Monday, December 22, 2014

Home Tip of the Day: A Must-Do Before Heading out on Vacation

While away from home, we have all had those nightmares of having left the front door unlocked or of the power going off and all of our leftovers melting in the freezer.  But, there’s one thing that vacationers don’t always think of before they leave home.  To avoid coming home to a home improvement project, take care of this must-do before heading out on vacation.



For other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location to view the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

Victoria Lee

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Blog


Coldwell Banker, Triad believes in the magic of home, especially around the holidays. From our home to yours, we wish you a truly wonderful holiday season full of friends, family, and loved ones. 

Check out some of these great gift and home decorating ideas, along with new ideas for family traditions!


#1: How does Santa Claus get into a house without a chimney? Blue Matter has the answer! Check out this blog post to learn about a new tradition that can be started this year with your family.

#2: Needing gift ideas for friends and family? Check out these 15 super sweet homemade Holiday gift ideas! They can be found here!

#3: How to Decorate Like a Christmas Elf on a Budget is a great blog post with many ideas on how to add the Holiday spirit to your home without breaking the present fund!

#4: Have you or someone you know moved recently? Check out this blog post featuring sentimental Christmas gifts for someone who just moved!

#5: Looking for a creative way to fill your stockings this year? Check out the blog post: Stocking Stuffers for Every Room in the House to get some great ideas!

Written by Kayla Hott with Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors

Monday, December 15, 2014

Home Tip of the Day: A Quick and Inexpensive Refresh for Your Bathroom

When you get ready to sell your home, you often start to view the house through the eyes of a stranger.  You start to ask yourself questions like, “What would I think of this bathroom if I didn’t live here?”  Unfortunately, we can’t all afford to make major updates to our home before putting it on the market, but sometimes, small updates can make a big difference in the resale potential of your home.
Today’s Home Tip of the Day shares an easy way to refresh your bathroom without an expensive remodel.


For other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location to view the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

By Victoria Lee

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

10 Pieces of Valuable Info to Gather Before You Sell Your Home

The real estate process is chock full of information. I feel like more information is exchanged in a real estate transaction than on a national security background check. But before you even put that “for sale” sign in the front yard, there’s some information you need to put together that will help you get that home ready to be sold.
We talked with Sally Isom with Coldwell Banker Collins-Maury in Memphis, TN who has a handy list of 10 pieces of valuable info that you need to have together before you sell your home.
  1. Gather your receipts for improvements and repairs – This is excellent information that will help you fill out your State Property Disclosure and will also disclose any repairs made to the property. Your Property Disclosure is an opportunity to show buyers the extensive improvements that have been made to your home.
  2. HOA rules and regulations – Have a copy of your Home Owner’s Association Rules and Regs so this can easily be shared with interested buyers or provide buyers and their agents with a link to the HOA website for up to date info.
  3. Mortgage documentation and info about any Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – When you obtain a contract on your home, the closing office will need all of the information about your mortgage and any additional loans on the property (mortgage company name, loan #s, etc.).
  4. A 1-page home “brag sheet” – List any improvements you have made to your home whether major or minor including redesigns of rooms, new flooring, bathroom updates or anything else that you can “brag” about your home.
  5. Warranty information – If any major improvements have warranties this could be very desirable to a buyer.  For example windows with lifetime warranty or a roof with a 25 year warranty.
  6. Provide your Realtor with details about outdoor features – Pool, landscaping, irrigation systems, outdoor kitchens, fireplace, etc. These items have become very important to buyers and the more information they are given, the more excited they get about your home.
  7. Tell the story of your neighborhood – The neighborhood website, walking trails, etc. In Memphis there is special neighborhood called High Point Terrace that has a street called Aurora Circle and Mimosa.  Theses treets have hosted the 4th of July parade for decades and even have their own “mayor.”  Everyone wants to live on these streets because of this, so make sure tell the story of your street.
  8. Remember how it felt when you first bought your home – You wanted as much information about the home as possible.  Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and try to provide as much documentation as possible.
  9. If you are having trouble remembering any issues or repairs made to your home, walk through each room – A tour of each room and the exterior will help you remember any changes and repairs or issues that have come up while you lived there. If you have had any Homeowner’s Insurance claims, be sure and provide all documentation to your Realtor.
  10. Always remember:  disclose, disclose, disclose – Be sure not to withhold any reports or information about your home. What may seem minimal to you may seem major to a buyer.  Oversharing is always good practice when selling your home!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Coldwell Banker Real Estate Home Listing Report Finds Henderson the Most Affordable and Chapel Hill the Most Expensive Markets in NC


