Prepping for a Cross-Country Move

Prepping for a Cross-Country MoveWhether you’re moving across the country (or even across the state) to attend school, take a new job or just experience someplace new, a long-distance move is different from an across-town move. To take some of the stress out of the move, and to avoid some costly mistakes, follow all, or at least some, of these guidelines.

Sort, Filter, Discard

When you’re moving across town, it’s not too difficult to rent a truck, grab all your stuff and load it up with the help of a few friends, than unload it into your new place in the space of a morning or afternoon. You can even pile your things into a friend’s pickup, use some tie-downs and even make several trips. When moving across the country, however, the logistics differ in several important ways.

Making several trips or using a friend’s pickup isn’t realistic, so you’ll need to consider either (a) driving a rental truck across the country; (b) hiring a moving van; or (c) utilizing a pod-type unit. Each has obvious advantages and pitfalls, but all of them base cost on size and distance. The larger the vehicle/pod and the more miles traveled, the more expensive the cost.

To keep your costs down, you need to reduce the size (since you can’t really reduce the distance). To do that, take a critical look at what you own.

  • Furniture: By far the largest space in the moving vehicle is for your furniture. Moving subjects furniture to extra stresses and strains. Low quality furniture—that made from particleboard, for example—often does not hold up well during moves and is susceptible to chipping, ripping or joints loosening. Consider if the cost (the space required in the vehicle) is worth the cost of the piece, especially if there is a chance it won’t survive the move. If you can sell the piece, or donate it and take a tax credit, you may be farther ahead. Use the money made or saved to purchase just the right piece for your new home in your new city.
    If the pieces you’re taking come apart, you’ll be much farther ahead in the “space” department. Taking legs off tables, dismantling bookcases and other options can reduce the size of vehicle needed to transport it. On the other end you’ll need less space to store it if you’re arriving without a new home picked out.
  • Clothing: If your new hometown will be in a different climate, be ruthless in your sorting. In addition, get rid of anything torn, stained or that doesn’t fit. The cost to move it often is more than the cost to replace it. The same holds true for children’s clothing.
  • Toys: If you’re moving with children, have them help you choose their favorite toys that they currently use, and perhaps one or two smaller keepsakes. Then pass on the rest to friends and family or donate to a shelter or charity.
  • Craft and hobby supplies: It’s easy to hoard up hobby and craft supplies, bits and pieces of leftovers from projects and stashes of extra fasteners, buttons, bolts, or old patterns. Pare down your supply to the important things like tools and sell or give away the rest. Truly, the space they take up in the moving van far outweighs the cost to replace them most of the time.
  • Garage and outdoor items: Hoses, planters, garden tool, trash cans and other outdoor items take up space, and may be a hazard to move. The prevalence of invasive species of weeds or insects moved from one locale to another makes moving these items dangerous to your new home.
  • Linens: Part of the enjoyment of a new home is having fresh, new sheets and towels as part of the experience. But, rather than discarding the old ones, use towels and sheets as packing material for breakable items. Blankets and comforters can protect furniture in the moving truck. Just have them cleaned or discard them once you arrive in your new home. Moving is dusty, dirty work and linens full of dust and kick up allergies.
  • Food, candles and other stuff: Use up or donate all of your food. Don’t move it to your new home. That includes items in your deep freeze. Get rid of those bottles of condiments. Even during a well-planned move, delays or weather changes can damage foodstuffs, so why take the risk. Candles often melt or become misshapen in temperature changes, so get rid of them too.

Once you’ve pared all of your belongings down, go through them one more time to see if you’ve kept anything that you don’t really like or have a use for. If it’s a family heirloom, offer it to another family member for their “turn” to use it before passing it on.

Now you’re ready to reassess the size of moving container or truck you will need.

To make the arrival smoother, contact a real estate professional that specializes in relocation to help you find temporary housing and to begin your search for the perfect new home in your new city.

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Quick Kitchen Upgrade: Open Shelving

Quick Kitchen Upgrade: Open Shelving

One of the first places homebuyers want to make changes is to an outdated kitchen. Visions of granite countertops, new cabinetry and shiny appliances grace the pages of architectural and remodeling magazines and websites and get our creative juices running … only to come to a screeching halt when we starting to price those new cabinets, countertops and appliances.

