You Could Be Wrecking Your Home — And Not Know It (Yet)

First-time homeowners often make these 9 common — and avoidable — mistakes. Don’t be one of them.

You haven’t felt like this since you were a teenager. You have a crush on your new house. (You’re officially a home buyer — wait — owner!)

It’s soooooo great. You love its quirks. It’s your very first home, and you want to do everything right.

The feeling is fun, but also scary: You remember too well how badly you screwed up that first crush as a teenager (so embarrassing. Don’t ask).

Could you screw this up too?

No need to freak out. You can make this love a lasting one. For now, keep an eye out for these common no-nos that can result from good intentions.

#1 Using Bleach as a Cure-All

If bleach is your chicken soup for whatever ails your home, proceed with caution.

Bleach can:

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

In addition, bleach kills mold on non-porous surfaces, but can feed future mold growth on absorbent and porous materials, like grout. Yep, whitening grout with bleach creates a mold feeding ground. Whoops.

Better options? Water and vinegar are all you need for most cleaning jobs. If you’ve got a heftier mold or mildew issue, apply a commercial anti-fungal product.

And to clean your disposal, just dump cold water and ice cubes down the hatch.

#2 Training Ivy to Climb Your House

You’ve dreamed of living in an ivy-covered English cottage since childhood. Well, sorry for this, then:

“Anything that climbs on the house will damage it,” says Marianne Binetti, a speaker and author who leads garden tours around the world.

The horticulture expert made the mistake herself.

“It looked cool for a while, but it dug into the siding so even when we pulled it off, it left damage. And it climbed up the drain pipe and tore the gutter off the house,” she says.

By sending roots beneath siding and shingles, ivy enlarges tiny cracks in brick and wood, introducing entrances for moisture and insects, says Jay Markanich, a certified home inspector based in Bristow, Va.

#3 Relying on Chemical Drain Cleaners

Clogged sink! Again! Pay a plumber more than $100, or grab a $10 product at the store? You can totally handle this one yourself, right?

Possibly. But the most common active ingredients in these solutions, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, can erode your pipes.

Even the old baking-soda-and-vinegar medley can result in cracked pipes, as the reaction causes a build-up of pressure.

Old-fashioned “mechanical” methods — your plunger, a drain snake, or a handy $2 gadget called the Zip-It — are safer and more effective, according to “Consumer Reports.”

And if that fails, that call to the plumber doesn’t sound so bad compared to an eroded or busted pipe, no?

#4 Using Glass Cleaners on Mirrors

Your newfound house crush has you scrubbing and spritzing everything. Look at you being so lovingly domestic!

But be cautious with your mirrors. Spraying can lead to what’s ominously called “black edge” — created when a liquid seeps beneath the reflective backing and lifts it.

Instead, clean mirrors with a lint-free microfiber cloth, dampened with warm water — especially mirrors in expensive, installed items like vanities and closet doors.

Avoid the edges and dry immediately with a second cloth.

#5 Planting Trees ThisClose to Anything

Kind of like adopting an adorable, tiny piglet on a whim, you’ve got to remember how a baby tree is going to grow, and what it’s going to require at maturity.

You probably don’t want a 70-pound pig digging up your daisies, and you definitely don’t want a tree root pushing through your driveway, sidewalk or — so much worse! — your foundation.

And watch out for evergreens. If planted too close to the house, they cast too much shade, encouraging mold growth, Binetti says.

Position trees according to its maximum height, crown size, and root spread. For perspective, even a small tree reaching less than 30 feet tall needs at least 6 feet of clearance from any exterior wall, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

#6 Using the Wrong Caulk

As a dutiful homeowner, when you see failing caulk, you fix it. But the term “caulk” is as broad as the word “glue.”

There’s kitchen and bath caulk, concrete caulk, gutter caulk, mortar caulk — and that’s just the tip of the caulk-berg. And just like you’d never fix broken pottery with a glue stick, you don’t want to pick the wrong caulk either.

Markanich sees plenty of damage done when the wrong caulk is used. Such as using silicone caulk (totally great on non-porous surfaces like bathtubs) on concrete or brick or other porous surfaces. It won’t adhere, and moisture can seep in, compromising the bond and the structure.

Before heading to the store, check an online buying guide to find the right match for the project you’re doing. Odds are there’s a specific caulk just for it.

#7 Over-Sealing Countertops

Take care of your countertop, but don’t smother the darn thing.

