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Preparing for Cozy Nights Around the Fire

by Desi Sowers

This past weekend we fell back to standard time which means the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer.  It also means that the weather is getting cooler.  There is nothing more comforting on a cold night than getting cozy around a roaring fire in the fireplace.  But before you do that, there are some fireplace maintenance and safety tips you should be aware of:

For wood-burning fireplaces

     - If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you need to get your chimney inspected by a licensed professional prior to lighting your first fire of the season.  Remember that safety is the top priority when using a fireplace. The Facts About Chimney Fires

     - Next you need to get your fireplace ready for use.  If there are any ashes leftover from last year, clean them out with a broom. Make sure that the damper is open and working properly.

     - Gather and prep the logs you are going to use.  Seasoned hardwood that has been split and dried for at least six month; even better if it’s been a year.  You will know it’s seasoned hardwood if it’s dark and cracked at the ends and makes a hollow sound when knocked together.  Prepare for a long-lasting fire by placing a rolled=up ball of newspaper beneath the grates. Then lay narrow pieces of finely split wood in a crisscross pattern on the grates.  To finish up, stack one to three dry logs over the kindling. How to Choose the Best Firewood for Your Needs

     - Now it’s time to prime the flue.  This is to heat up the cold air inside the flue so that smoke doesn’t back up into your house.  Before you light the fire, light a tightly rolled-up sheet of newspaper, and hold it toward the open damper.  Leave it there for a couple of minutes until you see smoke going up the flue.

     - Come on baby light your fire!  Now you are ready to get that roaring fire going so you can relax and enjoy it!  If the fire starts to wane, gently fan the flames with folded newspaper or use a poker to get the air flowing again.  Use tongs to add logs as needed to provide more fuel.

     - One of the most important thing you must do for safety is to make sure the fire has gone completely out before you go to be for the night.  If your fireplace has metal or glass doors, close them after the fire is out.

For gas fireplaces

     - Take a look at your owner’s manual just got give yourself a reminder of the basic cleaning and maintenance needed to keep your fireplace functional and safe.  Remember that different fireplace models may require different types of cleaning and maintenance.

     - Examine the outdoor vent.  During the off season your fireplace vent can become clogged with debris.  If the vent is clogged and you light a fire, you risk not having a fire hazard, but also having unsafe amounts of carbon monoxide levels in your home.  Clear away any cobwebs, leaves or other debris that in in the vent. If it appears that there have been pests living in the vent, you may need to call a pest control professional to come out and address it. Troubleshooting a Direct Vent Fireplace

     - Check your glass covering for any cracks or chips that might weaken it or allow harmful gases into your home.  Remember that the enclosure helps regulate carbon monoxide when the fireplace is on.  Tighten any hinges that might have loosened to make sure the glass closes securely over the fireplace.

     - Clean the internal elements of the fireplace.  The ceramic log, rocks, or beads in your gas fireplace can become dusty while not being used. This can create an unpleasant burning smell when you start a fire. How to Clean a Gas Fireplace

     - Dust the blower. The electric blower in your fireplace helps circulate warm air throughout your home.  It can become dirty during the summer and needs to be cleaned to run more efficiently.

     - Inspect your pilot light to make sure there are no loose or exposed wires.  If you do see issues, have a professional come to assess the problem before you turn the pilot light on.

     - If you’re not comfortable with your own assessment of your gas fireplace, schedule a professional inspection.  And inspection can help identify problems such as gas leaks or broken sensors. 

Whether you have a wood burning or gas fireplace, just remember SAFETY FIRST!  Then, make some hot chocolate, grab a good book, and cozy up by the crackling fire for warm, comforting relaxation!

If you’re thinking about selling or buying a home in the New River Valley area, contact professional, experienced Realtor Desi Sowers and let her assist you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call today at 540-320-1328!

