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How to Prevent Electrical Hazards in Your Home

by Desi Sowers

Electricity is a beautiful thing.  It provides warmth in the winter and cools you off during hot summer months. It gives you light in the dark and makes chores like washing/drying clothes and doing dishes so much easier.  You take it for granted because you’ve always had it and you certainly can’t even imagine what life would be like without it.  Because it is such a normal part of your life, you probably don’t stop to think about how dangerous it can be.  It is important to be educated about possible electrical problems in your home so that you will know how to deal with them before they happen.

  1. Do you know how old your home is?  Often older homes don’t have the capacity for electricity that current technology uses.  If you have never had an electrical safety inspection by a professional, now is the time to do so.  If your home’s electrical wiring has not been updated to safely handle all the current that your family uses, it is crucial to have it done .
  2. Is your electrical panel hot to the touch?  It shouldn’t be.  Check the brand of your panel. Several brands are outdated or faulty and should be replaced.  A faulty electrical panel can lead to a fire.  That is not something anyone should risk.
  3. Outlets should not be hot either.  If you feel an electrical outlet and it is warm or hot, it means there could be a problem.  There are dangerous issues indicated by a warm/hot outlet. Whether it’s too much demand on the outlet, faulty or melting wiring, or other precarious situations, you don’t want to ignore it.
  4. Keep plugged in appliances away from water.  This seems obvious, right?  But sometimes limited space forces us to use electrical appliances near sinks or bathtubs.  Whether you are blow-drying your hair at your bathroom vanity or your kitchen only has one plug for your toaster and it’s right by the sink, be extra careful.  If a plugged-in appliance gets wet, don’t unplug it. Go to your electrical panel and unplug the power source for the outlet you’re using.  Then you can unplug it.
  5. Make sure you are using the correct wattage light bulbs.  Using a higher wattage than can safely be accommodated by a lamp or light fixture may overload its wiring, which is a fire hazard.  It’s ok to use a light bulb with wattage equal to or less than that called for on the lamp’s socket.  If you want brighter light, look for a lamp that uses a higher wattage bulb.
  6. Use an experienced, licensed electrician to handle your home’s electrical repairs and/or replacements.  Professional electricians are well-trained and have years of on-the-job experience before being granted a license.  They will know current codes and regulations and can safely navigate any problems they might come across.

It’s easy to prevent electrical hazards if you are informed and educated about what to be aware of.  So, don’t take electricity or your family’s safety for granted!

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

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Home-Maintenance-for-Winter

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

Home Inspections are Important: Here’s Why

by Desi Sowers

With all the fees and expenses involved in purchasing a home, it may be tempting to skip the home inspection to avoid spending the money.  But in the long run, it may cost you more to skip it.  Home inspections sometimes reveal things that ultimately could have cost you way more than the fee involved.

While you might believe the sellers are being honest about the condition of the home, it’s important not to take their word for it.  Truthfully, they probably are being honest.  But they don’t necessarily see what could be “wrong” with the house any more than you do.  That’s why you need an expert to come in and do the inspection. They can find things that never would be noticed by the naked eye because they know what to look for. Home inspectors can also give you advice and things to look out for in the future. With that information, you have an idea of how to prepare for potential costs down the road.

A home inspection can be a deal breaker as well.  For example, if sellers offer a discounted price or cash back for skipping the inspection, that is a huge red flag!  Walk away from the deal.   A home inspection only takes a few hours and is paid for by buyers, so there is no reason sellers should protest unless there are critical issues in the home they know about and are trying to hide.

When hiring a home inspector, you want someone with many years of experience and proper certifications and licenses. You also want someone who will be thorough…willing to go through the basement, attic and up on the roof to check out every nook and cranny of the home.  It’s important to gather as much information about the house as possible so that you know what you are getting in to.

It is not mandatory for you to be present for the inspection, but it’s a good idea to be there.  Some inspectors are happy to have you walk along with them and ask questions as you go.  Others will want to do the inspection on their own and then have you do a walk through with them after they are done.  Either way, be sure to look carefully through the report they give you and ask as many questions as you want.  Remember that you are paying for their time, so don’t hesitate to have them go over the report with you so that you have a clear understanding of it.

Even if your inspection comes up clean, the fee you pay is worth the price to have peace of mind. Include it in your home-buying budget and don’t think of it as an “extra” expense.  It is a crucial element of your decision in purchasing the home and paying a $450 fee and finding nothing wrong is better than skipping it and ending up having to replace your roof for $3000! 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Investing-in-Real-Estate-Tips-for-Success

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Help-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Buying-a-Home-is-a-Sound-Financial-Investment

The Aging of Your House - How Long Will It Last?

by Desi Sowers

What is the life span of a house?  Some houses may survive for hundreds of years, but the individual components that make them up may not.  Parts of the house made of concrete or brick may last a long time, but other things such as appliances may only last ten years or so, regardless of how expensive they were to purchase. 

