WINTER HOME MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST

Getting Ready For Winter Storms

Before we wrap ourselves up in the holiday craze and cheer of shopping, entertaining, spending time with family & friends, special events, etc.… let’s take a few moments to go through your winter weather checklist to make sure you have yourself covered when the really cold weather sets in, and for the snow that is surely just around the corner.

Here are just a few things to consider …

Let’s first start off by checking the condition of your snow shovels, gloves, and window scrapers, and replace as needed. If you own your own snowplow, have it serviced, so you know you are ready to go, and of course make sure you have any oils/additives and gas stored in a safe place ensuring your readiness should the need arise. Storing some of your winter weather supplies such as shovels, near the door where you can access them easily in a storm. Mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles, to help the snowplow service provider see where the driveway begins and ends – and mark any other key areas that you deem important. Keeping your pantry stocked with food, bottled water, candles, batteries, and flashlights in case of power outages is always a good idea.

Insulate Your Pipes

Your water pipes are not strong enough to withstand the transition from liquid water to ice. Water expands when it freezes with tremendous force that can overpower your pipes. To prevent this from happening, insulate the pipes in vulnerable areas like unfinished basements or pipes closest to the exterior walls. This foam insulation is extremely inexpensive but could save you thousands of dollars should any of your pipes freeze.

It is also important to drain your outdoor water spickets now, if you haven’t done so already (turn them on for a minute to drain any left-over water left in the pipes.). Once drained, shut it off and shut down the main shut-off lever for the winter so it will be ready and intact for the spring season.

Change Furnace Filters

This could save you a fortune on your furnace and utility bill, and it will also improve the efficiency of your heating system. Changing the filter is easy, cost-effective, and only needs to be done once or twice a year.

Sweep and Inspect the Chimney

When too much ash, embers, leaves, and other materials clog your fireplace, it poses a risk of chimney fires. It could also prevent smoke from exiting the chimney, meaning that it will only enter your home. You should have your chimney swept once a year to prevent this from happening.

Check Your Roof & Clean Gutters

Hiring someone to check your roof and clean your gutters is a good proactive practice that could lead to a big expense if left undone. If you are able and handy, this certainly is a good do-it-yourself project.

Rotate Ceiling Fans

TIP! Heat naturally rises toward the ceiling … so during the winter, if your ceiling fans rotate backward – flip that switch … it will gently push cool air upwards, forcing the heated air back down to the floor. This is an especially helpful tip if you have high ceilings.

Check Your Heating System

Maintenance is key to longevity for any system! Make sure that your heating system is running at optimal levels. If you don’t have a heating system service contract with your service provider, you may want to think about doing that. Have your system serviced and cleaned annually – ideally before the winter temperatures set in. The last thing you want, is to have your heating system give you a problem/stops working right in the middle of freezing temps.

Seal Air Leaks

Seal cracks around doors and windows and add weather stripping where needed. Having a professional do this will yield you the best results. Otherwise, if you are handy … not such a difficult task. With energy costs going up, up up … this task will help lower your energy bills and will also keep your house warmer in the event of a power outage.

Check/Change Your Detectors Annually

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are important all year round, especially during the cold winter months. Rule of thumb … replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries at least once a year, some suggest every 6 months, try to be consistent in your practice. Not fun to be woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of a chirping detector, letting you know it needs a new battery.

Drain The Fuel From Your Small Gas-Powered Engines

Again, maintenance is key … Gasoline doesn’t last forever, it decomposes quickly, which causes the engine to “gunk-up” – and may cause the engine to fail/inability for it to start again come spring when you need it. Look at your small equipment’s owner’s manual for best practices to keep your equipment in good working order so it will last for many years to come.

Check Exterior Landscape

Take a walk around the exterior of your property and look for any broken branches or dying trees that are in close proximity to your home, car, fence, or other valuable property. Intense winds could take out a dying tree with ease, so if you see something, either cut it yourself (if it’s an easy fix) or call in the professionals.

