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Kick Your Home Decor Up a Notch: Adding Art a Simple, Inexpensive Fix

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

Sprucing up your home to catch the eye of a potential homebuyer can come in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s fixing up the entryway, giving your kitchen an upgrade or going through and decluttering, sellers put a lot of time and energy into the process of getting their home in tip top shape before it hits the market. If you’re looking to give your home added appeal—without breaking the bank—look no further than those empty walls, where adding simple artwork or decorative pieces can do wonders.

Art is always in style and adding a few key pieces to your home is one of the best ways to beautify your space and make your rooms truly stand out. If you want your interior to inspire or intrigue, it’s important to choose artwork that creates tension, such as modern art with classically designed furniture. If you prefer a soothing atmosphere, be sure to incorporate artwork that doesn’t scream out to be noticed.

While some believe that hanging paintings around the living room is all that can be done when it comes to adding art to their home, they couldn’t be more wrong. Art is appropriate in every room. Whether it’s used in an entranceway to make a statement, a formal living room with a traditional landscape or an entertaining area with a festive piece, incorporating art into your home is a personal decision.

Depending on what type of art you choose, it can add many things to any area of your home. Traditional or modern pieces—or anything that falls in between—can mix well with almost any home furnishing style. A good piece of art can also set the mood of an entire room, or be used as a subtle backdrop. When looking to entice buyers, finding that perfect balance between room colors, flooring and fabric colors is critical.

Additionally, artwork is one of the most powerful forces when it comes to decorating because it gives a space heart and soul. While art is subjective and everyone’s idea of good art is different, all art should inspire, evoke emotion and transport the viewer.

When choosing artwork to bring into your home, it’s important that you don’t fill bare spaces for the sake of simply filling a space. Wait until you have something perfect or a piece that you really love. While it might take some experimenting and arranging, going with a more minimalist approach will look more attractive than haphazard or inadequate arrangements.

Also, if hanging items on a blank wall, aim for roughly eye level. Don’t place numerous disconnected pieces throughout a room, and aim for consistent wall height between furniture and wall décor.

Remember, you can fill your home with fabulous furnishings and beautiful accents, but if you don’t take advantage of your wall space with some dramatic artwork, your home will never feel finished and may actually turn off potential homebuyers.

For more information about incorporating artwork into your home décor, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Contingencies

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how incorporating art into your home décor provides an easy, inexpensive way to spruce up your home and attract potential buyers. Other topics covered this month include the importance of pricing your home right and why you shouldn’t overlook the kitchen when it comes to decluttering. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Checking Your Sump Pump This Spring Can Help Avoid Costly Basement Flooding

March 14, 2013 4:02 am

As winter gives way to spring, the threat of water flooding your basement substantially increases. As soil thaws it is overly saturated with water, and when a spring rain adds a few fresh inches, the water finds the easiest path to flow—usually along your home’s foundation, down to the basement and into your sump pump basin. If your sump pump fails, you’ll have a major water damage problem on your hands.

A sump pump is a last defense against flooding, pumping out water from the lowest section of the basement before the water level reaches the basement floor level. As groundwater levels rise, it is diverted into the sump hole. When the water reaches what is called ‘the critical level,’ the sump pump begins to pump the excess out through a pipe that leads outside and away from your foundation.

Just a few inches of water in a basement can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage— including sump pump overflow, frozen and burst pipes—has accounted for about 22 percent of all residential insurance claims. The average claim was $5,531.

The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years, and they do eventually wear out. Fortunately, most sump pump problems can be avoided by a few regular maintenance checks and can easily be fixed by the homeowner.

Here’s a list of common sump pump problems and solutions for each. Before performing any sump pump maintenance, be sure to unplug any electrical power leading to the unit.

• Debris in The Sump Basin. Always check to make sure that the sump pit is free from debris. Children’s small toys and debris from items stored around the basin can get into the unit and hinder the float mechanism, causing it to fail. Test the float itself, since they can burn out over time. Fill the pit up with water, making sure it both starts and stops the sump pump as designed.

• Inspect the “Check” Valve. Sometimes, the check valve can be improperly installed. The check valves are set up so that when the sump pump shuts off, no water will go back into the sump pump. The check valve’s arrow should not be pointing toward the sump pump.