There are some things you can do, however, that cost just the price of a quality can of paint (and some wood filler). One of these is open shelving.

You mean … taking the doors off and exposing my messy cupboards?

Well … sort of. First of all, you’ll need to consider who uses your kitchen. If you have small children or grandchildren that visit frequently, you won’t want to remove all the lower doors. After all, you need to keep cleaners and other potential dangers locked away out of sight. You also might think twice about this if you’re in a very earthquake prone area, but, historically, many homes utilized open shelving for dishes and glassware, dry goods or canned goods and to display decorative items.

In fact, removing old doors and painting the open shelving can give your kitchen an immediate upgrade and added personality to boot. Other ideas include backing the cabinets with a bright wallpaper or painting them a deep contrasting color to give your kitchen character and personality. You can also add molding and trim to make the open cabinets appear original or intentional.

Be sure to use a quality wood fill to fill in the holes left by removing the door hinges and follow manufacturer guidelines when painting previously stained wood or fiberboard products.

If your cabinets are in rough shape, or they don’t lend themselves to the sizes you need to store your items, consider removing them and replacing them with floating shelves. You’ll achieve a sleek, modern look to brighten a dark space and give you the sizes of shelves that you need.

Here are some best practices for open shelving and attaining the look you want:

  1. Dishes: Remember that anything stored on open shelving is exposed to gathering dusts, so consider them for dishes and glass wear that you use frequently, or that you use infrequently but won’t mind giving them a quick rinse before using (large serving bowls, soup tureens and platters, fancy glass wear you only use occasionally, or pretty vases).
  2. Cookbooks: Open shelves are perfect for cookbooks and remind you to try new recipes periodically.
  3. Wine racks: Turning open shelving into a wine rack gives you a place to display your favorite vintages.

If you’re not sure about having open shelving, start slowly by just removing the upper doors and living with that for a few weeks, or just have one or two open cabinets. If you like it, you can move forward, but if you don’t, you can just put those doors back on and start saving

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Qualifying for a Mortgage When You're Self-Employed

Qualifying for a Mortgage When You're Self-EmployedDuring the past several years, as folks struggled to survive the economic downturn and job loss, many smart people turned to entrepreneurship. In fact, working for yourself, either part-time or as your full-time gig is the reality for millions of Americans. Additionally, many companies turned to hiring freelance or contract labor (1099 status) rather than fully employed workers (W-2 status) in order to cut costs and reduce both overhead and employment expenses such as benefits, labor insurances and employment taxes.

While many of us returned to regular full-time employment since the economy started improving, a large segment of the population continue to earn income through self-employment, free-lance or contract work, enjoying the freedom from dress codes, specific work hours and income limitations of regular jobs. Additionally, as “business owners,” self-employed taxpayers qualify for a whole host of tax breaks that reduce their bottom line and consequently, their provable income. The freedom is great, but how do you qualify for a mortgage?

Since the mortgage industry bases credit-worthiness on provable income, using W-2 forms and tax returns, qualifying for a conventional loan may prove difficult for many self-employed would-be homeowners.

Conventional lenders

Since conventional lenders follow prescribed formulas in proving income and credit-worthiness, most mortgage underwriters only look at the after-tax and post-deduction income, resulting in a far lower provable income than most entrepreneurs or self-employed workers believe expresses the reality of their situation. In a few cases, certain lenders allow specific deductions to be added back into your income including some one-time investment expenses, depletion or deductions for business use of your home. But for the most part, qualifying for a conventional loan is much more difficult for the self-employed buyer with an irregular income.

Alternative lenders

While a conventional loan (salable to government-controlled agencies such as FannieMae and FreddieMac) may not be an option for you, some investors see an opportunity and are funding smaller lenders that offer loans outside these restrictions. For these loans, the risk is higher, so to hedge their investment, these loans typically have a higher interest rate and require a down-payment of at least 20 percent and sometimes more, or a large portfolio, or really great credit.

