Archive for ‘For Homeowners’

September 15, 2014

Preparing Your Home for Fall

The days are becoming shorter and the weather is becoming cooler; fall is right around the corner.  Now is the perfect time to get a jump start on accomplishing a few house chores before the cold weather strikes and it is too late. A lot of things are overlooked by homeowners when making the change from summer to winter. So, here is a guide on Preparing Your Home for Fall to help you remember all of the important tasks to get done to guarantee a safe and warm home for the upcoming cold weather.

 

 

Clean Out Your Gutters

gutterSource: http://www.pondarosahomes.com

It is best to put this first on your list of things to accomplish. You will want to clean out your gutters during the last few days of summer or the first few days of fall. However the most ideal time for gutter cleaning is after the last heavy rain or thunderstorm. The rain will have washed away any debris that accumulated on your roof down into the gutters. You will want to start at the opposite end of the downspout and then work your way down the gutter. Once you reach the downspout, take a hose or a bucket of water to flush out the spout. If your downspout appears to be clogged, you will want to eliminate it with a plumber’s snake. Clogged gutters are prone to rust and corrosion, can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in the basement.  Stay ahead of the weather, have your gutters cleaned then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning.

 

 

Put Away Your Gardening Tools

garden-tools-cleaningSource:  http://sjcmastergardeners.wordpress.com/

Once you are finished with your gardening projects, you should properly clean your tools and store them away for winter. Thoroughly clean off all your spades, clippers, shovels, etc. and consider coating them with a thin layer of mineral oil to prevent having to replace them due to rusting over the winter months. After cleaning and coating your tools, make sure you put them in a safe spot like a garage or shed so they won’t be affected by the cold weather.

 


Check the Weather Stripping

window-weather-stripping-replacement
Source: http://beyondinteriorsdesign.com/


Gaps around door frames and windows can account for roughly 10% of your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Don’t lose money by not checking for air leaks in your home. Weather-stripping is a cost-effective way to take control of your home’s heating and cooling costs. It is important to check this material periodically because it can deteriorate over time. If the weather stripping in your home appears to be questionable in certain areas, there are a few options for checking.
– Close the door or window on a piece of paper. If the paper slides easily or automatically falls, your weather stripping needs to be replaced.
– Or light a candle and trace the frame of the door or window. If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, then there is an air leak.
You should also check for missing or damaged caulk areas around windows, door frames, and any other entry points (pipelines, electrical wiring). If there are any areas where air is leaking seal the gaps with caulk.

 

 

Driveways, Walkways and Steps

justiceconcretedrivewayrepairbefore
Source:  http://www.signature-concrete-stain.com/

When any of these concrete areas are damaged it becomes a hazard year round, but the real danger arises when the weather turns icy. Fixing this type of problem in the fall is important in preventing a minor problem now from becoming an expensive headache down the road. Look for cracks, uneven sections, loose railings, crumbling of asphalt and loose-filled pathways. The majority of the cracks you will encounter will be within the ability to do-it-yourself.


 

Inspect your Fireplace

Bert-mary-poppins
Source:  http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Bert

No matter how often you use your fireplace, it is important to check it annually for damages and hazards.

- Flue: Check your flue (chimney) for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If accumulation occurs, the result poses great danger to your home.

Therefore you should consider having your chimney inspected annually. For most people, the best option is to have the entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform an inspection yourself by shining a flashlight up the flue. Look for deposits approaching 1/8inch in thickness. If you suspect any deposits, then it is highly advised to have the deposits cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

- Look for flue blockages: Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

- Exercise the damper: The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

 


Check Your Smoke Alarm Batteries

A lot of local fire departments will run campaigns urging you to change your fire alarm batteries during Daylight Savings time changes. Take this into account. Always be sure to check that any alarms you have that run on batteries, or ones that are connected to your home’s electrical system to ensure that they’re working.

 

 

Change Your Heat Filters

filterSource:  http://www.timesrecordnews.com/

If your home has a forced air centralized heating system, you need to replace your air filters. Whether they have been running continuously all year, or if your heater has been turned off all summer, you need to change them regardless. They will either be dirty from running all year, or they will be stale and possibly growing mold or mildew due to inactivity. Luckily, filters are cheap and easy to replace. When you’ve decided on a time to replace your filters, set aside a day to turn on your heating system for a few hours so it can blow out all the dust that built up over the summer months. A good time to do this would be when you’re going to be away from the home for awhile so you don’t have to endure a heated house, and the smell of burnt dust, when it’s still warm outside. Once you’ve had the heating system on for a few hours or more, turn it off and let your home air out.

