5 Ways to Fight the Winter Blues

Even at the beaches in North Carolina, the dead of winter can sometimes feel endless and just a little dry. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you could do to bring back some color in your home! When it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoors and a touch too dreary to properly dream of summer sunshine, we’ve got a few tricks you can use to rejuvenate your personal environment.

Bring the outside in

It may seem too simple, but try bringing a few houseplants in to make up for the lack of color outside. There are some varieties that are nice and easy to maintain on a daily basis, so you don’t even need to worry about letting them get out of hand or dying before spring makes a reappearance.

Lighten the mood

Use natural lighting and sheer curtains to encourage a transition back into stronger sunlight. Not only does this move make use of the limits of winter days, but it’ll save you a few bucks on your energy bill in the long run.

Brighten things up… literally

Swap out bulbs for when the days do grow dark, and you might even trick yourself into thinking the elongated daylight hours are back! Your home will be well-lit, and you can begin to condition yourself and your housemates to be ready for those drawn-out summer days before daylight savings time.

Swap out darker decor

Use white or light-colored furniture and fabrics to chase away the winter shadows. The paler tones will complement the lighting in other parts of the room (like your new light bulbs and more accessible windows).

Channel your inner artist

Fresh paint can transform a room, and if winter has you down, then perhaps it’s time to reintroduce parts of your home to spring and summer! Take a day (the weather has you inside already, right?) and thoroughly clean everything, paint, then step back and admire. And, when you own your own home, you can always change your mind and remodel the place come summertime.

With these and more, you and your home will be on your way out of the winter blues in no time! Keep up-to-date with our blog for more homeowner tips and news, or contact us if you’re ready to make your move to one of North Carolina’s coastal communities.

Cookie Cutter vs Character: Pros and Cons of Moving into an Older House

Whether it’s your first time buying a home or the tenth, there’s a lot to consider in regards to what you’re looking for in a house and the surrounding area. That’s why having a realty agency you can depend on is so important – new areas can be difficult to navigate, and you want a local expert guiding you on location considerations and issues you might need to be aware of for the future.

What an agent can’t help decide is what you prefer as far as style is concerned. One big question our clients typically voice is whether they should peruse newer or older houses on their search. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, so it usually comes down to a matter of personal preference and the willingness to put in extra work should an aged home have some complications down the road, but we’ve compiled a few general things to think about before you purchase your next home.

Following a pattern

With many recently-built houses and those found in new subdivisions, we often find that they follow a pattern with their neighbors in terms of design and color. The downside to this is of course a lack of character and individuality – at least until you get to decorating! – but the positives include a modern look, innovative layouts, and often some eco-friendly features.


Older homes have a lot of character; sometimes this is great, but often this is realtor-speak for “temperamental.” And while a few home improvement projects might ward you off from buying a house with several years on it, for some people it might be perfect! If you’re good with your hands and love a challenge to fill up your Saturday mornings, you might consider braving the potential work ahead and signing that dotted line.

A long and happy life

Along with the wear and tear, a longer life adds personality and sentimental value to a home. It may be new to you, but many houses contain subtle reminders that they’ve seen some amount of time pass: a worn-in fireplace, retro-patterned kitchen tiles. And as long as the previous owner took good care of the house, then these details are more endearing than detrimental to the overall value.

A clean slate

If you’re more attuned to chic spaces and modern color schemes, then a newer house is just the thing! We often associate a brand new home with a clean slate of our own, so if you want to start from scratch and really make the property yours then we suggest browsing through listings of houses built in the last couple of years and going from there in making your decision.

We know it can be stressful to relocate you and your family to an unfamiliar place, so here at Intracoastal Realty we try to make the process as seamless as possible with our local expertise and friendly, efficient agents. Contact us for more tips or to get started on finding your new (or new to you) home today!

5 Healthy Home Habits to Start in the New Year

With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, you may be wondering how you can change up your life for the better in 2018. Here at Intracoastal Realty, we’ve been pondering similar things;some people make goals to exercise more or lose weight, while still others want a more balanced budget. We decided to share a few healthy home habits you can try breaking in, all of which are simple and not very time-consuming, so they’re easily added into your daily routine.

