Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular Renovation

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular RenovationIf you’re looking for a home upgrade that can add resale value to your home while paying itself off over time, look no further than a solar panel setup. In the past few years, the cost of installing residential solar has declined while the efficiency of the panels has increased. This combination has made home solar one of the best investments that a homeowner can make – provided they live in an area that receives a good deal of sunshine.

Solar Adds Immense Value To Your Home

While solar panel installations are not inexpensive, in almost every case they add at least their total cost to the value of the home as soon as they are installed. If you decide to sell your home, it will be very attractive to those who are interested in leaving a lighter footprint or for anyone who was thinking of going solar after they bought their new home.

A Quality Install Will Pay For Itself Over Time

As they generate electricity which can be used in your home or sold back in to the public grid, residential solar panels are one of the only home upgrades that will pay for themselves over time. If you live in a very sunny area and watch your home energy consumption, you may even find that after a few years your solar setup actually begins generating a profit each month. Home solar setups typically come with a 25-year warranty so you can rest assured that your panels will be producing energy for at least the next couple of decades.

Tax Credits And Incentives Reduce The Up-front Financial Cost

Renewable energy sources like solar quality for significant tax credits and rebates which will vary depending on the city and state or province that you live in. A quick web search will show you which types of incentives that you will qualify for, or you can call a local residential solar installer as they’ll be fully aware of all of the various incentives that are available.

For more information on home renovations or upgrades that have been adding value to homes in your community, contact your local real estate agent. They’ll be able to advise you on which upgrades you will need to make in order to keep up with other homes in your area so that if you do decide to sell, you’re able to stand up to your competition.

Thinking About a New Floor? Five Excellent Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring when Remodeling

Thinking About a New Floor? Five Excellent Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring when RemodelingIf you’re remodeling, you should seriously consider updating your flooring. A new hardwood floor will give your home an impressive look and prevent scratches and stains. Here are five very good reasons why you should consider a hardwood floor for your next remodeling project.

Hardwood Is More Durable Than Other Materials

Hardwood is much more durable and longer lasting than many other flooring materials. If there’s a lot of traffic in your home, hardwood floors are less likely to get scratches and dents than vinyl tiles or laminated floors. On weaker floors, damage is often permanent – but with hardwood floors, any imperfections can be sanded and refinished to make your floor look as good as new.

Hardwood Offers A Wide Array Of Styles

Hardwood flooring is very versatile, and it comes in a wide assortment of styles and colors. Hardwood is also available in a variety of textures to compliment any decor or color scheme. It’s easy to buy small area rugs that match the flooring rather than having wall-to-wall carpeting installed that may have to be replaced when it gets worn.

It’s A Good Long Term Investment

Hardwood flooring is one of the most practical investments you can make in your home. Carpeting, vinyl tile, linoleum, and laminate flooring will eventually need to be replaced. Although the initial investment of installing hardwood floors in your home is more than you’d spend on some of the alternatives, hardwood lasts much longer than other materials – so you spend less money in the long run.

Selling Your Home Is Easier

Hardwood flooring is an extremely attractive material that a lot of homeowners love. It also increases your home’s value. If you put your home on the market, you’re making a good investment by making your home more appealing to buyers.

You’ll Experience Fewer Allergy Problems

Carpeting can cause symptoms from allergies to get worse, because dust and other allergens like pet dander can get trapped in the fibers. Doctors often recommend that patients with severe allergies get rid of the carpeting in their home and replace it with hardwood flooring. With this type of flooring, it’s a simple matter to sweep or mop the floor, so allergies are no longer an issue.

Hardwood flooring is a highly popular interior design choice that is taking modern homes by storm. If you’re renovating your home in the near future, consider installing hardwood flooring as a means of giving it a classic floor that you and your guests will adore. For more great design ideas that will increase your home’s value, contact a local real estate agent today.

Roof Restoration 101: Preparing Your Roof for the Harsh Winter – and when to Call in Professional Help

Roof Restoration 101: Preparing Your Roof for the Harsh Winter - and when to Call in Professional HelpWhile the days may be relatively warm and sunny right now, the transition to fall and winter will soon be upon us. Winter weather can be harsh, and it can also be destructive to your property. From the snow and ice to the frigid temperatures, winter can wreak havoc on a property.

One of the best steps that you can take now while the weather is warm is to restore your roof to prepare for the harsh winter ahead. This effort today will minimize damage that the home may endure throughout the cold months of the year. Here are some steps you can take to winterize your roof before the weather gets colder.

