Your Place: A Little Fresh Paint Can Help Woo A Home Buyer
Here are some suggestions for sprucing up a house to get it ready for sale.
The top 10 touch-ups:
—Make sure the front door is well-painted. It will make a great first impression.
—In the entry hall, touch up areas where the paint shows marks or nicks, and clean every surface. Better yet: Put on a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint throughout.
—Touch up bathrooms and kitchens as needed, and put plenty of effort into the powder room, which many will visit during their tour.
—If you want to make your kitchen look bigger, paint it white or off-white. At the very least, remove food stains from the walls and conceal water spots by applying primer followed by some touch-up paint.
—Sand, prime and paint windowsills, as needed.
—Check woodwork. You can quickly touch up chipped or marred paint on chair rails and floor molding.
—Inspect areas that come in frequent contact with soiled hands: window frames, door frames, edges of doors, and walls around light switches. If they are dirty, you may be able to clean them, assuming you used a glossier paint; if that doesn’t work, then do touch-up painting.
—Same approach with cabinet doors: Scrub clean of fingerprints, if possible, or touch up painted areas. Pay special attention to the kitchen, which should be spotless.
—Water stains on the ceiling from old roof leaks are a huge red flag for prospective buyers. After making certain that your roof is sound, be sure to prime and repaint.
—Put the finishing touches on the house by scrutinizing every remaining wall and painted surface, looking for stray flecks of paint, as well as marks and stains from whatever source. Conceal them with some touch-up paint.
Air quality has a direct impact on our health, both in and outside of our homes. While much is being done to improve the air outdoors, maintaining a healthy level of air quality inside is evenly important.
A range of triggers can lower indoor air quality, including carpets, chemical cleaners, heat sources and humidity. Build-up of these pollutants may result in “Sick House Syndrome,” which poses health risks to residents if not addressed. Airborne lead particles and radon are especially harmful.
Opening windows can significantly improve the quality of the air in the home, but in many households, doing so is just one of several necessary steps. A checklist:
1. Clean your home frequently, preferably with natural or non-toxic cleaners, a HEPA-filter vacuum and a mop. Regular cleaning eliminates dust, which could be contaminated with lead if the home was built prior to 1978.
2. Aim for less than 50 percent humidity inside the home; a higher percentage can lead to mold. A hygrometer can help determine the humidity level. Use an exhaust fan while bathing, cooking or using the dishwasher. Invest in a dehumidifier, if necessary.
3. Take care not to disturb lead-painted surfaces, especially if remodeling the home. If the paint is peeling, consult a lead removal specialist as soon as possible.
4. Test for radon. Most hardware stores carry do-it-yourself testing kits, and some utility companies offer the service free of charge. A qualified professional can conduct a longer-term test to determine radon levels at varying times throughout the year. He or she may recommend installing a radon mitigation system.
5. Dispose of paint, gasoline or any other chemicals at a certified hazardous waste disposal center. Visit search.earth911.com to locate a local facility. For future paint projects, purchase products labeled “low VOC.”
6. Replace the furnace filter every three months to reduce the amount of airborne dust circulating through the home.
7. Remove wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible—it traps particles that can exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms, and may even contain formaldehyde, depending on the manufacturer. (Pressed wood materials, such as cabinets and furniture, may also release formaldehyde.)
8. Place plants where possible. House plants filter out airborne toxins, including ammonia and benzene, that can be detrimental to health. To reap the most benefits, use these NASA-approved species.
9. Remove shoes when entering the home, and place a floor mat at each entrance to deter any pollutants tracked in by guests. Dirt and pesticides brought in from outside can become airborne inside the home.
10. Insist the home remain smoke-free, if possible. Secondhand cigarette smoke, which lingers long after the smoker leaves, can have devastating effects on members of the household, including children and pets.
How to Prepare Your Home to Save on Utility Bills this Summer
Summer is right around the corner! When the temperatures heat up, you may notice that your utility bills slowly begin to increase as well. But don’t worry, there’s still time to prepare your home to save on utility bills this summer. Start with these simple tips:
Install a programmable thermostat.
Newer thermostat models allow you to set different temperatures for various times throughout the day. For example, you could set your thermostat to turn off while you’re at work and then cool down right around the time you’re on your way home. These programmable thermostats allow you to cut back the energy used by your air conditioner and therefore save on utility bills.
Apply window film.
You may have heard that installing drapes or blinds on your windows will help you cut down on the heat that flows into your home, which is true. However, some homeowners are hesitant about blocking their beautiful views with thick drapes or opaque blinds. A great option for homeowners to use that will allow them to see out their windows while also blocking heat from entering the home is window film. The best part? Many window films are designed for an easy install. Just measure the size of your window, cut the film, and stick it on to start your journey to save on utility bills.
