Owning your home comes with lots of privileges….and responsibilities. In 2017, we resolve to make our homes safer, cleaner, and more affordable – and here’s how we plan to do it:
1. We bet you’ve been saying you’ve wanted a home alarm system forever, right? We know this because we’ve been saying it, too – and 2017 is finally the year we’re going to make it happen. Whether you splurge for a fancy installed system, or pick up a budget-friendly DIY kit from Home Depot, the peace of mind will far outweigh any costs or aggravation. Other good ideas: test your smoke detectors, install a monoxide detector, and even get your radon levels assessed (plus, it’ll likely save you on your homeowners’ insurance!)
2. Do a little research to save big on your monthly mortgage payment. There are a number of ways that you can save money each month, but many of them require a phone call or two. This year, resolve to lower your monthly payment by looking into ways to save on homeowners’ insurance, consider fighting your property tax assessment, or even explore your refinancing options. And to save in the long run, consider making extra payments – it could save you thousands in interest!
3. Declutter, declutter, declutter. Need that bejeweled blazer in the back of your closet? What about the dusty vase you bought at Boscov’s in 1996? Or the three broken lamps on your garage floor? Nope, nope, nope. In 2017, we resolve to gradually declutter our homes, room by room – starting with the dreaded basement and closets. Really, though, you’ll appreciate it when you sell – and you might even be able to sell some items for big money online!
Think “bigger is better”? Not always the case! Whether you’re looking to save money and time, have a smaller carbon footprint, or simplify your lifestyle, you’re not alone — thousands of homeowners in Greater Philadelphia choose to downsize their home each year!
Of course, there are varying degrees of downsizing, and it certainly isn’t for everybody. While some folks take the plunge into a true “tiny house” (often defined as 500 square feet or less), most are more comfortable trading in their 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath Colonial for a convenient condo or cozy bungalow.
Empty nesters tend to be the largest group of clients wishing to downsize, although we work frequently with clients who are going through a divorce or simply wish to be more environmentally friendly and financially savvy. Whatever the reason may be, there are a few important questions to ask yourself before making the decision:
1. Does the size of my current home make sense for my lifestyle? Are there any unexpected life events that could require a larger home (such as “Boomerang” adult children)?
2. Is there anything I’ll miss about my bigger home? For example, hosting large family gatherings or out-of-town guests
3. Am I comfortable parting with many of my material items? If not, can I afford to rent a storage unit?
4. What will the true cost be of downsizing, and can I afford it? For example, purchasing petite furniture, and moving costs.
If you would like any assistance on your home buying journey, or if you’d like to talk to an EveryHome downsizing expert (yep, we have those!), give us a call at at 215-699-5555.
EveryHome agent and resident home-flipping guru Jen Kuznits has enjoyed a lot of success flipping homes alongside her husband, Tamir. But it’s a tough industry, and not every home is a slam dunk! Here, Jen shares a few things that she wishes she would have known:
We once bought a ‘3 bedroom 2 full bathroom’ condo in Philadelphia. We bought it for $197,000. Everything indicated that after putting in a new kitchen, bathrooms, flooring and paint, we could sell if for just under $400,000. Turns out, someone had subdivided all the larger condos, and it wasn’t reflected in the public records. As a result, we ended up with a 1 bedroom, 1 full bathroom space. Thankfully, it had been recently renovated, but that was the first time we lost money on a deal. We sold it for $205,000, but after taxes, and Realtor fees, we took a hit.
When buying at sheriff sale, or auction, you typically don’t have access to the property. You can look up neighborhood comparables, you can see the exterior and the kind of condition it was kept in, and you can also see the public records. Typically, public records is correct… but not always!
Another tip is to always keep an eye on the neighbors. Even if you purchase in a great neighborhood, there’s always the chance that one or two of the neighbors have unkept landscaping. One time, we purchased in a nice community and the home had the square footage to command a high price, but two of the neighbors were eyesores. One was just overgrown and dirty, and the other neighbor had an old junked-up car on display. We figured a new gourmet kitchen would outshine their yards, but it didn’t. We still made money, but had to lower our price significantly.
It’s no secret that professionally staged homes sell faster and for more money, but unfortunately this option isn’t accessible for the vast majority of homeowners. The price of rental furniture can add up, and the time-consuming suggestions by an interior designer aren’t feasible for many sellers. That’s where Haven comes in.
The dream of owners Diane Quercetti and Megan Udovich, Haven is a unique alternative to traditional home staging. Their team offers budget-friendly restyling, decluttering, and decorating that allows your home to appeal to the largest number of buyers. Plus, in an effort to keep it simple and affordable, Haven strives to use items that you already own (but if you want to rent their gorgeous accessories, that’s an option too!).