Steps to Take Now

As a homeowner, you can easily take a few steps today to prevent your home from being damaged in the winter months. From the ground level, inspect the home for signs of roof damage. You may notice a few shingles not laying flush on the roof, or you may see that some shingles are missing.

Repair work to the roof should be completed quickly. In addition, you can trim away tree limbs and branches that hang over the roof. These can become heavy with the weight of snow and ice, and they can break entirely or hang low to cause damage to the roof.

You also should clean out your gutters now. When gutters become clogged, they are ineffective at handling snow and ice melt. Cleaning your gutters every spring and fall will ensure they are prepared to handle inclement weather.

When to Call a Professional

Some work on a roof can easily be completed by a homeowner. However, roof work can also be dangerous or difficult. This may be due to the high height of the roof, the steep incline or even the type of work that needs to be completed.

When the work is dangerous or when you believe that you do not have the equipment or skills required to complete the work right, you should call a professional to your home to assist you. You’ll want to call an experienced roofer if you notice leaks or damaged gutters or soffits. These kinds of repairs are critical to properly winterizing your home, and letting a professional handle them means you get a high-quality job.

The integrity of your home’s roof will impact energy efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling system, its ability to resist water damage and pest infestation and more. Long before the first snow or ice arrives, it is important for homeowners to assess their roofs for damage and to make repairs as needed. Contact a roofing contractor for an inspection to ensure your roof is winter-ready.

Planning for 2015 Already? Here are Some Home Decor Trends to Watch Out For

Planning for 2015 Already? Here are Some Home Decor Trends to Watch Out ForYour home is your haven, your place to get away from the world at the end of a long day. That’s why keeping your home decor on-trend is important: It will create an inspiring and relaxing space that you can enjoy.

Whether you are looking for changes you can make at your existing residence or you’re thinking about what to look for in a new home, pay attention to what’s coming in 2015. These exciting trends in home decor that are really making a splash.

It’s All About Color

From exterior to interior color schemes, 2015 is the year of lavender, plum, tan, beige, and blue, with a dash of green. expect to see variations of these colors dressing new homes. You can make a refreshing change in your own home simply by applying a new coat of paint in your living space.

Start small and see what a difference it can make in one room. You can go big with new vinyl siding if you really want to make your home pop.

Transform Your Outdoor Living Space

Many homeowners are tapping into the potential of their yards. From patios to gazebos and waterscapes, there are so many ways that you can enhance your outdoor space and create an escape that is appealing and inviting.

Bring The Outdoors Inside

The latest buzz is about color schemes, fabrics, and prints that create an airy atmosphere within the home. It’s like nature has been invited in to stay a while. Use water colors, soft textures and eye-catching pictures on the wall to create a fantasy that is irresistible.

Take Your Decor Back In Time

Many see a return to older, simpler times as an upcoming trend in home decor. Don’t be surprised to see antique rockers on the porch, a grandfather clock in the hallway, and family photographs from bygone days to bring back a sense of yesteryear.

Give Your Space Two Green Thumbs Up

Homeowners are trying to create a natural ambiance by bringing more greenery into their yards and homes. Consider making the addition of live plants to the interior – it adds a decorative touch and improves air quality.

2015 is going to bring with it some big changes in home decor trends. Whether you’re looking to sell your home or you just want to spruce it up, these great decor ideas will help you to create a livable space that has 2015 written all over it.

For more information about the latest trends, or to find out how you can use home decor to boost your home’s resale value, contact your local real estate professional today.

It’s Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable Space

It's Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable SpaceIn some homes, garages are used only for car storage. They may appear to be bare and without real functional use for homeowners. However, other garages may be an envy of the neighborhood – they may have floor to ceiling shelving systems, and they may be the picture-perfect image of organization.

With a bit of planning and creativity, you can turn your garage into a much more functional space. Here’s how you can make your garage the most useful space in the house.

Determine What You Need To Store

One of the most important steps to take when improving the functionality of your garage is to determine which items you need to store. The last thing you want is to invest in a shelving system or cabinets for your garage only to later realize that your belongings do not fit in the features you have purchased. Take an inventory of the items you want to put in the space as well as their sizes and dimensions, and then take stock of the space available to store these items.

Invest In Storage Features

There are numerous types of storage features that you may choose to invest in for your garage, such as cabinets, drawers, wall pegs, shelves, overhead storage features, and bins.

