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6 Ways to Banish Mildew Smells in the Bathroom

by Amy McLeod Group


Have you ever walked into your bathroom and thought: My God! What is that smell?  Mildew could be to blame for transforming your special oasis into stink central. Don't panic, we're here to help.

Mildew, or mold in its early stage, tends to be found in wet, moisture-prone areas. It looks grayish-white but can turn brown over time. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, mildew can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, insulation, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, fabric, plants, and other organic materials that are commonly found in bathrooms. And once the fungus makes its way onto your precious towels and tiles, you need to get serious about eradicating it.

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You can get rid of that mildew misery and restore your bathroom to its former lavender-scented glory in no time.

“Minor mold issues can usually be addressed by most homeowners with a little cleanup,” says Gregory Frazier, with Art Plumbing, AC & Electric, in Coral Springs, FL.

Ready to scrub away that stale stink? Here's how.

1. Wash it

The first step to battling the mildew stench is to wash everything. This means washing those hand-towels that have been hanging in the bathroom forever, the musty bathroom rugs, and the stale window curtains. When laundering, experts suggest adding one cup of white vinegar to wash the load. Frequently wash your nonslip mats, too. And, toss that vinyl shower curtain and replace it with a washable cotton, hemp, or nylon shower curtain.

“Bleach can be used to clean the mildew source and stop it from growing," says Gina Perry, senior merchant of cleaning at The Home Depot in Atlanta.

For items that can withstand bleach, FEMA recommends using a 10% solution or 1.25 to 1.5 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. The bleach/water solution can also be used to wipe down shower doors, cabinets, and walls, and to mop hard floors around bathtubs and toilets.

2. Address any water issues

Water can be the big culprit behind that nasty smell. “You can get a mildew smell if you have a slow drain leak under a sink or around a drain,” says Frazier. He says the same thing can happen with toilets if a wax ring seal, which seals the toilet to the flange, has a slight leak that is allowing small amounts of water to seep out under the toilet.

“The fix is to repair the leak promptly and wipe the area that got wet down with a strong, bleach-based cleaner,” Frazier says.

Bathtubs can also occasionally get a mildew smell if they're not properly sealed and if small amounts of water get between the wall and the tub. A bleaching solution can scrub away mildew on top of caulk, but if it’s underneath, it will need to be completely removed and properly recaulked.

3. Let the bathroom breathe

Dark, damp, warm rooms make for a happy home for mildew to thrive. To remedy this, open the windows and let fresh air in. If you don't have a window in the bathroom, keep the bathroom door cracked open when showering. If you need more privacy and prefer to shower with the door closed (no judgment!), install a ceiling fan or consider running an electric fan to keep air moving. Open your cabinets so they can get fresh air, too.

“I find one of the biggest things homeowners can do to combat mildew smells in bathrooms is to ensure they have a properly functioning, properly sized exhaust fan,” says Frazier.

4. Use an air purifier

Mildew reeks, but it can also make people with allergies or asthma sick or irritate their eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

Sara Alsén, chief purpose officer for Sweden-based Blueair, a leader in air-cleaning solutions, says placing a high-performing air purifier in the bathroom will have a twofold effect: It will remove the unhealthy mold and bacteria in the air and make the smell disappear.

“An air purifier with a high airflow will also increase the air circulation in the bathroom and as such, help fight the mold growth,” she says.

5. Apply a fresh coat of paint

There’s nothing a new paint job can’t cure, right? Try using mold- and mildew-resistant paint.

Rick Watson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams, says paints with odor-eliminating technology can help inhibit the growth of mold and mildew and reduce common indoor odors, so rooms stay fresher longer.

But make sure to treat the mildew before painting. Bathrooms are splash-prone areas, so lower parts of the walls and corners and edges near the ceiling are typical breeding areas for mildew.

After cleaning, brush a coat of mildew-resistant primer on ceiling and walls to prevent peeling in high-moisture areas. Let the coat of primer dry, then apply the first coat of mildew-resistant paint and say goodbye to that mildew smell.

6. Try an odor eliminator

Odor-absorbing items can help. Charcoal briquettes, an open box of baking soda, or a small pouch of kitty litter can make the bathroom smell fresher by absorbing the odor and the moisture in the air. However, make sure to replace them every month or so. Natural air fresheners, like essential oils or citrus peels, can also cut the stench.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Anayat Durrani 


When you decide to sell a house that desperately needs updating, you basically have two choices: Sell it as is—in its current condition without improvements—or make upgrades in the hope of reaping bigger bucks down the line.

