Archive for ‘For Homeowners’

April 9, 2014

Spring Cleaning

~Not all of us were born with green thumbs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have beautiful, restored gardens.~

April 14 IOV - Ecard

AskHomesale.com provides real estate advice and information for home buyers, home sellers, and homeowners alike. Askhomesale.com is part of the Prudential Homesale Family. The Homesale Family of Companies is the leading real estate company serving the Baltimore, Maryland, South Central and Southeastern PA real estate markets.  Prudential Homesale has more than 25 offices with over 1,000 REALTORS®. Prudential Homesale’s footprint includes Maryland real estate offices in Baltimore CityFederal HillFells PointWestminster, and Timonium.  Pennsylvania real estate offices include YorkLancasterWyomissingChambersburgGettysburgHarrisburg, and Schuylkill Haven.

Tips for Home Buyers  |  Tips for Home Sellers | Tips for Homeowners

April 7, 2014

Credit Karma

For many of you, the thought of buying a home raises some financial concerns such as CreditKarmagetting pre-approved and affording the down payment. Getting pre-approved is often based off your debt-to-income ratio, your credit score, work history, etc. Take note, that just because you pay everything on time, doesn’t necessarily mean that your credit score is perfect. It is important to have a sense of where your credit stands; check out creditkarma.com to find out.

CreditKarma.com provides you with a free credit score; no credit card required. By creating a free account and becoming a Credit Karma member, you will have safe and secure access to four different credit scores including your TransUnion Credit Score, Vantage Score, Auto Insurance Score, and Home Insurance Score. This system also includes a simulator that allows you to plug in variables and see how your credit score may be affected.

Staying up-to-date on your credit score and working to continuously improve it, will keep you on track so you know when buying a home is right for you.

March 6, 2014

It’s Time!

As you look outside, you see more snow falling and you feel the temperature getting colder every day.  You’re concerned with cleaning off your car and getting shoveled out; buying a home may not have even crossed your mind.  Many argue that spring is the best time to find your dream home, but if you are ready, The Time is Now!

March IOV

AskHomesale.com provides real estate advice and information for home buyers, home sellers, and homeowners alike. Askhomesale.com is part of the Prudential Homesale Family. The Homesale Family of Companies is the leading real estate company serving the Baltimore, Maryland, South Central and Southeastern PA real estate markets.  Prudential Homesale has more than 25 offices with over 1,000 REALTORS®. Prudential Homesale’s footprint includes Maryland real estate offices in Baltimore CityFederal HillFells PointWestminster, and Timonium.  Pennsylvania real estate offices include YorkLancasterWyomissingChambersburgGettysburgHarrisburg, and Schuylkill Haven.

Tips for Home Buyers  |  Tips for Home Sellers | Tips for Homeowners

February 27, 2014

How to Choose the Right Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling your home can be emotional endeavor, but with the help of a dedicated and dependable real estate agent, it can be an enjoyable and peaceful process. There are many aspects that you must consider when trying to choose the agent that is right for you. By following some of these simple guidelines, you will be heading in the right direction for a successful real estate experience.

Research & Record Your ResultsReal Estate

This cannot be stressed enough.  Referrals from family and friends are great but we still encourage you to do your research.  Go to open houses and watch an agent in action; this will help you see them in a professional and casual setting.  Another suggestion is to drive around the neighborhoods in your market place and see which agents and companies dominate the area.   Make a list of your top choices for a Realtor and Google them.  In that list, record the pros and cons from online reviews, ratings, testimonials, etc. 

Schedule Interviews & Ask Questions

This is the biggest step in the process. Keep in mind that as a seller, top agents will market your home on multiple websites and social media.  As a buyer, they will notify you as homes that meet your criteria enter the market. Find out how the agent will keep you updated and represent you during negotiations.  There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but remember to separate the good, better, and best agents by comparing the answers you get to your questions.

Lay Down your Laws with Some Simple Guidelines

Real estate transactions consist of fine details that can be missed and disrupt the whole process if you don’t have the right agent in your corner. Communication is a key aspect and you must stress that your agent needs to be available via email or phone, whichever is preferred.   Set realistic goals and stress that you and your agent must work as a productive team.

When it comes to buying or selling your home, finding the right real estate professional makes the difference!

February 24, 2014

Get the Most Out of Your Home with Tax Deductions

Tax season is here and now it is time for you to get the most out of all the hard work you contributed last year. If you’re a current homeowner, I have some good news for you; tax breaks are available. You can deduct many home-related expenses, but make sure to consult with a tax advisor to ensure you get all of the tax breaks that are available to you.

