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!


Selling Your Home, It’s a Business Decision

Blog Courtesy of Bobby Brandon, Broker/REALTOR® at Intracoastal Realty

Don’t Let Emotions Get in the Way!bobby-brandon-pp

When you purchased your home, you more than likely did so with lots of emotion, which is very normal. For example, you looked at homes with your real estate agent and narrowed it down to the two homes you like the best. Your kids probably ran through the house selecting which room would be theirs. You might have liked the backyard because that is where your family dog would get to play and be safe. You might have even like the kitchen space because it is large enough to have friends over and spend fun times together. Or this might have been the area of town that you had always wanted to live, etc.

These are all examples of emotions playing into the buying process. But now you are selling that same home. Once again, you are facing surfacing emotions. Hopefully, you have had a lot of great memories in the home you have spent so many years in and it might be a little hard for you to leave it. But a word of caution, when selling you should put your emotions to the side. It is now a business decision, and it all comes down to money.

Letting emotions get in the way is NOT a smart business decision. For example, you have negotiated with the buyer back and forth, and finally received the price you want. Now you and the buyer are fighting over the ten-year-old curtains in the home. You had it in your mind that you wanted to take the curtains with you, but this could be a deal breaker. As part of the negotiations, the buyer is asking for your grill, and you have your heels dug in NO. This minor conflict is the only thing that is stopping you from selling your home, obtaining the price you want and moving to the area in which you want to live. You could lose the entire deal over a $500 gas grill.

These are all examples of making an emotional decision verses a business decision. I have seen deals lost when emotions get in the way. I have seen deals go south over curtains and grills. Once the buyer has walked, the seller realizes what a bad decisions they have made and what it cost them in “winning the fight” (emotions). So remember, when selling, it’s all business!

For more information on buying and selling homes, go to www.BobbyBrandon.com. Bobby’s Team can provide expert advice and insight into current homes and land for sale in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender County.

bobby-brandon-blog-art

 


Fresh Holiday Decorating Tips

‘Tis the season, everybody! We know this may be a little premature, but we also know that there’s no way you don’t already have the holidays in the back your mind. Admit it! So, among the many to-do lists you’re probably juggling — gift shopping, preparing for guests, dinner menus — we wanted to add a little relief with some fresh, decorating tips. We know how it is. Year after year, our merry and bright decorative garb starts to look a little less so. If you know the feeling, then hopefully these tips can help to add some fresh cheer as you deck the halls this season.

Freshen Up Your Door

Let’s start with the place that will first greet you and any guests into your home this holiday season: your door. If you’ve grown tired of your poor, old wreath that has had to brave the cold weather all these years, it might be time to swap it out. Try a wreath made from ornaments, or use some white spray paint (with maybe a touch of silver) to dress up your old wreath in a frosty new look. Craving a little sparkle? Whip up this simple and sparkly wreath made from gold ribbon for a look that’s eye catching and festive! Or, if you’re in the mood for something that’s classic and elegant, you could try your hand at this blue spruce wreath trio.

Freshen Up Your Mantel

To add some renewed cheer to your mantel, try adding pops of color by dangling classic candy canes from festive green and red ribbon. Looking for a way to add some country charm to those stockings hung by the chimney with care? Try hanging them on a clothesline made from hearty twine and jumbo clothes pins (depending on the size of your stockings). This can be a particularly charming idea, especially if you don’t have a fireplace or mantel! Swap out your old stockings for those with cozy patterns like plaid, stripes or fair isle to add even more charm. You can also add some extra coziness by hanging mittens instead of or intermingled with stockings.

Freshen Up Your Tree

For a lot of us, our trees are a mish-mash of ornaments that we have accrued throughout the years. If you’re looking for a way to really switch up your tree game this year, opt for … a theme. A couple of our favorite themes we’ve seen include include stunning floral-themed trees, which are the epitome of “merry and bright.” Or, another super snug idea is a cookie cutter or gingerbread man themed tree. Or a combination of both! There are literally scads of ways to dress up cookie cutters with patterned paper, ribbons or paint, so this could be a really good option if you want to set up a craft day with the kids. If you’re a fan of vintage trinkets, you could also create a small tree adorned with pretty teacups, vintage spoons and china. Another great way to add a vintage vibe to your tree is by decorating it with family photos. Choose small silver or gold frame ornaments (or a mixture of both) and add some black and white photos of family, friends, homes, pets and more for a tree that’s brimming with sweet memories and nostalgia.