As seen in the graphic, components of the house made with hardy materials such as wood or stone flooring can last 100 years or more.  Other durables that can last a lifetime included natural stone or tile countertops, fiberglass, wood or fire-rated steel exterior doors, copper wiring and most types of insulation.

A study by the  National Association of Home Builders warns that life expectancy of homes will vary and the life span of an individual house’s component will depend greatly on the quality of installation, level of maintenance, weather and climate conditions and intensity of use.

Many homeowners will swap out house components or appliances before necessary due to changing styles and preferences or improvements in newer products.  Eligibility for tax credits or rebates and newer models that are more energy efficient and less costly to use may entice homeowners to replace items before the end of their useful life.

Consistent home maintenance is the best way to make your home, and all its various components, last as long as possible. 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Protect-Your-Home-from-Fire-Four-Surprising-Fire-Hazards

Decluttering 101

by Desi Sowers

Having a cluttered house makes life more challenging than it has to be.  The emotional toll of clutter can be surprisingly draining.  Take these steps to declutter your house and before you know it you will start to experience the positive effects of a clutter-free life!

  1. Stop the flow of stuff coming in. Some people have a rule that if you buy something, you must get rid of something. That is all fine and well if your house isn’t already cluttered.  But, if you have too much stuff you are going to need to get rid of things and NOT replace them with other things.
     
  2. Declutter at least one item a day. You don’t have to do it all at once.  You likely feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to declutter.  Take it one small step at a time.  Some days you might get a lot accomplished, others you may not. But try to declutter at least one item a day. 
     
  3. Declutter the easy stuff first.  If there are things that you know are going to be difficult to part with, don’t start with them.  Start with the easiest things.  Ease your way into the process. 
     
  4. Have a disposal plan in place. Do your research. Find out where you can donate or sell items.  After all, your trash might be someone else’s treasure. Websites like Freecycle and Ebay, as well as local thrift stores, are good disposal options.
     
  5. Decide not to keep things out of guilt or obligation. If you love it, keep it. If you use it, keep it.  But if it is meaningless to you and simply taking up space, get rid of it!
     
  6. Don’t be afraid to let go.  If you are hanging on to something because you might use it someday, don’t.  Be realistic.  If you haven’t used it in years, chances are you will never use it.  Let. It. Go.
     
  7. Only declutter what is yours.  All family members should participate and go through their own belongings to decide what to keep and what to dispose of.
     
  8. Do not waste your life on clutter! Clutter drains your energy.  It’s a physical manifestation of chaos that can often make you feel like you are not in control.  Take that first step and start enjoying life without clutter!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance-Must-Do-List

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Lunch-Logistics-Organizing-Your-Kitchen-for-Back-to-School-Lunches

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Packing-it-Up-and-Moving-it-Out

Autumn Home Maintenance Must-Do List

by Desi Sowers

Summer is winding down and Autumn is just around the corner.  Take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather and get started on your Fall home maintenance to-do list now!

  • Check for peeling paint on the exterior of your home.  Don’t ignore it!  If paint is peeling or blistering, it’s a sign that it is no longer providing a protective covering for your siding, which can leave it vulnerable to damage that will cost you dearly in the future.  This doesn’t mean you have to repaint the entire house though.  You can repair the damaged areas and save yourself a lot of grief and money.
  • Clean your gutters.  Clogged gutters are a major source of wood rot problems and pest infestations.  Make sure downspouts are clear and joints and brackets are in good working order.  If they are damaged, replace them
  • Make sure windows and doors are sealed properly. Caulking and sealing is an inexpensive way to protect you home from the elements.  It also saves you money by preventing heat from escaping during the colder seasons.  Check your weather stripping as well. Replace it if it is damaged.
  • Take a good look at your roof.  Make sure there are no missing or loose shingles. Avoid having to deal with a leaky roof during the first snow by preemptively repairing any problems
  • Get your fireplace and/or wood stove ready.  If you have a wood burning fireplace, have a professional come out to clean your chimney. Making sure your fireplace/woodstove are in good working order is crucial for home safety.

