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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 Several brands are outdated or faulty and should be replaced.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

Putting Your House on the Market During the Holidays

by Desi Sowers

The idea of putting your home on the market during the holiday season may seem overwhelming at first, but it turns out there are several good reasons to do so. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to get your house sold before the end of the year!

  1. If people are looking for a home during the holiday season, chances are they are serious buyers.
  2. Serious buyers have fewer properties to look at during this time of year, which means less competition and more money for you!
  3. Since the number of listings will increase dramatically in January, that means more competition and less money for you.
  4. Who doesn’t love a home delightfully decorated for the holidays?  Homes show better when festively dressed up!
  5. Buyers may have more time to look at houses during their holiday breaks.
  6. Some people want to buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.
  7. If you sell now, it may provide an opportunity for you to be a non-contingent buyer during the Spring, when many more houses are on the market for less money. This will allow you to sell high and buy low.

Tips for Selling a Home During the Holidays

If you would like to talk more about selling your home, give me a call at 540-320-1328 or visit my website to discover your new home!

Open Floor Plans: Love Them or Leave Them?

by Desi Sowers

Watch any of the home renovation or buying/selling shows on HGTV and you will hear people asking for open floor plans. Even in small houses, people want the feel of spaciousness that an open floor plan provides.  A “great room” with no wall between the kitchen and living space seems to be the most popular choice when it comes to floor plan considerations.  But is it the best choice for everyone?  Let’s look at the pros and cons of the open floor plan and see if it’s the right decision for you and your family.

Pros:

  • You won’t feel isolated.  If you are cooking or doing dishes in a kitchen that flows into the family room,  you will be able to chat with family and friends or continue watching television instead of being stuck in a closed off room by yourself.
  • You will be able to keep an eye on the kids.  A great room with no walls allows you to watch your kids at play while you are cooking or cleaning.
  • More natural light.  Without interior walls, sunlight will flow through the house from the exterior wall windows.  You will also have an unobstructed view of the great outdoors.
  • Ideal for entertaining.  When you have guests over, they can congregate throughout the great room, so you won’t miss anything if you are in the kitchen cooking and serving food.

Cons:

  • Lack of privacy.  If your household includes people of various ages on a multitude of different schedules, an open floor plan can make things challenging.  For example, if your teenager wants to have friends over for a study group at the kitchen table, but you want to watch a movie.  Or perhaps you want to read quietly on the couch, but your daughter’s having a sleepover and they want to have pizza and bake cookies.  A separate, enclosed kitchen may be better for some families.
  • Limited wall space. Placing furniture in an open space is tricky sometimes, especially if you have a lot of windows.  And if you are an art lover, you are going to want blank walls for displaying your treasures.
  • Overwhelming mess.  Smaller, enclosed rooms are easier to keep neat and tidy.  With open floor plans, stuff tends to spread out.  And you may not want kids’ toys in your main living space, so a smaller, enclosed room might be your preference for a play area.
  • Too noisy.  With an open plan, there are more acoustics, therefore noise travels further. A quiet conversation in the kitchen may not be possible with the television on across the way.

Remember, just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.  Think about what is going to suit your family’s needs before starting your home search.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Selling-to-Millennial-Homebuyers

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Welcome-to-the-New-River-Valley

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

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

Staging Your Home with Young Children

by Desi Sowers

You have placed your house on the market and now it’s time for potential buyers to come and look at it. Keeping it clean, tidy and ready to show can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but even more so when you have young children.  Here are a few staging tips for keeping your house ready for last minute showings while making it attractive to buyers at the same time:

  1. Begin by removing any excess toys and clutter.  Cumbersome toys like play kitchens and picnic tables take up a lot of space and can made a room look crowded and smaller than it is - so it’s a good idea to put these in storage while you are trying to sell.
     
  2. Allow your children to pick out a few favorite toys that can be easily stored in attractive containers when showing the house.  Choose an option that makes tidying up quick and easy.  Store all other toys out of sight.
     
  3. Potential buyers like to be able to see the house as they would have it. So, remove kids’ art work from the refrigerator and convert the playroom into a multi-purpose room. For example, you can stage the playroom as an office by adding a desk and chair, or as a den by adding a small sofa.  That will make the room more appealing to buyers without children.
     
  4. Consider a fresh coat of paint, especially if you have colorful rooms that were painted to appeal to your little ones.  Not only will the new paint cover finger-prints and marks on the walls, but choosing neutral colors for all the rooms will help sell your home more quickly and easily.
     