Hint: If you’ve got little ones in the house, there’s a good chance they’ll still want their nostalgic ornaments on the tree, so try getting a little tree just for them that they can decorate in all their old favorites!

Freshen Up Your Tree Topper

You’re probably pretty well aware of the classic tree toppers of angels or stars, but what about Santa hats? Not only is this an absolutely adorable new option, but, chances are, you probably already have a Santa hat somewhere! You also don’t have to fiddle with it until it sits juuust right. Just plop the hat on top, and you’re good to go. Other tree toppers we’ve had our eyes on are big, festive bows, birdhouses (which are perfect for a more rustic, natural themed tree), monogrammed tree toppers and treehoppers that the kids can make, like this cute snowflake.

Freshen Up Your Gift Wrapping

Now that you’ve got some new ideas for your tree, you can turn your attention to what’s underneath it. Make your tree look even more gorgeous with some new gift wrapping techniques to make those presents pop. Try out a classic candy cane/peppermint theme with an assortment of red and white striped and solid papers and ribbons for a look that’s bright and cheerful, while being super easy to achieve. You could also try choosing a color theme, like gold, and have an assortment of various gold patterned, solid, metallic, and matte papers, ribbons and bows for another simple statement. Looking for more of a “handmade” feel? Purchase a roll of solid paper from a craft store, grab some holiday-themed stamps and voíla! You have your own handmade holiday wrapping.

There are lots and lots of ways to freshen up your holiday decorations, so we hope this was a good start to get those holiday juices a-flowing. Happy holidays!


10 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Bill This Winter

With the summer months finally behind us and the cooler temperatures of Fall and Winter on their way, you may find yourself dreading those higher energy or gas bills. Granted, here in the southeastern part of NC, we don’t get the negative degree readings and piles and piles of snow, as seen in other parts of the state. However, that coastal chill from the sea is real, so here are 10 essential tips to keep you warm and toasty as cold weather descends.

1. Replace Worn Weather-Stripping

Here’s the thing: if you can clearly see daylight poking through around the corners or edges of your doors, then you’re losing heat. This isn’t exactly surprising. Stand close to your door and you’ll probably be able to feel the cold air coming in. First thing’s first: take a look at your weather stripping. If it’s peeling, loose or falling off, it’s time to replace it, which is a very cheap, easy and effective way to cut down heating costs. Caulking around cracked door frames is another inexpensive way to seal in your heat and keep the cold out.

While you’re at it, also check your door’s threshold. You can raise it if there’s too much of a gap between your door and it, or lower it if your door is constantly getting caught up on it, which can wear down weather-stripping even more.

2. Install Plastic Indoor Window Kits

Windows can be a big offender when it comes to letting heat escape. So, to add a little insulation, spring for some indoor plastic window kits. All these consist of is a simple, clear film that you essentially “shrink-wrap” to your window. If you do right, you’ll hardly even be able to see it, but you will be able to see a difference in your energy bill. Kits typically cost ~$4 or less at any hardware store and take less than 10 minutes to install yourself. When the weather warms up, the film easily peels right off.

3. Plug All Exterior Holes

Doors? Check. Windows? Check. You may have gotten two of the most obvious heat-loss culprits taken care of, but there are plenty more gaps and crevices around that you probably haven’t thought of. For instance, electrical outlets and holes for exterior-to-interior cables, pipes and and gas lines don’t always have the best insulation.

For electrical outlets, remove the cover plate and use either acrylic-latex caulk for small gaps less than ¼” thick or foam sealant for windows and doors for larger gaps. You can also invest a whopping $0.10 on foam gaskets that fit snugly around your outlets and provide an extra layer of insulation between the cover plate and any gaps behind the outlet. (*Always remember to flip your circuit break off before you do this project at home.)

As for pipes, cables and gas lines, check: under kitchen cabinets (particularly the one below your sink), behind refrigerators and stoves, and around where pipes go to hot water heaters or furnaces, in addition to the more obvious places where your cable line or gas lines are. You can fill these holes with expanding foam or, at the advice of the CDC, small pieces of steel wool secured by caulking if you want the added protection of keeping unwanted pests and critters out.