Clean handles

You wouldn’t believe how many germs live on your door handles, but think about it: when was the last time you cleaned them? And how often do people reach for the doorknob without a single thought as to where their hands have been? You don’t have to get obsessive about it, but giving them the occasional swipe of a disinfecting cloth can go a long way towards spreading fewer germs throughout the household. 

Clean the kitchen sink

When the dishes are done, the last thing you want is to stand around at the sink any longer. But a swift rinse-out can help keep your kitchen looking and feeling cleaner, not to mention prevent any stray bits of food from clinging to the sides or just inside the drain.

Put away clean clothes

It might seem trivial, but when you take the trouble to fold and put away your laundry once it’s clean and dry, you’re taking a step towards optimal organization. Clean clothes that are left out can be considered clutter, just as much as piles of dirty laundry you’ve yet to throw in the washer, so by putting them away you’re making your space a bit tidier (and easier to navigate!).

Tackle that catch-all closet

Everybody has one: the closet or drawer that gets chosen to house all of the random objects that otherwise wouldn’t have a home, but can’t be thrown away, either. And if you absolutely cannot get rid of anything contained in that space, get to organizing it! Even if it is still packed to the gills, at least you’ll be able to locate that stack of printer paper or your hiking backpack whenever the need arises.

Clean… your phone screen?

That’s right, we said it. Phone screens end up with tons of germs at the end of the day, just like those doorknobs we mentioned earlier. Make sure to regularly wipe yours off to help slow down the spread of any transferable particles, especially before making a phone call!

With these and other simple tricks, you’ll be well on your way to making 2018 a better year for yourself and those in your home. For more tips throughout the year on decorating and maintenance for your house or community events, keep in tune with our blog. And if you want to make the North Carolina coast your new home, contact us to get started!   

How to Make the Most of the Off-Season

For any local in a beach town, the slightest reprieve afforded by cooler weather can be refreshing, even if it does mark a lull in tourist season. And though North Carolina’s coast never truly suffers from persistent chills, January is a slower time of year for visitors.

So while traffic doesn’t lengthen your commute quite as much, and the breezes on the beach pick up, what is a local to do? The experts here at Intracoastal Realty have a few tips for how to spend the quieter months!

Home improvement

With the weather being less intense than it can get in the summer months, now is a great time to take advantage and tackle a few pet projects. The main thing you’ll have to keep in mind as you plan your next task for the house’s exterior is whether or not the necessary materials will stand up to the chance of rain. If not, make the necessary preparations for fixing something indoors or reorganizing your space to make being inside that much more enjoyable.

Take in the scenery

In the summer, many of our wonderful tourist attractions are crowded hotspots that any good local knows how to navigate around on his or her daily commute. While this might be a less popular time for vacations, you can always play tourist for a day and see the sights you might not get to enjoy at other times of year. There are plenty of places right in your backyard, and we have a few favorite suggestions that you might appreciate!

Play in the sand

Despite the realities of the typical winter season, our area can enjoy some fairly mild weather until spring returns. While the beaches are less populated and the temperatures aren’t keeping you away, take the opportunity to enjoy them! Be mindful of seasonal parking and other local limitations, and bring an extra jacket just in case of an unexpected chill. If nothing else, it’s a great way to cut the monotony of a routine and get your toes in the sand, even for just a little while.

Don’t let wintertime paces get you down – there’s so much to enjoy about North Carolina’s coast at all times of the year! For more information or suggestions for passing the time until the summer sun reappears, stay tuned to our blog and local happenings. And if you or a loved one is considering relocating to our coastal communities, contact us to get started and experience the exceptional!

Holiday Hospitality

Whether this is your twentieth year in a row hosting the holidays at your home or the first, the preparations for both the meal and potential guests can become overwhelming. The shopping lists are endless, and everyone has a preference that butts heads with someone else’s. But, it doesn’t have to be a hassle just to enjoy the holiday with your family and friends. Here at Intracoastal Realty, we’ve learned a few tips over the seasons that will help get you on the right track to achieving host-of-the-year status.


Roll out the welcome mat.

We actually don’t mean that literally – in this instance, what we do want to stress is how important it is for you to welcome changes in plans, unforeseen hiccups, and innocent accidents that throw your best intentions off the rails from time to time. If you walk into the holiday festivities and accept that sometimes you’ll have to roll with the punches, everyone else in your home is bound to be more at ease throughout their stay.