Applying sealant too frequently can create a cloudy or streaky appearance on surfaces like natural stone, concrete, butcher block, and glass, which typically only require occasional resealing to resist stains. (Quartz, laminates, and solid surfaces like Corian are best left sans-sealer.)

How to know it’s time to reseal? Drip some water on a high-use area of the countertop. If the water doesn’t remain beaded after 15 minutes, consider resealing.

But always defer to your manufacturer’s recommendations. Different materials can have different needs.

#8 Over-Mulching

Nothing feels closer to giving your home a hug than being elbow deep in a landscaping project. But when it comes to mulch (which is so great, for so many reasons), it turns out elbow deep is a little too much love.

A layer thicker than 3 inches can suffocate plants and prevent water from reaching roots, so spread thoughtfully.

#9 Piling Firewood Next to Your Exterior Wall

Your fireplace is the highlight of your home. You love it. That’s why you keep your firewood right outside the back door, for easy access.

Oops. Storing firewood against your home’s exterior walls is akin to opening a B&B for termites.

In fact, “anything that creates a dark, climate-controlled area near the house will invite termites” and other pests into your home, Markanich says.

In one of the worst termite cases he’s seen, he found an enormous termite colony on an exterior wall in a bathroom, which got its foothold in a pile of bricks outside.

Twenty feet is a safe distance from home for firewood — and still not too far to go to fuel your awesome fireplace.

Home Maintenance for People with Better Things to Do

Owning your own home shouldn’t mean an endless list of chores.

Weekends are meant for coaching a youth soccer team to victory, chopping your way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” or training for a 5K to help save the pandas — not working your way through a tedious, 30-item maintenance checklist. But then, taking care of the home you love is important, too.

So how do you have your fun and keep a well-maintained home?

It’s simple: Just be mindful of your home. You don’t need a rigid maintenance list. (They work best for Type A people anyway.) Instead, train your senses to warn you of these problems, and then act ASAP:

Your Dryer Seems Hotter Than Usual

If your clothes and your dryer are super, super hot or, conversely, your dryer is taking longer to dry, you could have a clogged lint vent, a leading cause of house fires. “Sometimes the dryer connection will wiggle loose going to the outside, causing all sorts of issues with lint,” says Jeff Devlin, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Stone House Revival and “I Hate My Bath.” Heat and packed lint make the perfect recipe for fire. To defuse that combination:

  • Pull out the dryer connection — this is the tube or pipe that connects the dryer to the window vent.
  • Suck out all the lint from the pipe and pipe connection with a vacuum attachment.
  • Re-attach, making sure it’s not loose or bent.

You can also hire a pro to do it.

You Smell Something Musty

Your nose knows what’s normal in your home. “If you go into a room and it smells musty, there’s something going on,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When you smell that mildew-y smell, you know you’ve got a problem, he says. What kind of problem? Read on.

You Can See Mold or Mildew

Mold and mildew are the banners for moisture, your home’s No. 1 enemy. If you see them, you know moisture has broken through your home’s defenses and is bringing reinforcements. Find out where the water source is and eradicate it ASAP. Moisture is like cancer to a home. If you don’t catch it early, it will eat away at your home’s very structure, causing major damage to its foundation, walls, floors, and ceilings.

You Spot a Water Stain

You get it now. Water = bad. So even a faint water stain should light a fire under you. Zero in on the source before moisture can settle into your home’s bones. A water stain on the ceiling could signal a leak in your roof, or if it’s under a bathroom it could be a pipe that’s leaking. Stain under a window? Your window may need caulking.

Your Drain Is Really Slow (and It Gurgles)

Showering in water up to your ankles defeats the purpose. “A clean drain is a healthy drain,” says Devlin. If your drain makes odd noises and takes foreeeeeeever, you could be at risk of a sewer backup, which is not only a moisture issue, but one that ranks high on the stinky scale. If you’re lucky, it could be a simple clog, but either way it might be a good idea to put your plumber’s number in your cellphone’s favorites list.

You Hear Something That’s Alive

The pitter-patter of tiny rodent footsteps is enough to send shivers down your spine — and can quickly multiply into a mini stampede. One couple found out the hard way.

“We found that a squirrel had taken up residence in the attic and was chewing through electrical wires,” says David Bowers. By the time he and his partner, Sharon Bowers, (BTW, they co-authored “The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop”) got around to calling a pro, an entire squirrel family (with more on the way!) had settled in to dine on those wires — a costly fix that was also a fire hazard.