 

 

Preparing your home for the fall can sometimes be a tedious job, but you’ll be thankful once the winter weather arrives. Whether you just moved into your new home or are planning on selling in the near future, stay one step ahead by preventing minor problems from escalating, while also saving money.

 

 

 

September 8, 2014

Lancaster City : A month packed of events

Although summer is coming to an end, there is still plenty of fun to be had and memories to be made with the numerous events scheduled throughout September in Lancaster, PA. Whether you are looking for things to do in your hometown or considering moving to Lancaster (or a nearby town), make sure you check out some of these events!

 

September 12th-26th : Wine on the Vine – ON DECK

grandviewdeckSource: The Vineyard at Grandview Facebook 

Location: The Vineyard at Grandview (Mount Joy, PA)

Details: Come enjoy live music every Friday night from 6-8:30pm on the beautiful deck.

 

September 12th: Astronomy

betterastronomySource: twanight.org

Location: Lancaster County Parks Environmental Center

Details: A nighttime star watch conducted by Astronomy enthusiasts.

 

September 12th: Taste the World Walking and Sampling Tour

taste of the world

Location: Downtown Lancaster (24 E King Street)

Details: Theme – Seafood. Join a fun filled evening of walking and sampling delicious dishes in downtown Lancaster. Where else can you try Haitian stewed conch, Cajun seafood bread, Italian tuna pasta salad, Asian crab Rangoon, Greek calamari lemonato, Southern pan-fried swai, plus a French dessert, all in one meal?

 

September 13th: Wool Frolic at Landis Valley

Photo by Carla FontaineSource: welcome-to-lancaster-county.com

Location: Landis Valley Village & Farm

Details: A celebration of fiber arts, demonstrations on yard dying, knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving and bobbin lace making, hands-on kids’ activities and much more.

 

September 18th: Velocity – Celebrating a city moving forward

velocitySource: velocitylancaster.com 

Location: Tellus360 6-10pm

Details: Celebrate the City of Lancaster with local food tastings, live performances, galley exhibitions, a fashion show, VIP rooftop party with open bar. It is going to be quite a party – a chance to grab your friends for an evening of mingling, eating, drinking, shopping, dancing and entertainment.

 

September 19th: Music Friday

music fridaySource: Instagram User – jaredmerb

Location: Binns Park

Details: Every third Friday of every month, live music abounds throughout City shops, restaurants and City parks. Plus the concerts are all FREE.

 

September 20th: Market Lights Up The Night (125 years in the making)

centralmarketSource: centralmarketlancaster.com 

Location: Lancaster Central Market 6:30-11pm

Details: A fundraising gala like none other you have experienced. The night will be filled with live music, an open bar and live/silent auctions.

 

September 27th: Annie Bailey’s 7th Annual Guinness Oyster Fest

anniebaileysSource: figlancaster.com/magazine (Fall 2014 p.6)

Location: Annie Bailey’s Traditional Irish Pub & Restaurant

Details: This is an all-day event and the biggest oyster fest in Lancaster City. There will be 1,500 east and west coast oysters, music and festivities throughout the day.

 

September 3, 2014

National Baby Safety Month

September is National Baby Safety Month, here are a few tips on how to baby-proof each room in your home.

 

 

Sept 14 IOV - Ecard

 

 

 

August 21, 2014

Financial Benefits of Homeownership

 

Which is a better option, renting or buying a home?  This question is difficult to answer and depends on one’s current financial situation.  However, it is important to note that homeownership does come with major financial rewards that are not applicable to renters.

 

1.) A Leveraged Investment

Owning a home allows a homeowner to increase any appreciation on the value of their home by a leveraging factor. Even a substantial 20% down payment results in a leveraging factor of 5 so that every percentage point in the value of the home is a 5% return on the equity. With the average buyer putting 10% or less down, their leveraging factor is 10 or more.  Every month the mortgage is paid, the reduction from the mortgage increases the amount of equity. Plus with equity from your home, you would be able to pay for college, retirement or other major life events.