Photo Credit: newyorkspaces.com

Safe Home - Happy Home

by Desi Sowers

Let’s face it - it can be a scary world.  Your home should be a safe-haven for you and your family.  While safety can never be guaranteed, there are steps you can take to make your home feel secure.  Here are some tips for making your home as safe and secure as possible:

- Light it up!  While there is no reason to fear darkness itself, it is true that when bad things happen to people, they often happen under the cover of darkness.  So, brightening up your surroundings can help discourage people from lurking around your home.  Install energy-efficient bulbs in your outdoor lights and keep them on when it’s dark, or have motion sensors so that lights come on when there is movement near or around your property.  At night, keep some lights on inside so your house doesn’t appear completely dark.

- Close window coverings when it gets dark.  You may not be able to see what’s going on outside in the dark, but people outside can clearly see in your house if your windows are exposed.

- Get to know your neighbors. You certainly won’t feel safe if you are surrounded by strangers!  Knowing your neighbors will provide you with the security of having someone to call on if you are feeling unsafe. How to Meet Neighbors

- Keep emergency numbers handy.  Many people use mobile phones exclusively these days, so it’s a good idea to create contacts for emergency numbers so all you must do is touch a screen or push a button to call for help.  If you haven’t gotten rid of your Landline yet, you may want to consider keeping it for safety reasons.  With a landline call, a 911 operator will receive your locations immediately, whereas it might take a bit longer to pinpoint your location with a cell phone.

- Eliminate hiding spots.  Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and well-spaced so that they don’t provide hiding spots for burglars.

- Don’t hide a key outside.  I’ve locked myself out enough times to know that it is a good idea to have a spare key somewhere, but people looking to invade your home will find it no matter how well you think you have hidden it.  Instead, leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor.

- Make sure you have quality locks.  The lock is the weakest part on a door.  You will want a grade 1 or grade 2 dead-bolt lock that penetrates the door frame.  It’s important to have a duty Strike Plate that is made of solid metal or brass.  How to Pick a Lock

- Use signage to scare strangers away.  Whether or not you have a security system (or a big watch dog) you can place signs in your yard or by your doors that say you do.  You can also have a no soliciting sign to discourage salespeople (or someone pretending to be a sales person) from knocking on your door.

- Invest in a security system.  There are many options for home security systems. Do some research and choose the one that works best for your family.  Many security companies will come out and inspect your home to give you an estimate of what you will need and how much it will cost. Nobody wants an added household expense, but feeling of being safe in your home is priceless!

If you’re thinking about selling or buying a home in the New River Valley area, contact professional, experienced Realtor Desi Sowers and let her assist you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call today at 540-320-1328!

When you purchase a home, you are not only choosing where to live, you are making a financial investment as well. Home Equity  is the percentage of your home value that you own and with each mortgage payment you make you are contributing to your own financial savings.  The goal is to build up as much equity as you can so that when you sell your home, you will make a nice profit!  Here are some tips for building home equity:

- Take Out a 15-Year Mortgage Loan - It’s common for people to choose a 30-year mortgage because many believe a 15-year mortgage is out of their budget.  However, it can’t hurt to ask your mortgage lender to run the numbers to see if a 15-year mortgage is doable for you.  You might be surprised to discover that the shorter term is within reach.  Sticking to a Budget that allows you to pay off your house in half the time will build equity faster and will certainly pay off in the long run!

- Pay Down the Principal - Build equity faster by paying down your home loan quicker.  Even if you don’t have the ability to take out a 15-year mortgage, you can still make extra mortgage payments when you have the means to do so and the difference extra mortgage payments can make toward building equity are huge. If you make just one extra payment toward  Principal each year, you can potentially pay off your home loan seven or eight years ahead of schedule.  There are ways to do this without breaking your budget.  For example, you can use a tax refund or a work bonus.  Another way to do it is to simply add a small amount to your principal payment each month.

- Make a Larger Down Payment - Depending on your credit standing, you can qualify for a conventional mortgage loan with a down payment as low as 3%, and an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5%.  While it’s tempting to buy a house with a low down payment so that you have more cash on hand, the pros of making a larger down payment may outweigh the cons. The larger the down payment, the faster you build equity.  The faster you build equity, the more profit you will make should you have to sell your home before paying it off.