The bottom line

If you’re newer at the self-employed lifestyle but know you want to buy a home in the near future, you’ll need to start now to position yourself to qualify. Here are the best practices to incorporate into your business and personal life to set yourself up to be approved:

  • Be organized: Keeping organized and accurate business and financial records supports your income claims. Most lenders will request a couple years (or more) of tax returns to prove your average monthly income. If your first year was low (this is true for most), give yourself three years or more to back up your income claims. Lenders take the net income from two years and divide it by 24 to get an average, so if in your first year you had only two or three sporadic clients and now you have 10 or 12 regular clients, that additional year will allow you to increase the verifiable income your lender uses.
  • Keep track of your earnings: Use an accounting system that can give you earnings or revenue statements, expense reports, profit and loss statements and a balance sheet. If you’re looking for simple workable accounting systems, a couple to check out include QuickBooks online and Freshbooks. Either of these systems is created for the non-accountant give you access to a variety reports, support and useful information.
  • Work to improve your credit score: Your credit score may seem out of your control—after all, some companies only report your bad habits and not your good ones—but there are some areas you can take charge of. Your payment history makes up more than a third of your score. Position yourself to make payments early and on time. Another thirty percent of your score is based on the amount you owe compared to the amount of credit you already have, and other loans such as school and vehicle loans. That means if you have a credit card with $5,000 available and only owe $250 on it, you’re at just 5% of your available credit and you’ll receive more points in this area, but if you have a credit card with $500 on it and you owe $250, you’re at 50% of your available credit, so expect that scenario to negatively impact your score. In other words, pay off what you already owe. The rest of your score is a mixture of the length of your credit history, new credit accounts and the mixture of types of accounts you have. Contrary to some popular practices, closing your oldest accounts when you open new ones is a bad idea. The older accounts that are in good standing offer you more points than a newer account.
  • Report your payments: If you don’t currently use credit (i.e. have no loans or credit cards), but you consistently pay your bills like rent, electricity, insurance or subscriptions, consider utilizing one of the alternative reporting services to prove you make your payments on time and consistently.

Don’t wait until you want to buy a house to start getting your financial house in order. If may take several months to up to two years to create a provable paper trail for yourself.

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Slower Closing Procedures Soon in Effect

Slower Closing Procedures Soon in EffectThis year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) begins requiring banks to provide consumers with a longer window in which to review loan documentation. The new rule, potentially in effect October 3, 2015, can push closing by as many as six days—to more than a week—longer than usual. Buyers needing to close quickly may need to begin negotiations sooner in order to meet a move-in deadline.

Conversely, the changes could give an advantage to all-cash buyers over those needing conventional financing, since sellers looking to close quickly may choose a faster close over a higher take. In a hot seller’s market, cash may be king for the buyer.

Here’s a breakdown of the new ruling:

Originally slated to roll out August 1, in October, the federal government will require that loan disclosure documents contain a combination of both the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and the Federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA) in a document known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID). The ruling, known as “Know Before You Owe” must accompany the Loan Estimate and include all charges, fees and line items at least three (business) days before closing. In the past, this information was given to consumers on the day of closing on the HUD-1 form (which no longer will be necessary).

The purpose of the changes is to mitigate the potential for surprises at the closing table and offers an advantage to buyers since any increase of more than one-eighth of a percent during the three-day window—or other changes such as pre-payment penalties, additional fees or other items that increase the consumer’s financial responsibility—requires entirely new documentation and another three-day window. Note that a decrease in interest or fees will not cause such a delay.

According to the CFPB the new forms are easier to understand and use. During testing, participants returned more correct answers about their sample mortgage using the new forms as compared to the traditional forms. The new form lists the total loan amount, interest rate, monthly principal and interest and projected payments on the first page of the form. Closing costs and cash required to close appear at the bottom of the easy to read page.

Specifically, the first section on the face of the document clearly indicates if the amount of the loan, interest rate and monthly principal and interest can increase after the closing, and prepayment penalties and balloon payments are plainly indicated.

In the second section, projected payments for the life of the loan, including the years in which increases may occur, gives the buyer the needed information to plan for the future.

The primary advantage for home-buyers is that the three-day window allows them to walk away from a deal without penalty in certain circumstances and allows them to more quickly understand the terms of their mortgage.

