"HOUSE" Tips & Market News

Volume Four | Issue Three


WELCOME TO SUMMER!

It's hard to believe that the year is half over! No matter what time of the year it is, there are always things you can do to your home to make it easier to maintain, potentially increase its value, and simply make it more enjoyable. We've assembled a few articles that will help you do just this! We've also included a a couple on what NOT to do as a new homeowner. As always, thanks for reading our newsletter!

Diane & Jeff


DON'T WRECK YOUR HOME!

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You haven’t felt like this since you were a teenager. You have a crush on your new house. (You’re officially a home buyer — wait — owner!) You love its quirks. It’s your very first home, and you want to do everything right. The feeling is fun, but also scary: You remember too well how badly you screwed up that first crush as a teenager (don’t ask, don't tell!). Could you screw this up too? No need to freak out. You can make this love a lasting one. For now, keep an eye out for these common no-nos that can result from good intentions. 

#1: Using Bleach as a Cure-All
If bleach is your chicken soup for whatever ails your home, proceed with caution. Bleach can:

  • Eat through the sealant on stone surfaces like granite
  • Discolor laminate and colored grout
  • Fade enamel and acrylic tubs
  • Dissolve vinyl and linseed-based flooring like linoleum
  • Corrode seals within the disposal

In addition, bleach kills mold on non-porous surfaces, but can feed future mold growth on absorbent and porous materials, like grout. Yep, whitening grout with bleach creates a mold feeding ground. Whoops.
Better options? Water and vinegar are all you need for most cleaning jobs. If you’ve got a heftier mold or mildew issue, apply a commercial anti-fungal product. And to clean your disposal, just dump cold water and ice cubes down the hatch.

#2: Training Ivy to Climb Your House
You’ve dreamed of living in an ivy-covered English cottage since childhood. Well, sorry for this, then: Anything that climbs on the house will damage it. It will look cool for a while, but it will eventually dig into the siding (including stucco) and leave damage when removed. Consider using lattice to train ivy and other crawling flora.

#3: Relying on Chemical Drain Cleaners
Clogged sink! Again! Pay a plumber more than $100, or grab a $10 product at the store? You can totally handle this one yourself, right? Possibly. But the most common active ingredients in these solutions, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, can erode your pipes. Even the old baking-soda-and-vinegar medley can result in cracked pipes, as the reaction causes a build-up of pressure.
Old-fashioned “mechanical” methods — your plunger, a drain snake, or a handy $2 gadget called the Zip-It — are safer and more effective, according to “Consumer Reports.” And if that fails, that call to the plumber doesn’t sound so bad compared to an eroded or busted pipe, no?

#4: Using Glass Cleaners on Mirrors
Your newfound house crush has you scrubbing and spritzing everything. But be cautious with your mirrors. Spraying can lead to what’s ominously called “black edge” — created when a liquid seeps beneath the reflective backing and lifts it.
Instead, clean mirrors with a lint-free microfiber cloth, dampened with warm water — especially mirrors in expensive, installed items like vanities and closet doors. Avoid the edges and dry immediately with a second cloth.

#5: Planting Trees ThisClose to Anything
Kind of like adopting an adorable, tiny piglet on a whim, you’ve got to remember how a baby tree is going to grow, and what it’s going to require at maturity. You probably don’t want a 70-pound pig digging up your daisies, and you definitely don’t want a tree root pushing through your driveway, sidewalk or — so much worse! — your foundation. And watch out for evergreens. If planted too close to the house, they cast too much shade, encouraging mold growth.
Position trees according to maximum height, crown size, and root spread. For perspective, even a small tree reaching less than 30 feet tall needs at least 6 feet of clearance from any exterior wall, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

#7: Over-Sealing Counter Tops
Take care of your counter top, but don’t smother the thing. Applying sealant too frequently can create a cloudy or streaky appearance on surfaces like natural stone, concrete, butcher block, and glass, which typically only require occasional resealing to resist stains. (Quartz, laminates, and solid surfaces like Corian are best left sans-sealer.)
How to know it’s time to reseal? Drip some water on a high-use area of the countertop. If the water doesn’t remain beaded after 15 minutes, consider resealing. But always defer to your manufacturer’s recommendations. Different materials can have different needs.

