Home Tips

Know How to Spot Electrical Safety in a New Home

electricityWhen shopping for a home, you’re probably focused on things like the size of the master bedroom and the kitchen’s proximity to the family room, but you should also be on the lookout for electrical safety issues.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were over 380,000 residential fires in the U.S. in 2015, mainly caused by cooking, heating and electrical equipment malfunctions. Electrical device manufacturer Leviton suggests homebuyers and new homeowners take the following steps:

1. Electrical PanelCheck out the electrical panel. Make sure it was installed properly and in the right location. Panels must be in a spot that is easily accessible to firefighters in case of an emergency. The panel should not be hot to the touch and make sure it wasn’t part of a manufacturer recall in the past several years.

2. Make sure the home has enough amps. If you are constantly tripping a circuit, you may be using too many electrical appliances at once or you may need to consult an electrician to inspect further and increase your home’s electrical supply.

3. Make sure AFCIs are installed. An AFCI – or an arc fault circuit interrupter – breaks the circuit when it detects an electric arc in the circuit it protects to prevent electrical fires. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 50 percent of electrical fires that occur each year could be prevented by having AFCIs installed.

GFCI-1The CPSC also advises checking to make sure a home has enough ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs can prevent electrocutions, so make sure they’re installed in locations required by the National Electrical Code, such as kitchens, bathrooms, garages, unfinished basements and near laundry tubs or wet bar sinks. GFCIs (those little red buttons on outlets) should be tested once a month.

Taking the above steps will help ensure that your new home is not only beautiful, but safe and sound.

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs.

 

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7 Best Things About Buying a Home in the Fall

landscape - leavesFor the first time in recent history, October surpassed June as the most popular month to get married. And these autumn-loving brides may be on to something: Although the spring months are notoriously the best time to buy real estate (as well as have a wedding), fall may be the new ideal season to buy a home.

Hear us out: One obvious reason is that it’s easier to get from open house to open house without questioning if you’ll need an AC repair ASAP upon moving into that home for sale in Phoenix, AZ. Also, families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture. Besides these two more obvious reasons, here are seven expert insights on why you should consider a fall real estate purchase.

Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale — and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer. “[Fall] means new inventory and repositioned old inventory that did not sell in the prime season,” says Wesley Stanton, a New York, NY, agent with The Stanton Hoch Team.

This puts you in a great position to negotiate. “Fall homebuyers should consider [making] lowball offers, followed by more aggressive negotiation,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and director of education at Spark Rental. Davis points out that many sellers are very motivated to sell before the holidays. If possible, buyers should let these sellers know that they can close before Thanksgiving or before the school winter break.

2. Sellers are worn-out

Sign Compliance (1)Some sellers who put their homes on the market during the prime selling times of spring and summer might have been a tad overconfident by listing their homes for more than buyers were willing to spend. After months of no action, these sellers are often ready to make a deal. “Sellers who were unrealistic earlier in the year about price will now be more willing to reduce the price come fall,” says Thomas Miller, a Washington, DC, real estate agent. “Because there [are fewer buyers] and because the sellers are now eager to sell, they are more inclined to take the low offer than wait another six months for spring to come around.”

3. Sellers are serious

Not all homes on the market in fall are summer leftovers. Some people need to sell in the fall because the timing is right. Maybe they were having a home built, and it’s now ready. Maybe they need to move because of a job. “The sellers with houses on the market in the fall tend to be serious,” says Sam Heskel, president of Nadlan Valuation, an appraisal management company in Brooklyn, NY. “That means sellers could be more open to negotiating and accepting a lower offer.”

4. You can take advantage of tax breaks

First-time homebuyers, take note: Although you can’t escape paying income tax, you can make a dent in what you owe when you become a homeowner. “Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December,” says David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert. “Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.”

5. Fall is a safer time of year

Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, says Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for SafeWise.com. “July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place,” she says. “Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood.” You’ll be settled in your home and can take precautions — like setting up that new alarm system — before the next burglary season rolls around.

6. You’re the center of attention

Realtor 01Because spring and summer are ideal times to buy a home, real estate agents are usually busier then. And that could mean you might not always get the attention you want. This is also true for other professionals you’re working with to buy a house. “Service providers, such as mortgage lenders and title companies, are moving out of the summertime sales swamp and can often respond more quickly,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Orlando, FL.

The same goes for movers. “Because summer is peak moving season, people often experience more delays and service issues, such as moving companies reaching capacity and running out of trucks to pick up shipments,” says Jack Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Atlas World Group. “The probability of experiencing a delay goes way down in the fall season.”