And here at EveryHome, our agents and sellers have loved working with Haven. We can’t say enough good things about their beautiful restyling (but we’ll let the Before and After photos speak for themselves). Plus, their team is down-to-earth and super sweet! It can be uncomfortable to bring new people into your home to rearrange your things and box up any extra items, and Diane and Megan completely understand that and treat your home with care and respect.
We bet you’re envisioning the icky black stuff coating the edges of the walls in your grandmother’s basement, right? While that’s a major problem (and a serious health hazard), the reality is that mold issues can be far more complex — and difficult to spot! The truth is, mold is a type of fungus that can grow just about anywhere, but certain humid areas such as showers and basements tend to be the most problematic.
Some people are far more sensitive to mold than others, but ultimately it’s a health concern for all people. People with allergies/sensitivities, infants, and the elderly should especially avoid coming into contact with mold.
The best way to prevent molds growth is to identify and control moisture and water problems in your home. Roof and plumbing leaks, humidifiers, clothing dryers venting indoors, damp basements, and steam tend to be the most common reasons for mold issues. In order to prevent these issues, consider adding a dehumidifier, cleaning your bathroom and basement with mold-killing products, and ensuring that your home is properly ventilated.
Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious if your home (or a home that you wish to purchase) has an issue. Often times, you’ll be able to detect the musty odor or see visible spots. However, be sure to consult your home inspector and a mold remediation expert if a problem is detected.
If you’re selling your home, it’s no secret that your home should be smelling great before any showings or open houses. However, we advise clients to stay away from candles and traditional air fresheners, as some home buyers may have allergies. Instead, we recommend the following natural methods to keep your home smelling great for guests.
One of the easiest ways to make your home smell fresh on a budget is to sprinkle a little baking soda over carpets and furniture about an hour before any visitors. Let it sit for just a few minutes, and then vacuum it up!
If you’ll be home just prior to a showing, consider boiling a pot of water on the stove and adding a few cinnamon sticks or cloves. The warm smell will continue wafting throughout the home long after you turn it off, and it’s perfect for this time of year!
Essential oils are another way to naturally fill your home with soothing scents. Just be careful, as not everybody enjoys the smell of all oils! Lavender and vanilla are among the most loved, and lemon is a great option to keep things smelling fresh. Consider adding a few drops to a cotton ball and then tucking the cotton ball out of sight (perhaps behind a picture frame, or on a bathroom shelf!). Another creative seller has even suggested dabbing a couple drops of oils onto light bulbs – when the light is turned on, the oil will heat up and the scent will be released throughout the room!
Did you know that nearly 50% of all single homes have had a wet basement before? While the idea of a flooding crawlspace or damp basement can be scary to many buyers (and understandably so!), it’s a common issue that can be fixed and prevented in the future.
When you’re house hunting, you’ll likely be carefully reading each home’s Seller’s Property Disclosure for information regarding any upgrades or defects. If the seller discloses that they’ve had problems with a wet basement before, you’ll first want to call in the pros to determine the cause of the problem. While moisture in the home is always deserving of attention (it can pose serious structural and health problems down the road), it’s not always a cause for major concern or a reason to walk away from your dream home.
First, get a sense from a couple different reputable companies as to the cause and nature of the problem, as well as ideas on how to best waterproof it for the future. On average, the cost to seal a basement is about $3800 (although of course this varies widely based on size!), and some minor repairs may cost just a few hundred dollars. To fully waterproof a truly problematic wet basement, some homeowners could spend up to $10,000 or more to fix cracks in the gutter, and add drains or gutters – although thankfully, that amount of work needed tends to be relatively rare!
Whether you’d like to control your home’s lighting for security reasons, turn down your thermostat from an app to save energy, or simply stream your favorite music throughout your entire home (because hey, it’s cool!), there is a smart home gadget for you.
Of course, we’ve all heard the stories about the billionaires in Silicon Valley who can control every square inch of their home from a satellite. And while we think that’s really cool, it’s not exactly practical — or affordable — for the average family. Here are a few tested-and-approved products and ideas that won’t break your budget:
1. Smart lighting is one of the easiest things to integrate into your current home. One of the most popular current products is Philips Hue. Calling itself “personal wireless lighting,” Philips Hue allows you to change the color and brightness of the lights in your home from an app, and offers features like motion sensor lighting and timers. One of our favorite things about the system is its ability to gradually simulate natural sunlight in the morning to gently wake you up – much better than our obnoxious iPhone alarm! The system ranges in price depending on the bulbs and accessories purchased, but you can start a simple lighting system around $50.
2. If you’re interested in saving energy, you’ll love PECO’s newest energy alert feature. Sign up on their website to receive free text messages or emails to let you know when you’re using a lot of electricity — no surprises on your next bill! Plus, be sure to explore PECO’s website for personalized suggestions on how you can save energy and money every month. (You may have seen this one advertised on TV, too!)