4. Check Your Ductwork

You can be losing a lot of heat via leaks in your ductwork. You might not be able to actually see all of your ductwork, but there will likely be at least a few places where it’s accessible, either in your basement or attic. Check seams and corners where ducts may have been pulled apart and aren’t connecting properly, as well as keeping an eye out for any visible holes or leaks. If you feel like tackling this work yourself, you can purchase a roll of mastic tape to seal leaks, but we recommend hiring a contractor. Even if you seal a couple of spots that you can see, there are likely to be places that you aren’t going to be able to access, and, unless you have professional experience doing home repairs, don’t want to. Putting forth a little bit of investment on professional services though, pays off in the end. You could be losing as much as 20 to 30 percent of your heat through improperly connected or leaking ductwork.

5. Upgrade Your Thermostat

Herein lies the supreme controller of your energy bill: the thermostat. Swapping out your old thermostat with one that’s programmable and energy-cognizant is the best way to go. You can opt for a programmable thermostat at a fairly low price point, at ~$25, or invest in something with a little more umph, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. While more of an investment ($249), this thermostat promises to pay for itself in less than two years by saving you as much as 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling bills.

What makes the Nest Thermostat different from a programmable thermostat is that it may know your patterns even better than you do — after a few uses, it picks up on the temperature ranges that you prefer throughout the day and, even better, makes suggestions as to how you can save even more, just by altering your thermostat a few degrees.

6. Use Your Ceiling Fan

Normally, ceiling fans are associated with the summer as an absolutely vital necessity to keeping cool — especially here in the south. However, ceiling fans can also be helpful in keeping your heat closer to the ground, and thus, you. Simply reverse the direction of the blades (which is normally a function that can be accessed by flipping a small switch on the base of the fan), and kick the fan on in a low setting. This way you can maximize the feeling and circulation of heat, without having to crank the thermostat up. This tactic is especially helpful in rooms with tall or vaulted ceilings.

7. Lock Doors & Windows

Sounds like a safety tip, which it is, but it’s also an energy tip! When you lock your doors and windows, you can feel the door or window actually shift a little bit. By doing this, you’re creating a snugger fit between window or door and the weather-stripping. Also make sure to utilize your windows by opening up the blinds or curtains on south-facing windows during the day, and keeping blinds and curtains drawn at night to provide a little insulation.

8. Remove Heat Register Blockage

To make sure you’re actually utilizing all of the heat that you’re paying for, you may need to do a little rearranging, especially if your air registers are located on the floor. Make sure to move furniture or rugs so that nothing is blocking your registers. You can also try installing an adjustable air deflector on your vents for approximately $10 or less each to help either move air out from underneath of furniture or project the air up into the room more.

9. Maintain Your HVAC System

Another way to ensure that your heating system is working to the best of its ability is to check your filters regularly and replace them every month, or as needed. Not only do clean filters simply help your system work better, but they also prevent costly damage. If you don’t feel like purchasing new filters constantly, you can always opt for washable, reusable air filters too.

10. Use Your Fireplace or Keep It Closed

A fireplace can be a great way to keep a portion of your house warm, while you dial back the thermostat a bit. Once night time rolls around, you can readjust the thermostat to warm up bedrooms more before bedtime. However, if you’re not using your fireplace, you should keep the damper shut tightly. According to Duke Energy Progress, a chimney can draw up to 20 percent of the air out of the house every hour, and heat can go up a chimney even when there’s a fire burning, so that’s why it’s best to dial it back on the heat on the thermostat when you’ve got one going.

There you have it, 10 inexpensive ways to keep you and your house a whole lot warmer this winter. Make sure to jump on some of these projects before the cold weather hits to avoid having to deal with a higher energy bill at all this season.


How to Increase Your Home Value

Even if you’ve just moved into your house and home value is relatively far from your mind for the time being, it shouldn’t stray too far! Increasing your home value not only means a more enjoyable experience for you throughout your time in the house, but it also means that, if the time comes to sell, you’ll be able to. Get started with these tips.

Make a plan

First thing’s first: never start any sort of renovations or improvements on your home without having a plan. Having a plan will help you prioritize projects and determine what you can afford and when. Start broadly. Create a laundry list of every project that you would like to see made, knowing that you probably won’t be able to do every single one, and then narrow it down from there.

Do your research. What projects can you legitimately do yourself, and which do you think you’ll probably need to “outsource” to a professional? Be honest with yourself here. Can you really handle knocking down walls or wiring new can lights in the kitchen? With YouTube™ and tutorials galore, we have a sense, nowadays, that we can do almost anything — which is certainly not always the case, especially when you’re talking about projects that can have a serious impact on the structure of your home. If you get yourself in too deep with a project that you really can’t pull off, you could end up actually decreasing the value of your house and will have to call in the pros anyway.