7. You can take advantage of end-of-year sales to outfit your homeSale2

There are bound to be improvements you’ll want to make after buying a house. You’ll also probably need to buy items to maintain your home, and if appliances weren’t part of the deal, you’ll need those too. Wouldn’t it be great to coordinate your home purchase with sales on items you’ll need? According to Consumer Reports, the calendar determines when it’s a good time to buy all sorts of consumer goods. In particular, September is a great time for buying carpet and paint. October means lawn mowers go on sale, and appliances and cookware are cheaper in November.

 

Article courtesy of Trulia.com

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your Fall home buying. 

Preparing your home for a Fall sale!

AutumnFall is a great time to sell a home! While springtime may be the most popular season to put your home on the market, there’s no reason to wait to sell your home – especially with housing inventories on the decline.

With fewer homes on the market, you will want to make sure your home really stands out to buyers by following these tips to prepare your home for a speedy sale:

Create Autumn Curb Appeal
Keep the outside of your home clean and neat; rake leaves, make sure lawn is mowed regularly. Plant fall flowers – chrysanthemums and pansies are very popular in this area. Make sure the front door is clean and hang a simple fall wreath. If the welcome mat is worn, replace it.

Make sure your windows are sparkling!

Check the Heating system
You don’t want any surprises when your home is on the market – be proactive and have the HVAC system checked so your furnace is ready for the first cold days of fall. By the way, you want the air inside your home to smell fresh – change your furnace filter.

Highlight the Fireplace!
First, make sure it works and is clean! Then emphasize it. Arrange your furniture to make the fireplace the focal point of the room; decorate your mantle with tasteful fall accessories or neutral artwork.

apples1Prepare Autumn Edibles
While it’s not necessary to bake cookies for your potential buyers, consider creating the same homey feel you get from baking with a few well-chosen foodie accessories. Fill a bowl with shiny red apples, open a cookbook to a chili or stew recipe (with pictures!), use autumn hued placemats on the table. Create a homey, welcoming atmosphere!

Emphasize comfort and luxury
Emphasize comfort by tossing a cozy throw over a chair, using plush pillows on the sofa, and adding a few fall accents (pinecones, pumpkins, gourds, candles). Use table linens. Don’t forget about the bedrooms – layer the beds with luxurious throws and pillows, display plush towels in the bathroom.

Brighten up your home!
Autumn signals shorter days and chances are good your home will be viewed in the evening. Make sure your outdoor lights have working light bulbs, and clean the glass. Indoors, turn on the lights! Include closets, stairways – you want your home to be bright and welcoming.

During the day, bring in the light. Pull up the blinds, open the shutters, pull back the curtains.

mintsApply a Little Southern Hospitality
While not required, it’s a nice touch to leave a treat by the front door that potential buyers and their realtor can grab as they leave your home … wrapped mints, individually wrapped candy corn, snack size candy bars. It’s also nice to provide a small tray or bowl for realtors to leave their business cards.

pumpkin-on-haybaleAbout Halloween Décor
According to Realtor.com, you don’t have to forgo all festive decorations, but you do have to choose them wisely. In general, decorations should be neutral. Think scarecrows, pumpkins, and hay bales. As for what not to do, well, avoid blood, gore, political decor, clowns, and don’t over decorate. And a word to the wise … keep an eye on the pumpkins. Nobody wants to encounter rotting produce!

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Thinking about selling your home? Call us today – we have over 400 highly qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs.

Home Inspections – Items That Aren’t Deal-Breakers

Contract 01After making an offer on a home, you’ll enter into a contract. Part of that contract should always include getting a home inspection. It is recommended that any homebuyer make an offer to purchase contingent upon a home inspection. This allows you to withdraw your offer if there are any major issues discovered during an inspection.

More than likely, the home inspector will find problems that need to be fixed before closing. Major foundation issues and significant water damage are at the top of the list of signs to walk away from.

On the other hand, there are some home defects found during an inspection that don’t have to be deal-breakers. Many of them can be fixed, and they can be used to negotiate with the seller for a lower price point or additional help with the closing costs.

homeinspection2Lead-Based Paint
Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but it’s still possible that you could purchase a home that contains it if it was built before the ban. The sellers should disclose this, but the home inspector may find it, as well.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how comfortable you are with purchasing a home that has lead-based paint, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. You can hire a contractor who is certified to remove lead-based paint, and the home will be completely safe.