The best storage features for your garage are those that take into account your accessibility needs. For example, seasonal items that you may rarely need access to may be placed in overhead storage features that hang over the cars. On the other hand, screwdrivers and other tools that you may need to use more frequently should be placed in a more accessible area.

Consider The Look Of The Garage

Some homeowners truly do not care what their garage looks like, but you should keep in mind that this is a room that is revealed to the outside world each time your garage doors are raised. This can indeed affect curb appeal and others’ impressions of you. Therefore, think about investing in a full garage storage system rather than piecing together different items.

If your garage looks like a war zone, you are wasting valuable storage space and compromising your property value. Investing in aesthetically pleasing and highly functional storage solutions can turn your garage into a major selling point and a great multi-use space. For more great home renovation ideas, or to find your next home in a community that suits you, contact a real estate professional today.

3 Reasons Why Changing Your Kitchen And Dining Room Lighting Fixtures Can Increase Your Sale Price

3 Reasons Why Changing Your Kitchen And Dining Room Lighting Fixtures Can Increase Your Sale PriceIf you are considering selling your home, you may be wondering if there are things that you can do to increase your sale price. The truth is, you could spend thousands of dollars updating your home, but most homeowners will not want to put in such a large investment without knowing how much it will add to the selling price. Fortunately, there are more affordable things that can be done.

One affordable change to your home that can increase your sale price is to change your kitchen and dining room lighting fixtures. There are a number of reasons why this can work. Here are three of them:

Buyers are Looking for Entertainment Areas in New Homes

One reason that changing your kitchen and dining room lighting fixtures can increase your sale price is because buyers are looking for areas where they can entertain. Most people who are looking for a new home will be thinking about the things they can do with the home, and one of these things is entertaining their friends and family.

Buyers are willing to pay more on homes that have these nicely decorated areas, so updating your kitchen and dining room lighting can help to bring in a bit more money.

The Kitchen and Dining Room are the Center of Family Life

Another reason that people will pay more on a home with new lighting fixtures is because the kitchen and dining room are seen as the center of family life. In this scenario, buyers know that they will be spending a lot of time in these rooms and thus, want to be sure that these areas are nicely decorated.

New Kitchen and Dining Room Light Fixtures Will Brighten Up the Home

Finally, you will want to update the lighting fixtures in your kitchen and dining room because new fixtures can brighten up your home. You might have heard real estate agents talk about how important it is to have bright lights and open window shades during open houses since it can make your home look better. New, brighter lights can also help your rooms look bigger. Sometimes it will all come down to an optical illusion.

For more information on adding new lighting fixtures to your kitchen and dining room in order to increase sales, contact a local real estate professional. They will be able to give you some tips on these rooms and offer information on how you can spruce up the rest of your home before putting it on the market.

DIY Home Improvement: How to Spice Up That Boring Basement by Adding a New Bar

DIY Home Improvement: How to Spice Up That Boring Basement by Adding a New BarIf you live in a home with a basement, you may have already started finishing it, or you may have big plans to convert the space into something more usable and practical. When it comes to basement renovations, few projects add as much value and opportunity for entertainment as adding in a basement bar.

A bar is an easy home improvement project to complete, and you can use it for entertaining family and friends. Here’s a quick guide to installing a bar in your basement and turning that dank, dreary room into a great space for making new memories.

Preparing For The Bar Addition

First, you need to select the space that is best-suited for the bar. The ideal space will be an open area near the corner of the room or even near an entryway. The space should allow for seating for at least two or three bars stools, but you may desire a larger bar area.

Most bar areas will have water and electricity features, and it will be easier and less expensive if you choose an area of the room that has these services running through the walls. If water and electricity are easily accessible, you simply have to build a wall and add a counter top to the area. If you cannot complete this work on your own, you can hire a contractor for assistance.

Hiring Contractors For Special Tasks

A fully functional bar area may have overhead cabinetry for storage as well as a small sink to rinse out glasses and to wash hands. In addition, it may have electricity for lighting mounted under the cabinets or for display lights over the seating areas.

While some individuals may have the skills to complete this work on their own, you may consider outsourcing these special tasks to a contractor. This will ensure that the work is completed to code, and it also means the work might be completed sooner than if you tried to do it yourself.

Once you’ve built the bar and hooked up the water and electricity, you simply have to add a few bar stools, stock up on glasses and liquor, and start enjoying the space. A new bar addition will be a welcome feature in your home’s basement, and you can easily get started working on this project today. For more fun and trendy basement renovation ideas, contact a real estate professional in your community today.