• Clean The Weep Hole. Some pumps will have a weep hole, usually between the sump pump and the check valve. You can clean this weep hole out with a toothpick or other tiny object. Be careful not to break anything into the weep hole.

• Clean the Impeller. This is a small filter that can easily become clogged. If your sump pump has stopped running suddenly, or has been making a whining noise, this could be the problem. The impeller should be connected to the sump pump with bolts and may need a good cleaning to work properly.

• Sump Pump Odor. Typical odors are caused from the sump pump trap. The trap always retains some water, but when water doesn’t flow into the basin during the dry seasons of the year, an odor starts to form. You can eliminate the odor by using a bleach-water mixture to cleanse the basin. One part bleach to five parts water will work. You can also fill the basin with water until the sump pump engages, cycling the water and helping to eliminate the odor.

• Install a Back-up Power Source. Purchasing a sump pump back-up power supply or a generator is a great idea to avoid overflow when you have a power outage. Most power outages are caused by heavy thunderstorms that bring huge amounts of rain very quickly. This is when you need your sump pump most. If you lose power the back-up system will take over to get rid of the water as the basin fills up. There are also water powered back-up systems that tap into your home’s water supply to provide the energy needed to run the pump. It is good to invest in the purchase of a back-up system now, rather than face the costs of a flooded basement.

Source: www.advantagerestorationandcleaning.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Do We Like to Do Most in Our Yards? Relax, says a New U.S. Poll

March 14, 2013 4:02 am

With spring 2013 around the corner, many Americans will finally be venturing out to enjoy their yards. And according to an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive in December 2012, those with a yard/landscape will be looking forward to three yard and landscape activities most of all: relaxing, planting, and spending time with family.

The study, conducted among more than 2,800 U.S. adults (ages 18+) on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape professionals, finds that yard/landscape ownership is highly prevalent (88 percent) among Americans. In fact, 81 percent of those with a yard/landscape say the upkeep of their yard/landscape is important to the look of their home.

Why Take Care of That Yard/Landscape?
When asked the chief reason for maintaining or improving their yard/landscape, yard/landscape owners are most likely to cite showing pride in their home (42 percent) as the primary motivator, although creating an outdoor relaxing space (16 percent) and raising or protecting their property value (15 percent) also win double-digit support.

But, when it comes to what the yard or landscape is commonly used for, relaxing rises to the top (26 percent), followed by planting flowers/vegetables (17 percent) and spending time with family (14 percent).

Not surprisingly, those with children under 18 in the household are more likely to view the yard as a place where the whole family can interact, and where kids can play.

• 70 percent of people aged 55 and over and 75 percent of retirees say that the upkeep of their yard/landscape is important to them vs. 40 percent of 18-34 year olds.
• Yard owners 55 and over are much more likely than any other age group to use their yard mostly for relaxing (33 percent vs. 26 percent for the 45-54 age group, 18 percent for those 35-44, and 22 percent among those 18-34.)

Hiring Professional Help
Since taking care of a landscape often requires help, if yard/landscape owners were to look to landscape professionals for help, the most important factors they would look for would be price (69 percent) and quality of work (68 percent). Interestingly, men place more value on quality of work, whereas women cite price as particularly important.

“Our members dedicate their lives to helping homeowners keep their yards and outdoor spaces healthy and inviting,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP. “We’re glad to see that consumers are taking pride in their well-kept landscapes and find them important areas for relaxation and quality time with family.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Rent.com Survey: 60 Percent of Renters Do Not Have Rental Insurance

March 14, 2013 4:02 am

You’ve already “sprung forward” your clocks to let a little more sunshine in, but did you know that March is also National Maintenance Month? Daylight Savings acts as an annual reminder to make sure your whole pad is up to par.

Rent.com conducted a survey of 1,000 renters nationwide and found a few startling stats that shine a light on how unprepared most renters actually are in case of an emergency situation:

• 21 percent of 18-24 year old renters didn’t know they were supposed to perform maintenance.

• 35 percent of renters have no plan for safety in case of an emergency situation.

