Two Minute Tip Tuesday-Special guest Don Torchia from Basement To Roof Home Inspections
By: Pat Curry
A good washing, and a bit of color are two low-cost ways.
Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell.
But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Here are financially smart ways to boost your home's equity.
#1 Wash Your House’s Face. Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.
A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.
Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate -- TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers -- dissolved in 1 gallon of water.
You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds -- depending on the size of the house and number of windows -- but will finish in a couple of days.
#2 Freshen the Paint Job. The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming face lift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.
Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.
#3 Fix Up the Roof. The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.
You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $7,500. And if you install a new one, you'll get that back -- plus a bit more. A new roof has an ROI of 109%.
Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.
#4 Neaten the Yard. A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.
Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.
Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.
#5 Add a Color Splash. Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.
Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.
Beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.
#6 Glam Up Your Mailbox. An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.
High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a face lift with paint and new house numbers.
These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.
#7 Add a Fence. A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.
Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.
If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.
#8 Keep Up With Maintenance. Nothing looks worse from the curb -- and sets off subconscious alarms -- like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.
Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:
By: G. M. Filisko
Understand which mortgage loan is best for you so your budget isn't stretched too thin.
It’s easier to settle happily into your new home if you’re confident you can afford it.
Here’s what you need to know about your mortgage financing options, including how to choose the loan that matches your income and tolerance for risk.
Mortgage Financing BasicsThe most important features of your mortgage loan are:
1. Term (how long the loan lasts)
Mortgages typically come in 15-, 20-, 30- or 40-year lengths. The longer the term, the lower your monthly payment. The interest rate on a 15-year mortgage might be 1% lower than the rate on a 30-year mortgage.
The trade-off for a lower payment on the 30-year mortgage is that you make more payments. Since you borrow the money for longer, you pay more interest to the lender.
2. Interest Rate (how much you pay to borrow money)
Mortgage interest rates generally come in two flavors: fixed and adjustable.
A fixed rate gives you the same interest rate and payment until the end of your mortgage. That’s attractive when you’re risk averse, if your future income won’t rise, or when interest rates are low.
The interest rate you pay on an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) changes at some point in the future based on where interest rates are at that time. ARMs are named for how long the rates last. For example, with a 5/1 ARM, your rate changes after the first five years and again every year after that.
ARM Risks and RewardsAn adjustable-rate mortgage rate goes up or down based on a particular financial market index, such as treasury bills. Typically, ARMs include a limit on how much the interest rate can change, such as 3% each time the rate changes, or 5% over the life of the loan.
Rewards for the uncertainty:
Before you decide on any mortgage, remember that slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. To determine how much your monthly payment will be with various terms and loan amounts, try bankrate.com's mortgage calculator.
10 Insider Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths
By: Dona DeZube
A New York City designer shares secrets to making a small bath bath functional and beautiful.
Got a small bathroom to renovate? Go wild with texture and colors if it’s a rarely used guest bath, but stick to clean and simple in a master bath.
That’s the word from designer Jamie Gibbs, who transforms incredibly small New York City bathrooms into beautiful spaces. “I liked being shocked by details in a little space, especially if it’s not going to be used much,” Gibbs says.
His small-bath secrets:
1. Avoid textures in bathrooms that get daily use. In a heavily used bathroom, anything with texture becomes a collection spot for mold, mildew, and toothpaste. Say no to carved vessel sinks or floor tile with indentations.
2. Be careful with no-enclosure showers with drains right in the floor. These Euro showers allow for a feeling of openness, but the average American contractor doesn’t know how to waterproof the floor for them, Gibbs says. The tile seals can be compromised if not installed correctly, causing the materials to decompose, and water to leak underneath.
3. Use opaque windows and skylights to let light filter into all parts of the bath. A long skinny window with frosted glass means you don't have to burn high-wattage light bulbs. Make sure water condensation will roll off the window into an appropriate place (i.e. not the framing or the wall) to avoid future maintenance issues.
4. Look for fixtures that have a single handle rather than separate hot and cold taps.“Space-saving gearshift faucets are a very good choice in small bathrooms,” says Gibbs. You’ll also save money by not having to drill holes in the counter top for the hot and cold taps.
5. Save space with wall-mounted toilets and bidets, but be aware that the water tank goes into the wall. That’s fine if space is such a premium that you won’t mind going into the wall to make any repairs. But if you share a wall with a neighbor, that's a different issue.
6. Use a wall-mount faucet to make a reduced-depth vanity work in a small space. “I can get away with a 22” vanity instead of a 24” vanity with a wall mount faucet,” Gibbs says.
7. Check the space between the handles and the faucet of any space-saving fixtures.“If you can only get a toothbrush in it to clean, you'll save space, but it’s functionally stupid,” Gibbs says. Make sure the sink is functional, too. If you’re using a vessel sink, make sure it’s large enough and not too high. “If it’s too high, you'll knock it so many times that the fittings will come loose,” Gibbs says.
8. A pedestal sink is all form and no function. “It’s a great-looking sink, but there’s no place to [set] anything,” Gibbs says.
9. Wall-mounted vanities seem like they’re space savers, but they create dead space between the vanity and the floor — a space that often accumulates junk and never gets cleaned.
10. If you're comfortable with it, go European and put up a glass walls between the bathroom and bedroom to create the illusion of space. Or put bathroom fixtures in the bedroom just outside the bath.
In this Two Minute Tip Tuesday I share one of the things you can do to stand out from the crowd when selling a home.
Jason Gelios is a Husband and Father. After that, a Top Producing REALTOR®, Author of the book Think like a REALTOR®, Creator of The AskJasonGelios Real Estate Show and an Expert Media contributor.