  5. Don’t forget that the outside of your house is the first thing potential buyers see.  Keep outdoor toys to a minimum and make sure they are stored neatly.  You never know when buyers might be driving by and you don’t want a bunch of toys to create and eye-sore that makes them hesitate to look at your home.

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Decluttering-101

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

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

Majestic Fall Flowers

by Desi Sowers

If you’re lucky enough to live near the mountains in VA, you know that fall foliage provides a natural, extraordinary backdrop of color during the autumn months.  But if you would like to add some of the glorious autumn colors to your home’s landscaping, now is the time to start planning and planting.  Whether you are partial to yellows and golds, burnt oranges and rusts, or deep reds and burgundies (or if you like to mix it up with a variety of hues), there is something for everyone when it comes to fall flowers.  Here are some favorites:

Chrysanthemums -  These popular flowers come in a variety of sizes. With seasonal, festive shades of yellow, red and orange they provide a perfect backdrop for all your outdoor fall décor.  Learn how to plant and grow chrysanthemums here.

Pansies - Found in just about every shade of the rainbow, these versatile flowers create a majestic ground cover and look equally amazing in hanging baskets.  If planted in fall, pansies can last up to eight months, so you definitely get your money’s worth of beauty with these hardy plants!

Celosia - These lovelies are durable and easy to care for.  They provide bright yellow, warm orange, crimson red, and rich burgundy accents to your container gardens.  You can also add celosia to your landscape beds and borders.  Their flame-like plumes add a whimsical look to any fall garden.

Croton - An ideal plant for autumn, this plant has brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and purple.  It works as a houseplant in cold-weather regions or as a shrub in frost-free areas.  It also can be grown outdoors as an annual. Be on the lookout for different varieties to find the best crotons to complement your fall garden.

Black-Eyed Susan - These golden-yellow stunners bring to mind happy daisies.  Bees and butterflies love them and they brighten up any landscape or container garden. Learn how to plant and care for black-eyed Susan and create a blanket of color for fall!

Helenium - Also known as “sneezeweed” (don’t worry, it doesn’t make you sneeze…the name comes from when they used to make snuff out of their dried leaves) they look like small, copper hued coneflowers.  They can grow quite tall and add a burst of warm cheer to your fall garden.  Get planting and maintenance tips for Helenium here.

Take advantage of what’s left of late summer and start your fall garden while the days are still longer and the temperatures are still mild.  Before you know it, you will be enjoying the glory of Autumn!

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

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

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Creative-raised-bed-and-planter-gardening

 

What You Need to Know About Renting Out a Room

by Desi Sowers

With college football season upon us, there will be an influx of people trying to find accommodations in the New River Valley area.  Homeowners may be tempted to rent out rooms to earn a little extra income.  Why not?  It sounds easy enough.  Clean up that spare room or basement and you can rake in the big bucks from people desperate to find lodging.  But there are things you should know before taking this on.  It may not be as simple as it seems.

  • There are several online peer-to-peer marketplaces for renting out your house or a room in your house. Airbnb is one of the largest and most popular. Some others include HomeAway and FlipKey. Your first step should be to investigate the various options and decide which one will work best for you.
  • Educate yourself about the laws involved with renting out a room in your home. When listing your home on a website, they might not indicate whether you’re complying with local laws.  You are responsible for knowing the regulations and following the rule of the law.  Don’t get yourself in a situation like the hosts in New York City who were fined thousands of dollars for renting their apartments through peer-to-peer services.  This type of rental activity is allowed in the Town of Blacksburg, but it is subject to standards adopted by Town Council.  Make sure you know the rules and regulations before placing your room for rent.
  • There may be taxes involved.  Depending on how much you earn by renting out all or part of your home, you may receive a tax form from the marketplaces that list your property.  Regardless, you must report the earnings when filing your taxes.  This is something to consider when deciding if it is worth the cost to start renting out space in your home.
  • Something else to think about when deciding if your profits will outweigh your costs is the expense of having guests in your home.  You will be providing consumables such as soap, toilet paper, shampoo and cleaning supplies. In addition, your utility bills may increase.  You may also want to hire a cleaning service if you don’t have time to clean between guests.
  • To increase your chances of being booked, consider listing on multiple sites.  The more people that see your listing, the better the chance it will be rented.  But remember, each site has its own rules, fee structures and insurance requirements, so you need to know this information for every site you use.

Should you decide to rent out a room in your home, the rental site that you choose will help you get started.  You can also check out College Weekends; a site specific to Blacksburg for renting out spaces for football weekends.  Go Hokies!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Bedand-Breakfast

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Welcome-to-the-New-River-Valley

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Real-Estate-Myths-Dont-Let-Them-Fool-You

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

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