2.) Rent or own, you are still paying

It makes a lot more sense to invest your money in something you own, than it does to pay a landlord. Homeowners pay financial institutions to reduce their own principal, while renters pay to reduce the principal for their landlord.


3.) “Forced Savings”

Owning a home tends to change the perspective many people have on saving money…spend now, save later. Owning a home means more financial responsibility, which encourages smarter saving and spending habits.

piggy

 

 

4.) Tax benefits of owning

As a homeowner, you will be able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from your annual income taxes. Plus capital gains (up to $250k for single filers and $500k for married couples) are excluded if you sell your home for a gain.


5.) Owning protects from inflation

Housing costs and rents tend to increase over time at a faster pace than the rate of inflation. This makes owning a home a more attractive option.


6.) Mortgage Rates

Over the past 30 years, mortgage rates have been decreasing, which means a decrease in your monthly payment.

Historic Mortgage Rates by Decade

 

Local real estate markets, your financial status, as well as personal needs and goals will all affect your housing decision. Homeownership makes sense for many people due to an assortment of personal and social reasons, but it also makes sense financially. Consult a local real estate professional to help guide you to happy and responsible living.

 

 

 

 

August 18, 2014

Get to Know Your Neighborhood with Nextdoor

 

Moving incatto a new neighborhood can be intimidating at times, especially if you are trying to enter an established “neighborhood circle”.  Whether there is a tight knit neighborhood bond or everyone on the block is still getting to know each other; there is simple solution to get the ball rolling and to start interacting with your neighbors.

 

Nextdoor is a free, hyper-local social network for you, your neighbors, and community. It is the easiest way to connect and communicate with the people who live around you. When neighbors start talking, good things happens. The amount of interaction is up to you and those who join the social network. It can be used to post information about neighborhood events, gather recommendations for trustworthy babysitters, learn your neighbors’ actual names, to help find a lost pet, and so on.  Another interesting feature of the site is that it is a private social network. Members must provide their real first and last names, verified address, and email. Only people within the pre-mapped community/neighborhood are allowed to join, comment, and interact.

 

nextdoor3

nextdoor2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nextdoor was founded in 2010 and is now running in every state. There is a free app supporting both iOS and android platforms. The company’s mission is to push the benefit and importance of a strong, tight-knit neighborhood community. There have been numerous articles supporting the valuable impact the site has had on communities; such as helping police reduce neighborhood crime, alerting neighbors about suspicious activities, and making communities much safer. So if you are interested in checking out the site…go on…you have nothing to lose; only new neighbors and a strong community to gain!

 

August 14, 2014

Interior Design Rules You Should Break

“The first rule of decoration is that you can break almost all the other rules.”

Decorating your new/current home can be stressful and intimidating, but it can also be fun and exciting! Whether you are preparing to sell your home, just purchased a new home or are looking for some inspiration, here are a few creative tips on how to add a personal touch to your house.

 

1.) “Don’t Mix Old and New”


mixingoldandnewSource: http://www.houzz.com

The most livable and inspiring rooms combine old and new pieces in a variety of styles to give them an effortless sense of having been assembled over time. Mixing vintage and contemporary pieces will give any room or space personality and dimension.

 

2.) “Paint a Small Space in a Light Color”

 

darkbathroomSource: look-n-feel.tumblr.com

Most people are under the impression that the easiest way to make a small room appear larger is to create the illusion by painting everything in the small area white, yellow or another lighter color. However, by using a darker paint, you are able to create a sense of depth within the small space.

Painting with darker colors can fool the eye into not knowing where the wall begins and ends, creating the impression of more space. Be sure to balance the dark color with light-catching objects, such as mirrors, metallic accents, and incorporating lamps/lighting to ensure that the room has a warm radiance.

 

3.) “Don’t Mix Metals”

mixingmetalsSource: simplymodernhome.com

There was a time when mixing metals, whether in home décor or jewelry, was considered “tacky”. Although the idea of mixing metals to some people is still preposterous; many designers and homeowners are embracing this previously misconceived decorating faux pas. There are many ways to approach mixing metals. You can choose to take the subtle route by adding a few pieces within the house or you can go bold by bringing in large pieces that will play off one another in combination with lights and mirrors. Either approach is a guaranteed way to incorporate richness in any room.