• Over 55 percent of renters do not feel safe and prepared in and around their apartment, yet 60 percent of renters don’t have renters insurance.

Despite the fact that the National Association of Insurance Companies found that the average premium payment is just $15.75 a month, 60 percent of renters who don’t have renter’s insurance say it’s because it is too expensive. This amount roughly is:

• Less than the approximately $80 a month that 50 percent of the American workforce spends buying coffee.

• Less than the approximately $148 a month two-thirds (66 percent) of American workers pay for lunch.

• The cost of just two movie tickets a month at the national average of $7.96 each.

Source: Rent.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Making Roof Color Choices with Confidence

March 13, 2013 4:02 am

Standard slate gray or bold terracotta? Solid brown or a blend of three warm brown tones? For some homeowners, the question of what color to cap off their homes is more challenging than the decision of what roofing product to use.

According to color expert Kate Smith, CMG, people are often paralyzed at the idea of making a roofing color decision. "Selecting exterior building product colors can be daunting for some people, specifically because of the long lifespan of those products," says Smith. With some roofs having as much as a 50-year warranty, it's a long-term color commitment to make. "While it's fairly easy and inexpensive to repaint the interior of a room, you want to maximize your roofing investment by selecting a color you can live with for many years. Many people need some support and guidance when making those larger color decisions."

Smith, a national color expert, offers these tips for homeowners trying to determine what roofing colors to select.

• Tip #1 – Take time and do your homework. Don't rush a decision. Try to envision a home exterior that you will like next year, five years from now, and then 20 years from now.

• Tip #2 – Consider your options. While a solid color roof may work for some home styles, a blend of several colors may offer a "softer" look with more accent options. Pre-bundled roofing color blends can be made with two, three, four or five different color blends that complement each other.

• Tip #3 – Investigate the different roofing color options available to you. Use a Color Design tool to create your own custom color blends.

• Tip #4 – Request life-sized samples of your favorite color roofing tiles to hold up against your current roof to see the change that a new color will make for your home.

• Tip #5 – Look at the other homes in your neighborhood. Your home should blend in or stand out from other homes, but never clash with the rest of the homes in your community. A roofing color can help achieve a harmonious look.

• Tip #6 – Get assistance from a professional. Just as selecting the roofing product is a big decision requiring the assistance of a professional, so is the choice of the roof color. Consult a color expert and use the color tools offered by experts and product manufacturers to gain a strong comfort level for your color choice.

Source: www.davinciroofscapes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips on Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place

March 13, 2013 4:02 am

There are many benefits to planting trees: they keep homes cool by providing shade, enhance property values and clean the air. However, if the right tree is not planted in the right place, it can potentially damage electric and gas lines, causing power outages, gas leaks and other serious public safety concerns. In fact, more than 90 percent of tree-caused power outages come from healthy trees and branches that fall or grow into power lines.

Even trees that are small when planted may grow to heights that can interfere with overhead distribution power lines, and planting any type of tree near larger, higher-voltage transmission power lines should be avoided all together. Calling 811 before digging will also help customers plant trees in a location where roots won't interfere with underground electric and gas lines.

Here are a few tips for planting the right tree in the right place, especially if you are planting trees near distribution power lines:

• Only plant a tree near distribution power lines if it will grow to less than 25 feet at maturity. (This information is available at your local nursery.)

• Avoid planting any type of tree near larger and higher voltage transmission power lines; only use low-growing plants.

• Whenever homeowners or contractors are grading, installing sprinklers or planting a tree, PG&E urges them to call 811 at least two days before starting a project to have underground gas and electric lines marked. For more information, visit www.call811.com.

• Keep all trees, equipment and people at least 10 feet away from power lines.

Source: Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Five Termite Facts & FAQs

March 13, 2013 4:02 am

According to pest control leader Orkin, this is the season for termite swarms in the southeast U.S. When temperatures are consistently above freezing, termites often swarm inside homes before moving outdoors to search for food and water. Here are answers to consumers' top five frequently asked questions.

Q: Are termites only active in the spring and summer?
A:
No, even though termites are most visible in the spring, they can damage property year-round. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause about $5 billion in damage per year in the U.S.