Additionally, and we’re sure this is not a factor you’ve forgotten, you’ll have to plan for everything financially. This goes hand-in-hand with determining what projects you can do on your own and which ones you know you’ll have to hire out. It’s a good practice to over estimate. Depending on the nature of a project, there’s really no guarantee as to how “smooth” it will go and if there will be additional costs along the way, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to pad the budget a bit.

Find balance

There are numerous sources that will tell you which investments will yield the highest return in the long run, and that’s great, but try to make sure that changes you make to your house are things that benefit you when you’re actually living there. For instance, kitchen and bathroom remodels are typically considered valuable because of their aesthetic appeal for potential buyers. However, if you’re not much of a cook, and won’t really get a whole lot of value out of an overhauled kitchen with all the bells and whistles, then it might make more sense for you to do more minimal updates in the kitchen and put that extra money towards a project that you care about.

That being said, if you’re planning on remodeling parts of your house, you might as well do it earlier on in your ownership, as opposed to making updates simply to prepare your house for the market. You might as well enjoy your hard work for a little while before selling, right?

Additionally, make sure you don’t spend all of your renovation budget on just making a house look pretty. Pretty houses are awfully enticing, however, you and future buyers alike will appreciate investments that make sure the “infrastructure” of the house is in good working order too. It doesn’t matter how pretty a house is, if it’s needs a new roof, water heater and furnace. Oftentimes, buyers will be actually look past aesthetic turn-offs, like a dated kitchen, if they know that the house is structurally sound and won’t need any major improvements in the near future.

Move slowly

You never want to overextend yourself, or your budget, when making renovations. Take it one room at a time, stick to your budget, and make small upgrades here and there along the way. Don’t forget that major renovations will also require breakdown and reconstruction of your house for some time — so if you’ve got more than one sizable, ongoing upgrade, your living situation might become a bit tense for a while.

If you need to take a break or save up more money for future projects, you can still make enhancements to your house, but in ways that are much more budget friendly. Painting requires very little money forward and does have an impact on your house’s value, especially if you choose earthy, neutral tones throughout your house that most people find pretty agreeable. You can also do things like updating old light fixtures, filling out flower beds with low-maintenance plants or adding new hardware to cabinets or doors to boost value without breaking the bank.

Maintain your property

Regularly cleaning and maintaining your property will definitely help maintain the value of your house. A house well-cared for is better for you and better for buyers. So, from the inside-out, make sure to keep your house neat and clean. Choose durable, mark-resistant paint that will help fight off dinginess over time. Take care of your hardwood or carpeted floors with wood treatments and deep-cleaning, respectively. Regularly dust and change your air filter to help maintain your HVAC system. Maintain the outside of your house by pressure washing and, better yet, sealing fences and porches. Clean your gutters to avoid roof damage or damage to your house’s gutter and drain system. You get the idea.

For extra assurance, you could have home inspections conducted on your house periodically. This will not only help you catch problems before they develop into costly nightmares, but these home inspections will remain on record for any potential buyers so they can see how you’ve maintained your home over time.

Don’t over-improve

When making improvements to your house, don’t forget to keep an eye on the market in your neighborhood. You don’t want to put forth gigantic investments on remodeling and renovations, if the market doesn’t support it. Poor school zones, traffic, construction, the value of your neighbor’s houses and much more will all play a factor in the value of your home. So, if you find yourself facing this conundrum, you might want to consider if it’s time for you to move to a new area and put your money towards that, as opposed to sinking a lot of money into upgrades that might not pay off in the long run. This isn’t to say that, if your home exceeds market value, it will never sell or buyers won’t bite if it’s a little bit more, but it’s definitely a factor you want to consider, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll make that additional money back or that you won’t run into problems when it comes time for your house to be appraised for loans.

Before you get started on renovations, it’s never a bad idea to contact a local realtor for some insight into how the market’s doing in your neck of the woods and for some advice on which improvements tend to be the most beneficial.


Should I Sell or Rent My House?

 

It’s a scenario most often experienced by those who are in the midst of relocating — should I sell my house or rent it? There are multiple factors that come into play here, and before you decide on anything, here are five questions you should ask yourself first:

How much equity do I have?

The amount of equity holds some major bearings on which path you should choose right from the get-go. For instance, if you have little to no equity (only a few thousand dollars or less), renting can help you build more equity until you have enough money to cover selling costs (more on that below). Selling your home when you have only a very small amount of equity depends on your available cash to bring to settlement. No cash typically means a short sale or foreclosure, which may or may not be a viable option depending on your situation.

