Autumn Additions

By Susanne Dwyer

(Family Features)—Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

Find more ideas for upgrading and updating your home at eLivingToday.com.

De-Bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you’re not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Elegant Entry
With a low-profile cylinder, Baldwin’s Spyglass Entrance Set with Spyglass Levers offers an elegant, architecturally inspired design. With SmartKey re-key technology, the set is the ultimate in convenience and safety as it allows you to re-key your lock in seconds and has American National Standards Institute and Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association Grade 2 security features. Belonging to the premium Prestige Series, the Spyglass Entrance Set delivers effortless, accessible style and affordable luxury.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer’s technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand-wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn’t doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that’s right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall’s obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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Crowdfunding Your Way Into a Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by GMC Financial, a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it’s the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s what GMC financial says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer’s down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

There are a few caveats, of course. Borrowers must first be pre-approved for a mortgage by GMC Financial in order to use the crowdfunding service, which is limited to $7,500 in gifted funds. The loan must also be a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-approved loan (their 30-, 20- and 15-year fixed loans are eligible, as well). In addition, borrowers must earn less than their area’s median income in order to qualify for matching contributions/grants.

This method will force borrowers into GMC Financial’s rates and fees. Millennial and Gen Z buyers, who are most likely to use such a service because of challenges in obtaining a down payment, will not be able to shop around for the lowest rate—a huge snag that may turn off borrowers from the crowdfunding service.

While other services charge fees and may complicate loan processing, borrowers will have to compare costs, as they may be able to save by using an alternative lender.

Here are some other crowdfunding options:

  • HomeFunded: 5 percent usage fee on total funds and 2.9 percent for processing each transaction
  • GoFundMe: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • FeathertheNest: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • Honeyfund: No usage fee and 2.8 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction

Keep in mind that these services may come with additional gifting restrictions in the lending world. Most Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans only allow gifted down payment funds from family and close friends. Loan processing may also be more time consuming if using these services, and you stand the chance of being rejected by lenders.

Crowdfunding may be a quicker way of amassing down payment reserves, but it can be a complicated process—extending your mortgage commitment dates or even threatening your loan approval. It may, however, be a useful option for borrowers who are dealing with high student loan or other debt payments and can’t afford to save.

If given final approval, HomeFundMe may open the door to a widespread financial backing of crowdfunding services in the real estate industry.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Nancy Wey
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Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

By Susanne Dwyer

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. On Aug. 10, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced the agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device. Charging cables are not interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children “12 years of age and younger,” its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint, including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16, and be labeled as such.

Remember:

  • Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.
  • Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.
  • Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

If you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

  • Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire;
  • Be present when products with batteries are charging;
  • Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping;
  • Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner; or
  • If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging; and
  • Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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

Nancy Wey
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Relaxation Awaits: 2018 Best Places to Retire

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Are you getting ready to find your retirement paradise? There are a lot of things to consider before making the big move. Lucky for you, U.S. News & World Report just unveiled their 2018 Best Places to Retire list to help you make your decision.

These rankings reflect a number of factors that can affect your retirement, such as happiness, housing affordability, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and healthcare quality. In order to narrow down the list, U.S. News & World Report surveyed pre-retirees (ages 45-59) and retirement-aged (ages 60-plus) individuals.

If an overall happy life is the most important to you, head on over to Sarasota, Fla. But if you need strong housing affordability, then maybe San Antonio, Texas is for you. Weigh out your pros and cons before making a decision.

Here are the top 10 retirement spots. Is your relaxing oasis on this list?

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mo.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

View the entire list on U.S. News & World Report.

View the methodology.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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

Nancy Wey
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With a little help, Houston plants can adapt to Indiana home

By By Kathy Huber Q: I am moving to Indiana in late spring, and I’d like your advice on taking some of my Houston plants.
I want to move some scadoxus from the ground to pots. When should I do this? I also have potted lycoris. What will their blooming behavior be in zone 5?
I’d like to pot up a small Rangoon creeper. How should I overwinter it, and how large must a potted creeper be in order to bloom?
Dave Sherron, Houston
A: Divide and transplant/pot the scadoxus, or blood lily, when the foliage has yellowed and is dying down, as the South African bulb goes dormant for the winter.
Blood lily produces softball-size orange-red blooms on tall stems in spring in Houston-area gardens. The lance-shaped foliage appears after the flowers.