A disadvantage for those needing to close quickly is that bankers, mortgage lenders, escrow officers and other real estate professionals will need to learn the new documentation and set up computer software and other systems to prepare it.

If you have questions about the new forms and how to understand them, contact your real estate professional for advice and information. When buying a home with a mortgage this fall, be certain to calculate additional time in closing to accommodate the new ruling.

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Selling After Labor Day — Curb Appeal

Selling After Labor Day — Curb Appeal

While Spring rightfully is touted as the busiest home-selling season, you don’t have to give up plans to sell your home until nest year. September through December may actually be the right time to sell your home. Conventional wisdom is that once Spring gives way to Summer and school starts, you’ve missed the opportunity to sell your home. After all, families have settled into the new school year and so are less inclined to move. But, as we noted in the post on Preparing Your House To Sell in the Fall, Boomers and Millennials don’t always follow conventional wisdom either when buying or selling.

So, if there are buyers out there after Labor Day, how do you attract them?

Take care of outdoor winter maintenance for curb appeal

If your home is on the market in autumn and winter months, the last thing you want is to let maintenance slide. Potential buyers are more likely to notice (and ask about) exterior issues, so beat them to the punch by making certain your home’s outdoor systems are in topnotch condition.

Here’s a list of places to pay attention to:

  • As leaves begin to fall, mulch or rake them. If you mulch them as you mow, the miniscule pieces of leaves will drop between the grass-blades and decompose, nourishing your lawn. If you rake up your leaves, don’t leave them in a big pile in the yard or on the curb. Piles of decomposing leaves and debris reduce your home’s curb appeal. Instead, contact your municipality to learn the best way to dispose of your raked leaves.
  • Avoid pruning shrubs and trees until late in the winter. The healthiest time to prune typically is late winter—just before the spring growth begins. If you aren’t sure about the best time to prune your trees, contact a local nursery or the horticulture department of a local university. One exception to this rule is that if you have any dead limbs or trees, hire an arborist to removes them so that winter winds to not cause them to fall on your home or power lines.
  • Once the need for watering is past, turn off exterior faucets, remove and drain hoses. If your home is more than 15 years old, you likely do not have frost-proof faucets, so turn the shut-off valve to off inside your home. If your home has an irrigation system, hire a professional to drain your sprinkler system so that pipes don’t freeze and break underground during the colder weather.
  • Check your roof. In particular, look for loose, missing or damaged shingles. If you have a steep roof, use binoculars, or hire a roofing inspector to check it for you. If you’ve had hail in your area, most roofing companies offer free hail damage inspection. If you have a flat roof, make certain you sweep up the detritus of the long summer and fall.
  • While checking your roof, have your gutters and downspouts inspected and cleaned. If water backs up in your gutters because they are filled with dirt and leaves, the damage to your roof, soffits and even your home’s walls is expensive to repair. Simply cleaning your gutters protects you from costly fixes later. If your downspouts end at the bottom of the exterior wall, add extensions or splash blockers to divert water away from your foundation.
  • Put away garden tools and cover or store barbecues, outdoor furniture and toys. Give your porch and patio curb appeal with pots of autumn plants such as Chrysanthemums, Alstromeria, Amaranthus, Carnations and other fall-growing potted plants. As winter nears, add other winter-blooming flowers like Pansies to your pots. If you’re not into flowers, use pumpkins, straw or other dried autumn foliage to brighten up your home.

If you plan to have your home on the market after Labor Day, make certain to follow the advice of your real estate professional to present your home in the best possible light to the buyers that search for homes during this time.

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Preparing to Sell Your House in the Fall: Boomers and Millennials Don't Follow the Spring Trend

Preparing to Sell Your House in the FallIf you put your home on the market in the Spring, and it hasn’t sold, you’re probably thinking about taking it off the market until next year. Conventional wisdom says that Spring and early Summer are the only times to sell a home. But, even though families typically move in late Spring and early Summer, an entire other buyer group doesn’t care what time of year it is. In fact, many of them wait until after the early market buying frenzy to start looking for a house to buy.

Since this buying group comprises disparate (and not desperate) population groups, you may need to market your home differently to each. Your professional real estate agent can help you take the best approach(es) with your property.