- Make Improvements on Your Home - Making Home Improvements is a good way to add value to your property.  It’s important to educate yourself about what home improvements give you the best ROI (return on investment).  For example, per Chris Terrill, CEO of HomeAdvisor, “a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments homeowners can make.”  “Projects including refinishing cabinets, updating the countertops and installing new appliances all provide high return without breaking the bank.”  Other home improvements that add value to your property include replacing garage doors, adding a bedroom, updating a bathroom and installing new windows. And don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal!  A professionally landscaped yard will not only help with a quick sale; it can also add up to 20% to your home’s value!

Owning a home is likely the largest financial investment you will make, and the more equity you acquire, the more options you will have.  You can utilize your equity as a nest egg for the future or it can be used as a cash down payment on your next home.  Use these tips to build equity faster so you can build up your savings and enjoy this wonderful perk of home ownership!

If you’re thinking about selling or buying a home in the New River Valley area, contact professional, experienced Realtor Desi Sowers and let her assist you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call today at 540-320-1328!

Pool Ownership - Love It or Leave It?

by Desi Sowers

Summer is almost here and it is getting hotter with every passing day.  There is nothing more refreshing on a steamy summer day than slipping into the coolness of a swimming pool.  The idea of having a swimming pool in your own backyard sounds very appealing, but before you decide to install one, take some time to learn the pros and cons of pool ownership.

Pros:

  • Family Time - What better way to spend a hot summer day than playing in the pool with your family?  Spending time with family is one of the biggest reasons people get pools.  Gathering your family together in the heat of summer to sit around inside your home isn’t half as much fun as swimming and being around the pool together.  A swimming pool provides activity and fun for families. 17 Swimming Pool Games for Kids This Summer
  • Entertainment - Many people enjoy hosting backyard cookouts during the summer months. Having a pool makes cookouts even better.  A pool will keep your guests cool and entertained.  Celebrating special occasions poolside makes them more fun!
  • Lifestyle & Convenience -  Being able to walk out your back door and relax by the pool is another reason why pools continue to be a popular choice for homeowners.  Going to a public pool isn’t always relaxing.  First, you must pack up everything you’ll need for the day - towels, books/magazines, water, snacks/lunch, goggles, pool toys etc.  Once you get that all in the car, you have to drive to the pool, find a parking place and lug all that stuff into the pool area. Then hopefully you find a chair (or if you brought your kids, two or more chairs together).  Once you finally settle in and open your book, relaxation may not come easy at a crowded pool with loads of screaming children splashing and playing around you.  Now, imagine simply stepping out your back door with book, towel and drink in hand, lying in a comfy chair, and enjoying a quiet day of reading and cooling off in the crystal water of your own pool.  Sounds pretty spectacular to me! 
  • Aesthetics - A pool makes a beautiful centerpiece for the backyard.  With attractive landscaping and lovely patio furniture, a sparkling pool can become the crown jewel of your outdoor living space.17 Swimming Pools That Make us Wish that Year-Round Summer Was a Thing
  • Health - An increasingly popular reason to own a swimming pool is for physical activity. Swimming has been a favorite form of recreational activity for a long time.  Whether you do lap swimming or water aerobics, physical activity in the pool can help you stay in shape while also being easy on your joints. 

Cons:

  • Time - If you already live a busy lifestyle and you are rarely at home, a swimming pool is probably not for you.  There is no point in having something that you are not going to use.
  • Lifestyle -  Many people think “if only I had a pool, I would use it all the time!”. And maybe you would. Maybe you would stay home more often and exercise more.  But you must be realistic.  Just like having a pair of running shoes doesn’t make you a runner, having a pool might not make you change your current lifestyle.  And you can’t hide your pool in your closet.  Before installing a pool, give a lot of thought as to whether you will use it enough to make it worthwhile so that you don’t end up with buyers’ remorse.
  • Money - Installing and owning a swimming pool means spending some money.  Most people will finance their pool, so you have to budget for the monthly payments.  Also, there will be costs for upkeep.  There will be monthly chemical and utility costs.  If you don’t think you will use the pool enough or that you will want to spend that money elsewhere, purchasing a swimming pool is probably not a wise financial move.
  • Upkeep - Pools don’t take care of themselves.  They have to be cleaned and maintained regularly.  At the beginning of summer, you have to “open” your pool and at the end of the season you must “close” it.  It’s a lot of work.  You are either going to have to do that work yourself, or you’re going to have to hire someone to do it. Either way, you need to decide if you will use the pool enough to make it worth it. Pool Maintenance 101

Getting a pool is a big expense, so carefully think through the pros and cons before having one installed!