HOW TO PREP FOR POWER OUTAGES

  • Have warm clothes and blankets on hand.
  • Stock Up On Supplies – Having a wide variety of non-perishable food items, drinking water, and first aid supplies on hand can make the uncomfortable “power outage” scenario a little safer and more tolerable.
  • Update your emergency kit. – Be prepared for power outages and other emergencies by making sure your house and car are outfitted with well-stocked emergency kits. The basics include bottled water, a flashlight with extra batteries, a cell phone charger (battery-powered is best), car charges, food, blankets and a first-aid kit. At home, keep essential documents in one easily accessible place.

Note: If you are anticipating a storm and a possible power outage – ensure all devices, and phones have a full charge before the storm hits.

Use Your Fireplace, Wood or Pellet Stove

Of course, if you have a fireplace or wood stove, you are golden. That’s assuming you have your firewood in an easily accessible location. If you’re like me, I have a pellet stove which works great when you have electricity … but having your pellet stove hooked-up to a generator, and bags of pellets on hand which I do – will keep your home warm and toasty in the event of a power outage. It’s all about thinking ahead and being prepared.

Get a Generator

Lastly, if possible, get a generator … it may be the best investment you’ve made Don’t wait until the last minute, when everyone is out there looking to purchase one. It’s like an insurance policy – you may need it; you may not need it. But having the peace of mind of having one is priceless!!

Note: Just like a car, a generator will not work without the gas needed to fuel it. If you have a generator or are thinking of getting one – make sure you are prepared with all that is needed to run it, storing all including the gas in a safe place.

Not sure what the winter months have in store for us … but being prepared can only make it easier. If you or someone you know needs any service providers to help you “get-ready” – feel free to reach out to me. I have a list of Service Providers, that come highly recommended.

Stay warm, stay safe!

Laura

The Key To your Real Estate Success

Helping buyers and sellers achieve their real estate goals.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Buyers are looking for that place to call “HOME” even during the holiday season. Could your home be the “gift” they have been looking for?

Many sellers find themselves trying to decide whether they should sell their home during the holiday season or wait. Some sellers that already have their homes on the market, but not under contract – may make the decision to take their home off the market until the new year. Good idea? Well for some, perhaps … with the hustle & bustle of the holidays, entertaining with family & friends, may hinder your ability to be “show ready” … and that’s fine, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

I speak mainly to the sellers, who would like to sell now, but think they should wait until after the holidays. Below are just a few reasons why now, still might just be the right time to put your home on the market.

Supply & Demand – I know I am not telling you anything you don’t already know, but nonetheless this still is true today. While buyer demand has slowed a little due to higher interest rates, and there has been a tick up in inventory – there still is not enough inventory to meet buyer demand. What does that mean to you? Less homes on the market, means less homes for you to compete with should you choose to put your home on the market during the holidays.

Serious Buyers – The buyers currently out in the market, looking during the holiday season – are serious buyers … ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. The desire to purchase a home doesn’t just stop during the holidays.

Rents – The cost of renting has gone through the roof. Many buyers are weighing their options – rent vs. buy. In most cases it doesn’t make financial sense to rent (if you have the down-payment) when you can put that money towards your monthly mortgage payment and reap the benefits of homeownership while building wealth through equity.

When is the right time to sell or buy? I will always say … when, the time is right for you/when you are ready – right? If you make the decision – that now may just be the right time to sell regardless of the time of season, do know this … to make your showings a little easier and more manageable, you can restrict your home showings to days and times that are most convenient for you. That can help you minimize disruptions, which is especially important this time of year.

If you find yourself trying to decide what would be the best decision for you, given your situation, feel free to contact me to discuss the current market, and help you weigh the pros & cons that should give you more clarity on how and when to move forward.

Laura

The Key To Your Real Estate Success

Helping buyers & sellers achieve their real estate goals

How Are Interest Rates Affecting The Real Estate Market?

With interest rates on the rise, it makes the real estate market a bit more challenging for both buyers and sellers.  Below is a little perspective on where we currently stand in the world of real estate.