Additionally, you should take into consideration the rate at which your home is building equity. If your home is appreciating quickly, it might be better to hold on to that property for as long as the trend continues, if you can continue to cover the costs of owning while renting.

Is it a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?

Obviously, if you’re living in a seller’s market, then selling your home might be the better option because you’ll be more likely to get the most for your home, whereas selling in a buyer’s market typically means settling for less. But that’s not the only thing you need to take into consideration. You have to keep in mind that:

  1. You’re focusing on local trends, not statewide or nationwide trends, and
  2. Your ability to sell your home for a profit depends on individual home values in your immediate area.

It’s never a bad idea to contact a local realtor to discuss market trends and run some comps (comparables) to determine what the average value of homes in your neighborhood are going for. They’ll be able to provide you with an accurate depiction of what the local market is doing presently, what it’s done in the past, and what it’s most likely to do in the future, carving out a much clearer picture of how your house will do on the market. If it happens to be that you’re in a buyer’s market and might have a hard time selling (or already know you will through experience), renting can be a logical solution to help cover any remaining mortgage payments or save up for selling costs again while you’re stuck in limbo.

Is the rental market in good health?

Rent is also subject to market trends. If you’re asking for more than most are willing to pay, you’ll be hard pressed to find tenants, which will become one of your number one priorities if you decide to rent your home. So, if rent values for properties similar to your home are too low to cover your mortgage payments, then renting may not be the best choice, unless you’re willing to make up the difference. You also have to pay attention to demand. How long does it take similar properties to find qualified renters? Are rental properties quickly snatched up? Or do they linger? Are you confident in your ability to cover costs if rent doesn’t get paid or if tenants have to leave unexpectedly?

Which costs can I afford?

There are costs associated with both selling and renting your home. The big question is, which costs are most affordable for you? There are, as we mentioned before, selling costs that you need to consider: real estate commissions for your selling agent, any home warranty or bonus offers made in conjunction with the sale of the house, transfer taxes, cost of repairs required by inspections, title search fees, capital gain tax and more.

On the flip side, managing a rental property will require money for any repairs or maintenance or, if you decide to use a property management association to take care of all of the maintenance and billing for you, money for fees and services. Money received in rent is usually considered additional income as well, which means additional taxes. There are tax deductions for rental income. For instance, certain repairs, operating expenses, property depreciation or property taxes may be deductible, but it’s best to discuss which deductions you’ll actually be eligible for with an accountant, rather than hoping the deductions will be worth the increased taxes.

Do I want to be a landlord?

Finally, you need to ask yourself if you really and truly can handle being a landlord, as this comes with a whole host of responsibilities that require money and time. First, you need to find tenants that are trustworthy and likely to pay their rent on time, which may require background checks, credit checks and other verification. Even with these measures, tenants may still be late with rent or miss payments altogether. As the landlord, however, you’ll be responsible to pick up the pieces, wherever they may fall, so if your property is damaged, it’s up to you to fix it. If your tenant turns out to be unreliable, it’s up to you to find another. If you’re doing this on your own, this is a serious investment in time. If you’re working with a property management group, you’ll still have to be available for any issues that may arise with your property, as most management groups require the landlord’s permission in many incidents.

Asking yourself these questions can help prepare you for either option you choose. However, if you still need some help, contact us at info@intracoastalrealty.com, or give us a call at 1-800-533-1840. Whether you need help selling your home or managing your soon-to-be rental property, we’re here to lend a hand.


DIY Home Guide: How to Paint Your Own Home Renovation

 

Whether you’re trying to update your new home to match your style, prep your old home to sell or just opting for a change of scenery, there’s one simple tool that can completely transform your home: paint. Get tips and guides on how to paint these 10 items or places in your home for a budget-friendly makeover!

1. Front Door

Looking to create a new impression of your home to boost its curb appeal? The front door is an excellent place to start. Decide what kind of look you’re going for — fresh, bold, vintage, quaint — and pick out your paint colors. If you’ve never painted your front door before, check out this quick, learn the details behind how to paint one here to make ensure a smooth painting process. Need some inspiration? Check out these lovely painted doors here.

(Tip: It’s often easier to just leave the door on its hinges while you paint, but don’t forget to cover your floor in case it drips!)