Empty-Nesters

One of the groups that often waits for the slower selling season is the empty-nester / Boomer. They aren’t worried about fitting in with the school year, but often want to be settled before the holidays so that family can visit. When marketing to this group, pay attention to the cultural amenities (music venues, theaters and restaurants), medical facilities and access to travel available in your area. With no children in the home, many in this group look for areas with adult social spaces (outdoor dining, parks—not just playgrounds, beaches or hiking trails), walkable streets and easy access to shopping.

Empty-nesters also look for a lower mortgage and cheaper utilities, lower taxes and minimal maintenance costs. After all, they are closer to retirement and want to protect that nest egg. They also look for homes that do not require a lot of upkeep. If you’re thinking of changing your landscaping, flooring, windows or other upgrades to your home, consider utilizing low maintenance versions to add appeal to your home for this group.

Millennials

When marketing to Millennials (or Generations Y and even Z), consider that they have a generation of home design shows on television to inform their ideas of home ownership. Spending a little to update your home’s colors is the first step. To truly hook this group on your home, you may want to spend a little more to address the items they look for most often. According to a recent survey while nearly half of the potential buyers in these age groups look for homes in the city, up to 43% intend to live in suburban or rural areas. In the same survey in 2013 respondents preferred homes where the living and dining areas were joined. If your home has a separate dining room, removing a wall between it and the living room can boost its appeal with this group. When the dining area cannot be joined to the living area, turning it into an office space has the most potential for attracting these young entrepreneurial buyers.

Here are some quick changes that younger buyers prefer

  • Colored walls. Gone are the days of the all-white wall. Younger buyers prefer a deeper neutral on the walls, or even bold color. For neutrals, consider various shades of grays, or warm café au lait with cream trim.
  • Hard flooring. Many younger buyers want hardwood flooring. Or, if you’re in a particularly warm area, a natural tile (slate, porcelain, travertine) that helps keep the air conditioning costs down is preferable to carpet.
  • Public transportation. If your home is near public transportation, a bike path or is walkable to shopping and dining, highlight that in your selling points.
  • Wireless and cell service. You can’t move your home nearer to a cell tower, but you can invest in a booster for cell service for a few hundred dollars if your home is on the edge of cell range.

Both groups look for usable outdoor space with low maintenance. If your lawn requires a lot of upkeep, consider replacing some of it with paver stones, xeriscaping or other low maintenance options that protect the environment and require less intense care.

For either group—empty-nesters or Millennials—consider hiring a home stager. Removing the “family” appearance of your home gives it a clean canvass for either category to imaging living there.

We can help you determine the best changes to make to sell your home in the Fall, so give us a call to get started.

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New or Pre-Owned Home?

New or Pre-Owned Home?

Some homebuyers want nothing but a brand-new home with pristine appliances, sparkling bathtubs and stickers still on the windows. Others look for established homes in neighborhoods with mature landscaping, developed infrastructure and character. Both options carry advantages and disadvantages, so if you’re ambivalent about which way to go, take a moment to determine your actual preferences.

Advantages of new:

A brand new home seems like the perfect option for people that know what they want. After all, you get to pick out the cabinetry, flooring and colors, decide on options and upgrades, and even get to pick out light fixtures and appliances. When the idea of living in a home with new carpet and using a bathroom no one else has used gives you a sense of well-being, you may have a deep “new home” preference.

New homes usually come with warranties from the builder and in a slower real estate market, builders offer buyers incentives that may tip the scale. Some options builders offer are upgraded kitchens with granite counters and quieter appliances, or finished basements. Some builders even throw in upgrades that appeal to lifestyle like athletic facility memberships and country club dues, while others might offer to help with closing costs and loan fees.

Disadvantages of new:

With all the amenities of a new home, what’s not to love?

Depending on the market variables, new homebuyers may pay more overall. Optional features and upgrades may not be covered as incentives, and since new homes often come with unfinished landscaping, your costs to finish your home are higher than walking into an established home with finished landscaping. If you’re planning to move within just a few years and you’ve bought at the beginning of a development, you’ll be competing with the new, unlived-in homes when you sell.