COLDWELL BANKER REAL ESTATE HOME LISTING REPORT FINDS HENDERSON THE MOST AFFORDABLE AND CHAPEL HILL THE MOST EXPENSIVE MARKETS IN NC

(Winston-Salem, NC – December 4, 2014) Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC recently  released its 2014 Home Listing Report, which named Los Altos, Calif. as the most expensive market in the U.S. for the second time in 3 years. The average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the Silicon Valley market costs $1,963,100. This is six times the average in this report, $295,317, and 30 times the cost of a home in the country’s most affordable market, Cleveland, OH, which listed at $64,993.
The annual report is the most extensive home price comparison tool currently available in the United States, ranking the average listing price of four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in nearly 2,000 markets. While other affordability reports provide average or median prices for all homes in a given area, the Coldwell Banker Home Listing Report analyzes more than 51,000 similar listings to better address how much a home in one market would cost if the same home were located somewhere else in the country.
   
The survey reviewed 69 real estate markets in North Carolina and found:
·         Henderson is the most affordable market in NC, where a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home costs an average of $144,113.
·         Chapel Hill was ranked as the most expensive where the same sized property costs an average of $401,765.
·         The average price for a four-bedroom, two bathroom home in NC is $228,430 compared to the national average of $295,317.

The Home Listings Report also provides data for each individual state in the country; full data for NC is available at hlr.coldwellbanker.com. The report covers many of the markets in the Triad: from the lowest to the highest average price - Winston-Salem ranked 44th in the state at $204,081; Kernersville was 37th at $209,921; High Point ranked 34th at $214,813; Greensboro was 29th at $222,657; and Clemmons ranked 8th at $279,310.


To be included in the report, markets were required to have a minimum of 10 four-bedroom, two-bathroom home listings between January and June 2014. Markets not included in this year’s ranking did not meet this requirement.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Congratulations November FastStart Graduates!

Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors announced its November graduating class of new Sales Associates. 

These agents have completed the FastStart and e-FastStart classes conducted by Jodi Tate, Director of Career Development and Coldwell Banker Triad Chief Operations Officer. Tate is a national senior trainer for Coldwell Banker University, an instructor for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, and the National Association of Realtors.


Coldwell Banker has been recognized for the 5th straight year as one of the top 20 companies nationally in any industry for learning and leadership development, and Fast Start is a part of the award winning training program for new Sales Associates.

“It’s so rewarding to see a new group of sales agents emerge from Fast Start class as the new real estate professionals with the commitment and education to be successful in their chosen field. CB Triad continues its strong belief in providing the best educational opportunities for new and experienced Sales Associates throughout their careers,” said Tate.

New graduates are: Jordan Googe, Brianna Westmoreland, and Emily Parrott associated with the Winston-SalemBranch located at 285 S. Stratford Road 725-0506; Billy Bjorklund from the Kernersville Branch located at 1011 S. Main Street 996-3971; and Stephanie Long and Mary Ellen Feeney associated with the Greensboro Branch located at 1505 Westover Terrace 282-4414.


Since 1997 Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors has been the premier provider of real estate services in Triad area markets with over 230 Sales Associates in 5 branches. CBTR provides complete real estate services, including residential and new home sales, commercial sales and leasing, relocation services, career development, and mortgage services through Coldwell Banker Mortgage. For more information, visit cbtriad.com or cbtriadtogo.com on your smart phone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Home Tip of the Day: Unexpected Items at Home You Should be Cleaning

Is your home as clean as you think it is?

What if we told you that your home may not be as clean as you think it is?  There may be a few items in your home that you’re neglecting to clean as often as you should.  For ideas on how to keep a tidy home, check out the Home Tip of the Day video below.


