before too long folks will be looking forward to planting gardens and digging into landscaping projects around the yard. So we turned to research from gardenoid.com, which gathered 34 gardening experts to find out their opinions on the top must-have tools for making your garden look stylish in 2018.

Among the most popular tools touted for gardeners is a mattock, which is used for clearing the ground, removing stones and digging out deep roots that create roadblocks.

Composting is another way that homeowners can promote environmental responsibility. Making compost can now become much easier when you make use of a chipper shredder. While a leaf shredder can be used primarily for shredding small-sized leaves and twigs, if you want to chop and shred branches, then gardenoid.com recommends buying a chipper.

At Gardendesign.com, Jennifer Nelson says gardening can turn into a thorny and splintery hassle without the right pair of gloves.

Madaline Sparks at Realsimple.com agrees that while one good pair of garden gloves can be as essential a tool as a shovel or a rake, owning three pairs will make a multitude of tasks easier:

Washable synthetic gloves – For general maintenance, such as deadheading, weeding in dry soil, and handling seeds, the thin fabric and snug fit allow fingers maximum dexterity.

Latex-coated cotton gloves – For dirty, wet jobs, like picking up leaves or planting shrubs, and for working with thorny plants (the latex coating is puncture-resistant)

Heavy-duty leather gloves – For tough jobs, like digging holes, clearing brush, and carrying firewood

Brendan Huggins of Moore Farms Botanical Garden (moorefarmsbg.org) says pruners are one of the most used tools in the garden, and are often one that people skimp on, but a high-quality set of pruners can last a lifetime.

Huggins suggests looking for replaceable blades, a sturdy lock, a replaceable spring, and a place that you can readily purchase replacement parts from when deciding what pruners to buy.

Moore Farms’ Kirk Laminack, on the other hand, says a Japanese planting hoe is an ideal addition to your gardening arsenal when it comes to loosening soil and removing weeds.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

All You Need to Know About Garage Security

By Susanne Dwyer

According to SafeBee.com, recent reports and social media posts are advising homeowners to use a zip tie to secure their door release mechanisms on the emergency latch present on automatic garage door openers. Although the advice is meant to help reduce burglaries, SafeBee.com says the practice can put homeowners in danger.

Using a zip tie to “lock” this mechanism basically removes this safety feature from the door operator system, putting homeowners and others at risk, as the safety function may not work when needed.

Although reports recommend the addition of the zip tie to avoid garage break-ins, those reports leave out the important safety function that may be disabled by doing so.

To enhance the security of your home while helping to ensure the safe operation of your garage door, SafeBee.com shares these tips from UL and the Door and Access Systems Manufacturer’s Association (DASMA):

  • Never interfere with or defeat the manual emergency release mechanism on your garage door operator.
  • Check with your garage door opener dealer or retailer to see what other safety or security features are available for your particular opener or door model.
  • Consider adding an automatic lock, if available, for your opener.
  • Always lock the entry door between the garage and your house, and any other door or windows that may be in your garage.
  • Consider arming your home or premises with a security system.
  • Do not leave valuables, such as bicycles, tools and equipment, visible from an open garage.
  • Do not leave the garage door transmitter visible in your car, and keep car doors locked if a transmitter is inside the car.
  • For garage doors with windows, use a frosted glass coating, if possible.
  • Finally, if your garage door operator has this feature, enable “vacation mode” when leaving home for an extended period of time, which locks out remote controls from activating the door.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

3 Ways to Throwback Style

By Susanne Dwyer

(Family Features)—When it’s time for a bathroom or kitchen upgrade, some of the greatest inspiration may come from another time entirely. Some of the most on-trend styles of today are actually throwbacks to bygone eras.

Learn how to make your updated spaces pay tribute to re-emerging trends and add your own modern touches with these three new-again looks.

Retro-Modern
A retro-modern design is unique in every way, with elements transitioning from the historically unfitted 1920s to 1950s charm and eccentricity. The result is a space that represents many eras and design styles, and the kitchen is the perfect space to bring this look to life.

Start by establishing a focal point for your retro-modern design, such as a functional nod to the past. Long before modern refrigeration, iceboxes were used in many of the homes in the early 20th century to keep foods fresh. It’s possible to mimic this look with the Wellborn Cabinet Premier Series, to achieve an icebox look that actually functions as storage space.

Use contrasting finishes, colors and textures to uniquely define a small space. For example, a modern cabinet scheme in a dark stain or paint contrasts beautifully with stainless steel hardware and a pop of color to break up the cold nature of stainless steel.

Then bring some uniformity with an option like Shaker decorative legs, which adds to the multi-era design feel. Deriving from the Shaker lifestyle and tradition, the tapering effect offers a beautiful yet simple design feature. Integrate the look across multiple elements, such as a wooden-style tapered leg icebox, along with stainless steel tapered legs on wall and peninsula cabinets, which can pair nicely with stainless-steel hardware and a 1950s Malt Shop grooved countertop.

Accessories are an important part of kitchen design, which is why they should be kept top of mind when building or designing that dream space. Features such as removable under-sink baskets and a double wastebasket kit lend ultimate practicality.

No matter the era, lighting is a must for a functional kitchen space. A carefully crafted, multi-layered lighting design is an essential component of a dream kitchen. An option like Hafele lighting, now offered through a partnership with Wellborn Cabinet, makes it possible to illuminate cabinetry, delivering ambient, accent, task and decorative lighting to create the right mood for any space.