 

4.) “Use Only One Type of Wood In A Room”

mixingwoodSources (from left to right): buzzfeed.com and modpiecesblog.com  

The era of the matching furniture sets is long gone, but many people are still apprehensive to mix multiple wood finishes in the same room. Allowing various wood tones to cohabitate within the same room will create a layered and textured look.

 

5.) “Dining Chairs Should be part of a Matching Set”

kitchen Source: decorallure.blogspot.com

It has been the norm to always have a kitchen/dining table with matching chairs. But sometimes those furniture sets can look too perfect. Although a formal dining room equipped with a matching table and chairs can be absolutely beautiful, it can also appear unimaginative and “stuffy”. Purchasing one of a kind/unique furniture pieces allows you to add a little spice and personal touch into your dining area. Remember there is a difference between being mismatched and being “stylishly” mismatched.

 

6.) “Don’t Mix Patterns”

   mixmatchcolorsSource: http://www.2014interiordesignarticle.com

There are no guidelines when it comes to mixing patterns, however it may take a few tries before you feel your unmatched patterns somehow match. For a first-timer, choose a limited palette (such as blue and white) so you will be able to focus on and play around with patterns and size, instead of being overwhelmed with too many colors. Or another approach is to choose complimentary colors, and then mix/match from there.

Designer Tip: When choosing patterns, the key is to stick with an odd amount, particularly three. According to home décor style guides, three is the minimum number of patterns you should use.

 

7.) “Match Your Colors”

mixnmatch Source: decoist.com

There is no reason to continue following the rule that you have to match your pillows to the drapes and /or carpet. Playing with color is fun, and adds a touch of unique personality to your home. In order to avoid getting carried away with all the color options, choose fabrics and finishes within the same color family, but that don’t necessarily match. If the thought of combining so much color in one room is unsettling, there are subtle ways to play with color as well. For example, if you prefer a clean natural look in your home, you could play with different neutral shades in varying fabrics.

 

8.) “Ceilings Should Remain Unpainted”

ceiling2 Sources (left to right):  housebeautiful.com and old.murcadesign.com

Don’t forget to look up. Ceilings are often considered “the forgotten fifth wall”. Many people give little thought to the horizontal dry-wall hanging above their head. A ceiling is usually given a fresh coat of paint only once during its existence. However, it is time to change our perspective on the rooms we live in. Color, sheen, pattern, and texture on the ceiling can transform the entire look and feel of a room. Give yourself and your guests something to look up to…..literally.

 

 

July 21, 2014

Paying off your Mortgage Early

down-paymentIf you are looking to pay off your mortgage earlier than you had initially planned, there are multiple ways to get this done. Before doing any of them, however, you should check with your bank to make sure there are no hidden fees or charges for paying early.

 

Refinance your Mortgage

A good way to put a dent into paying off a 30-year mortgage is to refinance it into a 20-or-15-year loan. 15-year mortgages are the most popular, as there is considerably less mortgage interest in the long run. Be sure before making the change that you are financially able to do so, as changing to a 15-year loan commits you to higher monthly payments. If you are unsure about your financial ability to change to a 15-year, try staying on your 30-year loan and make payments as though you are on the 15-year one. This decreases the amount of time on your mortgage without adding the risk of a late payment.

 

Add a Little Extra

One of the best ways to pay your mortgage off early is to pay a little bit more where you can afford it. You can either do this by adding a set amount every month, or even just by rounding up every month. Even adding an extra 6 dollars to your monthly payments on a 200,000 dollar 30-year loan will save you 4 payments in the end. Make sure before doing this that you check your contract for any prepayment penalties.

 

Unexpected Money

Adding a little bit extra every month is great, but another option to keep in mind is adding any unexpected or extra cash flow to your payment. This can include anything from tax refunds or work bonuses to inheritances and investment earnings. This way it doesn’t feel like you are paying as much as long as you do not rely on that money.

 

Bi-weekly Payments

In Australia, people make bi-weekly half-payments on their mortgages. Why does this make any difference? Well, there are 12 months in a year, so most people will be paying 12 months worth of their loan. Someone who is paying half of their loan every other week, however, will be paying 13 months of their mortgage since there are 52 weeks in a year. This allows you to pay more of your loan off without feeling like you are paying more than you were before.