While renovating your property will inevitably sell your home faster and for more money, listing your property as is has its perks, too—including not having to fork over lots of cash for major improvements you won't get to enjoy, and not dealing with the headaches of those improvements.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming, but we're here to break it down for you. If want to unload your property pronto and for maximum cash, here are some things to keep in mind.

Out of house often means out of mind

If you've already purchased another home and have one foot dangling out the door, things can get challenging. Between work and family obligations—plus dreaming about decorating your soon-to-be new home—chances are you won’t have the time or energy to reimagine your old one.

If you're set on upgrading your old home to get top dollar, you'll want to find the right professional to guide you through the process, says Eric Stewart, a Realtor® with Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Realtors.

“Unless you find a real estate agent whose experience you can trust, someone who has a very good track record preparing homes and understands how to do the work, you’re often better off to sell the property as is, so that you don't get involved in chasing the market,” Stewart says.

Assess the potential workload, time, and money it'll take to upgrade

Get an expert opinion—or better yet, several opinions—regarding how much updating and repair work would be required to boost the home’s bottom line: Does the place just need a good scrub, or an entirely new kitchen and three new bathrooms? And more importantly, do you have the cash, the time, and the patience to see the project through?

“It’s all about whether people want to deal with renovations or not,” says Paul Morse, a licensed contractor and owner of Paul’s Carpentry Workshop in Stoneham, MA.

Morse, who's worked for several clients who wanted to spruce up a neglected home prior to listing it, suggests that sellers should identify three projects that need doing, and then consult their agent to crunch the numbers.

“Sellers should ask what their return would be if they fixed the bathroom and kitchen, for example, versus what the investment would be," he says. "Then, get three prices from three qualified local contractors.”

And don't forget to factor in the cost of owning the home during major renovations. Depending on how extensive your revamp is, you might need to find temporary housing while your property is being gutted, so add that fee to your bottom line.

Take your location—and the market—into account

If your home sits on a great lot in a sought-after loascation, buyers—especially investors—might line up in droves. When the land is more valuable than the structure sitting on it, you might be better off selling the property as is, Stewart says—there’s little point revamping a house that will probably be torn down as soon as the ink on the purchase agreement is dry.

Stewart recalls a recent listing priced at $650,000 in a hot market.

“We sold it as is for $655,000, and the seller was able to leave everything they didn't want in the house, lock the door, and say goodbye, which provided tremendous freedom for them," he says. "The work they would have had to do would never have got them the return they got by doing nothing.”

‘As is’ doesn’t mean ‘falling down’

Of course, doing some inexpensive repairs often helps sell your home faster, notes Lynn Pineda, a Realtor with eXp Realty in Southeast Florida.

“Even when buyers say, ‘I'm going to sell my home as is,’ that doesn't mean you have to present your home in shoddy light to a buyer; you still need to prepare it and make it look good,” she says. “Otherwise, you will sell for less money, or the house will sit on the market and you’ll lose money in the long run.”

If you just want to do the bare minimum and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars, Morse suggests painting the entire home and resanding hardwood floors, if there are any. These upgrades would take about a month to do, but will make a huge difference in listing photos.

Selling your home as is won’t stop buyers from trying to negotiate

A house that hasn't been updated in years—or even decades—often attracts builders or investors looking to gut or tear everything down and construct a new home. These "fix and flip" buyers always want to maximize their profit, Stewart says, and might try to haggle down the purchase price.

Find a real estate professional who can help you maximize your profits; look for one who's had considerable success selling homes like yours, in your specific area of town. Some good questions to ask include how long comparable properties have stayed on the market before selling, what kinds of houses are selling fast and what condition they’re in, and which neighborhoods are most desirable.

Together, you can weigh what your home's worth—and negotiate a better bottom line.

Looking to sell your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network and get info on your home's value971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Wendy Helfenbaum 

Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home's value.

 


What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you'll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home's sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here's how to figure out if you're going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there's traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they're the ones who will take the buyer's money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller's mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn't just go straight into a seller's pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller's real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer's agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer's agent who helped secure the deal.The typical commission for a seller's agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

If for some reason there isn't enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you'll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It's a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they'll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn't responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you're facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It's yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there's money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you're expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Jeanne Sager 

Home Staging in a Hurry: Hacks to Spruce Up a Space in 5 Minutes

by Amy McLeod Group


Selling your home
 these days takes more than just finding an agent and listing it. You’ve got to really sell it. That means impressing buyers the second they walk in the door.

One of the best ways to do this? Home staging, where your home's decor undergoes a makeover in order to entice home buyers to swoon and make an offer.

“The statistics don’t lie,” says Samantha Rose Frith of Warburg Realty in New York City. “A well-staged house will sell more quickly and draw a higher sales price.”