Advantages of pre-owned:

The primary advantage of purchasing a pre-owned home is the established neighborhood, landscaping and known condition. Buying a live-in home means the home is closer to “move-in ready” when you need to move in. Schools, parks and other nearby amenities are “known” and most likely rated so you have a better idea of the neighborhood and community you’re becoming a part of.

Disadvantages of pre-owned:

In addition to its “lived-in” status, existing homes may require major maintenance outlays such as the need for a new roof or upgraded heating and air-conditioning system. In fact, depending on the age of the home, appliances may need replacing and the home could have hidden problems like leaky pipes, mold or termites. Before purchasing a pre-owned home, require a home inspection to uncover concerns that need addressing. If you’ve found the perfect pre-owned home but are nervous about potential problems, ask the seller to provide a home warranty to cover problems in the first years of ownership.

Whether you’re determined to buy new or looking for a pre-owned, your real estate professional can steer you toward the best information to make a decision.

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Landscape for Your Climate

Landscape for Your ClimateVisions of lush green lawns, English gardens bursting with color and a sparkling fountain filling the air with the tinkling of thousands of water drops may float through your head when dreaming of your ideal home. But, you’re responsible, so you’ve planned for your new home to be efficient: changing outdated toilets for modern low-flow versions, installed sustainable bamboo flooring, energy-efficient windows and natural gas appliances and even added extra insulation. So your yard, naturally, should be just as ecologically sustainable.

Plan to replace that voraciously thirsty lawn with a beautiful, low-maintenance dry-scape. Dry-scaping (also called desert-scaping, or xeriscaping) is landscaping that uses less water, protects local wildlife and conserves energy while naturally fitting in with the regional environment. Since most climates support a wide variety of plant life, you’ll want to be sure to choose native plants. Before tearing up the existing lawn, however, consider the ways you’ll use the outdoor spaces, the slope and lay of the land and the effort you want to put into maintaining it.

Carefully plan your site

Take time to determine how wind, sun, shade and water naturally factor into your property. Hire a professional to test the soil. When property slopes even a slightly, water naturally flows differently than on a flat elevation. You’ll want to place play or entertainment areas at a higher point so that water doesn’t pool in them. Use a lower area for a water feature or for plants that would benefit from the runoff.

Conserve water and soil

A professional landscaper or local gardening shop can offer the perfect plants to conserve water and soil. When plants require added water, install a drip-irrigation system that slowly adds water directly to the plant. a drip-irrigation system reduces waste as compared to sprinklers. Drip systems also prevent both evaporation and overwatering. Be sure to preserve any natural existing trees, but replace high-maintenance ones with quick-growing climate positive varietals. Install shade-tolerant plants in the shadow of trees. Consider replacing lawn with heavier ground cover (larger gravel, lava rock, or native plants) to reduce water consumption and protect from erosion.

Create a functional space

Because lawns offer activity and play area, carefully use materials and designs to enhance the usefulness of your landscape. If you replace turf grasses with pea gravel for a play area—or even mulch, sand, or recycled materials designed especially to use in playgrounds your children’s area can be both easily maintained and functional.

Design your entertainment areas with gravel and paver stones in artful combination to beautiful and protect from erosion while requiring less water. Check out these images for some great ideas.

Contemplate alternative materials

Enhance natural landscaping materials like mulch and gravel by using alternatives such as recycled concrete and brick for rock garden and retaining walls, re-purposed rubber tires for playground areas, and tumbled glass “mulch” to add color to raised flower beds and garden walkways.

Consider maintenance needs

No matter what landscape options you choose, if your yard becomes a haven for weeds or requires lots of effort, its use and your pleasure in it are diminished.

  • Check local requirements for herbicides that work best and are safe for the local environment.
  • Cover bare soil with water permeable barriers or fabric. Layer your gravel or mulch over the fabric making sure it is completely covered.
  • Set timers on irrigation systems.

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A House for the Whole Family

A House for the Whole Family

While multigenerational families sharing a home is common nowadays, finding a home that works for everyone is a little trickier. If you’re searching for the perfect house to share with both young children and aging parents, you need to consider a variety of potentialities.