Elegant
A beautiful, ornate bathroom with plenty of traditional features can truly be an interpretation of elegance in design. Plan for an abundance of luxurious, spa-like elements to achieve this look. Incorporate features such as warm hickory covering every inch of the walls and built-in lighting to set the tone for a relaxing atmosphere. Then incorporate antique-styled mirrors and glass hardware to create contrasts among the rich tones and texture.

You can create a distinctive alcove effect by situating the sink vanities directly between matching cabinet ends and recessing two mirrors into the wall. A decorative arch valance can add beauty and function, as this is an ideal place to tuck away lighting that provides depth and visibility.

Let a large soaking tub take center stage between the sink vanity and a custom makeup area. While you can rely on cabinetry for functional features, it’s also a way to continue adding elegant touches, such as a beautifully crafted tub skirt and arch that complements the vanity area.

No luxury bathroom is complete without a standalone makeup alcove outfitted with unique features like drawer dividers (perfect for hair accessories) and countertop hideaway cabinets. Consider creating a focal point using rounded spindles to create depth and allow the custom makeup section to stand out in the design. Lastly, embellish the distinguished look with molding options that highlight the feature areas and create a defined line around the room.

An elegant, spacious master bathroom is luxurious and functional, proving that practicality can be used in a glorious way.

Retro
Going to the extreme with your aesthetic with a retro design is all about fun, with features such as pops of color in the tile behind the vanities or fun and whimsical wallpaper. A 1950s-style bathroom lets you play on your childlike senses. From bright colors to mixed metals and textures, this unique design style pays respect to the era of carhops, Airstream Travel Trailers and Lucille Ball.

The key to making a throwback-styled design work for your contemporary needs is all in the modern elements. Think along the lines of illuminated drawers and cabinets and base pull-out wire baskets. These fun twists of technology paired with retro-styled elements make for a winning solution.

When it comes to the vanities and cabinetry, remember that both style and color can bring your retro design together. Don’t be afraid to step outside more traditional wood tones, and use unexpected colors, such as the pink hue available in Wellborn Cabinet’s ColorInspire program. For the woodwork, look for details such as conical-styled, slender legs that add to the 1950s feel.

Reminiscent of days past, a fabulous ’50s bathroom is the ultimate definition of an eccentric design.

There’s no time like now to begin planning your on-trend home upgrades. Explore the latest styles and home design options at wellborn.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 Interior Design Details for Winter

By Susanne Dwyer

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Are you interested in adding a little seasonal oomph to your space? Below are a handful of cozy—and inexpensive—winter updates.

Cozy blankets galore. Nothing is better than a snuggly blanket on a cool winter evening. Drape heavier blankets over sofas, chairs or reading nooks, and even fold one up by the fireplace for stretching out on the floor. Just make sure it’s safely away from the flames!

Gray space. The color gray is a winter staple. Swap out your fiery fall throw pillows for a gunmetal shade, unroll a deep gray rug in the living or dining room, or update your window coverings to a gentle ash tone.

Candle craze. Soft lighting in winter can create a romantic, warm effect. Place candles around the house and ditch the harsh overheads as you settle in with that evening glass of wine.

Bring out your book lover. Stacks of books offer an inviting way to spend those chilly winter hours. Create attractive assemblies on side tables, shelves, inside your unused fireplace, or even in corners on the floor.

Wooden wonders. Adding wood accents to your home in the winter makes you feel like you’re living in a ski lodge. Pile logs in the corner for fire (or simple aesthetics) and add a rustic wood table by the sofa for setting that warm mug of tea. No table? Try a large, seasoned stump for some real rustic vibes.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Ask the Expert: How Can I Guide Clients Through the Home Inspection Process?

By Susanne Dwyer

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Adam Long, president of HomeTeam Inspection Service.

Q: What can be done to guide clients through the home inspection process?

A: After being in business for 25 years and performing over a million inspections, HomeTeam Inspection Service has identified the top ways to ensure a smoother home inspection, contributing to happier clients and a better outcome.

Make It Convenient
The home inspection process—from scheduling to report delivery—should be convenient for everyone involved. Online scheduling, text messaging and electronic delivery of reports make convenience possible when it comes to the home inspection. If a home inspection company isn’t providing this, clients are missing out on the best possible experience.

Don’t Keep Them Waiting
Ten years ago, it was commonplace to wait five days or more for a home inspection, but today, consumers want it now. Plus, consumers are busier than ever today. They not only want a home inspection that can be performed soon, but also one that can be performed in half the time of the traditional three- to -four-hour inspection. That’s a large part of what makes HomeTeam successful. Our team approach allows for a faster inspection and more appointment slots each day.

Give Them Options
Clients only want to pay for services they need. While most home inspection companies offer a wide range of services, client needs vary, and the leading home inspection companies allow clients to schedule individual services like pest, mold and radon.

Ensure It’s Educational
A home inspector will not give a pass/fail grade on a home, but will give an objective assessment on the condition of the home during the inspection. Educating the client on their new home and how to maintain it is a sign of a professional inspector. Communicating information in a non-alarming manner is critical to helping clients absorb information and make prudent decisions. An inspector that’s accessible to answer questions onsite and after the inspection instills peace of mind in clients and makes them more confident in their purchase decision.

Deliver Accurate Reporting
In addition to a verbal report that the client receives onsite, the most professional inspection companies will furnish a narrative, electronic report that’s emailed to the client and agent. A narrative-style report is more detailed than a checklist-style report, putting forth a clearer picture of the home with less room for interpretation. Including photos and a summary helps the client easily identify any safety concerns or areas that warrant attention.

For more information, please visit www.hometeam.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893