Clean your air filters.
What’s one thing that could be standing between you and your ability to save on utility bills? Dirty air filters. Regardless of what kind of heating and cooling unit you have, cleaning the air filters on a regular basis is important, especially before the hot summer months. When filters get dirty, the heating and cooling system has to work harder and consume more energy to do its job. With clean filters, the system can cool your home more efficiently and help you save on utility bills.
Are you living in an area that experiences heavy rainfall during summer? If so, consider using rain barrels this summer to collect rainwater and use it to water your garden. Rain barrels, typically made of plastic or wood, sit at the end of your gutter downspout and collect the rainwater as it flows out. When the storm is over, you’ll have a good amount of water that you can recycle on your garden during drier times. Using a rain barrel will help you cut down on your water use and therefore save on utility bills.
Add mulch to your garden.
Do you feel like you have to water your garden over and over to keep plants alive? Try laying down mulch throughout your garden. Mulch helps prevent evaporation so water will stay on the ground longer, giving your plants more time to absorb it. Now that your plants will be more hydrated, you won’t have to water them as frequently and will be able to save on utility bills.
Learn new recipes.
Many popular recipes require the use of an oven or stove, however these appliances can seriously heat up your home and cause you to crank down the thermostat to cool off. Before summer rolls around, think of meals you can make without these hot appliances, such as salads, sandwiches, or even recipes in a slow cooker, since these appliances don’t emit as much heat.
Remember, although these tips are for summer, they can be used year-round. It’s always a good time to reduce your energy consumption and save on utility bills!
Reverse Mortgage: What Is It and How It Works
Reverse mortgages have become the cash-strapped homeowner’s financial planning tool of choice.
The first Federal Housing Administration-insured reverse mortgage was introduced in 1989. Such loans enable seniors age 62 and older to access a portion of their home equity without having to move.
Reverse Mortgage: What Is It?
A reverse mortgage is a type of home equity loan for older homeowners. It does not require monthly mortgage payments. The loan is repaid after the borrower moves out or dies. It’s also known as a home equity conversion mortgage, or HECM.
Who Would Benefit
Steven Sass, program director at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, says a reverse mortgage makes sense for people who:
Don’t plan to move;
Can afford the cost of maintaining their home; or
Want to access the equity in their home to supplement their income or have money available for a rainy day.
Some people even use a reverse mortgage to eliminate their existing mortgage and improve their monthly cash flow, says Peter Bell, president and CEO of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.
“There are a lot of motivations leading into it,” Bell says. “In some cases, people may have an immediate need to pay off debt, or they may have had some unexpected expenses like a home repair or health care situation.”
The bank makes payments to the borrower throughout his or her lifetime based on a percentage of accumulated home equity. The loan balance does not have to be repaid until the borrower dies, sells the home or permanently moves out.
Reverse Mortgage Basics
How does it work? The bank makes payments to the borrower based on a percentage of accumulated home equity.
When does it need to be repaid? When the borrower dies, sells the home or permanently moves out.
Who is eligible? Seniors age 62 and older who own homes outright or have small mortgages
How can money be used? For any reason. Retirees typically use cash to supplement income, pay for health care expenses, pay off debt or finance home improvement jobs.
Better yet, you can never owe more than the value of your home in a reverse mortgage loan, regardless of how much you borrow. And if the balance is less than the value of your home at the time of repayment, you or your heirs keep the difference.
How Much Can You Get?
According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, or NRMLA, several factors determine the amount of funds you are eligible to receive through a reverse mortgage.
Factors That Influence Loan Amount
Age (or the age of the youngest spouse in the case of couples);
Value of home;
Interest rate; and
Lesser of appraised value or the HECM FHA mortgage limit of $625,500.
To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you must either own your home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at the closing with proceeds from the reverse loan. You must also use the home as your primary residence. Generally, the older you are and the more valuable your home, the more money you can get. There are no restrictions for how the money from a reverse mortgage loan must be used.
Many people in retirement use it to supplement their income, pay for health care expenses, pay off debt or pay for home improvement jobs.
The method of payment collection depends on the type of mortgage. Retirees with an adjustable-rate mortgage can collect their payments on a reverse mortgage as a lump sum, fixed monthly payment, line of credit or some combination.
Holders of fixed-rate mortgages receive a lump sum.
Does not require monthly payments from the borrower
Proceeds can be used to pay off debt or settle unexpected expenses
The money can pay off the existing mortgage
Funds can improve monthly cash flow
Fees and other closing costs can be high
Borrower must maintain the house and pay property taxes and homeowners insurance
A reverse mortgage can complicate one’s wish to keep the house in the family
Who Wouldn't Benefit?