Be prepared. 

A great way to avoid holiday stress is to do as many things ahead of time as you can. Not only will the nitty-gritty tasks like cleaning and food prep be out of the way, but you’ll be able to enjoy more time with your guests when they do arrive. They’re here to celebrate the holidays with you, after all, not stand by while you rush around to get everything done! Items on your to-do list that can easily be checked off in advance include: laundry, general tidying around your home, chopping vegetables, and even starting sauces and seasonings for your table spread.

Make a list.

It’s a question we hear for every dinner party or holiday get-together: what can I bring? If you have multiple guests coming to visit, it’s easy to lose track of who signed up for what, or if anyone volunteered to bring a particular item. As the weeks lead up to the big meal, make yourself a basic checklist that you can find quickly if needed and jot down the guest and whatever they’ve offered to contribute. This way, when someone else asks, you know just what you already have plenty of, and what dishes or accents would perfectly top off the feast.

Hopefully these suggestions help ease you into the holiday weekend of hosting! No matter the size of your dinner table or the number of people you’ll have in your home, the team here at Intracoastal Realty wishes you a happy holiday season.

Relocating to North Carolina’s Coast

Relocating to a new area is always somewhat nerve-wracking. But here at Intracoastal Realty, our goal is to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process of buying your new home. It isn’t just about helping you find the right piece of real estate to purchase – it’s about making you feel at home.

To facilitate this, we have a special team set aside particularly for relocation assistance, dedicated to showing you that famous southern hospitality all while providing exemplary customer service. In the meantime, here are some of our most helpful hints and tips to getting ready to move to our beautiful coastal towns.

Forwarding mail

Before you even set foot in your new home, you’ll want to make sure that those who need to locate you on important subjects such as bills and notifications can do so easily and without untimely delays. This of course means you’ll need to change your address with the USPS, but remember to also go ahead and forward your mail to your new location so nothing gets lost or improperly directed before you have the chance to alert anyone else of your relocation.

School and medical records

As for your medical and school (as well as any other key documentation) records, getting copies in either paper or digital format should be sufficient, but it never hurts to have both. Check in on institutional forwarding policies well ahead of time to avoid any hassle if you should decide not to obtain physical copies prior to your move.

Neighborhood stops

When you’re searching for a new home, maybe in an unfamiliar city to boot, it’s often easy to forget some of the local businesses your frequent on your list of loose ends to tie up before you go. Contact your favorite pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc. if there is any chance that a personal item has been inadvertently left, a prescription not transferred to another facility, or any other housekeeping items to which you need to attend before moving into your new home.

Safe-deposit boxes

If you keep a safe-deposit box, double-check that you’ve emptied it before leaving, especially if you use a local bank rather than a national branch. If possible, you can go ahead and set up a new checking account to ensure you have access to your funds as well.

These are just a few items on a seemingly never-ending list of things to do before your move, but don’t worry! We may not be able to do these things for you, but we can help guide you through the process of settling into your new home, making the list feel more manageable on your end. Contact us to start your moving process today!

Professional Home Staging Can Lead to a Quicker Sale, and More Money

By Judy Royal

All the world’s a stage, including your home. If you’re planning to sell a property in the Wilmington NC real estate market, you’ll want to make it as appealing as possible to the masses with an eye-catching first impression. Cleaning and fixing that doorknob that’s been broken for years aren’t the only things you can do to get ready. Home staging is the process of preparing your residence for the marketplace with the goal of making it attractive to the highest number of potential buyers through the use of the following components: artwork, painting, furniture, accessories, lighting, greenery, and carpet. Experts agree that a professionally staged home is likely to spend less time on the market and net a higher sales price.

“The first thing it does is it gives the buyer a vision and a lifestyle of how they can live in the home,” said Lyn Manning, interior decorator and staging specialist who works with many Intracoastal Realty clients. “It just sets up a whole visual appeal. When we go in model homes we typically like the model home, and part of that is because it’s all set up to visually appeal to and emotionally grab the buyer. It shows them that lifestyle that they can have in that home and helps them decide how they can set the furniture up.”