Here are possible tax deductions for homeowners:

1.)  Mortgage Interest: This is defined as any interest you pay on a loan secured by your main home or second home. These loans include a mortgage to buy your home, a second mortgage, a line of credit, and a home equity loan. It is very important for you to note that personal loans and the interest you pay are likely to not be deductible.Image

  • Vacation Homes – Owning a vacation home can be that second home used to deduct some of your costs.

2.)  Points: are prepaid interests that are paid to obtain a home mortgage. If you bought or refinanced your home after January 1, 2007 and have an adjusted gross income that falls under $110,000, then you are eligible for the points deduction.

3.)  Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If you made a down payment of less than 20% on your home then it is very possible that you are paying on a PMI which protects lenders against loan default.

4.)  Enhancements for the Home: Even though you can’t claim your purchases, it is advised that you keep all of your receipts from enhancements to your home. This can ultimately improve your homes resale worth and decrease potential taxable gain.

  • Health-related enhancements – Did you know that any enhancements made to your home for medical reasons can be deducted from your taxes? The one thing that you need to make sure is that the enhancements don’t change the value for the home. If has to be made clear that these adjustments were made for a chronically ill or disabled person.
  • Energy-efficient enhancements – A one-time federal tax credit of 10% of the cost of qualifying geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, solar panels, small wind turbines, or fuel cells placed in service for an existing or new construction home through December 31, 2016 may be available to you to deduct.

5.)  Real Estate and Property Taxes: There are four types of deductible non-business taxes:

  • State, local and foreign income taxes
  • State, local and foreign real estate taxes
  • State, and local personal property taxes, and
  • State and local general sales taxes

Take note that these taxes are only itemized deductions in the year they were essentially paid to the government.

6.)  Work-from-Home Office: Homeowners can deduct a portion of their mortgage, utilities, renovation, and technical equipment expenses in direct proportion to the amount of their home that is dedicated to the office. As stated above, hold on to all of your receipts.

There are probably more tax deductions that await your attention, but make sure to do your research and schedule an extensive meeting with a tax professional. Taxes are your biggest business expense. Get knowledgeable and save, save, save!

February 19, 2014

Fall in Love with your Home!

Love is in the air this February so let’s rekindle the love and romance you share for your home. Ask yourself these questions: Do you feel at ease when you go home? Does the appearance of your house put a smile on your face? If you are feeling a little down with your home, we may have the perfect tips for you to fall in love all over again.

Feb IOV

AskHomesale.com provides real estate advice and information for home buyers, home sellers, and homeowners alike. Askhomesale.com is part of the Prudential Homesale Family. The Homesale Family of Companies is the leading real estate company serving the Baltimore, Maryland, South Central and Southeastern PA real estate markets.  Prudential Homesale has more than 25 offices with over 1,000 REALTORS®. Prudential Homesale’s footprint includes Maryland real estate offices in Baltimore CityFederal HillFells PointWestminster, and Timonium.  Pennsylvania real estate offices include YorkLancasterWyomissingChambersburgGettysburgHarrisburg, and Schuylkill Haven.

Tips for Home Buyers  |  Tips for Home Sellers | Tips for Homeowners

February 17, 2014

10 Ways To Clean Your House Using A Lemon

Freshen your garbage disposal Image

When life gives you lemons, grab the salt and scrub-a-dub-dub. The common household fruit is the ultimate, all-natural cleaning agent. Lemons not only deodorize the house with a zesty fragrance, but they also dissolve dirt and act as an antibacterial solution, thanks to a high level of citric acid. Whether you’re looking to finally rid your microwave of that mysterious caked-on mess or find an environmentally-safe way to mop up the muddied snow the kids tracked in, we’ve got 10 house cleaning tips that’ll get the job done with a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of lemons.

Got a funky smell wafting out of your kitchen sink? Take matters into your own hands. Quarter a lemon, drop it in the disposal, and turn on the hot water. Flip the switch, and it’ll be good to go.

Polish metal pots

Tarnished metal and burnt bottoms have a way of making your first-rate cooking pots look like bargain-basement finds. Shine ‘em up until they’re spic-and-span by dipping a half of a lemon in salt and rubbing gently in circular motions. The same rules apply for chrome faucets and grills. Just steer clear of anything brass-plated, which won’t hold up under pressure.

Wash dishes

Cut grease on hard-to-clean dishes by adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to your detergent. This one’s great for little dish washers who want to help out Mom and Dad, but haven’t developed their scrubbing muscles.

Clean coffee & tea pots

Rid your coffee and tea pots of daily mineral buildup by slicing lemons and boiling them in the pot. Let the sweet smelling potion steep for 1 to 2 hours, and then stick the pot in the dishwasher. Bonus: Banishing those unwanted impurities makes for a better tasting cup of Joe.