If you are in the market for a new home in the New River Valley area and you would like a home that already has a swimming pool, Desi Sowers can help you find it!  Give her a call at 540-320-1328 and let her assist you in finding your dream home today!

Photo Credit: houselogic.com

Laundry in the Lap of Luxury

by Desi Sowers

The laundry room is probably not the first space you think of when you hear the word luxurious.  But it is a room you spend a lot of time in.  Doing laundry is a necessary part of life, so why not make it more appealing by creating a comfortable, practical and pretty environment that will make it feel less like a chore and more like a pleasant task. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your laundry room a calm and soothing work space.  There are opulent touches you can add that will improve your disposition while performing the essential duties of washing, drying, folding and ironing.

  • Paint the room in a soft, neutral color - choose from greens, blues or yellow.
  • Hang some art on the walls.  Pick pieces that you love or are meaningful to you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money…just choose paintings or pictures that bring you joy.

You can find inexpensive art at ART.COM.

  • If you lack storage in your laundry room, add some simple shelves with clean lines.  Get some clear containers for your detergent, fabric softener sheets, clothes pins etc. so you can dispose of the unsightly bags and boxes they come in.
  • Use baskets or bins to pre-sort clothes  into whites, colors, sheets, towels etc.
  • If your laundry room is spacious, create a Folding Area.  You can have a table or if you are using front loading machines, design a counter to go on top of them.  Add a small, wall-mounted television and a comfy chair, and folding clothes won’t seem so boring anymore.
  • Add a small vase with fresh flowers.  Being amidst the beauty of nature will make you feel better about being stuck indoors doing laundry!
  • Remember, guests are not likely to see your laundry room, so make it all about YOU.  Be funky and unique with your décor and have fun with it!  Before you know it, you will look forward to doing all that washing, drying and folding.  Ok…maybe you won’t look forward to it, but at least you won’t dread it!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the New River Valley area, call Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328 and let her help you with all of your real estate needs!

Photo Credit: thepondsofhappenstance.com

Don’t Let Insects “Bug” You this Spring & Summer!

by Desi Sowers

This time of year, many of us enjoy spending time outside in our yards. Whether we are playing, dining, doing yard work or simply relaxing, our time outdoors can be ruined by pesky insects.  There are many remedies for getting rid of the annoying little pests, but if you are looking for natural way to do the job, here are several plants you can put in your yard that will repel unwanted insects.  While they will not guarantee an insect free environment, they will help!

BASIL
Basil repels house flies and mosquitoes.  Use containers for planting basil by your house doors or in any outdoor areas where you like to relax and entertain.  It will serve more than one purpose because you can also use the fresh basil in your cooking!

LAVENDER
This pretty plant repels moths, fleas, mosquitoes and flies.  Its pleasing, sweet fragrance appeals to humans, but the bugs hate it! You can place bouquets inside your home to keep flies away.  Outdoors, plant it in sunny areas or near the entryways of your house to keep those areas pest free.  Check out the Everything Lavender website to find out how you can use lavender oil to make your own mosquito repellent.

LEMONGRASS
Lemongrass contains the natural oil, citronella, which is commonly found in candles that are used to keep mosquitoes away.  Ornamental lemongrass can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide in one season.  It is an annual that does well in a pot or in the ground in sunny, well-drained locations.  Its aromatic, narrow leaves can be used in chicken and pork dishes and to flavor soups and salad dressings.  Many Asian recipes call for lemongrass.