3. One of the easiest ways to integrate technology into your smart home is to add a “home automation hub.” Amazon’s Echo is one of the most popular options on the market and can stream all of your music, answers questions (using “Alexa”), reads audiobooks, and can even control your thermostat and lights (including Philips Hue!) for just $180.
If you’re looking to purchase a “fixer-upper,” you just may want to consider the government-backed FHA 203k loan! The FHA 203k loan is a special type of rehab or renovation loan that allows buyers to borrow money for the purchase price of their new home and the necessary renovation costs. In essence, this loan combines your home loan and construction loan in order to streamline and simplify the process. You can also use a 203k loan to refinance and repair an existing home.
The FHA 203k loan is an especially helpful choice for first-time buyers who may wish to renovate a property, but don’t have the cash to do so — after all, renovations can be expensive!
For example, let’s pretend you’re interested in purchasing a $120,000 ranch home that is outdated and in need of major repairs. And, for the sake of round numbers, let’s say that renovating the kitchen and bathroom as well as fixing any electrical and plumbing issues will cost about $80,000. In the case of this home, you would obtain a 203k for a total of $200,000 and not have to come “out of pocket” for the construction work.
In addition to this standard 203(k) loan which covers structural changes, there is also a streamlined 203(k) loan for homes in need of less extensive work. Intended to be simpler and more efficient (less paperwork!), the streamlined 203(k) loan may be good for homes in need or smaller projects like a new roof, windows and siding, or finishing a basement. For this streamlined loan, the total cost of renovations must be less than $35,000.
Of course, there are a few caveats to the 203(k) loan. First and foremost, there is a lot of paperwork required and you must prepare an extensive proposal with estimates for all renovations prior to being approved for the loan. All work must be done by a licensed general contractor, and since you’ll be working very closely with this contractor, it’s especially important that you have a good relationship with him or her. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that you have a FICO credit score 640 or above, as well as a 3.5% down payment plus closing costs. Other guidelines may also apply – be sure to ask your EveryHome agent or loan officer for details.
It’s a great time to work in the construction industry! Homeowners are upgrading, renovating, and remodeling their homes at a pace that we haven’t seen since before the recession, and bathrooms are the most popular spot to remodel. You’re not the only one who wants to get rid of your baby pink floor tile and dingy chrome fixtures!
According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 81% of remodelers and contractors say that they’ve renovated a bathroom in 2015. Kitchens were another popular spot, as 79% of contractors say they’ve remodeled a kitchen in the past year. Plus, “whole-home” remodeling projects ($$$!) were up 10% in 2016 over 2013.
So just how much did the average homeowner spend on a bathroom remodel? A National Kitchen and Bath Association spokesperson reported the median bathroom remodel cost at just over $17,000. Surprisingly, just 20% of that figure is labor cost — so you may not even save that much by doing the work yourself.
Many homeowners cited the desire for newer, better amenities as their primary motivation to remodel. But a sizable number of people also explained their remodel as a way to avoid moving into a different home. And who can blame them? Much of Greater Philadelphia is currently in a “seller’s market” meaning that inventory of homes for sale is low, competition among buyers is fierce, and sellers tend to call the shots. (Hint hint: If you’re thinking about selling, NOW is the time!)
Check out these green pendant lights from IKEA. It’s only $14.99! Pendant lights are like earrings, they can add a little sparkle or personality to a room. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money to accomplish a ton of style!
Use these pictures as inspiration, and see for yourself. It’s good to be green!
This is a guest post by EveryHome agent Jennifer Kuznits. Jen has been flipping homes for over 10 years, is a licensed Realtor and also a design consultant.
We love nothing more than a home renovation project, especially when it’s affordable! A recent EveryHome client purchased a classic brick row home with tons of potential, and took the dining room from drab and dated to pretty and polished for under $200:
Oh, what freshly-painted walls can do! We love the transformation made by this cool, calm gray shade (Lazy Gray by Shermin Williams) for a dramatic change without breaking the bank. A gallon of interior paint typically costs between $30-35 at Home Depot. Other trendy colors for 2016 include soft shades of lilac, bold aubergine, milky blues and neutrals paired with jewel tones.
Other easy upgrades include swapping out old light fixtures and upgrading to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), installing a gallery photo wall, and adding a new rug. And of course, fresh flowers and a couple of houseplants top everything off (we especially love Trader Joe’s bountiful bouquets for just $4.99).
Plus, you can bring your hardwood floors back to life for under $100! Staining is a relatively easy DIY project, and requires just a few inexpensive materials from Home Depot. We recommend a top coat of glossy polyurethane for a gleaming, durable finish.