For other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location to view the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

By  Victoria Lee of Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving


As Thanksgiving approaches, we want to express our appreciation for having the opportunity to work with such amazing clients, staff and fellow Realtors. As we are reflecting on our own reasons to be thankful, we have compiled a few ways to help you show gratitude to others and realize what you are thankful for. 


From Coldwell Banker Triad, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you enjoy spending time with family, friends, and loved ones. 



#1. Thank You Bank- A great craft that allows family and friends to collect what they are thankful for. To see more crafts from "Made with Happy", check out her blog!

#2. Thankful Rolls- What's better than rolls on Thanksgiving? Thankful rolls! Be sure to check out how "the Idea Room" creates this Thanksgiving dinner side!

#3. Thanksgiving Printables- Need help decorating this Thanksgiving? Check out "Kind over Matter" and her amazing collection of free Thanksgiving printables!

#4. Thankful Tree- A way to decorate your home, and give thanks! Check out "Simply Vintage Girl" for her blog post on creating a Thankful Tree!

#5. Housewarming Cookies- Fall Housewarming Cookies would be the best client gift during Thanksgiving! Mike from "SemiSweet" shows you how he created these cute treats!

Written by Kayla Hott with Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors

Monday, November 17, 2014

Latest Home Listing Report Ranks Most Expensive and Affordable Cities to Buy a Home

The 2014 Coldwell Banker Real Estate Home Listing Report shows just how important location, location, location really is.
By Victoria Lee of Coldwell Banker Blue Matter


Real estate has always been about location, but it can be hard to put a price tag on what that really means. Now, a new report analyzes what similar homes cost in nearly 2,000 real estate markets across the United States, providing a more apples-to-apples comparison of prices across the country.

For more than 30 years, Coldwell Banker has delivered an annual report that helps show just how important location really is. By studying nearly 2,000 towns and cities across the United States, the 2014 Coldwell Banker Real Estate Home Listing Reportshows that location can be worth as much as $1.9 million. That’s the difference between the most expensive and affordable markets. The report analyzes the average listing price of 51,000 four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in all 50 states.



For the second time in three years, Los Altos, Calif. ranks as the most expensive real estate market in the country, where that size home averages $1,963,100. That’s six times the national average! With the tech boom getting hotter each year, it’s no surprise that Los Altos continues to be one of the most coveted places to live. In fact, California’s Silicon Valley is home to seven of the 10 most expensive cities in this year’s report.
“Los Altos is such a special place because you get a small town feeling while being right next door to some of the most successful technology companies in the world,” said Joe Brown, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Los Altos, Calif. “Plus, the weather can’t be beat. People who live here can’t imagining living anywhere else.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland, Ohio ranks as the most affordable city in the country at $64,993. The Midwestern town, which is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is experiencing its own resurgence of growth.
“I’ve always known that Cleveland is great, but now other people are starting to realize it as well,” said Ed Dolinsky, president of Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty in Cleveland. “There is clearly a positive vibe in the city and its suburbs. So much is happening here, the downtown resurgence and of course the buzz of Johnny Manziel and LeBron. Being affordable is fantastic, and when you add in our Midwestern charm, we have a special, special place to call home.”
Here are the top five most expensive and most affordable markets in the Home Listing Report this year:
Most Expensive Markets to Buy a Home
1) Los Altos, Calif. – average listing price: $1,963,100
2) Newport Beach, Calif. – average listing price: $1,904,083
3) Saratoga, Calif. – average listing price: $1,867,980
4) Redwood City / Woodside, Calif. – average listing price: $1,430,329
5) Los Gatos, Calif. – average listing price: $1,307,408
Most Affordable Markets to Buy a Home
1) Cleveland, Ohio – average listing price: $64,993
2) Riverdale, Ga. – average listing price: $68,207
3) Park Forest, Ill. – average listing price: $75,647
4) Lake Wales, Fla. – average listing price: $82,330
5) Lithonia, Ga. – average listing price: $94,076
Check out the full Home Listing Report to see how your town ranks compared to the most expensive and affordable markets in the country.
“It’s amazing to see how much location can make a difference in the price of a home,” said Budge Huskey, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “But no matter where your hometown ranks, we all have that same sense of pride.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Your Home’s November Honey-Do List

Prep your home for the holidays and cooler weather with this list of home to dos that you’ll be especially thankful for.