Check these home maintenance projects off your list now and you can enjoy your Fall weekends in your cozy, warm house!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/4-DIY-projects-for-your-first-home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Upcycle-your-summer-treasures-with-these-5-DIY-tips

Paint Colors that Sell!

by Desi Sowers

If you’re thinking about painting the rooms in your house, why not think about resale value while you’re at it?  Of course, you will want to choose colors that appeal to you personally, but at the same time you may want to consider how those colors might affect potential buyers in the future.  Looks aren’t everything, but they are important when making an impression on people who may possibly purchase your home.  Here is a palette you may want to consider if you want to make more money when you sell:

According to Zillow kitchens painted in light blue to soft gray-blue tones brought in $1,809 more than other colors while kitchens painted yellow saw resale value drop by about $820. 

Bathrooms painted light blue or periwinkle can bring in $5,440 more on average, while bathrooms painted in varied shades of white reduced home sale prices by about $4,035.

When it comes to your bedroom, the blues win again!  A pink one can cost you about a $200 loss in resale value, while a light cerulean or cadet blue bedroom can bring you an extra $1,856.


Blues seem to be the colors of choice for most rooms in the house when it comes to resale value, but one room where that is not the case is the living room. Zillow found that a light beige, pale taupe and oatmeal color tends to add $1,809 to home sales, while living rooms painted in varied shades of blue, silver and gray lose out on approximately $820.


So, if you’re looking for a low-cost way to upgrade your home, break out the paint brushes and make sure to choose the right colors to get more bang for your buck when you sell!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Ten-Décor-Trends-to-Avoid-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/The-Best-Chance-For-Selling-Your-New-River-Valley-VA-Home

If you are preparing to list your house for sale, you may be wondering if the financial reward will be worth the time, effort and money to fix up things that are in disrepair or that are dated.  The answer to that question depends on a myriad of circumstances such as the current real estate market, the condition of competing inventory and whether or not the renovations that need to be made generally provide a return on investment.

Some home buyers are looking to purchase a "fixer upper".  They are looking for properties priced to sell, perhaps because they don’t qualify for more expensive homes or maybe because they want to make a profit by fixing the home up themselves.  Most fixer buyers want to do simple repairs such as painting walls, replacing light fixtures and putting in new carpet. Only a few want to take a house down to the studs and completely redo it.  These potential buyers will want a price for the home that will allow for all the repairs, the inconvenience of doing the work, and often a bit more.  For example, if a home is worth $200,000 fixed up but needs a new roof, and the roof costs approximately $10,000, a buyer most likely will not offer $190,000 for this home.  The reason is that they can probably find a similar house that already has a new roof for $200,000 and save themselves the headache of replacing it themselves.  A buyer in this situation might offer $175,000 or less, in which case it would make more sense for the seller to replace the roof and sell it for $200,000.

It’s important to note that many buyers are looking for "turn-key" homes.  They fear having to make major repairs because they might be more costly than anticipated or other problems might be revealed.  Even if the price is right, homes listed for sale in “as is” condition might not attract as many buyers.

However, before doing major renovations, there are many things to consider.  Smart sellers will research what their home’s market value will be once improvements are made and compare it to the cost of the renovations. If an upgrade won’t provide return on the investment, it probably doesn’t make sense to do it.  Knowing the condition of your competition is helpful.  For example, if other homes for sale in your neighborhood all have modern kitchens, it might make sense to update yours.  This doesn’t mean you should tear it down and start from scratch.  Often a minor kitchen remodel will suffice.  Also, keep in mind that kitchen and bathroom remodels are known to bring the best return on investment.

Start by making a list of the things in your home that are dated or in disrepair and then prioritize.  Here is a list of 10 minimum improvements to make before putting your house on the market:

  • Patch all holes and cracks in walls and ceilings.
  • Fix all appliances and HVAC systems.
  • Repair leaky faucets.
  • Replace worn carpeting.
  • Repaint dark or marred walls in neutral colors (not white).
  • Replace broken windows.
  • Repair the roof.
  • Change dated light fixtures/ceiling fans.
  • Replace old linens/window coverings.
  • Fix any code violations.

If your real estate market is a seller’s market and homes are moving quickly, you can get by with fewer fix ups, however a home that needs repairs will still deliver a lower price.  If it’s a buyer’s market, people might not even be willing to look at homes that need repairs.  Desi  Sowers can help you understand the current market in The New River Valley so that you can make informed decisions about whether to sell your house “as is” or not. 

Protect Your Home from Fire: Four Surprising Fire Hazards

by Desi Sowers

It is estimated by The National Fire Protection Association that over 47,000 home fires reported to fire departments are caused by some kind of electrical failure as a trigger to ignition.  But there are some other unusual ways that fires can start that we should all be aware of.