But who has time for that? Hiring a pro is pricey (here's more on how much home staging costs). Plus a pro can't do all of the work; you’ll still need to do some sprucing up if you have an unexpected showing.

So if the clock is ticking, here are home staging tips and tricks that you can pull off fast, depending on how much time you have—from an hour to just 5 minutes.

Home staging in 5 minutes

  • Put down the toilet seats: “Yes, that makes a difference,” says Jennifer Okhovat, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent in Santa Clarita, CA, also recommends hiding the plunger and toilet brush, and any reading material you may have accumulated in your bathroom. “A bathroom is a bathroom, not a library,” says Hampson. Amen.
  • Open the blinds: Let in as much natural light as possible—unless you have a spectacularly bad view, in which case, keep those blinds closed.
  • Take out the trash and recycling: You may get that one potential buyer who will look everywhere.

Home staging in 15 minutes

  • Clear your countertops: “The less clutter on countertops, the better,” says Okhovat. A nice bowl of fruit can spruce things up, but if you have several small appliances and all of your spices out, take a few minutes to stash them in your cupboards or a storage bin.
  • Adjust the temperature: You don’t want buyers to rush through your house because it's too hot or too cold. You also want to show that your heating and cooling are working. The ideal temperature depends on your home and the season, but keeping it at around 70 degrees should ensure everyone who sees your home is comfortable.
  • Hide any piles of toys, clothes, and mail: “Remove the clothes from the stair steps, ensure the four piles of mail get reduced to one or tucked away entirely,” says Katie Coombs of Total Home Experience in Reno, NV. Janet Lorusso of JRL Interiors, in Boston, recommends keeping baskets handy in your living spaces for quick cleanup of toys and other clutter.

Home staging in 30 minutes

  • Remove personal items: Buyers like to view each home as a blank canvas, and that’s hard to do with pictures of someone else’s family dominating the space. “Family and vacation pics are great, but maybe the Disneyland throw blanket and the hanging, glued-together puzzle could go in the closet for a bit,” says Coombs. Keep your privacy in mind as well as you clear items. You may want to stash items with your family member’s full names on display, for example.
  • Clean, clean, clean: Vacuum, sweep, and mop as often as you can stand. “Check mirrors for spatters," says Lorusso. Bonus: "The smell of cleaning products will make your house feel clean, even if it isn’t."
  • Add or adjust your lighting: “Use torch lamps if a room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, says Joel Moss of Warburg Realty in New York City. “We also find that replacing LED bulbs with bulbs that give it a warmer feel has a beneficial effect on buyer interest.”
  • Hang a mirror: “Hang a wall mirror strategically to add visual interest and make the space look larger,” says Amber Harris of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, DC, and interior decorator with At Home DC.

Home staging in an hour

  • Rearrange the living room furniture: Instead of arranging your living room furniture based on the best view of the TV, “arrange furniture to face focal points in the room, like a large window with a view or a fireplace,” says Anne Clancy, a Re/Max real estate agent in Cottage Grove, MN.
  • Make small repairs: “That leaky faucet or moldy caulk might not seem like a big deal if you lived there for the last 10 years, but they will almost always factor into a lower offer,” says Frith. If there’s a small project you’ve been putting off, like fixing a hinge on a cabinet door, now’s the time to take care of it.
  • Spruce up walls, outdated countertops, dressers, and more with contact paper: “It’s not just for lining shelves anymore,” says Michael Nelson, chief operating officer of the Pyramid Project, a property management firm in Kissimmee, FL. “We’ve used it on everything from walls to countertops. It holds up well, looks great, and when you want a change, it removes with ease and no damage to the surface.”

Looking to sell your home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Melinda Sineriz 


Planning to remodel your bathroom into the oasis of your dreams? Then you'd better get a handle on your plumbing. Even if you don't see the pipes connected to your sink or shower, understanding how they work is essential if you want your bathroom renovation to turn out all right (and within budget).

That's why, in the latest installment of our "Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide," we break down everything you need to know about plumbing into bite-size pieces. Read on for some surprises!

1. Bathroom remodel 101: Types of pipes

In the past, most bathroom plumbing pipes were made of cast iron or galvanized metal. However, these pipes won't work with many of the newfangled, water-saving setups like, say, low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets will save about 17,000 gallons of water yearly. (Note: Flushing a standard toilet uses about 38% of an average household’s water.) The catch is, they require PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipes. But updating to these kinds of pipes is both easy and affordable.

"These new types of pipes are flexible—and thus very simple and inexpensive to install," says Cassidy Melhorn, a pipe design engineer and founder of Knoxville's Volhomes.

You also need to figure out if you prefer hidden or exposed plumbing when you're looking to buy your sink, tub, or toilet.