Concrete Floor Cracks
Cracks in a concrete basement floor may seem like a structural problem, but this is natural and not indicative of significant damage. Small cracks occur in concrete because it’s a porous substance. These cracks can be fixed at a relatively low cost, and shouldn’t be a reason for you to back out of a contract.

What is something that’s cause for concern are cracks in concrete walls, as these may or may not be associated with the structure. If the wall has moved or if the cracks have a large opening, then these would be deal-breakers.

Mold
Mold is something that no one ever wants to see in a home you put an offer on, but a little bit of mold by the shower doesn’t mean you need to back out of your offer – at least not immediately.

If mold is found during the home inspection, have a qualified mold inspector take a look. Not all molds are toxic, but the safest way to determine if this is a deal-breaker is by hiring a mold professional.

pestcontrol1Bug Infestations
Bug infestations can cause significant damage to the home’s structure if they aren’t exterminated quickly and efficiently. A home inspector may find signs of an infestation during an inspection, but how do you tell if it’s truly a deal-breaker?

The best way to know if there is pest damage to the home’s structure or foundation is to ask a qualified pest expert to do an additional inspection of the home. Someone who is a specialist will be able to tell you if the home just has a few bugs, or if you need to rescind your offer.

When problems arise during home inspections, it doesn’t always mean you have to back out of your contract. Home inspectors will often find problems outside of their scope of expertise, so always get a second opinion from a specialist before making a final decision. In many instances, these problems are opportunities to negotiate with the seller. You can request that the seller do the repairs, or ask for money to put towards repairs.

homeinspection3You can also ask the seller to include a home warranty on the home in the contract of sale, but it won’t repair the problems found in a home inspection contract. A home warranty is there to protect you from aging systems and appliances after you buy. Think of getting car insurance on a car that was just wrecked and then opening a claim – it wouldn’t work, because the insurance was put on after the damage happened. The same goes for a home warranty.

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs!

How To Hire a Mover

Moving - 2When moving, there’s a million small details to juggle. Hiring a moving company can save you a bundle of stress, but it’s important to note that not all moving companies are the same, and you want to make sure your items are safe and secure in the hands of your movers.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking to hire a moving company:

Hire a licensed company – Be sure to only use a licensed moving company and check for a valid U.S. Department of Transportation number on the main DOT website.

Find reassurance in valuation – Even if movers are bonded and insured, verify if belongings are covered during the move. Some states require a valuation of 60 cents per pound of coverage but in many cases additional valuation can be purchased for the move.

shutterstock_28772560Avoid imposters – Visit the official site of the moving company and ensure there is a local address and the office is staffed.

Get a real quote – Inspect the website to ensure they will not sell personal information to other movers to provide the quote and avoid sites that feature multiple quotes from different companies. Never pay for an estimate and consider an on-site estimate to ensure accuracy for larger moves.

Inquire about the movers – Be careful if choosing to move forward with a company that employs temporary or day laborers and does not have Workers’ Compensation coverage should anything happen.

moving - 3Research options – The Internet is filled with reviews and comments on social media pages, so take the time to read about pros and cons of a potential company. Learn from customers’ experiences and look into complaints on the Better Business Bureau website, as well. Understand, not every move can be perfect, but if the company is taking time to respond to customers comments and work toward resolution, it is a good sign.

Don’t fall for a too good to be true price – If the price seems like it is too good, it probably is going to cause headaches and problems down the line. Moving is expensive – even if completed without movers – be sure to look at all of your options as it’s best to go into the process prepared. Also, never move forward with a company that only accepts cash.

Check for hidden fees – When asking about pricing, be sure to understand what is included and if there are cancellation fees or a nonrefundable deposit. Most companies will refund a deposit if within a certain amount of days before the move, and see if there are extra fees for stairs, mileage or large items. Some movers will offer complimentary padding and stretch wrap to protect furniture, but not all companies will.

Movers - 6Reputation is important – Many reputable movers belong to the American Moving and Storage Association. Identify if a prospective company is a member before booking a move.

Ask for references – Get advice from friends and family who have had a good experience with movers. Did they feel like they were communicated with throughout the process and were told a window of time for the movers to arrive? Don’t forget to ask questions to feel confident with booking a company.

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. It’s highly beneficial to have a professional knowledgeable, local real estate agent by your side. Call Keller Williams Dallas Metro North today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs!

5 Sizzling Reasons to Buy a Home NOW

summerWe’re heading into the dog days of summer here in North Texas. The days are longer, the pool water is warm, and ice cream sales are up!

Yep, we’re sitting right in the middle of the most popular time of the year to buy and sell a home. And there’s no reason to sweat the idea of buying in the summer. In fact, there are some distinct advantages to making your way into the marketplace during housing’s hottest season – as long as you can stand the heat of a little competition.