Dishwashers

While you may be aware that overheating dryers or ovens can cause fires, you might think dishwashers are safe because they have water. And water puts out fires…right? Wrong!  Dishwasher fires can be caused by liquids coming into contact with the machine’s wires.  Serious damage can occur when fires are ignited in dishwashers.  According to a 25 year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, any appliance that powers a motor, heating element, or both always has a higher risk for fire - and dishwashers are a common example.  He advises that they never be turned on when going to sleep or leaving the home.

Jars and other glass objects

According to survivalists, one of the best ways to start a fire is to use a piece of glass to refract sunlight onto dry wood.  Without proper care, that same scientific process can happen on your own kitchen table.  In 2015 a fire broke out in a southwest London home because of sun rays reflecting through an empty Nutella jar, the Associated Press reported.  While it may seem to be an freakish way for a fire to start, the fire brigade’s investigative unit confirmed that the glass jar was to blame.  The chances of this happening in your home are slim, but it is important to remember to never store flammable liquids like gasoline, cleaning fluids, paint thinners and even cooking oils in glass jars that you intend to leave out in the sunlight.  Metal cans for commercial-use flammable liquids and plastic containers for things such as cooking oils are safer options.

Rodents

Small rodents like squirrels and rats like to burrow into your attic insulation in cold weather and chew anything they can get their teeth on, including rubber covered electrical lines.  Unfortunately, if electrical wires become exposed dud to their protective insulation being compromised, there is a likelihood of igniting a flame.  The key to preventing this from happening is to keep the critters out to begin with. Before winter season, make sure all vents are covered, holes are patched and cracks are sealed.

Laptops

If you have ever had your laptop computer in your, well, lap for an extended period of time, you know that they get hot.  Because of this, it is a bad idea to leave one sitting on a flammable surface such as bedding, furniture or carpet.  But the real culprit behind laptop fires is the lithium in the batteries.  A poorly made battery can overheat and burst into flames.  Recently the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones were recalled because they were catching on fire and it was the lithium batteries that were the problem.  Any device powered by lithium ion batteries should be shut off when not in use and stored away from any flammable items.

 

More hidden home fire hazards  HERE!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Home-Maintenance-for-Winter

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/12-Simple-Home-Repairs-to-Lift-You-Out-of-Winters-Funk

Spring Curb Appeal

by Desi Sowers

Whether you have your house on the market now or you are planning on putting it up for sale this spring, now is the time to start sprucing up your yard for curb appeal.  Here are some tips for how to rid your yard of that wild, unattended winter look and replace it with a space that will give prospective buyers a first impression that will have them wanting to see more!

  • Send Winter Packing! Pull out your rake and remove all the debris of winter.  Leaves, pine cones, sticks etc. are not appealing and keeping a visibly tidy yard can make the difference between a potential buyer driving on by or stopping in for a look.
  • Declare War on the Weeds! Weeding is no fun, but it’s a necessary part of maintaining your lawn and garden.  Taking the time to clear your yard of weeds will not only make it look nicer, it will also show that you take pride in all aspects of your home. Six Ways to Prevent and Remove Weeds
  • Time for a Trim! As spring approaches, it is time to start cutting your grass regularly again.  Healthy, even grass is attractive and gives the yard a pleasing appearance.  Don’t forget to trim the edges as well to complete the look.
  • Quench That Thirst! It’s important to keep your grass hydrated.  It will become dry and a dull shade of green if it’s not watered regularly. The same applies to your garden. Pay special attention to areas that are sheltered and don’t get as much moisture when it rains. Watering Your Lawn the Right Way
  • Dress it Up! Planting seasonal plants and flowers will dress up your yard and enhance curb appeal. Look for plants that will be in bloom during the time your house will be on the market for sale. Go to your local nursery and ask an expert what will work best for your space. Crow's Nest Greenhouses
  • Prune Away! Trim back any large shrubs, trees or plants to frame your house in a way that is inviting.  Pruning also encourages new growth, so start doing it a few weeks prior to your selling period in order to have fresh, full plants when buyers start to look at your property. 
  • Mulch it Up! Once you have planted and pruned, mowed and edged, it’s time to spread mulch around your garden beds. Mulch helps to keep moisture in your plants and makes the garden easier to maintain.  Make sure you choose a mulch that compliments your garden type and style.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Spring-cleaning-6-areas-to-repair-replace-and-refresh

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Brighten-up-your-home-and-bring-in-buyers-with-these-easy-ideas

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/12-Simple-Home-Repairs-to-Lift-You-Out-of-Winters-Funk

If you are interested in buying or selling a New River Valley home, contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328, and discover the difference she can make during your family's move. 

 

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