A reverse mortgage wouldn’t be the best option if you can’t maintain the costs associated with the home, even without a monthly mortgage payment.
If you die or the home isn’t the primary residence for more than 12 months, the loan comes due, which means either you or the estate has the option to repay the loan or put the home up for sale to settle it.
Homeowners interested in taking out a reverse mortgage are required to receive mandatory (free) counseling by an independent third party, including an agency approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development or a national counseling agency such as AARP. These organizations help homeowners review alternative options.
“As you get older, it gets harder to grasp some of the terms in these kinds of transactions, so it’s not a bad idea to have someone younger who you trust, like an adult child, involved in the process,” says Phil Cook, a CFP professional in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
About the Costs
If you decide to proceed with the loan, you can expect to pay higher-than-average closing costs based on the value of your home, including origination fees, upfront mortgage insurance and appraisal fees. The interest rate you pay is also generally higher than that for a traditional mortgage.
Anyone who takes out a reverse mortgage remains responsible for paying property taxes, insurance and repairs on their home. If you fail to comply, you may be required to repay your reverse mortgage early.
Spending the equity in your home, of course, also diminishes the value of your estate — leaving you less to pass along to your heirs down the road.
“Always explore all other sources of income first before tapping into your home equity,” advises Cook. “Liquidate your portfolio and cut down on your living expenses. If you still don’t have enough, a reverse mortgage may make sense.”
To locate a Federal Housing Authority-approved lender or HUD-approved counseling agency, you can visit HUD’s online locator or call the Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse at 1 (800) 569-4287.
10 Things Smart Homeowners Should Know About Mold Dangers
Just the thought of living in a home with mold is enough to strike fear in the minds of most homeowners. Given the health risks and property damage that mold can cause, it is important for homeowners to know how to identify mold on their property, learn where it thrives and understand the best ways to eliminate it from their homes.
"Mold isn't something most people think about until they experience it in their own home," says Peter Duncanson, director of system development at ServiceMaster Restore and chairman of the board of directors for The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). "It's important to beat mold at its own game -- this means taking steps to prevent mold from growing or calling in an expert right away to stop mold in its tracks once it begins to grow in your home."
According to the survey, many people believe they can kill mold on their own using powerful over-the-counter cleaners such as bleach; however, Duncanson says this is not true.
"Many retail products will change how mold looks, and you might think it's gone because you don't see it," Duncanson says. "But, the only way to get rid of mold completely and safely -- and to be sure you're protecting your property and health from additional risk -- is to have trained professionals physically remove it from the affected area."
According to the EPA, potential health effects associated with mold include allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints, as well as irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs. By living with mold, homeowners are exposed to these potential health risks.
Looking for Mold in All the Right Places
More than half of ServiceMaster Restore survey respondents said that basements (64 percent) and bathrooms (58 percent) are the rooms where mold is most likely to be present.
Common locations vary by region, say respondents, who also noted that in the Midwest and Northeast, mold is found most often in basements, whereas in the South and West, it is found most commonly in bathrooms.
Nearly two-fifths (39 percent) say running the exhaust fan during showers is the most effective way to prevent mold in the bathroom.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) say properly maintaining ventilation throughout the home is paramount in preventing mold growth.
Top 10 Must-Know Mold Tips
To help homeowners who are facing mold damage or are eager to avoid it, Duncanson and the team of experts at ServiceMaster Restore have shared the top 10 things homeowners should do (or not do) in the fight against mold:
The best defenses against mold are to take away its food source, ensure adequate airflow and reduce moisture in the air.
Don't rely on retail products, such as bleaches that promise to kill mold, especially on porous surfaces.
Vacuum vents every month to remove dust, a primary food source for mold. If you have central heating and air, remember to clean the baseboards, floorboards and bathroom vents, as well.
If mold is visible, don't use a consumer vacuum to remove it. This includes wet/dry vacuums, which can actually make a mold issue even worse.
If you see mold in an area, do not use a fan to dry things out. Call a professional, as you will likely spread mold spores and create the potential for even more damage.
To reduce moisture and control ventilation in the bathroom, run an exhaust fan during a shower or open the door and windows in the bathroom after using it.
Consider investing in small household de-humidifiers to reduce moisture. If you have a large home or business, you may need more than one.
If you have terrariums and plants, be aware that these can be food sources for mold.
Don't ignore the problem. Signs of mold could indicate the presence of larger issues that may cause health risks.
If you suspect mold, call a trained professional, with the expertise and resources to restore your home to normal and prevent costlier damage.