Q: What is a termite swarm, and if I see one, does that mean I have a termite problem?
A:
Swarmers, also known as the "reproductives" of the colony, are termites that come out each year to start new colonies. They usually leave the nest in the spring. Colonies do not typically start producing swarming termites until the colony is fairly mature and has more than likely been established for a while. If people see a swarm of termites inside their home, that could be a sign that termites have been there for at least five to seven years.

Q: How can you tell the difference between a termite and a flying ant?
A:
Although termite swarmers and flying ants can be easily confused, homeowners should not assume swarms are groups of flying ants. Termites are found in every state except Alaska and thrive in warm and damp, humid climates. This is a good example of why it is important to partner with a professional pest management company. They can help homeowners determine what type of pest they have and develop a customized approach to a treatment plan and solution. Another difference is that ants typically swarm in the summer, while termites generally swarm right at the onset of spring when winter is ending.

Q: I do not see any signs of termites, so do I need to worry about a preventive plan?
A:
Warning signs can be subtle and often go unnoticed until structural damage has already occurred. Signs of an infestation can include termite swarms, mud tubes and piles of discarded wings. After the termites swarm, which is typically during warm spring days, they can shed their wings and leave piles of them behind. Any area around your home that is in contact with the soil can be a potential termite entrance.

Q: What else can homeowners do to prevent a termite problem?
A:
Orkin advises homeowners to keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home. Also, do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for termites to enter your home. Finally, pay close attention to dirt-filled porches and crawlspaces. Termites could have easy access to wood through cracks in foundation walls or if wood is in contact with the soil.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Winning Kitchen Remodel Recipe: 4 Secret Ingredients for Success

March 12, 2013 4:00 am

For the first time since 2008, kitchens have become the No. 1 remodeling project for homeowners, according to RemodelorMove.com. But before you join the rush to remodel your kitchen, you should carefully consider whether the project is a good idea for your finances and family.

To help you make the right decisions, there are new and free tools available online to help you decide if remodeling is a good decision; estimate how much it will cost to remodel your kitchen, find, save, categorize, and share kitchen design ideas and pictures, and get answers to your remodeling questions.

Here is some sage advice to help you get started the smart way on your kitchen remodel:

First, decide if remodeling is right for you. You should consider a multitude of variables, such as: Can we comfortably pay for this remodel? Is my family emotionally ready to deal with the disruption? Would it be easier or less expensive to move instead?

Next, get a cost estimate. Remodel cost calculators are available to give you an instant estimate. It's important to get an estimate early in the planning phase to give you plenty of time to arrange your finances, compare prices on everything from appliances to countertops to cabinetry, and make sure your kitchen remodel is as budget friendly as possible.

Make organization a top priority. You'll be dealing with a thousand tiny details, ranging from paint colors to cabinets to floor plans. Letting any one of these details fall through the cracks could mean extra expense and delays.

Bring in the experts for answers. You may find that talking with a real estate agent, interior designer, architect, mortgage banker, or remodeling contractor can help you understand the true costs and benefits of remodeling.

If you approach your kitchen remodel with an eye for cost-effectiveness and organization, not only will you have a gorgeous new space to cook in, you can even increase the value of your home.

Source: RemodelorMove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Heat Your Home the Natural Way

March 12, 2013 4:00 am

Wondering how to bring heating and related energy costs down while maintaining home comfort? In addition to plugging air leaks, the Alliance to Save Energy is encouraging homeowners to use sunlight as a cheap alternative to heating their home.

The Alliance provides the following tips for homeowners to heat their home for less this winter:

-Open curtains and other window treatments on your west- and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night.

-Let a programmable thermostat “remember for you” to lower the heat while your home is empty and/or overnight to reduce heating costs by up to 10 percent–and allow you to come home and wake up to a toasty, comfortable house.

-Keep furnace filters clean. Check and change your filter every month during heavy-use winter months to assist air flow so your system doesn't have to work harder to keep you warm.

-Seal your heating and cooling ducts. In a typical house with a forced air system, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers home energy bills and can often pay for itself in energy savings.

-Properly maintain your HVAC system. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR website (www.energystar.gov) can help you find a qualified individual.

For more information, visit www.ase.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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