#8: Over-Mulching
Nothing feels closer to giving your home a hug than being elbow deep in a landscaping project. But when it comes to mulch (which is so great, for so many reasons), it turns out elbow deep is a little too much love. A layer thicker than 3 inches can suffocate plants and prevent water from reaching roots, so spread thoughtfully.

#9: Piling Firewood Next to Your Exterior Wall
Your fireplace is the highlight of your home. You love it. That’s why you keep your firewood (for those rare burn days in Fresno County) right outside the back door, for easy access. Storing firewood against your home’s exterior walls is akin to opening a B&B for termites. Keep wood and other items a safe distance from home for firewood — and still not too far to go to fuel your fireplace on those rare occasions.


3 GREAT CURB APPEAL PROJECTS

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You’ve been spending so much time on projects inside your home that your front yard is starting to scream for a bit of attention. You know your yard has some super curb appeal potential, but where to begin? Below are three projects with so much curb-appeal juice, any money you invest in them is likely to pay you back much more.


#1 Add or Replace a Few Design Basics
Every few years, you overhaul your closet, replacing your worn-out basics with a few new pieces to ramp up your wardrobe. Why not do the same with your yard? Give it a basic makeover so it has some good, classic, value-boosting “bones” to build upon. Landscape design basics like:

  • A winding flagstone walkway
  • A couple of stone planters (6 feet by 2 feet)
  • A few flowering shrubs 
  • A deciduous tree about 15 feet tall
  • Quality mulch

Why you can’t go wrong: You'll probably recoup what you spend (and maybe a little more) on this home improvement project. Plus, you'll get to enjoy your refreshed yard.

#2: Build a Deck or Patio if You Don’t Have One
If you’re spending sunny days admiring the great outdoors from indoors, it’s time for a change to get you outside… like finally building that deck or patio you’ve been dreaming of.

Why you can’t go wrong: You'll recoup up to 102% of the cost of your new patio (up to 106% for a wood deck). Plus, in a way you'll be adding a form of "living space" to your home. 

#3: Heap Loads of Love on Your Lawn
It’s the easiest project to do — and it has a whopping return on investment of 303%! Lawn maintenance is simple:

  • Fertilize
  • Aerate 
  • Weed
  • Rake 

Why you can’t go wrong: It’s the cheapest project to do with an annual cost of approximately $300. Every year, you’ll reap the benefits of a lush, barefoot-friendly lawn. You do need to reinvest yearly, but there's nothing like a lush green lawn (even in Fresno/Clovis!) to add to curb appeal.


8 COSTLY MISSTEPS HOMEOWNERS MAKE

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The negotiations are over. Your mortgage is settled. The keys to your first home are in hand.Finally, you can install your dream patio.You can paint the walls without losing your security deposit. You can even knock out a wall. You’re soooo ready to be a homeowner. So ready in fact, you’re about to make some costly mistakes. 
Wait, whaaat?
You need to be smart and NOT make one of these eight mistakes:

#1: Going With the Lowest Bid
The sounds your water heater is making clearly require the knowledge of a professional (or perhaps an exorcist?). But you’ve been smart and gotten three contractor bids, so why not go with the lowest price?
What to do: Double-check that all bids include the same project scope — sometimes one is cheaper because it doesn’t include all the actual costs and details of the project. 

#2: Submitting Small Insurance Claims
Insurance is there to cover damage to your property, so why not use it? Because the maddening reality is that filing a claim or two, especially in a relatively short period, can trigger an increase in your premium. Save your insurance for the catastrophic stuff. You want the cleanest record possible and you want to be seen as the lowest risk. It’s like a driving record — the more tickets you have, the more your insurance.
Some insurance groups, like the Insurance Information Institute and National Association of Insurance Commissioners, say it’s hard to generalize about premium increases because states’ and providers’ rules differ. But this stat from a report by UP and the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility at Rutgers Law School is pretty sobering: Only two states — Rhode Island and Texas — got top marks for protecting consumers “from improper rate increases and non-renewals” just for making:

  • An inquiry about a claim
  • A claim that isn’t paid because it was less than the deductible
  • A single claim 

Your best protection? Maintaining your home so small claims don’t even materialize.