This is especially important in homes that have floor plans with irregularities, Manning said. Professional staging can smooth those out by adding visual items that might be similar to what the new owner would incorporate. “It kind of takes away that guessing game for a buyer who has seen that raw, open space,” she added.

Staging isn’t just for empty homes, though. Many potential sellers will need to continue living in their residences while they are on the market and open to buyer showings. While Manning can provide all the furniture and decor to stage an empty property, in a lived-in space she works with what’s already there. “The challenge is to show the homeowner that less is more and get them to understand that thinning out is really necessary,” she said. “I really need to use what they have, maybe adding a few inexpensive elements to dress up what they have, and that’s a key part of this. My job is not to critique or criticize how they have lived in the home or their choice of decor.”

The home staging concept was born in 1972 when Barb Schwarz left the interior design business and went into residential real estate in Bellevue, Washington. With a background in theater, she began to suggest to sellers that they set the scene for potential buyers. In 1985, Schwarz began touring the country to teach agents and decorators about home staging and how it can be an advantage when selling a house, and in 1999 she founded the International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®).

About 49 percent of Realtors® who work with buyers believe staging usually has an effect on the buyer’s view of the home, and another 47 percent believe staging sometimes has an impact on a buyer’s view of the home, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2015 Profile of Home Staging. The report, the first of its kind from NAR, also found that Realtors® on the buyer side believe staging makes an impact in several ways: 81 percent said staging helps buyers visualize the property as a future home, while 46 percent said it makes prospective buyers more willing to walk through a home they saw online.

Realtors® believe that buyers most often offer a 1-5 percent increase on the value of a staged home (37 percent from Realtors® representing sellers and 32 percent from Realtors® representing buyers). Additionally, 22 percent of Realtors® representing sellers and 16 percent of Realtors® representing buyers said the increase is closer to 6-10 percent.

For an empty home, Wilmington sellers can expect to pay an average of $1,595-$1,895 for home staging, depending on how many rooms need the service, and there is also a small fee for each month the staging specialist’s items remain on the property, Manning said. The cost for a detailed consultation that uses the homeowners’ existing belongings is $125-$155, she added.

So how do you get started when you have years or maybe even decades of accumulated goods in your dwelling space? Matthew Finlason, the host of HGTV’s television series “The Stagers,” offers these 10 rules for staging homes, according to an article on HGTV’s website:

  • Grab them from the curb: Add potted plants and flowers, pressure wash patios and walkways, weed the garden, and mow the lawn.
  • Make it sparkle: Mop, dust, vacuum, wash windows, and clean baseboards, inside cupboards, under sinks, and in closets. Also, be mindful of any odors.
  • Pay attention to color and light: Neutralize strong colors for the broadest appeal, and open up blinds and draperies to ensure sufficient natural light.
  • Depersonalize: Remove excessive personal items, such as photos, collections, personal awards, and electronics.
  • Consider replacing furnishings: Think about removing or replacing worn or outdated furnishings, and get rid of extra pieces.
  • Invest in new artwork: Breathe new life into your home with paintings and photography, which can be used to contemporize a room and add a splash of color.
  • Make repairs: Repair squeaky doors, chipped or smudged paint, and broken fixtures and fittings that you’ve neglected.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint: Refresh a dull, dated room by brushing on some neutral color.
  • Don’t forget the floors: Get rid of worn carpets, and consider refinishing shabby hardwood floors. An inexpensive new area rug may also be a quick fix.
  • Spring for new light fixtures: Renew the look of the room by replacing old or dated light fixtures, door hardware, light switches, and outlets.

While these tips are a good start for any seller, they cannot replace the aesthetic details a professional can impart for a perfect look that can help you grab top dollar for your property.

Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell, Intracoastal Realty is here to meet your Wilmington NC real estate needs. We are a full-service real estate brokerage operating since 1976, and we currently have 12 offices with over 400 agents and staff to serve Southeastern North Carolina, including the areas of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Leland, Hampstead, and Topsail Island.

Home Renovations That Can Hurt (and Help) Your Property Value

Home Improvement House Meaning Renovate Or RestoreThe real estate market is on fire! When we have a market like this, it may be the right time to prepare your property for sale. If you’re considering substantial changes, they could affect the property’s overall market value. Here are four remodels to avoid and four to consider before listing your home.