 Brighten whites

Revive your munchkin’s dingy whites by adding ½ cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle of a regular-sized load of white or “bleachable-safe” clothes. While you’re at it, tackle tough spots on polyester and cotton with a stain-fighting mixture that’s equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar. Rub in the solution (after testing on a small patch), and let it soak in for 1/2 hour. Wash as normal.

Create a natural oven spray

Avoid toxic chemicals found in traditional oven cleaners, like Easy-Off. They may work like a charm, but they’re hazardous to your health. We suggest replacing the synthetics with a paste of lemon juice, water, and baking soda until it reaches the consistency of gel. Coat the inside of the oven, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and rinse well. The best part? In the words of TLC, “no scrub, no scrub, no scrub.”

Make a DIY toilet bowl spray

Cleaning doesn’t have to be dirty work. When it comes to your toilet bowl, combine ½ cup of lemon juice and a sprinkle of baking soda, and let the magic happen. After 15 minutes, give it a quick turn with a toilet brush, and flush. Fresh as a daisy!

Polish furniture

Mix a pint of mineral oil with one tablespoon of lemon juice, pour in a spray bottle, and go to town. But don’t forget to wipe down your surfaces really well. Nothing interrupts an intimate dinner party quite like greasy Gucci.

Wash windows

Say goodbye to streaking, sister—that was in another life. Nix window grime and tiny hand prints with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ cup white vinegar, and 1 quart of warm water.

Sanitize your microwave

Despite your kids’ best attempts, the inside of your microwave is not a Jackson Pollock masterpiece. Clean those pesky splatterings by slicing a lemon and dropping the pieces into a hot water vessel—a breakfast bowl or teacup will do. Turn the microwave on high for 1 minute and immediately give it a couple swipes with a wet sponge. If only everything in life could be this easy.

February 10, 2014

Quick Fixes

These days everyone has a hectic schedule.  Between work, family, household chores, and social functions it can be hard to get everything done.  Those small tasks around the house can easily get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list.  Believe it or not, most of them can be done in under an hour!

Don’t procrastinate, take one hour and start checking these items off your list.

Hardware Update – Give your kitchen a new look by replacing those drab door handles and drawer pulls.  All you need is a screwdriver.  (If you’re adding knobs for the first time, create a template to ensure you drill your holes in the same spot each time)quick fixes blog

Time to De-grime – Fire up the power washer and give your home’s exterior, sidewalks, and driveway a good cleaning.  It can be used to clean gutters and siding, even 2nd floor windows.  (Make sure all windows are securely closed before you begin)  It will also remove stains left on walkways from leaves and mildew.

Clothes Dryer Duct – Built-up lint can cause your dryer to work less efficiently and is also a fire hazard.  Move the dryer away from the wall and unplug it.  Use your vacuum to remove lint from the wall duct and the dryer itself.

Freshen up – Pick a bold paint color to use on just one wall in a room.  Covering only one wall costs less and takes less time than painting the entire room!

Furnace Filter – This will improve the air quality in your home as well as the furnace’s efficiency.  This should be done at least once every three months and is a cinch to replace.  A simple swap of the new for the old and you’re done.

Build raised flowerbed/garden – Yes, you can actually do this in an hour.  Basically, all you need is a saw, a drill, 8’ sections of pressure treated lumber, screws, construction adhesive, landscape fabric, rubble, and soil.  Cut lumber to size and secure them together, add landscape fabric to the base to prevent weed growth, add a layer of rubble for drainage, and fill with fertilized soil.  Happy gardening!

Fix a Faucet – Tired of a leaky faucet?  If you can wield a wrench, you can install a new faucet.  Turn off your water supply before you begin.  Unscrew connections to your old faucet and screw in the new one. (More detailed instructions should be included with your new hardware)  Adding an aerator at the same time can help lower your water bill.

Weather-stripping – Replace worn weather-stripping in under an hour.  Look around windows and doors for worn pieces that need replaced.  Taking the time to do this now will help save you money on heating and cooling later.

 Hopefully these suggestions have shown you all that can be accomplished with just a little bit of time!

 The best way to get something done is to begin.  ~ Author Unknown

January 13, 2014

The Scoop on Gas Fireplaces

ImageThere is nothing better than a warm, roaring fire on a cold winter’s night, except a warm, roaring fire that does not need tending and requires minimal clean-up!  This is what a gas fireplace can bring to your home.  The models available today are more realistic and a lot more efficient than models in the past.

Why Choose Gas?

Wood-burning fireplaces create ambiance, but they can’t beat the easy, no-fuss efficiency of gas.