If you hear unwanted visitors, evict them quickly, then block the entry they used. With squirrels, it might be an overgrown tree limb, which they use to jump onto your roof and then slip through a hole under roof flashing or rotting fascia, or an open window. For smaller pests, keep in mind they can come in through the tiniest of holes. (Mice can squeeze through a dime-sized opening.)

Your Gutters Create Waterfalls

You may love the smell and sound of rain, but when it’s cascading off your gutters in torrents instead of traveling neatly through them … well, remember those warnings about moisture? Cleaning the gutters is home maintenance 101 for good reason. “It can lead to exterior damage, as well as water damaging the foundations,” says Bowers. If you spot a gutter clog, clear it. You’ll be happier for it. It’s probably the best thing you can do to protect your home.

Originally posted with HouseLogic.

4 Ways to Avoid DIY Mistakes — From a DIYer Who’s Made Them All

DIY gone wrong is your worst nightmare. Sleep better with these tips to master DIY know-how.

New backsplash? You’ve done it. Upgrading a faucet? No problem. You’re a DIY master. But what about that electrical issue? Or fixing a leaky roof? Even though you (and your BFF, YouTube) have pulled off many DIY projects, you know there are projects you’ve no business trying on your own. But what about those projects that fall somewhere in between “I got this” and “I’m calling the pros”? How can you know if a project is really DIYable for you?

For Lucas Hall, finding that answer has been trial and error. As a “DIY landlord” for more than two years and founder of Landlordology, an online resource for landlords, he’s gutted three homes and renovated countless others.

“I’m just handy enough to be dangerous,” Hall says.

He’s suffered more than his fair share of DIY disasters, and with each, he’s learned a valuable lesson about his own limits, as well as how he can do better next time.

Think 10 Steps Ahead

When Hall updated a tiny kitchen in one of his rentals, he installed a brand-new, expensive fridge — and then built a peninsula countertop extension.

“We thought it was the greatest idea,” he says. But adding the peninsula narrowed the space in front of the refrigerator, making it impossible to remove without lifting it entirely up and over the extension. (Ever tried to lift a fridge?)

“I’m just praying the fridge doesn’t die on me, because I’m going to have to hire four or five burly guys to get it out,” Hall says. “Or just Sawzall the thing in half.”

DIY lesson: Measure once, measure twice, measure again, and think through every possible scenario before changing a room’s layout.

Don’t Go With the Cheapest Option

Speaking of kitchen appliances: Hall was looking for an island range hood, which can be extra-expensive because it needs to be attractive from all angles. Dismayed by the prices he found elsewhere online, he went to Amazon, where he found an $800 hood on sale for about $250.

“Of course, it was from a brand we hadn’t really heard of,” Hall says.

Less than a year after installation, the hood was on the fritz. Removing the appliance was a challenge. The electrical wiring needed to be redone, and the wall needed to be drywalled, requiring a professional contractor.

“It probably cost me three-fold to fix my mistake,” says Hall. “For any appliance that’s more complicated than plugging it in and rolling it into place, upgrade and buy something that’s not going to break on you within a year.”

DIY lesson: For any DIY project, the cheapest option, from materials to appliances, should raise a red flag.

For Specialty Work, Seek Specialty Advice

Hall is no electrician, but since he’d done some minor electrical work before, he figured the job of adding a dimmer switch would be no big deal.

“We hung a chandelier in the dining room, and figured you might want to dim this giant chandelier for a relaxing candlelit dinner,” says Hall. Because the space had switches at both entrances, he added a dimmer to both — the more the merrier, right?

Wrong.

“After four hours spent blowing circuits and lightbulbs and struggling to get this chandelier to dim correctly, we called the manufacturer,” Hall says. Spoiler alert: You just can’t have two dimmer switches for one circuit.

A dimmer works by modulating the amount of electricity flowing through the circuit; adding another causes chaos. A little research would’ve indicated the second dimmer switch was a no-no.

“It just flips out,” says Hall. “It doesn’t know how much dimming should be happening. The lights were flickering like a poltergeist.”

DIY lesson: No one blames you for not being a specialist, but any time you’re taking on a specialty project make sure to do your research first or consult a pro.

DIY When Help is Available (aka, NOT on a Holiday)

Holidays might be a great time to tackle minor DIY projects, but if you’re working on anything that could require a professional if things go south, consider waiting for a normal business day.

“I was trying to get a property ready to rent,” says Hall. “Time is money. It was the Fourth of July … and I was adding a new cabinet [in the bathroom].”