Posted on Feb 23 2017 – 10:57am by Housecall / Brooke Nally

Remodels to Avoid:

Luxury Rooms

An indoor basketball court, wine cellar, sauna, or even a movie theater won’t often recoup the high building costs. Luxury add-on rooms are hard to pitch to buyers unless you’re living in an upscale housing market—the average homebuyer won’t be willing to pay for them. Further, rooms that depend heavily on wired electronics, like home theaters, are hard to keep current because TVs and speakers are constantly advancing.

Swimming Pool

The average cost to build a pool is $39,084, a hefty price tag that is seldom recovered once the home is sold. It’s widely accepted throughout the industry that a homeowner will lose money by adding a swimming pool. Homebuyers don’t want to deal with the maintenance cost of a pool (which can cost as much as $2,000 a year), the added insurance premiums, and—if they have young kids—the safety issues.

Gaudy Accents

Though gold-plated crown molding or mosaic-tile backsplashes may feature prominently in your ideal vision for your home, they often turn out to be the average homebuyer’s worst nightmare. Passing fads or niche trends rarely stick around long, so if you miss the brief window when your remodeling choices are in, you’ll end up paying for it later.

Changes Contrary to Area Standards

If you aren’t watching the trends common to your area, you could end up losing a lot of money. A home that totals $600,000 after all the renovations won’t sell in a neighborhood where homes are netting half that price. Likewise, knocking down the walls of extra bedrooms for an open layout won’t be appealing in a family-oriented neighborhood.

Remodels that Pay:

Steel Doors

You don’t want to go cheap on a standard front door. At roughly $1,000, steel doors are comparatively affordable, durable, low maintenance and burglar resistant. As an added bonus, the National Association of Realtors® reports that steel door upgrades show the highest return on investment of any home remodel, at over 100 percent of the cost.

Solar Panels

As the price of solar panels continues to drop, the energy payback on installing them is becoming greater and greater. The average rooftop solar system is now paid off in seven and a half years. After that, panels are a big money-saving asset. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory notes that homebuyers “consistently have been willing to pay more for a property” with solar panels—a premium of around $4 per installed watt, on average.

Related: Will Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Solar Panels?

New Siding

The exterior of your house is the first thing potential homebuyers see when they come to your home, and you want to make the best first impression. This is part of the reason redoing your siding is so profitable. New siding recoups around 80 percent of the initial cost, according to the National Association of Realtors®, thanks largely to the increased curb appeal and improved energy efficiency it provides.

Broadband Access

Access to broadband speeds is considered an essential utility for today’s connected homebuyer. Research shows that faster internet speeds increase your home value by as much as 3 percent. Homeowners can prepare their homes for higher broadband connectivity by working with area providers to install requisite equipment and wiring. Building out wall ports and cable-hiding baseboards is a good move to attract buyers, too.

Even if you’re not considering selling your home just yet, keep potential selling benefits in mind. Intrepid homeowners know that the best remodels will increase both quality of life and listing price, so take care to invest in projects that will net the biggest returns.

Ways to Make Your Home More Relaxing

Life can be pretty stressful at times. Between work, family, maintaining a social life, taking care of a home, trying to squeeze in times for hobbies, and about a million other things, sometimes it can all just become too overwhelming. So wouldn’t it be nice if your home offered a bit of an escape from life’s everyday stressors? We think so too. Read on to learn easy steps to take to make your home more relaxing.

1. Banish clutter

If you look around your home, the biggest source of stress is most likely coming from any clutter or tidying up that needs to be done. Tired of looking at piles of junk mail, magazines, electrical cords and dusty tchotchkes? Then it’s time to spend a day (or two or three) going through everything, throwing out junk and setting up new organizational systems to keep your home neat and tidy from now on. Once you’ve completed an overhaul on your home, these systems will help to keep clutter out of your home for good! It’s also good practice to get into the habit of doing a little bit of tidying up on a daily and weekly basis to avoid any clutter accumulation that crops up.

2. Add comfy, coziness to every room

One of the best ways to make your home more relaxing is to make it more comfortable. In your living room, add soft throw pillows and blankets and, if you find yourself constantly asking people to stop resting their feet on your coffee table, try a large, overstuffed ottoman in its place. Not only are these soft and welcoming for tired feet, but many of them double for storage. Add a serving tray, and it’ll keep it’s coffee table function as well! Finally, adding a soft, plush area rug will add another layer of comfort while giving you a chance to either add some bold pattern to a room or a neutral, soothing base.