From: Gardening

    

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

Nancy Wey
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Give Your Home a Facelift: Home Improvement Projects for Less Than $500

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Home improvement doesn’t have to break the bank. You can freshen up the spaces in your home or investment property with a number of small projects that cost less than $500, and make you feel like you spent a lot more! Here are some basic ideas.

Paint Power
Painting is one of the cheapest and easiest home improvements to make. A fresh coat of paint will make any room look as good as new, which is sure to add value. Choose colors that are popular to give a more modern, up-to-date look, or stick to the neutral classic colors. At around $25 a gallon, paint is an inexpensive way to improve your home’s desirability and is something that just about any homeowner can tackle on their own. While you’re at it, look up—do you have that outdated popcorn ceiling? Scrape that texture away to get rid of the dated looking ceilings.

Borrow Ideas
Instead of hiring a designer who will inevitably give you a lot of expensive ideas, such as tearing down walls or pulling up perfectly good flooring, just copy what others have done. You can find all sorts of ideas in books and magazines and on interior decorating TV shows, Pinterest and other websites. To keep to a tight budget, pick projects that can be completed yourself.

Get an Energy Audit
Take advantage of your utility company’s free energy audits to determine which improvements could save you hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in utility costs each year. Most local utility companies will come and inspect your house for free, and the improvements are generally going to have some sort of tax rebate. Having an energy-efficient home is a salable improvement, or, if you plan on staying in the home for the long haul, you can put the money saved toward a different home improvement.

Plant a Tree
Landscaping will improve the curb appeal of your home greatly. Trees provide shade to keep the harmful rays of the sun from bleaching out your paint or heating up the inside of the house. Mature landscaping is a huge plus when trying to sell a home and is frequently sought after. When choosing which species or varieties to plant, it is important to take into consideration the water and maintenance requirements of the plants. Purchasing drought-tolerant plants that are slow or moderate growers will save you hours of yard work and money in the long run. Keeping the yard well maintained will help keep the property looking nice and tidy without investing a huge amount of money.

Keep It Clean
Keeping a home clean and clutter-free will leave a good impression. Get rid of the things you don’t need and “travel light.” You’ll be happy if you ever decide to sell the home that you don’t have a bunch of extraneous stuff to haul around with you or decide what to do with when you are in the middle of moving. If you are selling, it’s often difficult to make the house sparkle from top to bottom, so hire a cleaning service to really give the home a thorough cleaning. It’s worth the money.

Fake the Footage
Houses are often analyzed by price per square foot to help determine if it’s a good deal or not, but the feel and layout of the home can make the house appear bigger than it really is. Keeping the rooms light and airy by choosing light paint, furniture and window coverings can create a feeling of extra space. Adding a large mirror can double the room’s size just by creating that mirror image. An uncluttered home will make the space look bigger and more open. Have a big garage sale to get rid of the unnecessary clutter and put that money towards other home improvements.

New Fixtures
Nothing dates a home like old fixtures. Replacing old lights, faucets, door handles, etc. with updated fixtures really can change the look and feel of a home. The cost of fixtures do add up quickly, so shop around and start with rooms that receive the most traffic, such as bathrooms, the family room and kitchen. Updating these core rooms in the home can give you the biggest impact for the money.

These small improvements can make your home more pleasant for everyday living and give you a feeling of confidence when sharing your space with guests. In addition, if you are planning to sell your home, putting the time and money into small improvements can increase the value and pay off big in the end—quite a bit more than $500!

Kaycee Wegener manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct and shares industry news, products and trends within the community.

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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

4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Decor by Storm

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Homeowners are often looking for home improvement options that strike the right balance between affordability, functionality, aesthetics and eco-friendliness. Bamboo has been marketed as something of a panacea—a kind of wonder wood that checks all the boxes. Designers, contractors and consumers have all taken note, as bamboo has made its way into homes as flooring, walls, window treatments, furniture and more. Here are the properties that are making this popular material a go-to green choice for interior design materials.