MINT
Another plant that mosquitoes don’t like.  It’s best grown in pots rather than in the ground because it spreads aggressively.  Once established in a garden, it can be difficult to remove.  The leaves can be used to flavor minty iced tea. Containers of mint strategically placed in the garden or on the patio will assist in keeping nearby plants insect free.

ALLIUMS
If you have a vegetable garden, beautiful, tall alliums will help keep insects out of it.  Considered a broad-spectrum natural insecticide, plants in the Allium family repel several insects that plague vegetable gardens, including slugs, aphids, carrot flies and cabbage worms.

CHRYSANTHEMUMS
The ingredient in chrysanthemums that makes the so effective as an insect repellent is pyrethrum.  Roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, spider mites, harlequin bugs and root-knot nematodes all will avoid chrysanthemums.  Pyrethrum is used in America’s most commonly available home and garden insecticide sprays. You can make your own bug spray using chrysanthemum oil, but make sure you know the risks of using it first. Side Effects of Chrysanthemum Oil

PETUNIAS
These whimsical beauties repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs.  Some people think of them as “nature’s pesticide”.  Popular because of their availability in a variety of bright colors, they require minimal maintenance and can be grown in numerous locations including beds, containers and hanging baskets.

Keeping insects away will go a long way toward making your outdoor time more enjoyable during the warmer seasons.  And beautiful plants and flowers will create lovely curb appeal as well!

Are you looking for a home with a great outdoor space to enjoy?  Desi Sowers is an experienced Realtor who can help you find just what you’re looking for. Give her a call at 540-320-1328 today!

Photo Credit: stoppestinfo.com​

Nine Ways to Make the Outdoors More Enjoyable in Spring

by Desi Sowers

Spring is just around the corner and many people enjoy spending time outdoors to savor the warmer weather.  Unfortunately, there are some not-so-pleasant aspects of spending time outside such as bugs, rain and hot, humid days. Whether you have a deck, patio or a fancy She Shed, the following tips will help make the time you spend outside more comfortable in any situation:

  1. 1. BUGS.  Yuck.  Whether you are hosting an alfresco dinner party or just simply trying to relax with a good book on your deck, nothing will send you running back inside faster than nasty, annoying bugs.  If mosquitoes are a problem in your area, dealing with them is imperative if you want to be able to enjoy the outdoors.  Screening in a porch is an ideal way to be able to feel like you are outside without all the awful bug bites. Check out these screened porch ideas on Pinterest.  Other ways to keep insects away:
  • Do not keep any standing water on your property.  Even a single forgotten flowerpot full of rainwater can become a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Make water features running rather than standing, or treat them with Mosquito Dunks.
  • Install ceiling fans on porches - flies and mosquitoes do not like moving air.
     
  1. 2. USE OUTDOOR FABRICS IN EXPOSED AREAS.  If your porch is covered, you may be able to get away with using more delicate furniture and cushions not specifically made for outdoor use.  But if your seating area is exposed to the elements, you will want to invest in fabrics and furniture made for outside use.  They will likely be more expensive, but they won’t fade in the sun, will resist stains and are water resistant.  The cushions are stuffed with material that sheds water easily so that they won’t stay waterlogged if they get wet.
     
  2. 3. UTILIZE A STORAGE BENCH.  While outdoor cushions are designed to stand up to repeated soakings, they will still be wet for a while directly after a rainstorm.  You can avoid having to sit on damp cushions by keeping them in a covered storage bench when you know there is a chance of rain.  If they won’t fit in a storage bench, lean your larger cushions against the wall of the house.  Do the same with any lightweight folding chairs.
     
  3. 4. MASK SOUNDS WITH RUNNING WATER.  If noise is an issue that prevents you from indulging in a peaceful outdoor experience, try using a water feature to drown out the distraction.  Water is a great way to gently camouflage sounds from close neighbors.  Try installing a small fountain near your seating area for a more tranquil atmosphere.
     
  4. 5. MUSIC. If the water feature doesn’t appeal to you, soft music playing in the background can be just as effective at masking sounds.  With wireless speakers, you don’t even need an outlet to play your music.
     