This month, we’re especially thankful for home. Home is where the family comes together, where we’re protected from the elements, and where love abounds. Your home’s November Honey-Do list will make sure your home is ready for the holidays, prepared for colder weather and loved inside and out.
1. Winterize your home – For most of the country, November is the time when we can no longer deny that the colder weather has settled in. Now is the time to winterize summer tools and appliances like air conditioner units, grills and lawn mowers. Bring garden hoses indoors and check your windows and doors for drafts.
2. Make a Turkey Game Plan – No coach would head to a big game without a game plan up his sleeve. Likewise, no chef should hit the kitchen without thinking through the menu and timeline first. Determine what menu items you can make ahead, decide what responsibilities you can delegate, and take an inventory of your pantry and china cabinet. Oh, and now’s the time to clean that oven, too.
3. Polish the Silver and Dust off the China – Thanksgiving is a special meal, which deserves the best of your entertaining arsenal. Because we don’t often use our special dishes year round, it’s smart to give them a good deep clean and polish before setting the table on Turkey Day.
4. Give your living room a refresh – With the holidays ahead, your living room is sure to get plenty of use. Give the space a refresh by changing out the window treatments for a new look.
5. Use some pest control – Rodents and other pests are opportunistic and seek warmer environments when the temperatures drop. Be sure that they don’t call your house their home by implementing these 5 surefire tricks to pest control.
6. Clear out the gutters – Avoid drainage problems and damage to your home’s foundation by clearing out the gutters before snow and ice wreaks havoc. Here is aneasy how-to guide to cleaning rain gutters on your home.
7. Be ready for snow – Before the first winter storm, it’s a good idea to make sure your snow shovels and/or snow blower are in proper working order. Ready to invest in a snow blower after the brutal winter last year? Here is a buying guide from Home Depot that will help you make an educated purchase.
8. Start tackling the December to do list – The holiday to do list is notoriously the longest of the year. Get a head start by ordering your holiday cards, updating your address book, and making a gift wish list for each of your family members NOW. You can even start stringing twinkle lights on your shrubbery before the deep chill sets in. After all, the most important part of the holidays is taking the time to enjoy our family and friends.
Next month we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know to make your home holiday ready.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 10, 2014