1. Prices aren’t necessarily higher

“A huge myth about the real estate market is that homes sell for more in the summer and less in the winter. This is simply not true,” says Dippy Chhina of Dippy Real Estate.

Let’s be clear: Home prices do usually peak in June–August. And it’s a seller’s market in most areas. But other forces beyond the summer sun play a major role in a home’s asking price, Chhina notes. They include the number of similar homes also for sale in a given area, interest rates, and the job market.

“What is true, however, is that there are more homes on the market in summer than in the winter, and there is also a higher number of sales in the summer than the winter,” Chhina says.

Which leads us to our next summer-buying advantage.

2. Inventory is broader

shutterstock_1638721You wouldn’t buy a car from a dealer with only two models for sale, so why limit your options when it comes to picking a house? The open-plan kitchen you’ve been yearning for or a home in a stellar school district is much more likely to pop up in a busier marketplace.

“The large inventory offers significantly more opportunities for purchasers to identify specific floor plans, amenities, and locations,” says Sarah Lilly of Five Star Lakeshore Real Estate. Buyers “feel more confident in their search because additional properties hit the market every week.”

In some less competitive markets, knowing that there are plenty of homes for sale can give you more leverage for price negotiation, and peace of mind knowing that if you have to walk to away, another home will be just around the corner.

3. Buying and selling at the same time could be easier

If you need to sell your current home before you can buy another, you’ll likely have an easier time with the balancing act during the summer. Rather than getting trapped with two mortgages, you could have a more seamless transition in a busier market.

“If the client needs to sell a home before buying, the home will be more likely to sell, and potentially at a good price, allowing the client to purchase their new home sooner,” says Joe Lopez of Connect Realty.

But remember, these transactions take time, so if you’re planning on pulling off a double act, get ready as soon as possible so you can capture as much of that golden season as you can.

4. School’s out for summer

kidsAny beleaguered parent can tell you why this factor is crucial. By waiting until summer to make your move, you can minimize disruption to your kids’ lives. Plus, their schedule is clear to bring them along to showings. (Beware, though, not all agents appreciate young kids underfoot.)

“House hunting during the summer break from school means that kids can more readily attend showings— important when offer time is of the essence and parents want each member to approve of the new family home,” says Orlando Regional Realtor Association President Bruce Elliott, of Regal R.E. Professionals.

And if the sellers have kids, they might also be trying to cement a sale in time for the new school year—and will likely be more motivated toward the end of the season.

“Sellers who find their properties still on the market as summer draws to a close and the ranks of buyers thin out may be more open to price negotiation,” Elliott says. “In addition, those buyers who were unable to secure a home after months of looking and making offers may become fatigued and drop out of the hunt.”

5. You’ll get to know the lay of the land

It’s easier to do a little detective work on your potential home when the weather’s nice and the days are longer. Trees and flowers are in full bloom, so you’ll get a better idea of your prospective new yard. You can step out on that back porch and envision what it will really, truly be like to live there and host your long-anticipated Margarita Mondays. Plus, everyone’s more active, so you’ll get a better feel for the community.

“Summer brings people out of their homes, so while you are home shopping with your agent, you will get the chance to take the pulse of the neighborhood and see your potential neighbors,” says Kyle Springer of South Central Homes.

“Families can often get a feel for the neighborhood’s kid population during the day in the summer,” Elliott says. “Here in Orlando, where daytime temperatures reach the high 90s and so many homes have pools, buyers listen for sounds of shouting and splashing.”

But beware! Sometimes the romance of summer can distract you from some red flags.

cellphone tower“It is fine to stop and smell the roses, but also pay attention to what lurks behind them,” says Jerry Grodesky of Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate.

For example: the eyesore of a junk pile in your neighbor’s yard. Or the giant cellphone tower you didn’t see through those beautifully full trees—that now you can’t unsee. And make sure that foliage isn’t blocking any potential problems with the home, such as foundation issues or peeling roof tiles.

You should also use this opportunity to test how the property holds up in warm weather. See how well the air conditioning works when it’s pushing 100 degrees outside, and open all the windows to see if any stick or simply won’t open. Of course, your home inspector will check these things, but it never hurts to get a jump-start.

Source: Realtor.com

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today for assistance with your real estate needs!

Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Costs

shutterstock_108074963Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems can account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It’s also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heatingshutterstock_275257520 costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to “arm” upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined “Geo Fence” (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner’s phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It’s always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.