In your kitchen and bathrooms, swap out old towels for ones that are thick and fluffy. Exchange your typical anti-bacterial hand soaps with soaps that have soothing scents like aloe, vanilla or lavender. If you’re looking for an added level of spa-like comfort in your bathroom, try a towel warmer and, if you can fit it, a plush chair. (We recommend a chair covered in indoor/outdoor upholstery to protect it from the moisture.) In the dining room, switch out hard, wooden chairs with upholstered ones, or add soft seat cushions.

3. Rearrange your furniture

This is a biggie. A room that feels stifled with clunky furniture or, conversely, feels too sprawled out and barren is never going to feel calming and relaxing. So, if your home is lacking flow, take these tips into consideration. First, avoid pushing all of your furniture up against walls or into corners. This is a common mistake in living rooms, but it’s very easy to fix. You just can’t be afraid to float your furniture!

Start with your focal point, in this case the TV/entertainment center, then arrange the remaining furniture in order from largest to smallest. You’ll want your couch directly across from the TV so, if you’ve got a long living room, try to avoid placing these two pieces of furniture on the opposite walls that are farthest apart. Other things to keep in mind: try not to block windows with big pieces of furniture, make sure the room has a good “flow” and has clear paths for people to walk through and, if you have a large living room, try to think of your room in terms of “zones.” So, create an entertainment zone where your couch, TV and loveseat or armchairs will go, then create other “zones,” such as one for bookcases and an armchair, one for a desk, or one for a sitting area near a large window. Feeling stuck? Check out this guide for inspiration!

4. Try out a new color scheme

Most people will tell you that soothing, relaxing colors typically consist of tranquil greens, blues and neutral tones. This is true, but when it comes to paint color, it’s always a case of personal preference. So, if you find yourself feeling more relaxed with bright, vibrant hues like buttery yellows, bold reds or deep greens, then that’s fine! Your sanctuary doesn’t have to consist of earthen tones, although it’s definitely not a bad idea to settle on an overarching color palette for your home for some consistency. If you’re looking for color schemes, we highly recommend checking out some color choosing apps or taking a trip to your hardware store to take a look at the color palette chips they’ll have there too.

5. Cultivate good vibes

If there’s anything in your home that either has bad memories associated with it or has just been the eyesore of your home for too long, then make plans to get rid of it and replace it! Tired of your uncomfortable couch? Replace it. Tired of the gargantuan coffee table that everyone stubs their table on? Replace it. And if there are there are certain items in your home that make you happy, like family photos or paintings, then invest in more of those! When your house represents your tastes, likes and loves, it’ll always feel more like home.

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Home Maintenance

Another year is upon us, and this time, we’re making a New Year’s Resolution that we’re going to keep! This year, put some of that resolution effort back into what is, most likely, your biggest investment by dedicating some time to keeping better maintenance of your home. Simple, daily tasks can have a huge impact on preserving and improving the value of your home, while making it safer for you and your family to live in now!

1. Protect your home from dangerous toxins

This is a fairly simple, yet extremely important step that requires very little in terms of a monetary investment. First, have your house tested for radon. According to the EPA, homes with high levels of radon have been found in every state and levels can vary from home to home — even among directly neighboring homes, so just because your neighbor doesn’t have a radon problem, doesn’t mean you won’t. Radon is naturally occurring and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, but it can be easily identified and resolved, so there’s no reason to delay in getting this taken care of! You can purchase radon kits for approximately $20 at your local hardware store.

Secondly, install carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom of your home. This is another small investment, especially compared to its importance. If your chimney or furnace vent becomes blocked or leaks, this extremely deadly gas can build up in your house and almost immediately put you and your family in serious danger.

Lastly, if your house was built or remodeled before 1978, you should consider having it tested for lead and asbestos. If your home ends up possessing either one of these deadly toxins, the effects on your health can be devastating. It’s important to hire a professional to remove any and all lead and asbestos in your home, should either be found.