6 Strategies For Winning During Real Estate Negotiations

Cara Ameer covers the basic of real estate negotiations

The following is a guest post from Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty agent, Cara Ameer, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. 
In today’s ultra competitive and fast moving real estate market, you have to make critical decisions on what is the single largest purchase or sale you may ever make in a matter of moments.   Emotions run high as this is not something people typically do every day. You are trying to take your situation and match that up with another buyer or seller which can be challenging –buying a home while trying to sell another one at the same time, multiple offers, back-up offers, paying cash vs. getting a mortgage -there are a myriad of situations and conditions that have to be worked through in order to achieve a successful outcome.
How do you successfully navigate through these issues? A highly skilled and resourceful real estate agent can be crucial to formulating a strategy for winning the deal while balancing your interests at the same time.
Here are six strategies agents turn to for handling some of the most common obstacles that come up in a real estate negotiation:
1. Home Sale Contingency
Buying a home subject to selling your current one is a common challenge. First, you need to determine how you can qualify to buy another home if you currently own another one. If the lender is going to require you to have that home SOLD (meaning your current mortgage paid off) before you can close on purchasing another one, than you have to structure an offer to allow for that. You can make the offer contingent upon selling and closing on your existing property, BUT you will likely need to put a timeframe on this, as sellers don’t like open ended contingencies.   This can be a difficult proposition to convince a seller to take their home off the market, particularly in a hot market. However, to offset the risk, consider coming in at a strong offer price that may make the seller want to wait out your home sale. Your agent is in the best position to advise you given the parameters involved with your specific market.
As a seller, how can you counteract a home sale contingency? Consider having your agent add a “Right of First Refusal” (ROFR) or “Continued Marketing Addendum” to the contract. This is an addendum that acts as a happy medium for both a buyer and seller. It allows the seller to continue to market and show the home, and should another offer come in, the seller has to notify the buyer and give them a certain timeframe to lift their contingency (usually anywhere between 24-72 hours) and move forward or step aside so the seller can work with the other offer. Your agent can use an existing offer with a ROFR as leverage with another buyer.
2. Multiple Offer Situation
These can always get a bit harried. It is common to doubt the legitimacy of other offers, but in today’s market they are very much a reality, particularly on foreclosures or something in a hot neighborhood where there is low inventory. A multiple offer notice disclosure is often used by agents to put parties on notice that this is in fact legitimate. First, you need to determine how serious you are about the property. If it is a throw a dart and see mission, you are better off focusing your efforts elsewhere. If it is something you really want, consider using what is called an Escalatory Addendum. This will allow you to effectively hedge your bets but set limits at the same time. You can state that you will exceed the highest offer by a certain dollar amount of your choosing at a price not to exceed a certain amount. So, for example, let’s say there are multiple offers on a home listed for $250K. You can say you will go over the highest offer by $2500 at an offer price not to exceed $255,000 which would cap the most you are willing to do vs. arbitrarily throwing a number out there and hoping it sticks.
Keep in mind that many foreclosures will no longer allow escalatory addendums, but this can work well in a resale situation.
3. Financing
Negotiating through financing –Cash vs. a mortgage? If you are able to pay cash over a mortgage, this could be the winning card to scoring the property. Cash doesn’t have all the complications nor the time involved that a mortgage does. It really depends on the property, but most sellers if given a choice would much rather work with a cash offer. Keep in mind however, that doesn’t mean that a lowball offer of cash will work vs. something higher where a mortgage is involved. If the bottom line to the seller is more money, they could be willing to wait.
4. Closing Costs
What if you need closing cost help? Just remember that this concession is that much less to the seller’s bottom line. A seller has closing costs as well, so, before you ask for this, consider if you absolutely MUST have that paid on your behalf. If you want a seller to pay for these, it will show as a credit from the seller to the buyer on the closing statement, so consider going in with a strong offer. If you are offering $300K on a $350K house and want a seller to pay 3% towards closing costs, that is really a $289K offer, so need to consider something much stronger to reflect the money the seller will be paying on your behalf.   Working with a savvy agent that thoroughly understands how to negotiate through concessions can create a win-win strategy for both parties.
5. Closing Date
Timing can be just as critical as the price in a negotiation. Matching up a buyer with a seller’s timing could be the winning key that unlocks the door to the house so to speak. Have your agent find out what is important to the seller and see how you can meet that need. It may offset price or other conditions required in the negotiation. Don’t always assume that a quick close is what a seller wants, unless they have already moved to another place. In a fast moving market, many homes are selling so fast, the sellers are concerned about where they are going next and it may not be easy to find a place to rent or buy on short notice.
6. Handling Low Offers
An offer is simply an invitation to get a conversation going. Although both parties may be at extreme ends of the spectrum in terms of price, they really have much more in common which is the property at hand. The buyer feels the same way about what the seller has. It fits a need for the stage of life they are entering and they see their life being played out in that house, where that seller has done the same. That is a powerful moment.
Cover image via listadedorinte

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Congrats August FastStart Grads!



Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors announced its August graduating class of new Sales Associates.

These agents have completed the FastStart and e-FastStart classes conducted by Jodi Tate, Director of Career Development and Coldwell Banker Triad Chief Operations Officer. Tate is a national senior trainer for Coldwell Banker University, an instructor for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, and the National Association of Realtors.

Coldwell Banker has been recognized for the 5th straight year as one of the top 20 companies nationally in any industry for learning and leadership development, and Fast Start is a part of the award winning training program for new Sales Associates.

“Our commitment to the most excellent training and coaching is a cornerstone of our company. Newly licensed agents complete an extensive program their first year beginning with our live instructor-led Fast Start class. Fast Start teaches sales skills, real estate rules and regulations, client level service, and how to use the best technology tools in our industry. I am proud of the focus and commitment of these real estate professionals who have just completed Fast Start,” said Tate.