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home’s Foundation for Cracks – And What to Do if You Find Them

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them When purchasing a home, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account. One of those considerations is the foundation of the home. No matter how perfect or suitable a property looks, taking the time to properly inspect the property for foundation problems can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs later on.

While foundation cracks are usually present in older homes, that does not mean that newer and even brand new homes aren’t prone to them. When choosing a property, the following tips can help homebuyers find signs of foundation problems and take the right action if any are found.

Concrete Weakness

One of the easiest ways to check for a damaged foundation is to check the concrete of the home. When the foundation is strong and safe, the concrete is not brittle and breakable. To test this, when trying to poke the foundation with a screwdriver, the foundation should be rock solid. If it isn’t, then there may be a foundation issue.

Posts Should Be Sturdy

If the house has a basement, then the posts that hold up the basement and crawl space should stand firmly in place. The bottom of the post should be unmovable and the post should stand straight and tall. If the posts do not do so, then there is a problem with the foundation.

Uneven Floors

The next component of the house that should be inspected is the floors. All of the floors within the house must be solid, straight, and not slanted. If the floor is slanted or separates from the wall in any place, then the foundation is unable to support the home properly and there is a serious issue.

Exterior Cracks

The walls are also a way to examine for foundation issues. Take a tour around the outside of the home and inspect for any cracks to the exterior. Each wall on the outside of the home should be smooth, solid, and free of any cracks. However, if there is a crack, this may mean that the foundation has shifted and the home is uneven.

Windows and Doors

Next, inspect every window and door on the property. Each should be attached to the surrounding wall and they must also open and close without any difficulty. If there is a difficulty in opening and closing windows and doors, there may be a foundation problem like shifting or uneven ground that is unable to support the property.

Moist Ground Around the Property

Lastly, another sign that there is a foundation problem is if the ground around the property is moist. A strong foundation will usually be set upon ground that is completely solid. When the ground is moist, the dirt particles are porous and unable to bind together, leading to shifting, cracks, and major damage to the home.

Choosing the right home is not a difficult process and making the right assessments of the property can save thousands of dollars in future repairs. To help with assessments, foundation repairs, and to get the right information about how to deal with a cracked foundation in a potential property, then contacting a trusted and professional real estate agent is the best solution when purchasing a property.

Getting Ready to Retire? Six Tips for Downsizing from Huge House to Efficient Condo

Getting Ready to Retire? Six Tips for Downsizing from Huge House to Efficient CondoIf you’re getting ready to retire, you may be thinking about downsizing. Having a large house makes sense when you’re raising kids, but once you reach your golden years, it usually makes sense to move into a smaller, more efficient condo. While downsizing may seem impossible, these six tips will help you reach your goal.

1. The Six-Month Rule

If you’re finding it hard to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, stick to the six-month rule – if you haven’t used an item within half of a year, you probably don’t need it. Seasonal items aren’t used as much, but if you haven’t used them within a year or two, it’s safe to get rid of them.

2. Measure Twice

Measure your furniture, your current room sizes and your future room sizes. After you’ve done that, do it again. Nothing’s worse than wrestling with your heavy sofa for hours on end to find out that it won’t fit in your new living room after all.

3. Pre-Arrange Big Items

Once you know where your new home is going to be, get the floor plan or draw one up yourself. Use measurements from your furniture and other big items to figure out where you’re going to put things. If it looks crowded on paper, it will probably look even more crowded in person, so make sure your plans look okay before you decide to hire a mover or move everything yourself.

4. Get With The Times

With all the new technology coming out, it’s easy to transfer almost all of your physical media to electronic form. While you might want to keep your all-time favorite books and movies in physical form, you can put most of your reading material on an e-book reader and most of your movies on a computer or external hard drive.

5. Multiples Multiply Headaches

Yes, you need to have a soup ladle, but you don’t need five of them. If you have more than one of the same item, consider getting rid of the multiples. You’ll probably find that your kitchen is the biggest culprit as far as multiples go, but you may also find that you have three tops that are very similar in color and style or four laundry baskets even though you only do one load at a time.

6. Use Your Resources

If you’re moving to a neighborhood with a great library, plan to use it instead of bringing all of your books and movies with you. If you’re going to have a gym virtually next-door and can afford a membership, it may be time to give away your home gym equipment.

Don’t forget that your real estate agent can be an invaluable resource when downsizing, so be sure to get in touch with them before you make the jump. In summary: moving is hard enough, but downsizing is even harder. By following these tips, though, you should be able to pare down your belongings so that you will be able to live comfortably in your new home during the best years of your life.