2. Floor

If you’ve got battered hardwood floors, painting just might be the way to go if you can’t afford to refinish or replace them. Clean them, sand them and slap on a coat of paint. Feeling adventurous? Branch out with some retro stencils or checkerboard patterns to spice things up a bit. You can even repaint linoleum with a funky pattern, or just a fresh coat of solid color.

(Tip: Tile floors will also require their own, epoxy-based paint. Read the Tub & Tile section below for more on this.)

3. Mirrors

Painting mirrors can be a really quick and easy way to add some visual interest to your home. Or if you’re not a fan of the mirrored, sliding-glass doors that sometimes conceal bedroom closets, you can just cover them with a splash of color in lieu of their reflective surfaces. The good thing about this project is that is requires less prep than others (no sanding, for instance). Although you may find yourself wondering about how to paint glass so that it can’t just peel right off. You’ll need to use glass paint or you can even use frosted glass spray paint, maybe with some stenciling to create an interesting pattern, to really class up that glass.

(Tip: If you have sliding mirrored doors in your home, and you’re fine with them, but you want to update the trim, check out this tutorial here!)

4. Furniture

This category is limitless — if it has a hard surface, it can be painted. And in so many ways! With some painter’s tape, you can apply any sort of geometric pattern, stripes or designs that you can think of. Normally, pieces just need a little cleaning and sanding and then they’re ready to be painted. Never rush painting furniture though! Each coat needs to be given enough time to dry to the point where it’s hard, normally at least a full 24 hours. If not, the furniture’s surface will be soft and will easily be marked up and scuffed over time. Before you begin, read this for some quick, essential tips on painting furniture. If you’re looking for inspiration, Pinterest is an excellent muse. Found a piece you’re ready to paint, but not sure how to get started? Simply search the web for a how to paint [insert item here] guide on just about anything!

(Tip: If you’re painting anything with drawers, door or knobs, make sure to number or label everything with a piece of painter’s tape for seamless reassembly! You can also paint “wooden” furniture that’s actually laminate — just give it a very light sanding first.)

5. Ceiling

Somewhat of an unexpected option, painting the ceiling can be a simultaneously subtle and dramatic way to change the appearance of an entire room. Typically, painting the ceiling (a color other than white) works best when the rest of the room is a neutral color or it’s a light color. For instance, if you have neutral light walls, painting your ceiling a more dramatic color would work well, or vice-versa. Some people will even opt to paint their ceiling the exact same color as their walls — which is en vogue right now. Check out this article for some inspiration.

(Tip: Don’t roll directly over your head when painting a ceiling. Try to position yourself in a way where you can roll straight, parallel lines toward and away from yourself. This makes the process easier, cleaner and safer for your back.)

6. Light Fixtures

Outdated fixtures can really clash with the vibe of a room. However, before you just opt to replace that light fixture that is the bane of your dining room, really take a look at it. How would it look with a more modern, matte color and maybe some new light bulbs? If it works, but just isn’t very pretty, a coat of paint may be just the answer you’ve been looking for. Same goes for outdoor light fixtures as well. Many homes are still sporting lanterns from the 70s and 80s that are borderline medieval-looking. But what would they look like if they were bright red or yellow? Or a clean, fresh white? Or a steely gray? Now, the trick is just finding the right shade of Rust-o-leum.

(Tip: Using cling/saran wrap or something like Glad’s Press’n Seal is an ingenious way to protect large areas of your light fixture, like glass panes or glass bulb covers, while you spray paint.)

7. Stairs

If you have wooden stairs, painting them can make such a bold statement! You can paint the risers in an ombre spectrum (like these), paint just the risers or just the treads, paint yourself a stair runner or deck out each riser with its own, bold pattern. Ready to tackle this project? Read more about how to paint a runner with this tutorial to get you started.

(Tip: You may need to paint every other step during this process so the stairs can still be used! Also, consider adding a traction paint additive to the stairs to keep them from being too slick.)

8. Paintings

This is somewhat of an unorthodox item to paint, but painting paintings can be a cool way to add some artwork to your walls without spending a fortune — especially if you’re trying to fill a wall with hanging art á la wall galleries like this one. This is look is super simple and quick to achieve, (although there’s really no dipping involved). Check out the directions for this look here.

(Tip: We recommend thrift store finds for this project! That way you’re not permanently altering an expensive piece of art. You can however, always give your painted painting a new frame if you tire of the “dipped” look.)