For Buyers – Higher interest rates mean higher monthly mortgage payments – This only results in less buying power for potential buyers seeking to secure a mortgage.  Buyers wanting to purchase a home today may find themselves having to re-prioritize their “wants & needs” when considering their home purchase to make up the difference higher interest rates pose on your monthly mortgage payment.  

The chart below illustrates where interest rates were in January 2022, where they are now, and where they may be going – and how might this affect your monthly mortgage payment.  

In the example below, if you are looking to take out a home loan for $200,000, and take a 30-year mortgage, put a 20% down payment of $40,000, you will have a $160,000 mortgage. If you only put down 10%, you will have a $180,000 mortgage. The following table shows you how much you’ll pay each month – 

Interest RatePayment with 20% downPayment with 10% down
3.5%$718$808*
4%$764$859*
4.5%$811$912*
5%$858$966*
5.5%$908$1,022*
6%$959$1,079*
6.5%$1,011$1,137*
7%$1,064$1,197*
7.5%$1,118$1,258*

*Payment amounts shown do not include private mortgage insurance (PMI), which may be required on loans with down payments less than 20%. The actual monthly payment may be higher, this also excludes taxes and insurance.  

I would recommend that you speak to your mortgage lender about what programs they may have to offer their borrowers that may just offer you some savings along the way or in the long term.  With that you can decide what makes the best sense for you.  

Important to note:  Do keep in mind – while interest rates are higher “today” then they were 6+ months ago – we do not know where they will be tomorrow right?  But if I had to give a good guess, I believe there is a great likelihood that they will be higher tomorrow.  So, give careful consideration to your “why” before you decide to step in or step out of the market … as we only know what we know right now!

For Sellers – The rise in interest rates not only affects the buyers, but it does also affect the seller as well.  While we are still considered to be in a seller’s market in our area – it is not the craze we saw in earlier months, but still seeing multiple offers on some of our properties if the home is priced well, along with no major objections. If your “why” is telling you – now is the time to sell, speak to a trusted real estate professional who will give you an analysis on what your homes market value is in today’s market, and then price accordingly.  Pricing is key in any market and still holds true in today’s market as well. With some buyers stepping out of the market, waiting to see how everything shakes out – your buyer pool is slimming down. Add to that – the holidays are right around the corner where traditionally you will see a slowing of the market.  Speak to a trusted real estate professional to discuss what your real estate goals tare o determine how best to move forward.

There are many moving parts in today’s world that is really taking its toll on just about everything.   Nonetheless, life goes on – so having the knowledge you need to get through this place in time – will only help you in your decision-making process looking forward. 

Any questions or concerns?   Reach out to me … I am here to help!

Laura

The Key To Your Real Estate Success

Helping buyers & sellers achieve their real estate goals

TRICK QUESTION – ARE WE IN A HOUSING BUBBLE?

What’s News In Real Estate – Republished from my “Monday Morning Minute” Dated: 10/31/2022

No trick or treat will change the shifting real estate market. … 

We all can agree that the market is shifting … but to calm your fears for what that means for you as a buyer or seller is to understand what it is not …

Some fears of today, and questions that are being asked … are we in a housing bubble? The straight answer to that question is – NO… and below are some of the reasons why experts say it is not … 

Supply & Buyer Demand 

There is still a shortage of homes on the market today – which is the #1 driver of the market. To put things in perspective – during the housing crisis (2007-2010) there were too many homes for sale (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that is what caused prices to fall so dramatically. While supply has increased since the start of this year, there is still a shortage of inventory to meet buyer demand. There just isn’t enough inventory on the market for home prices to come crashing down like they did last time, even though some of the overheated markets may experience slight declines in home prices.

Mortgage Standards 

Prior to the housing crisis, it was so much easier to get approved for a home loan then it is today for certain. Back then banks were creating artificial demand by lowering their lending standards to make it easy to qualify for a loan and/or refinance their current home.

During the housing crisis, banks took on greater risk in the borrower and the mortgage products they offered, which led to people defaulting on their loans, foreclosures, and falling prices. Lessons learned in the banking arena … Today, things are much different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage lenders to get themselves qualified for that loan. 