  5. 6. SHADE.  Even when you are craving the warmth of the sun, sitting outside without any shade on a hot, sunny day will send you running for the AC before too long.  There are a lot of options for adding shade to your yard.  Try freestanding umbrellas, a cloth overhang, lattices, a shade tree or a pergola.
     
  6. 7. PUT TOGETHER AN OUTDOOR DINING KIT.  Dining alfresco will be easier if you have a kit ready and waiting.  Put your frequently used outdoor items in a basket or on a big tray with handles so you can just grab it and go.  Here are some things to include:
  • Unbreakable wineglasses and plates
  • A carafe for water, wine or tea
  • Big napkins
  • Candles and matches or a lighter
  • A wicker or mesh dome-shaped cover to keep flies off the food
  • Unbreakable outdoor serving pieces
  • A bottle opener
  1. 8. HAVE BLANKETS FOR CHILLY EVENINGS. Keep some blankets nearby.  Old wool camp-style blankets, light weight Kantha Blankets, or fringed throws work well.  Your guests will thank you on chilly evenings in the garden!
     
  2. 9. HAVE ADEQUATE NIGHTTIME LIGHTING.  Your outdoor space will really come alive at night with the right lighting.  Try placing lighting under a bench seat for subtle illumination, make a ring of lanterns on the grass around your dining table or hang strings of lights overhead.  Landscape lighting will add to the ambiance as well.

YOUR HOME SEARCH STARTS HERE             FIND OUT WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH 

Photo Credit: HGTV.com

Five Top Home Décor Trends for 2018

by Desi Sowers

We are over a month into the new year and spring is approaching.  If you are thinking about changing your home décor, now is a great time to do it, before warmer weather and longer days make you want to head outdoors.  Here are five home décor trends that are popular this year:

  1. Iridescent Accents: If you’re renovating your kitchen or bathroom, don’t be afraid to add a little shimmer!  Iridescent tiles bring sparkle to the room!  Iridescent accents such as photo frames and small vases can be placed in other parts of the house as well.


Photo Credit: Flickr

  1. Fringe:  That’s right, fringe!  It’s going to be huge this year. Fringe on items such as lamp shades, blankets and curtains will add a little fun to your décor.  How to Decorate with Fringe


Photo Credit: Amazon

  1. Classic Books:  Add a vintage vibe to your shelves by decorating with old, classic books.  You might have some in your home already, but if you don’t you can find some here


Photo Credit: liwenyun.me

  1. Cement Texture for Walls & Floors: Add a utilitarian edge to your home by either exposing cement floors, counters or walls.  No cement to be exposed? Don’t worry!  You can paint a wall to look like concrete! Learn more about Paint Colors That Sell!



Photo Credit: My Vintage Porch

  1. Typography: The written word is still “in” for 2018.  Signs with favorite quotes or poems or even single words offer a simple way to express yourself in your home décor.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can make your own!


Photo Credit: The White Hydrangea Company

These are just a few of many home décor ideas that are trending this year! Read my blog to learn more about home trends and tips for 2018!

YOUR HOME SEARCH STARTS HERE            FIND OUT WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH  

Saving Money: Lowering Your Electric Bill

by Desi Sowers

With all the expenses of being a homeowner, we all want to cut back where we can to lower costs. There are several ways to save on your electric bill.  Try these tips and you’ll find a lower bill in your mailbox next month!

  • Get an Energy Audit - Check and see if your utility company offers a free home energy audit.  If so, it’s well worth it to have them come out.  They can point out areas where you can trim your energy use.
     
  • Install Dimmer Switches - Dimmer switches will allow you to only use as much light as you need.
     
  • Keep Your Fridge & Freezer Full - The food that you store in your fridge and freezer serves as insulation, so the more you have in there, the less your appliance must run to keep itself cold.
     
  • Install Ceiling Fans - If you keep the air circulating in your home, your AC will not have to work as hard to keep the house cool.
     