#3: Making Improvements Without Checking the ROI
Just because you might personally value an upgrade doesn’t mean the market will. It’s easy to build yourself out of your neighborhood and invest more than you can recoup at resale.

What to do: Before you pick up a sledgehammer, check with an agent or appraiser, who usually are happy to share their knowledge about how much money an improvement will eventually deliver.

#4: Going on a Furnishing Spree
When you enter home ownership with an apartment’s worth of furnishings, entire rooms in your new home are depressingly sparse. You want to feel settled. You want guests at your housewarming party to be able to sit on real furniture. But try to exercise some retailing willpower. Investing in high-quality furniture over time is just smarter than blowing your budget on a whole house worth of particleboard discount items all at once. 

What to do: Live in your home for a while, and you’ll get to know your space. Your living room may really need two full couches, not the love seat and a recliner you pictured there.

#5: Throwing Away Receipts and Paperwork
Shortly after moving in, your water heater dies. You begrudgingly pay for a new one and try to forget about the cash you just dropped. But don’t! When it comes time to sell, improvements as small as this are like a resume-builder for your home that can boost its price. And, if problems arise down the road, warranty information for something like a new furnace could save you hundreds.

What to do: Stow paperwork like receipts, contracts, and manuals in a three-ring binder with clear plastic sleeves, or photograph your documents and upload them to cloud storage.

#6: Ignoring Small Items on Your Inspection Report
Use your inspection report as your very first home to-do list — even before you start perusing paint colors. Minor issues that helped take a chunk of change off the sale price can cause cumulative (and sometimes hazardous) damage. Over time, loose gutters could yield thousands in foundation damage. Uninsulated pipes? You could pay hundreds to a plumber when they crack in freezing temperatures. And a single faulty electric outlet could indicate dangerous ungrounded electricity.

What to do: Get the opinion and estimate of a contractor (usually at no charge), and then you can make an informed decision. But remember #1 above.

#7: Remodeling Without Doing the Research
No one wants to be a negative, but there’s a benefit to knowing the worst-case scenario.

What to do: Before beginning a project, thoroughly research it. Ask neighbors. Ask detailed questions of contractors so you can get your timing, budget, and expectations in line. Expenses can quickly escalate when you don't know all the facts.

#8: Buying Cheap Tools
You need some basic tools for your first home — a hammer, screwdriver set, a ladder, maybe a mower. But if you pick up a “novelty” kit (like those cute pink ones) or inexpensive off-brand items, don’t be surprised if they break right away, or if components like batteries have to be replaced frequently.

What to do: But don't go overboard. Our rule of thumb: If you're going to earn your living with the tool, then buy the best tool your money can buy. If you're using the tool to accomplish a one-time fix, then an inexpensive tool will probably do the job - just remember that you bought what is effectively a disposable tool. For most do-it-yourselfers, a median priced tool from a reputable manufacturer will probably serve your needs nicely for years to come.


 


WHAT NOT TO DO AS A HOMEOWNER

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You’ve finally settled into your new home.
You’re hanging pictures and pinning ideas for your favorite bath. But in all your excitement, are you missing something? Now that you’re a bonafide homeowner are there things you should know that you don’t? Probably so. Here are five mistakes new homeowners often make, and why they’re critically important to avoid.

#1: Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is
Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

#2: Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole
You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.
This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

#3: Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil
The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.
This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

#4: Carelessly Drilling into Walls
Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.
You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts. But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.
Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

#5: Cutting Down a Tree
The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.


MARKET NEWS

Rates continue to be stable and they remain historically low. Average rates for the third quarter 2017 are:

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FHA:  4.000%
VA:  4.0000%
Conventional 30-Year:  4.375%
Conventional 15-Year:  3.625%

As always, rates vary with lenders and many factors affect rates. The above rates are not guaranteed and your rate may vary. Contact your lender today to discuss your real estate needs. Don't have a lender? No problem... send us an email and we'll be happy to provide you with recommendations. 


We're NEVER too busy for your referrals. Please share our contact information with family, friends, colleagues, and coworkers. Or, feel free to provide us with their information… We'll be more than happy to contact them directly and provide them the same great service all of our clients receive (and deserve!).  ~ Diane & Jeff


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