9. Tub & Tile

If you’re living in an older home then, chances are, you may know the pastel-tiled-bathroom look all too well. Which means you also know the struggles of trying to scrub some white out of that dingy grout too. This feat, we’ve deemed, is impossible. However, it is possible to rid yourself of your baby-pink, pea-green or powder-blue bathroom — with paint! This is a bit of an undertaking, but the results are well worth it. Here’s an excellent step-by-step guide on how to paint your bathroom (tub, tile and all) here.

(Tip: You’ll need to use epoxy paint for anything tub or tile related, which has some pretty heavy-duty fumes. This is a task better suited for Spring or Fall, so you can keep a window open while you paint.)

10. Porch

Porches are wonderful. There’s just nothing like being able to enjoy some nice weather on your porch, maybe admiring the yard you slaved over last season, sipping some tea or ice-cold lemonade. Breathe some life into a worn-down portico, or transform it into a new haven with a fresh coat of paint. Need some ideas? You can follow old, southern traditions, like painting your porch ceiling blue to paint off evil spirits. Or try out some non-traditional patterns on the floor of your porch using stencils. Or you can add pops of color by painting your railings, shutters or doors bright, while flanking them with a neutral backdrop. Check out this step-by-step guide (complete with shopping list) to get the job done!

(Tip: Some porches may contain lead paint, depending on when the house was built or the porch was added. If you know for a fact that the porch is older, you may need to get some paint chips tested. If there’s lead paint, professional removal of the existing paint may be required before you begin.


Top 5 Tips for Selling Your House in Wilmington NC

When it comes to selling your house, you’ll find there’s no shortage of people who have an opinion on the matter or “insider” tips — and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming! So, we’ve provided a simple, basic stepping stone to help you sell your Wilmington NC home to get you started. And, as always, we are here to answer any questions you may have to help you with your home-selling journey!

1. Throw “Don’t judge a book by its cover” out

Oftentimes, sellers become so focused on prepping the inside of their house, that they forget about the outside — and this is a big no-no! The outside of your home is a first impression for potential buyers, so make sure it looks presentable and inviting. Here are just a few quick fixes for updating your house’s exterior:

    • Make sure your yard is neat, tidy and trimmed. Wilmington NC homes can’t all be blessed with luscious green grass (thanks to our sandy soil) but you can make sure weeds and brush are removed, and maybe put out a couple of bright, potted plants.
    • Wash your house. The salty air and humidity can contribute to dingy-looking exteriors, so it might also be worth your time to invest in a pressure washing service to breathe some life into your home’s facade by making sure fences, decks and siding are free from grime.
    • Spring for a can of paint. Nobody’s saying you need to repaint your entire house, but you’d be amazed at how effective a fresh coat of paint on peeling shutters or an old front door can be! Add a new welcome mat and maybe a seasonal wreath or flag, and your home instantly looks more inviting.

2. Help the buyer “see themselves” inside

The majority of buyers need help visualizing themselves actually living in your home — even though you love the way you’ve decorated your home, now is the time to minimize personal touches for a more neutral setting. Think of it as setting up a “blank canvas” for buyers. Clear up clutter, make any minor repairs that are needed, tidy up kitchen cabinets and shelves, and opt for a few more cleaning sessions than usual. You can even hire a professional stager to go through your home and update the decor and make suggestions according to their very professional staging eye. Skeptical? Get a better idea of the benefit of home stagers in another article of ours here.

3. Find the right asking price

This is extremely important. Determining the best price to ask for your home can determine how much room you have to negotiate with when it comes time to consider your offers. Figuring out the price that’s right for your house depends on several different factors: the value of your property, how much you need from the sale of it (especially if you are planning on purchasing a new property), the budget of potential repair costs that buyers may ask for before purchasing and closing costs.

It’s good to get an idea of your ideal price on your own, but what’s the best way to determine the right price? Talk to a REALTOR®. Not only can they help you navigate the aforementioned factors, but they can also integrate their up-to-date knowledge of how the market is performing right now, and how that’s likely to affect your sales process. For Instance, at Intracoastal we keep a weather eye on the Wilmington NC housing market, as well as trends taking place nationwide. So not only can they help you settle on the best asking price for you home, but they can help you determine when the prime time to sell is.

4. Determine when to sell

As mentioned previously, this is another instance wherein having a REALTOR® can be beneficial. Now, most people can get a general idea of what their local housing market is doing with a few Google searches, but a REALTOR can provide you with in-depth information to guide you on when to get your house on the market, as well as how much to ask.