Foreclosures 

The number of foreclosures in today’s market are much lower since the crash, largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans due to higher standards in the mortgage industry. 

It is important to note most homeowners today are “equity rich” which is quite the contrary during the housing crisis of yesteryears, when so many people owed more on their mortgages than their home was actually worth. Homeowners today have built-in equity over time, and then in addition to that, built-in equity – add the equity gains of the “market craze of 2020/2021.”

Homeowners in today’s market are in a completely different position then what was during the housing crisis. For those who face challenges today, many have the option of using their equity to sell their house and avoid the foreclosure process.

My best advice for you today… 

Fear not … today’s real estate market may have some challenges, but none that point to the “once was market crash” of years past. Whether you are a buyer or seller … speak with a trusted real estate advisor who will help uncover your fears – answer any/all of your questions … so you can make decisions on what your best move should be in today’s shifting real estate market.

Laura

The Key To Your Real Estate Success

Helping buyers & sellers achieve their real estate goals

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE REAL ESTATE HOUSING MARKET? 

  

 If only we had a crystal ball to know what the future holds for the real estate market…

The housing market has certainly cooled down a bit with the rise in interest rates, that is giving buyers pause. There are a wide range of opinions coming from the experts on what the real estate market has in store, from falling home prices to ongoing appreciation, with supply and demand currently being the key factor that is driving the real estate markets, regardless of all the other moving parts going on in our world. What will be is yet to be seen, however, here is some perspective …
MORTGAGE RATE 
We’ve all witnessed the rise in mortgage rates and its impact on the cost of buying and selling a home. Homebuyers have had to revise their expectations as to what they can afford. Sellers, on the other hand have had to adjust their own expectations regarding pricing their homes. 
Key takeaway: Pay close attention to mortgage rates, and when you see a period of lower rates … that’s the time buyers should lock in their rate if they are ready, willing and able.

Home sales are trending below 2019, just before the COVID pandemic. And while inventory has gone up, it is still not enough to sustain buyer demand.

With/due to the lack of inventory, combined with higher housing costs and higher mortgage rates, we are likely to see a continued decline in home sales.


HOUSING MARKET FORECAST
Dr. Lawrence Yun’s, forecast for the remainder of 2022 is the following … “We will see sales come down slightly below 2019 market. And then 2023 will be roughly even. I think on a quarterly basis we will continue to see sales decline through the third and fourth quarter. And the first quarter of next year, it will begin to increase” – Dr. Lawrence Yun NAR Chief Economist


Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors projections for the rest of 2022 and the year to come are outlined in the chart below. This offers a quick overview of Dr. Yun’s expectations for the rest of 2022 and for the year to come. 


Key takeaway: Home prices will continue to rise but at a slower pace. Unit sales will level off in 2023 after a 13% decline for 2022. And dollar volume for residential home sales—down 2% for 2022—will surge by 2% in 2023. 

Lastly, and as outlined in the chart below, the key thing to keep in mind is the solid buffer between housing asset valuation and mortgage debt, which argues strongly in favor of buying a home. This buffer is one of the key reasons why real estate is still the best long-term investment.


It’s important to note that there are many determining factors that come into play as to why sellers, sell and buyers, buy. It is based upon those needs most often that will be “their” determining factor on whether to make the move or not – not the market. 

Clients, friends and family ask me “how’s the market?” My answer usually is – “a bit challenging,” for some reasons I’ve outlined above in this case. But what market isn’t challenging? Even during the 2020/2021 market, there were challenges for both buyers and sellers. You as a buyer and/or seller just need to be informed of the challenges and know how to navigate through it. Speaking to a trusted real estate advisor, a trusted mortgage representative and perhaps a financial advisor to get the information you need to make good sound educated decisions is the best place to start. Don’t let the market determine what your future holds for you … learn the facts and take control of what your next move should be. 

Laura

The Key To Your Real Estate Success

Helping buyers & sellers achieve their real estate goals