New graduates are: Rhonda Hobbs, John Belcher, Marc Atkins, Kristina Crews, Deborah Lejarre, Jon Manring and Connie Sharpe associated with the Winston-Salem Branch located at 285 S. Stratford Road 725-0506; Sean Lauten, Tiffany Lauten, Chad Peay and Soprena Mitchell from the Kernersville Branch located at 1011 S. Main Street 996-3971; Susan Caldwell, Lisa Wall, Corbett Clark, and Joe Bullins associated with the Greensboro Branch located at 1505 Westover Terrace 282-4414 and Sharon Whitfield from the High Point Branch located at 2212 Eastchester Drive 889-5300.

Since 1997 Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors has been the premier provider of real estate services in Triad area markets with over 230 Sales Associates in 5 branches. CBTR provides complete real estate services, including residential and new home sales, commercial sales and leasing, relocation services, career development, and mortgage services through Coldwell Banker Mortgage. For more information, visit cbtriad.com or cbtriadtogo.com on your smart phone.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

6 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Landscaper

Is your yard ready for fall?
As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.
As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.
1. Ask around to find a landscaper. If you see well-kept lawns in your neighborhood, why not ask your neighbors who they hired? You might also ask friends and family in the area if they’ve hired a good landscaper recently. You might also check online for screened and approved landscaping contractors who have beenrated by homeowners in your area, which will save you time and effort on checking them.
2. Get multiple bids for a project.Once you have a few businesses in mind, you’ll need to get bids. You should never hire the first one to answer the phone. Once you explain the job, the landscaper will give you a project estimate, and numbers will vary from business to business. You can compare bids against project data costs for various landscaping projects to make sure you’re not paying more than you should be. Also be wary of any “low ball” bids, since this could be a sign of a poor job or additional or hidden fees.
3. List past project references. If you find the landscaper in the yellow pages or online, ask about past clients. As you speak to these clients, ask them about the landscaper’s process, communication, staff and how quickly they complete a project. These should help you learn more about the landscaper and how they would work with you.
4. Check for documentation and licenses. The landscaper should be able to prove they’re legitimate with a license. They should also have insurance for the length of the project, if not worker’s compensation to cover injuries on the job.
5. Discuss the specifics. This is where you need to hash out everything about the project before you get to the contract and putting down a deposit. Some of the landscaping questions to ask include:
  • What are your work practices?
  • What equipment and materials will you be using for my project?
  • What’s your past experience with this kind of landscaping project?
  • Does your landscaping business belong to any local, state or national landscaping associations?
  • Can you provide me with a design sketch for the project before we begin?
  • How much of a deposit will you want before beginning the project? (Pro tip: the average is 30% of the total project, so be cautionary of anyone who asks for 50% or more.)
6. Put together & sign a contract. Once you’ve found the right landscaper, it’s time to put down all the details of the job in writing. This contract should include:
  • Start and end date of the project
  • Materials involved
  • Costs and fees
  • A lien waiver
  • Guarantee, if applicable
lien waiver will keep you from being responsible for paying for materials from a supplier, as the landscaper should be paying for them and then charging you later. A guarantee for items like a deck, patio or other major projects should be for at least two to five years, if not longer. Make sure the contract is completely filled out and that nothing is left blank.
Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+
Cover Photo: Beckett Creek Ln, Humble, TX Currently listed with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors http://bit.ly/1m6rEK1