 

Other Options

These are great ways to cut down on the amount of time you have a mortgage, but there are many other ways as well. These include doubling up on your monthly payment 4 times a year and a money merge account. Money merge accounts should only be used by people who really understand cash management. If using any of the above options, it’s a good idea to get statements from your bank showing how much is still owed and also to make sure that any extra payments are going towards your principal and not being saved until the following year.

July 14, 2014

Homeownership Matters

Laurie and her pop during the Holidays

Laurie and her Pop at Christmas

Laurie Czaplinski, our Agent Services Director, shared her grandfather’s story with us:

My grandparents were married in 1945.  My grandfather had just served his last tour in the Navy for World War II.  One of their immediate goals, as a newly married couple, was to find a home where they could raise a family.  While in the service, my grandfather dreamed of meeting the girl of his dreams and building a home with her.  Their goal was independence and buying a house was the first step.

While talking about the home they were planning to build, my grandmother described a large kitchen where she could cook and bake.  My grandfather dreamed of a basement workshop and a yard where he could grow vegetables and lounge under a tree during the summer.

The home they built was what we would now call a bungalow.  It’s a one and half story that they built for less than $3,000.  Today it would sell for at least $130,000.  It is only a three bedroom, one and half bath but there is a lot of living square footage packed into this little home and they have used every inch of their home for the past 68 years.

As I asked him what he loves about his home he recalled all of the good times our family has shared there.  “A home is not only a place to lay your head at night.” My grandfather said to me.  He reminded me that every Thanksgiving we would pack into their finished basement and my grandmother would set up a large buffet feast for us and that my mom somehow used to be right by his side every time he opened a Coke in the basement.  He talked about the door in his workshop that has the heights of my aunts, mom and all of the grandchildren recorded, every year up until now.  He talked about the day he found his dog, “tuffy” and cat “killer”.  Then told me about the neighbors and the block parties they had.  And I remembered all of the weekend sleep overs and how he would make us ice-cream floats and “pop-pop sandwiches”.

“It doesn’t matter how big or expensive your home is, it’s the people who live there and the adventures you experience together that matter.”

This talk with my grandfather reminded me that homeownership means so much more than a roof over our head.

 

July 2, 2014

Landscaping Tips

Have you ever looked at a home and thought that its landscaping was beautiful,
but you could never afford it?

Landscaping can be costly and discouraging if done improperly, but there are several things that you can do to increase the beauty and value of your home for an affordable price. When done correctly, landscaping can even save you on electricity and water bills in the future. Here are a few good guidelines to follow when considering how to landscape your yard.

July 14 IOV - Ecard Graphic

June 30, 2014

Fire Safety Tips

Firefighter&TruckEvery year, more than 3,800 people die in house fires in the United States alone. An additional 18,300 survive but are disabled or injured. It is important to keep your family and your home up-to-date on fire safety.

 

Fire Alarms

Every level of your house should have at least one working fire alarm. Be sure to test the alarms every month, keep them clean, and change the battery at least once a year. Every ten years, fire alarms should be replaced unless the manufacturer says otherwise. There are also smoke alarms available for the deaf or hearing impaired that flash strobe lights and shake the bed.

 

Causes of Fires

The leading cause of fatal home fires in the United States is smoking. If possible, smoke outside and dispense of remnants in designated areas, such as ashtrays. Cooking is another leading cause of fires, typically as a result of people leaving the oven or range unattended for any length of time. Heating equipment should be cleaned, checked regularly and kept away from furniture according to fire regulations. Lastly, burning candles should never be left unattended in the home.

 

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is the deadly result of fuels burning incompletely. It is recommended that every house has a CO alarm on each floor as well as a fire alarm; in 2010 the United States fire department dealt with over 80,000 non-fire CO related incidents. Be sure to keep your home well ventilated, and use charcoal or gas grills outside only. Never keep a car running for an extended period of time indoors.

 

Escape Route

It is very important to have planned escape routes from your house in case of a fire. If possible, try to have at least two different ways out of every room, and make sure everyone in the house is familiar with them. It is advisable to practice your plan twice a year, both at day and at night. If an actual fire occurs, immediately get low, stay low, and get out of the building. Most fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation rather than burns, since fire burns the oxygen out of the air and lets off poisonous gases. You can suffocate from a fire even if you aren’t in the same room.

 

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