Now, for example, is an excellent time to sell in Wilmington NC; the demand for houses in certain price points and locations exceeds the supply, making this seller’s market with the potential for higher prices and possibly multiple offers. Real estate sales in the area are up over 17 percent compared to this same time last year, meaning buyers are active and the market is hot! Combine that with the fact that interest rates are remaining low (with a 30-year mortgage averaging interest rates as low as four percent), and you have more qualified buyers out there ready, and able, to move!

5. Be ready!

Looping back to the cleanliness and curb appeal of your home, make sure you are ready when a potential buyer actually wants to see your home. You may not always have a full 24 hours between showings, but you don’t want to miss the opportunity for a buyer to see your home. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Find a place for your pets. It’s best to arrange for them to spend the day (or just the time spent showing the house) at a neighbor’s house, at doggy daycare or with a pet boarding service (which is offered as a service by many Wilmington NC vets, so ask yours!).
    • Swap showing responsibilities. If you’re living with a spouse or significant other, determine set days wherein one is responsible for pulling the house together and the other is not. This can help lighten the load, and you can designate days based on your schedules.
    • Clean regularly. You may have to clean up more than you usually do, but this can make the showing process so much easier if your house is already ready for visitors. Before you leave your house, clean off bathroom and kitchen counters, make sure beds are made, clothes are in hampers or drawers where they belong and surfaces are uncluttered. When you get the chance, make sure to vacuum or sweep regularly, dust, and wipe down your counters and sinks.

Now is the time to sell! If you’re ready to get started and need a helping hand selling your Wilmington NC home, contact us today to find the agent for you!


Economic Impact of Every Home Sold [Infographic]

Keeping Current Matters recently released an Infographic showcasing data from NAR’s Economic Impact Study. The infographic focuses on the impact on a state’s economy each time a home is sold.

The national average is an economic impact of $57,500 and North Carolina is not far behind with an economic impact of $48,000. Once you know the number for your state, the next natural question becomes what are consumers spending their money on to get to that number of $48,000.

The infographic from Keeping Current Matters breaks it down and shows that the money typically goes to the following areas:

  • Home Construction
  • Real Estate Brokerage
  • Mortgage Lending
  • Title Insurance
  • Rental & Leasing
  • Home Appraisal
  • Moving Truck services
  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Remodeling
  • Restaurants
  • Sporting Games

As many who have been through the process of purchasing a new or secondary home, such a large purchase generally triggers a set of events and many of them are financially motivated and have a positive impact on the local, state, and national economy. Everything from the time you purchase your home and through the relationship you’ve established with your real estate agent to building a home and all of the costs associated with the actual purchase bring dollars into the local economy.

If you think back through the process that you went through to purchase a new home, it is very clear that there is time and money being invested in that purchase whether it be traveling to new locations to explore different areas, towns, cities and subdivisions, or going to restaurants and sporting games while you are giving your new location a trial run by fully immersing yourself in its culture.

If you are in the process of finding a new or secondary home, use our online search or take a moment and download our mobile app which will showcase all of the properties available as you are out and exploring potential home sites and neighborhoods within our communities. Our app is the next best thing to having an Intracoastal Realty agent right there beside you during the home buying process.

If you are looking for resources to learn more about the different aspects of our area, check out our area information page. We’ve provided details on areas from Pender County to New Hanover County to Brunswick County and all of the towns and communities in between. Once you’ve narrowed your search, it is simple to search for properties in some of the most popular areas as well as we have created easy search pages to show you everything available in those areas.

Here are some links to some popular destinations in the greater Wilmington area:

Bald Head Island | Brunswick County | Brunswick Forest | Carolina Beach | Figure Eight Island | Forest Hills | Hampstead | Kure Beach | Lake Waccamaw |Landfall | Leland | Magnolia Greens | New Hanover County | Oak Island | Ocean Isle | Pender County |Porter’s Neck | Shallotte | Southport | St James Plantation | Surf City | Topsail Beach | Waterford |Wilmington | Wrightsville Beach

If you’re searching for some great local resources, check out these tips we’ve compiled for home buyers:

Buyer Services
7 Tips to Buying A Home
Relocation Services including Relocation Assistance, Relocation Tips and our Relocation Team

If you’re in the process of moving into your new home or are looking for a list of preferred service providers for our area, check out our list that we have compiled to help with every step of the real estate process, whether buying, selling, renting or managing a property that you own for resrouces in the greater Wilmington, NC area.

Source: Keeping Current Matters September 2015