  • Line Dry Your Laundry - Let Mother Nature dry your clothes for you on warm, sunny days.  When that is not possible, try using a drying rack indoors.
     
  • Eliminate Phantom Loads - You may be shocked to know that about 75% of the energy used by home electronics is consumed when they are turned off. Some examples of these “phantom” users are: televisions, CD players, computers, and various kitchen appliances. The simple solution is to plug these items into a power strip and then turn the power strip off when not using them.
     
  • Install an Attic Fan - An attic fan will pull cool air into your home, and help to remove hot air.
     
  • Shield Your Home from the Sun - You can cut down on air conditioning use by closing your curtains and blinds on the sunny side of the house.  You may also want to consider planting trees that will provide shade during the sunny times of the day.
     
  • Schedule Yearly HVAC Maintenance - Having your HVAC inspected and cleaned each year will save you money in the long run…and it will help provide cleaner air to your home.
     
  • Change Your Filters Regularly - Filters should be changed every 30 days to keep your HVAC running at peak efficiency.
     
  • Switch to LEDs - LED light bulbs use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.  Switch out the bulbs you use the most in your home and then change the rest as they burn out.
     
  • Lower the Temperature of Your Hot Water Heater - 13% of your home’s energy goes to heating water. You can lower this percentage by setting your hot water heater to 130-14 degrees.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/How-to-Prevent-Electrical-Hazards-in-Your-Home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/The-Aging-of-Your-House-How-Long-Will-It-Last

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Four-steps-to-protect-your-home-from-winter-water-damage

Photo Credit: YouTube.com

Don’t be Shocked by the Unexpected Costs of Buying a Home

by Desi Sowers

Buying your first home is exciting.  After getting approved for a mortgage loan, working with a professional Realtor and finding your dream home, it’s time to settle in and start enjoying your new digs.  Then BAM!  The shock of an unexpected expense slaps you in the face.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Being informed about the possible expenses of being a homeowner will not make spending the money any more fun, but at least you will be prepared.  Here are some ancillary costs of homeownership that you should be aware of:

 - CLOSING COSTS - When closing on your mortgage you will be presented with a long list of costs: mortgage taxes, lender application fees, attorney’s fees, title insurance, recording fees and any potential real estate tax reimbursements if the seller has paid them up front.  Altogether, closing costs are an average of 2 to 5 percent of the total cost of the home.  They will vary state to state.  Closing cost information for Virginia can be found here.

 - HOME MAINTENANCE - Now that you are a homeowner, you are solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your property.  Everything from yardwork to cleaning; pressure washing to clearing the gutters…it’s all in your hands and on your dime.  Oh…and fixing things.  Yeah.  When the AC isn’t working or there is a leaky faucet, you will be footing the bill for repairs.  This all sounds a bit scary, but the key is to be prepared.  Go into your home purchase knowing that you will likely be spending about 1% of the purchase price of your home on maintenance annually.

 - PROPERTY TAXES - Property taxes vary by state and can also vary based on city, ordinance, and even specific house.  You can utilize a Property Tax Calculator to get an idea of what your taxes will be when planning for your expenses.

 - UTILITIES - If you’re coming from a rental where your utilities were included with the rent, you may not have considered how much you will need to set aside to pay for electricity, gas, water and sewage costs.  Added to internet, cable and phone bills, it can be quite a chunk of change.  Planning for utility costs is crucial to making sure you can afford to live in a home of your own.

 - HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE - When you get a mortgage, you must get homeowner's insurance as well.  Be sure to do your homework and shop around for the best possible price.  You can get discounts for things like security systems, working from home or bundling coverage for your home with your auto insurance policy.  Educate yourself on what your insurance policy covers so that you’re not left disappointed when you must pay for something you thought would be taken care of.

Don’t let these expenses scare you off from purchasing a home.  Again, the key is to be aware of them going in so that you won’t be caught unawares when they come up.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Buying-or-Selling-a-Home-Ten-Reasons-to-Hire-a-Professional-Realtor-Today

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Finding-Your-Dream-Home-Tips-for-Success

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Home-Inspections-are-Important-Heres-Why

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