It sounds easy enough, but the unit was in a condo building with a centralized water system; there wasn’t a water shut-off valve for just that bathroom. Not wanting to shut down the water for the entire building on July Fourth, he decided to risk it.

And oh, what a risk it turned out to be. When trying to loosen a pipe, the whole thing broke off. It was rusted out. Water sprayed out so hard, it hit him in the chest. After rushing to the basement, he flipped every knob he found until the water shut-off.

“Luckily my property was on the first floor and the basement was a laundry room, because water was leaking through the floor, destroying drywall,” Hall says.

Being a holiday, the rest of the day was no less of a disaster. The condo association’s emergency line sent him a plumber who was angry to be missing his holiday events and drinking as he tried to fix the problem. Sloppy work resulted in a fire — in a building with no water.

“He runs to my fridge and starts grabbing anything liquid — milk, a bottle of Sprite, cans of beer,” Hall recalls. “He’s dumping water into the middle of the wall, punching holes in it, trying to find the fire.”

DIY lesson: Always do tricky DIY projects when you know a pro — a pro you trust — can help out in a hurry.

Originally posted with HouseLogic.

Big Brother, Or Maybe Just The Homeowner Is Watching You.

maxresdefaultBuyer 1 to Buyer 2 in the house, “Yes I know the house is 235,000 and I know that we are approved for only 218,000, but maybe we can get an extra 12 or 13,000 from our folks to get this home if you really want it.” Or, “This place is a real bargain at the price they are asking and I know if we get it for the asking price we would be happy, but why don’t we offer a much lower price to see how much they will come off?” Or, “We can get this house for 215,000 just make sure that our pre-approval doesn’t show any more than that.”

Do any of these sound familiar? As a real estate agent we hear these and more said by clients all the time. If you heard a recording of that as the seller would that possibly give you an advantage over the buyer? Sure it would.

Video surveillance cameras used to cost 100’s and even 1,000’s of dollars. Not anymore, You can find these cameras complete with audio for less than 200 dollars in any big box store that sells technology.

That being said, no matter what the price of the home is, you could be recorded during your showing. Also what you say could be on tape as well.

You may ask if this is an invasion of privacy? Possibly and possibly not. In the part of being a real estate agent showing a home, the homeowner should leave a notification that the home is on camera and audio. Many don’t and that can be considered an invasion, but will be hard to prove in court unless the recording included information that gave the owner an unfair advantage during the negotiation of the home for purchase.

Buyers should consult your agent about the home, take notes while going through the homes and at the end of the tour decide where to meet to discuss all of the points that are for and against the property(s).

Using a professional Realtor will help you not have this happen to you.

For more information about purchasing a home, click here.

Search All Homes That Are Listed. 

Making A Home Emergency Kit – Real Estate

dd97ac19058afbbf1981bccc587aa120555f45e0When a disaster strikes your areas, it is better to be prepared and assemble essential supplies for a home emergency kit. Sometimes, this may seem like a waste of money. But when disasters happen beyond your control, it can change your perspective.

Stock all items in a suitcase or easy-to-carry bag that is readily accessible during any time of the day. Brief all of your family members of it’s location and how to handle the kit.

Here are are some guidelines for a basic “grab and go” kit:

Water
For drinking and sanitation, provide one gallon per person in you family for 3 days. Consider doubling the amount if you live in a very hot climate, or have young kids. Bottled water is advised. Tap water can also be stored in food-grade containers or two-liter soda bottles that have been sanitized. If you have pets, give assign your pets portions too.

Food
Again, provide a three-day supply of non-perishables. Don’t forget a can opener unless you’re handy with a spoon. Pack protein, fruit, and vegetables, but prepare them in a way that you actually like. It is not bad to include cereal bars, trail mix, and candy bars. Store food in the best way possible, in a pest-proof plastic or metal tubs and keep it in a cool, dry place.

Flashlights and extra batteries
Flashlights are better than candles. Candles are recommended to avoid house fires. If you have chargeable lamps, remember to charge first before storing.

First-aid supplies
This will be your best friend in case of accidents. Gather Two pairs of sterile gloves, adhesive bandages and sterile dressings, soap or other cleanser, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, burn ointment, eye wash, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, petroleum jelly, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, and stomach analgesics such as Tums or Pepto-Bismol, and a laxative.