While completely mobile now, in the future your parents might need built in aides to negotiate stairs, utilize a wheelchair or walker, maintain their balance, or get in and out of the tub. If you have very young children, maneuvering strollers and car seats in and out of your home benefit from some extra planning too.

Let your real estate professional know who will be living in the home. Address important issues during your search that might save costly future remodeling:

  • Your search should include a home with at least one bedroom at ground level. As your parents age, negotiating stairs becomes more difficult. A ground-floor room also allows space for a nanny or live-in aide.
  • Make sure that at least one outside entry door includes a threshold ramp, and can be accessed without stairs. Entryways with shallow steps may accommodate a wheelchair ramp or ease stroller access. Bedroom, bathroom and family area doorways at least 32 inches wide to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, and 36 inches wide if the chair needs to turn to enter or exit the room. If the door’s maximum opening is 90 degrees (i.e. against a wall), be sure to use the larger door size.
  • If hallways are at least 42 inches wide they can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. A handrails on both sides of the hallway can simplify movement for your young one learning to walk and your elder one’s comfort in moving around.

In addition to doorways and halls, the most difficult room to accommodate both younger and older residents is the bathroom. A home with at least two bathrooms can accommodate the different needs of your household.

  • For a senior, the bathroom should have a comfort-height or ADA compliant toilet, with a grab bar (not a towel bar), but younger family members may need a stool in order to use the higher toilet.
  • A walk-in shower simplifies bathing for a senior, while children often need a tub.
  • Faucet, door, and cabinet knobs often are difficult for both older and younger family members and can be replaced with a single handle or touchless Round doorknobs should be replaced with a lever-style knob. Change the friction pull cabinet closers for modern magnetic or soft-close styles.

Sometimes, you can’t find a home that can accommodate your families needs. You may need financial help to remodel or update a home for a disabled or elderly family member. Several government agencies fund grants that may help cover renovation expenses, or the cost of equipment and supplies required to make a house fully accessible for your loved one.

Be sure to inform us, your real estate professional, about your accommodation needs at the outset of your home search. We will focus on the homes that best meet the needs of all those living in the home.

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Slash Your Energy Bill

Slash Your Energy Bill

We don’t think about our heating bill much in the summer, but this is the time to make some upgrades to your home that will see you through the winter, such as adding insulation, changing out windows for double or triple panes with low U-factors and repairing any leaks and drafts.

If energy-efficiency is at the very top of your list, however, consider a home with passive construction.

Passive building

The concept of passive building comprises specific construction principles designed to give measurable energy efficiency. There are five main principles that, using building science, offer the highest options for energy efficiency in both single-family and multi-family homes.

Scientists and builders developed the original design principles in the 1970s with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Canadian government. In the 1980s, German scientists added to that information to develop passive principles for homes in the northern European climates.

The principles are:

  1. Insulation: the construction utilizes continuous insulation throughout the building’s envelope (its weather barrier, air barrier and thermal barrier).
  2. The envelope is airtight, so it prevents outside air from entering and inside “conditioned” air from seeping out.
  3. It utilizes high-performance windows (typically triple-paned) and doors.
  4. It utilizes some form of heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and a minimal-space air conditioning system.
  5. It exploits the sun’s energy for heating purposes, but minimizes it’s impact for cooling purposes.

The super-tight insulation and design strategy balances heat emissions (from appliances and the home’s occupants) to keep the indoor temperature comfortable throughout all seasons. Continuous mechanical filtration keeps the air quality fresh and comfort. The combination of insulation and consistent low-level filtration prevents mold and mildew from establishing inside the home, making this construction-type perfect for allergy-prone family members.

Passive house certification is stringent and means the home has high R-value insulation with up to 90 percent less energy required for heat, and overall 60 to 70 percent less energy overall compared to a regular code-built home.

Flat-paneled rooftop solar systems heat the water typically to between 100 and 140 degrees, even on cloudy days. A small electrical system works as a backup if there are an unusual number of cloudy days. Some passive homes include wood heat for the very coldest days in winter.

Other features of passive building include metal roofing which, in snowy climates allows the snow to slide off, and covered porches and patios to allow for outdoor living spaces and to protect the home’s entrances from snow buildup in inclement weather.

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