Affordability
Bamboo is a readily available wood…except for the fact that bamboo isn’t a wood at all, but a grass! Therein lies the secret to bamboo’s ascendant success as a housing material: It grows like a weed because it essentially is one. At a maximum of three feet per day, it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on Earth. This abundance means it’s an affordable and easily accessible choice in an increasing number of household design elements.

Versatility
Just the one word “bamboo” doesn’t do justice to the range of looks the material offers. It can vary greatly in shades and textures, making it a versatile option for decorators and designers. From the darkest darks to the palest natural shades, you can get just the right color to complement and accentuate the earth tones in your interior decor. (For example, a homeowner with dark hardwood floors can choose dark bamboo shades to tie the room together.) Just keep in mind that the color may change over time as the material ages, and tones may differ depending on where and when it was harvested (just as is the case with hardwood).

Indeed, bamboo window treatments are particularly popular, and they’re available in a variety of options ranging from Roman shades to woven blinds. Whatever style you go for, bamboo blinds can pull together a room’s earth tones into one elegantly cohesive package, while allowing natural sunlight to filter in. While bamboo on its own is not a black-out solution, you can add blackout liners to prevent any undesired light filtration.

Durability
Whether natural or manmade, few materials can match bamboo’s physical properties pound for pound. Because bamboo grows in wet, tropical climates, it is well-suited to resisting rain and wind. (East Asian cultures have made use of bamboo for centuries to build suspension bridges, huts, rafts and much more.) In fact, this unassuming reed beats out hardwood, brick and concrete alike in terms of compressive strength, while rivaling steel in tensile strength.

The result is a lightweight, flexible material that performs admirably in heavily-trafficked and humid areas of the home, making it a great option for floors and furniture in living areas, as well as window treatments in areas like the bathroom.

Interestingly, bamboo’s legendary durability persists even when it is broken down into its fibers. Rayon fabric, while luxuriously soft, is also incredibly strong. Add to that its natural anti-microbial properties, and you have a long-lasting material that is useful in a wide variety of textile applications.

Sustainability
As a growing number of homeowners look for eco-friendly materials in their decor, perhaps no single factor has contributed to bamboo’s modern vogue in interior design more than its sustainability. As it is a grass rather than a tree, it can grow to a harvestable size (often over 100 feet) in a matter of months. This is in stark contrast to the years of water, fertilizer and pesticide required by other timber woods. Additionally, bamboo can grow on steep slopes and depleted or abandoned agricultural lands that would otherwise go to waste.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. Bamboo’s root systems are an effective reinforcement against soil erosion. Due to its fast-growing nature, bamboo farms that make responsible use of available land are an incredibly potent form of carbon sequestration. Finally, bamboo groves can produce up to 35 percent more oxygen than comparably sized forests.

Processing bamboo has made leaps and bounds in terms of eco-friendliness. While bamboo plywood has traditionally required formaldehyde in the production process, more and more researchers are finding breakthroughs that make durable and biodegradable glues an economic reality. It’s worth noting that most of the world’s bamboo timber is grown in China and India, and therefore requires international shipping, and not all companies conform to the greenest methods of production.

When you consider bamboo’s low carbon footprint along with its durability and lasting appeal, it’s no wonder that it’s made its way to homes in the form of furniture, window treatments, flooring and more. When you elect to adorn your home with this wonder wood (er, grass) you can rest easier knowing that a more beautiful home can be kind to Mother Earth and your bank account alike.

Katie Laird is the director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Infographic: Easing the Burden of Student Loan Debt

By Susanne Dwyer

student_loan_forgiveness_infog

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Is your crippling student loan debt keeping you from becoming a homeowner? According to an article by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, “The Case for Student Loan Forgiveness,” student loan debt is one of the highest debt categories in the U.S., coming in second to only mortgage debt. Add up the debt from the 44-plus million borrowers in the U.S. and it comes out to a whopping $1.44 trillion, the article reports.

If you’ve experienced a hefty monthly student loan payment, then you’ll understand why borrowers are less likely to boost the economy. If all of your cash is going to bills and debt reduction, there’s no excess money to spend.

This loan debt can also delay important life events—such as getting married, having children and buying a house—by 19 to 46 percent. Many are having trouble affording these loan payments after paying for rent, gas and utilities. According to the article, 8 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans as of 2016.