Sanitation and hygiene supplies
Sanitation is a way to avoid sickness. Remember that moist towelettes are sealed in packets.  Also be ready with paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, and plastic ties. You might also want travel-size shampoo, toothpaste/toothbrush, and deodorant.

Radio or TV
Get updates; keep a portable, battery- or crank-operated radio or television and extra batteries to remain connected in case the power goes out.

Helpful extras:Duct tape, dust masks, a signal whistle, toys for kids. Have at least $100 for emergency cash

Tailor a emergency preparedness kit to your needs
You may not need extra blankets in case drastic changes in weather occurs.

Update your emergency preparedness kit regularly
Replace everything that needs to be changed. You definitely don’t want your emergency kit to grow some molds.

Buy a pre-made kit
As an alternative to making your own kit, you canbuy a stocked kitfrom the American Red Cross ($50-$100).

To find out more about real estate in Louisville and the surrounding areas, click here.

Search All Homes That Are Listed. 

Being Financially Ready When Buying A Home – Real Estate

7b7166d729e728fe8052d5001faa2a7a90daa785Home ownership today is easily attainable than most people know. Most reasons for owning a home is quite similar to every person, simply to have something of your own.

Home ownership makes sense for many Americans for a lot of reasons mostly of social and family reasons. Purchasing a home also makes sense financially. In the long run, it benefits the home owner more than expected.

Here are 5 financial benefits of home ownership

1.) Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available.
“Few households are interested in borrowing money to buy stocks and bonds and few lenders are willing to lend them the money. As a result, homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”

2.) You’re paying for housing whether you own or rent.
“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.”

3.) Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”.
“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”

4.) There are substantial tax benefits to owning.
“Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income…On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”

5.) Owning is a hedge against inflation.
“Housing costs and rents have tended over most time periods to go up at or higher than the rate of inflation, making owning an attractive proposition.”

To find out more about real estate in Louisville and the surrounding areas, click here.

Search All Homes That Are Listed. 

How To Own A Home Again After Foreclosure

  1. It is never easy to get another mortgage after a foreclosure. Be patient, given time, proper discipline, and willingness, you can own a home again. Follow this guide to purchase a home again:
    1. Don’t jump on jobs after foreclosure, stick with just one
    If your job is not stable maybe this is the reason you lost your home in the first place. The first step to own a home again is find a stable job and hold on to that. Lenders require stable employment before giving you another loan after a foreclosure. Make it work.
    2. Rebuild yourself after foreclosure
    Create a safety net. Consider having three to six months of living expenses in a liquid account. Truth is, after a foreclosure, six is a minimum to show stability and that you’re able to pay your bills and mortgage. This could also prove that you can sustain yourself for an extended period if you lose your job.
    3. Build a better credit score after foreclosure
    Again, this is not easy. The timeframe itself could consume you. After foreclosure, your credit score dropped approximately by 150 points. Raise it back up with perseverance.
    Pay bills on time and keep your credit card balances below maximum levels. Details on the foreclosure will stay on your credit report for seven years, but if you prove your money management skills have matured, it will become less of a red mark as years go by.
    4. Decrease your waiting time for a mortgage after foreclosure
    Usually, you have to wait seven years after a foreclosure before you can apply for a loan again.
    However, you might wait only three years if you can show extenuating circumstances for your foreclosure, which are defined as “events that are beyond the borrower’s control that result in a sudden, significant, and prolonged reduction in income or a catastrophic increase in financial obligations.” These include:
    Losing a job
    Getting divorced
    Having unexpected medical expenses
    Another alternative if waiting isn’t your thing is obtaining a seller financing, essentially bypassing the traditional mortgage. If both parties are amenable, you can enter into a lease with an option to buy, or take a mortgage directly from the seller. You’ll most likely have to prove a source of funds, but if you’ve turned around your financial situation quickly after your foreclosure, it’s worth a shot to deal directly with the seller.
  2. Keep in mind that sellers may be motivated to agree to this if they need to sell and the potential buyers they’ve met with can’t obtain a conventional mortgage—perhaps because they’ve been through foreclosures, too.
    5. Be honest about your foreclosure
    When getting a new mortgage, don’t lie about your foreclosure. On the contrary, be proactive and reveal the steps you’ve taken to remedy the problems that led to your foreclosure.

If you stay disciplined and positive, the American dream—obtaining a mortgage and owning a home of your own—can, indeed, be yours again. Even after foreclosure.

To find out more about real estate in Louisville and the surrounding areas, click here.

Search All Homes That Are Listed.