Friday, September 19, 2014

5 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season

Now is the time to get your home ready for storm season. Here is what you need to know.
My alma mater, University of Miami–home of the Hurricanes, taught me a lot about tropical weather. After 2 severe storms hit the Miami area only weeks after I moved into the Freshman dorms, I knew I wasn’t in Jersey anymore. Since then, I’ve lived through several hurricanes, a few tropical storms and one unforgettable ‘Super Storm Sandy.’
As a ‘Cane, I know that the key to making it through hurricane season is being aware and prepared. First, it’s important to know that Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th, with most activity peaking from mid-August to early October. While the majority of Atlantic activity happens in the Southeastern U.S., many of us in the Northeast remember all too well that we’re not immune to these natural disasters. So, now is the time to get your home ready for storm season.
Here are 5 ways to prepare your home for hurricane season:
1.  Keep an Emergency Kit – Packing an emergency kit can sometimes feel over-cautious, but when a big storm strikes, you’ll be happy you did. Compile a hurricane emergency kit complete with:
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
(list from ready.gov)
2. Get Cash and Gas (early) – Should the power go out in your area, ATMs and gas pumps are no longer functional. We quickly realize the vitality of two things we take for granted in our everyday lives. To avoid long gas lines or running out of liquidity while power lines are down, get to the ATM and gas station before the storm (and before the crowds).
3. Know your home – Do your research ahead of time to determine if you live in an evacuation zone. You might be surprised (like those in downtown Manhattan) to find that your home is in a flood zone.
Also, because standard home insurance does not cover flood damage, it is also important to know if you live in a flood-prone area. Visit the National Flood Insurance Program website to learn more about obtaining flood insurance for your property. Ready.gov has some great information about which natural disasters different parts of the country should be prepared for.
4. Protect your home – Dorothy may have coined the phrase, “there’s no place like home” for the tornado belt, but it applies to hurricane protection just as well. Of course, for your own safety, it is important to yield to all warnings and mandates for evacuation; however, there are things you can do to protect your home from the elements. Home hurricane protection doesn’t just have to mean tape or plywood over the windows. Companies like Alutech United offer more comprehensive storm protection options like roller hurricane shutters, designed to fit seamlessly with your home’s aesthetic and built to withstand 140 mph hurricane force winds. If you live in an area with frequent inclement weather, storm protection can be a necessity. Some also opt to install roller shudders for the added privacy and protection they provide.
5. Prepare a Family Emergency Plan – For those who live in low-lying, coastal, or flood-prone areas, consider where you’ll go if evacuation is mandated. While most towns have designated safe places should natural disaster strike, it is always a good idea to have a family emergency plan of your own.
The Red Cross has created a great hurricane preparedness checklist that you can use to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases (and windows).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Your Home’s September Honey-Do List

Transition your home from summer to fall with this month’s list of around-the-house to do’s.


Fall is almost upon us and with falling leaves and more hectic schedules, it’s time to get organized at home.  On your home’s September Honey-Do List, we’ll get you and your house ready for the cooler months ahead.
1. Enjoy the outdoors – If you’re like me, you’re still in denial that summer is almost over. If you’re not ready to move inside, consider transitioning your summer patio to a cozy fall retreat. Add a few autumnal touches, like a chiminea and garland lights to make your outdoor space work even as the nights get longer and cooler.
2. Apples, apples & more apples – Nothing screams fall more than the blissful smell of apple pie wafting through the house. Take a trip to a local pick-your-own farm for a festive activity and cook up some fall favorites like applesauce and apple pie.  We’ve shared the World’s Best Apple Pie recipe before, but it’s certainly worth mentioning again.  After all, an apple a day…
3.  Schedule doctor’s appointments - An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it’s still best to see him at least once a year.  Schedule annual physicals, dentist appointments and eye exams around the same time each year so you’ll have an easier time remembering to check all the necessary boxes.  Booking appointments around back-to-school time is usually best as some extra-curricular activities will require a check-up anyway.
4. Get into back to school mode – Whether you’re looking for fresh ideas for school lunches, or tips to make it out the door on time, we have what you need to make back to school easy as the above mentioned apple pie.
5. Prep your yard for fall – With fall around the corner, there is plenty to do to prep your yard for the change of seasons. Download this printable September Lawn & Garden To-Do List, which covers everything from lawn care to building a compost bin for falling leaves.
6. Fall into home improvement – Before the weather turns too cold, plan your final outdoor home improvement projects. Roof repairs, gutter and chimney clean-up are particularly important before the winter arrives.
7. Get organized – In the coming weeks, it will be time to put away the summer attire and break out the warmer clothing.  Take time now to make room in your coat closet, donate unworn summer items and assess what fall clothing no longer fits.  Spring cleaning gets all the glory, but the fall sweep is where it’s at!
8. Start holiday prep – We never have enough time before the holidays, so make a point of starting prep early. Begin the Halloween costume brainstorm, collect Thanksgiving Day recipes, and start your holiday card address list. By doing a little holiday organization ahead of time, you can actually relax and enjoy the most important part—spending quality time with those you love!