2. Prevent and prepare against fires

Lint may seem relatively harmless, but in reality, it can become a major fire hazard! Most people know to clean out their dryer’s lint trap between loads, but most homeowners aren’t nearly as diligent when it comes to cleaning lint out from their dryer’s vents and ducts. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can easily do it yourself, as long as you can actually access the duct/hose behind your dryer. All you need is a lint removal kit and a vacuum, and you’re set. Doing this will not only help safeguard against the possibility of fires caused by lint buildup, but it should actually help your dryer work better, drying your clothes quicker and saving you money. (Also, start getting in the habit of making sure you never leave your house or sleep at night with the dryer running. A hot, running dryer without any supervision = fire hazard.)

For your standard fire precautions, make sure you test your home’s smoke detectors to ensure that they’re working properly and aren’t in need of new batteries. You should also invest in a couple of fire extinguishers for your home, if you don’t already have some. In the kitchen, keep a kitchen-specific extinguisher, like this one. These typically are designed to avoid hot oil splashing and can tackle a grease fire. You should keep a fire extinguisher on every level of your home, near front and rear entrances/exits. Always opt for a dry, chemical extinguisher, as opposed to a water-based one, as water-based extinguishers will only complicate a grease or electrical fire.

3. Reduce your bills and your carbon footprint

If you spent more than you would have liked to heating and cooling your house last year, it might be time to make some upgrades to help you cut down energy use and curb costs. You can make some obvious changes, like making sure you turn off unnecessary lights when you’re not in the room, checking the weather stripping and caulking around your doors, windows and any opening into your home, or simply consciously fighting your will to crank the thermostat when you can just put on a sweater or opt for lighter layers instead.

However, there’s much, much more that you can be doing, including swapping out your light bulbs with either Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) or LEDs, both of which are vastly superior to your standard light bulb in saving energy, using up to 85 percent less than standard bulbs. Among other new habits, you can also strive to ensure that you only run your dishwasher and washer when full; make sure to unplug appliances, electronics and chargers that are not being used (as these appliances continue to pull energy, even when not in use); and, make sure you maintain your HVAC system by replacing your filter as needed, scheduling regular inspections and keeping your unit clear from debris to ensure that it’s running efficiently at all times.

4. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule for your home

This might seem somewhat optional when it comes to “maintenance,” but keeping a regular cleaning schedule can be extremely beneficial in protecting against unsanitary conditions, the accumulation of dust, mold and other allergens, as well as potential damage. While it’s certainly not going to hurt to let your house “go” every so often, it’s really best to stay on top of cleaning in your home when you can! Dishes should be done on a daily basis and kitchen counters wiped. Spend a few minutes tidying up every day by eliminating clutter (like junk mail or magazines) and making sure dirty clothes find their way to the hamper, instead of residing on the floor. This will require enlisting the help of the entire family—everybody should be cleaning up behind themselves every day!

On a weekly basis, set aside some time to clean the majority of your house by vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, doing the laundry, etc. Then, once a month, do some deep-cleaning to tackle any of those tasks that you just don’t have the time, energy or attention for on a weekly basis, like wiping the floorboards, dusting fan blades, cleaning the refrigerator, running vinegar through your dishwasher, vacuuming your refrigerator coils, etc. If you’re in the need of some specific checklists to make sure you don’t miss a thing, we can definitely point you in the right direction with these!

6. Have your home inspected

Home inspections aren’t just important to have done prior to buying a new house. Having regular home inspections conducted throughout the years you spend in your home help you to stay on top of the overall health of your home, especially when it comes to the parts of your home that you can’t actually see, like the plumbing. Regular inspections will not only help you catch potentially big problems before they become big, but they will also help when or if the time comes to sell your home by helping you to avoid any nasty shocks when a potential seller has an inspection done. They also act as a clean bill of health, showing that you’ve properly maintained your home over a long span of time!

You should have your home inspected at least every few years, if not annually, depending on the age of your home and any pre-existing issues that your home may have. Home inspections should always be conducted by a professional home inspector and should include inspections of your home’s heating and air systems, plumbing, roof, attic, insulation, foundation, basement, structure, flooring, ceilings and walls.

This year, make a new year’s resolution that will keep your biggest investment clean, safe and valuable for years to come. A small investment in time and money now will reap big rewards in the future, so start your new year off right with these tips to get you started!