Spring cleaning season is in full swing! When we shop for products to clean and disinfect our home, we like to keep three things in mind: effectiveness, safety, and affordability. While it’s pretty easy to find budget-friendly cleaning products that work, it’s a bit harder to find cleansers that are safe and friendly to the earth– meaning they don’t have harsh chemicals in them, and use responsible packaging and sourcing. And of course, no animal testing!
We put a few to the test, scoured online reviews, and nitpicked ingredients. Here’s what we like best:
1. For a multi-purpose cleaner, we love The Honest Company’s Multi-surface Cleaner. For just $5.95 for 26 ounces, this plant-based spray is formulated without any harsh chemicals and the only fragrance is natural grapefruit essential oil. We also love Trader Joe’s Cedarwood and Sage Multi-Purpose Cleaner for it’s fresh scent and amazing price — just $3!
2. Mrs Meyer’s Dish Soap has become a staple in our kitchen! Made from soap bark extract and other ingredients that can be found in your garden, Mrs Meyers is effective, concentrated, and doesn’t leave your hands dry. Our favorite flavors are basil and lavender. (Hint: Check Amazon for the best deals!)
3. Seventh Generation products are our go-to when it comes to laundry. Their plant-based formulas are tough on stains, and we love that they offer a “free and clear” formula for those of us with sensitive skin! If you’d prefer something fragrant, they also offer detergent with natural essential oils, including lavender and eucalyptus.
4. J. R. Watkins’ Lemon Window Cleaner is our favorite product for wiping down glass in our home. Non-toxic and biodegradable, the popular product from America’s original apothecary manufacturer is available at Target for just $4!
When it comes to landscaping, it’s all about the curb appeal! Ensuring that the front of your home looks attractive as prospective buyers drive by is one of the easiest ways to help it sell more quickly, and landscaping is one of the most important factors. Here’s what to consider when you’re looking for landscaping that adds to your home’s value:
1. Outdoor lighting. A whopping 41% of home buyers consider outdoor lighting “essential,” according to the National Association of Home Builders. Consider adding tasteful, updated lighting on your walkways and soft, inviting lights on your front porch. We also recommend adding a few motion detector lights for nighttime — it makes your home less of a target for intruders!
2. Gardens. When it comes to gardens (whether it be a patch of veggies or fields of flowers), be sure to consider the overall size of your yard. For homes with an acre or more, a well-maintained, fenced-in veggie garden is likely to be an asset to your home’s value. However, if your backyard is small, be mindful of the size of your garden and ensure that it does not dominate the usable space in your yard.
3. Trees. Did you know that your trees (and your neighbors’ trees!) can add value to your property? It’s true! Well-maintained, healthy trees can add big bucks to your home’s value, and you can even calculate the benefits on the National Tree Benefit Calculator. And the most popular tree in the nation? A red maple!
4. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! This one is especially true when your home is on the market. Ensure that your grass is well-trimmed, walkways are properly edged and swept, and flower beds are nicely mulched.
5. Don’t overdo it. Too much landscaping can turn off some prospective buyers, as they may be concerned that the landscaping will be too difficult or too expensive to maintain.
6. Consider a professional landscaping company. Thinking about making a big change to your landscaping or yard? Consider bringing in the pros! We recommend asking your neighbors for recommendations, as you’ll likely enjoy a discount from the landscaping company if they’re also serving a neighbor just a couple of doors down.
With spring just around the corner, many homeowners are itching to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather! March is an excellent time of year to perform regular maintenance around your home, as well as prepare your home for the upcoming summer months.
1. If you’re a gardener, the early spring season is one of the most exciting times of the year! Greater Philadelphia is located in Zones 6 and 7 of the USDA, and it’s time for many of us to begin starting vegetable seeds indoors, and transplant them to our garden in April. Not so sure you’re ready to begin a vegetable garden? Consider a kitchen herb garden. Basil, oregano, cilantro and chives are easy to grow and complement just about any meal! Be sure to check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac guide to plan your garden this year.
2. Now that the winter weather is just about over, it’s a good idea to check for any exterior winter damage. Luckily, this past season wasn’t too harsh, but that doesn’t mean your home didn’t take a beating! Be sure to carefully inspect your home’s roof for cracked and missing shingles, check your siding for water damage/stains, and clean your home’s exterior light fixtures. It may be time to replace your storm windows with the original screens, too.
3. Since you’ll be spending a lot more time outdoors in the upcoming months, you’ll want to be sure that everything’s safe and working properly. If you have a deck or patio, check for warped or splintered boards. Plus, it’s a great time of year to clean and reseal the finish on your wood deck! And if you haven’t used your gas grill for a few months, be sure to inspect the burner jets for any obstructions, and be sure that all hoses and connections are in good working order.