Fortunately, there are some resources available that can ease the burden of student loan debt or erase it completely. Programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loan Cancellation can help you if you work a non-profit, education or government job. If you don’t qualify for these, you can also apply for income-based repayment plans to lower your monthly loan payments or defer them for the time being.

The following infographic, provided by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, offers a breakdown of available student loan forgiveness and alternative repayment options.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How to Make Buying a Beach House an Affordable Thing to Do

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The dream of purchasing a beach house is potentially one that you’ve had since you were a teenager or young adult; however, setting aside the money for this venture is an entirely different project. Instead of continuing to watch your dream shrink, consider some strategies for making a beach house a reality.

Look for Less Desirable Locations
In your view, any house on the beach is likely in a desirable location, but that really depends upon what the buyer is looking for. One thing that you should consider is how the school district can have a significant effect on the price of a house. If you are looking for a summer home or you may not have children, the quality of the school district may not affect you at all. As a result, you can buy in a community that has a school district of a lower quality, which will likely mean a lower price.

Research Seasonal Communities
When you’re looking to purchase a house, you might think you need to buy a place that is yours to visit throughout the year; however, that isn’t necessarily the case. You may be able to find a home in a community that is only open to residents for a set number of months per year. During the colder seasons, it may close down. Due to the fact that you’re unable to inhabit the house year-round, you may have a greater chance of procuring a lower price.

Rent the House
A beach house is a desirable location for many people, which provides you with the opportunity to rent it to them. You could rent your house out on AirBnB, for example. Some people decide to rent their houses out for the majority of the year and spend a short amount of vacation time there themselves, and others choose to just rent the house during peak seasons. You can decide what works for you.

Buy a Smaller House
In most cases, people looking to buy beach houses are not planning to live there during the entire year. As a result, you probably don’t need a prodigious beach house. Even when you want to make the beach house your full-time residence, ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to get a house on the beach. When you don’t intend to have children, one or two bedrooms in a house might be just right.

Thinking about buying a beach house might feel overwhelming to you because of the perceived costs; however, you can actually make this wish a reality.

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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 Homeowners Ensure Preparedness?

By Susanne Dwyer

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Buddy Stark, director of Operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service.

Q: What can homeowners do to ensure their home is well prepared and more energy-efficient throughout the coming months?

A: Fall officially begins this month and HomeTeam Inspection Service—the only national home inspection company to utilize a team of inspectors onsite—offers the following home maintenance tips.

Roof
Inspect the roof covering and flashing from the ground for indicators of wear, like missing, loose or cracked shingles or tiles. Water can seep into these areas and cause damage if left unattended. Contact a professional roofer for repair or a replacement evaluation if water intrusion is occurring or suspected.

Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are critical in protecting your home from water damage. Fall is one of the most important times to check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they’re not rusted, rotted, disconnected or full of debris.

Fireplace
Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney, fireplace and vents at least once per year, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. A do-it-yourself inspection for creosote buildup can be performed by wearing goggles and a basic disposable dust mask. Take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the damper (smoke chamber). If the groove you scratch is paper thin, no cleaning is needed. If it’s 1/8 inch thick, schedule a cleaning. If you have 1/4 inch of creosote, don’t use the fireplace until it’s cleaned—a chimney fire could occur at any time.

HVAC
Get your furnace cleaned and serviced by a professional before the heating season begins. Also, clean or replace your furnace filters as recommended throughout the year. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.

Ensure that all supply and return vents aren’t blocked or closed, as this causes the return duct to pull in cold air from cracks in windows and doors. In addition, the warm air that’s still trying to push up through closed vents will either start to leak out ducts that aren’t sealed properly, or be forced back down into your basement or floor cavities.

Trees and Bushes
Trimming trees and bushes provides many advantages to your home’s exterior. Trim so that all leaves and limbs are at least three feet away from your house. This prevents them from hitting the sides of your house when it’s windy, decreasing the amount of leaves and debris that will end up in your gutters.

Windows and Doors
Cracks in the seals around windows and doors allow heated or cooled air to escape, which can cost you money. Caulking and weatherstripping can wear over time, so check the seals around your windows and doors. One of the easiest ways to diagnose this issue is to close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. If the flame flickers at any spot, you likely have an air leak. Replace or add caulk or weatherstripping where needed.

For more information, please visit www.hometeam.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