  • No logs to split, haul, or stack
  • Thermostat helps to control temperature
  • No ash to clean up or smoky smells
  • 75-99% of fuel’s energy back as heat
  • You can start, adjust, and extinguish with a switch or remote control
  • They can be installed almost anywhere, without needing a chimney

Three Types

  • Inserts – used to retro-fit an existing wood-burning firebox ($2,000–$4,000)
  • Built-ins – for installing a fireplace where one does not currently exist ($2,000-$4,000)
  • Log sets – a basic burner that sits in an existing fireplace, decorative purposes ($400-$1,000)

Inserts and built-ins are both reliable heat producing models that will fill a room with radiant heat.  Log sets are more for the appearance of a fire than for actual warmth.  Each version comes with the option to vent or not to vent.  While gas fireplaces don’t produce smoke or odors, they do create pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur oxides).  Vented units will send these pollutants outside.

  • Vented – Can be vented through an exterior wall or up a flue.  Typically 70-85% efficient.
  • Vent-free – Can be installed anywhere.  They have an oxygen-depletion sensor that will shut the unit off if the oxygen level drops below 18%.  Typically about 99% efficient since all heat stays in the room.

Other things to consider

Natural Gas vs Propane – Natural gas is less expensive, produces about 5% more heat.  Choose propane when natural gas is not available.

DIY or Hire a Pro – For safety purposes and a flawless installation, hire a pro certified by the National Fireplace Institute.

Maintenance – Have a certified technician visit annually to perform an inspection and cleaning

BTUs (measure of heat output) – You should take into consideration your room size, the local climate, and your home’s insulation level.

 

Upgrades to enhance comfort and appearance:

  • Battery backup – fireplace will still light during a power outage
  • Electronic Ignition – eliminates the need for pilot light (saves fuel)
  • Wall Thermostat – Adjusts heat output to a temperature you select
  • Flame Height Adjuster – allows you to dial amount of heat you desire from a small flicker to a roaring fire
  • LED accent lighting – adds a realistic flickering effect
  • Built-in Fan – Pulls indoor air into space behind firebox, pushes hot air out, .heats room faster

Do a little research, decide which options suit your needs, and then get going.
Don’t spend another moment in a chilly home, let a gas fireplace keep you comfy and cozy all winter.

January 10, 2014

Being a Good Neighbor

Ask yourself, ”Am I a good neighbor”?

finalpostGood neighbors are important.  Living in a neighborhood where you feel safe and connected can impact your level of happiness and even reduce stress.  You may not be able to change your neighborhood, but you can certainly change the experience you have in your neighborhood by getting out and getting involved.

Here are a few qualities of a good neighbor:

Good neighbors are respectful
Always be conscientious about noises that may disturb your neighbors, such as music, loud talking, barking dogs.  End parties at a reasonable hour, while you are at it, invite your neighbors.  Always return anything you borrow in the same condition, in a timely manner, and express your gratitude when you do so.  Make time to smile and say hello.  Never forget, while neighbors may live close, they are also respectful of each other’s privacy.

Good neighbors are proud
Be considerate of those around you.  Take pride in maintaining your home so that it is neat and attractive.  Mow your lawn regularly and keep your landscape trimmed and neat.  Coming home to a beautiful house and neighborhood is rewarding.

Good neighbors are helpful
Offer to collect mail, water plants, or watch pets while a neighbor is away on a trip.  When snow falls, help elderly neighbors by shoveling their driveway or sidewalks.  Prepare a meal when a neighbor is under the weather or run errands while their car is in the repair shop.  You never know when you will need one of them to return the favor for you.

Good neighbors are supportive
Organizing neighborhood parties, yard sales, or other functions is a good way to get to know each other better and a great way to build a stronger community.  Neighbors who know each other personally are more likely to look out for and help each other.  Neighborhood Watch groups are another way to help and support your neighbors.  They deter crime and violence, making your neighborhood a safer, happier place to live.

Good neighbors are social
Get to know your neighbors.  Welcome new neighbors with a note or a friendly chat.  Invite neighbors over for coffee to visit and share good news.  Learn from your neighbors who have different cultural backgrounds than you.  Everyone gets busy; it only takes a little bit of time to organize an annual holiday party and socialize with all your neighbors.

Getting to know the people around you takes only mere moments out of your day, but can provide a lifetime of pride in your home and the neighborhood.  It is nice knowing you can depend on those around you and they can depend on you.

“When strangers start acting like neighbors…communities are reinvigorated.” – Ralph Nader

Click here for some tips on meeting your neighbors.

Looking for a new home? Prudential Homesale’s new real estate search can help you find what you are looking for.

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