"Exposed plumbing is the more traditional look, while hidden plumbing is much more minimalist and cleaner-looking," says Ryan Holden, director of Progressive Heating & Air, an HVAC and plumbing company in San Diego.

If you have a lot of visible plumbing, you might want to use copper pipes instead of PVC or PEX, because copper is more appealing aesthetically. Just keep in mind that it's more expensive and difficult to work with, since sawing and fitting these pipes into place will take more work than cutting soft, flexible PEX/PVC.

Regardless of the material, consider insulating these pipes, which can help reduce the amount of heat lost as your water travels from the heater to the faucet.

2. Plumbing can affect a bathroom's layout

The existing water and drain lines in your bathroom usually dictate the location of fixtures in your renovation. You can move pipes and drains—although it'll cost you—but some relocations might be impossible.

For example, you may be dreaming about a large tub right next to the bathroom window.

"But if the piping won't allow for this configuration, then you will need to rethink the entire layout," says Holden. This all comes down to drain line access. While it's usually feasible to relocate a large fixture, the supporting joists beneath the bathroom floor usually can't be cut in order to install new drains.

Bottom line: Before you buy any fixture that connects to a pipe, sit down with your contractor (or a plumber) and have a conversation about what's feasible.

3. Watch out for water pressure

The good news is that there's something called the National Pipe Thread, which is a U.S. standard size for a fitting that connects rigid pipes such as shower heads to the shower arm pipe in your shower. That means if you're replacing a shower head, most fixtures out there will fit the existing pipe.

The bad news? That new shower head may not work with your existing water pressure. New shower heads are now required to restrict water flow and deliver less than 2.5 gallons per minute. So if you have low water pressure and add a new water-saving shower head, you may be soaping up under a trickle. To avoid this travesty, have your home's water pressure checked before you buy your accessories.

"Each home will have a different water pressure, but the average is usually around 45 to 80 pounds per square inch," says Holden. "It's the little things like this that people often overlook, and end up buying all their accessories only to find they won't work with existing plumbing."

Also keep in mind that there are things you can do to adjust your water pressure. If your water pressure is too low, it's often due to clogged pipes you can unclog—or if not, you can also buy a water pressure booster. Or if your pressure is too high, you can install a pressure-reducing valve.

4. Take a look at your water heater

A remodel may also call for a water heater replacement—heaters generally last about 10 years—or even an upgrade to a tankless water heater. Also called “demand-type water heaters,” these devices are about the size of a small suitcase and deliver endless warm water only when you need it. Conventional water heaters always have a tank of hot water whether you need it or not, which drives up energy costs. Just note that on-demand heaters cost up to three times more than conventional heaters to buy and install. That works out to about $800 to $3,000 for the unit, and installation can add an additional $1,000 to $3,000.

5. Plumbing for luxe extras

Renovating is a good time to think about heating, as your walls and floors will often need to be opened anyway.

"Consider installing underfloor heating," says Holden. Known as radiant heat, this method uses hot water to carry heat through a network of tubing beneath the floor.

"You may wish to have a hydronic heated towel rack installed, too," he adds.

6. Make sure to shut off your water first!

One last no-brainer for you rookie DIYers out there: Whether you're swapping out your sink, shower, toilet, or some other water-spouting device, you have to shut off your water first—or else!

You can generally just shut off the water at the fixtures you are swapping out. Sink valves are typically under it, and the toilet valve is generally where the plumbing meets the wall. Some bath and showers have an access panel on the reverse side of the wall, which may house shut-off valves. There's also a main shut-off inside the house, usually in the basement.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 


Looking to make your outdoor area more livable? Consider adding a hardscape feature to complement your plants and flowers. A decked-out backyard can give a big boost to your property's value, and hardscaping can be a central part of this. So what is hardscaping and how much should you budget to make it into a reality for your home? Read on.

What is hardscaping?

Your home’s outdoor spaces consist of hardscapes and softscapes.

“While softscapes are your plants and living elements, hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping—like a paver patio, stone wall, or a gazebo,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, which makes residential and commercial products.

Hardscaping can increase the functionality of your outdoor space and can be designed to match your preferred style: traditional, modern, rustic, you name it.

“Using materials such as wood, stone, metal, and concrete, hardscapes can also add physical boundaries and dimension to your yard," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Types of hardscaping

An outdoor kitchen is an increasingly popular type of hardscaping.
Belgard

With a nearly endless list of hardscaping features available, we asked our experts to highlight some of the most popular projects among homeowners.

Many people prefer patios and decks since they can expand a home’s living space, Henriksen says. “Fire features such as fireplaces or fire pits are also among the most common trends in outdoor living as they offer a place to gather and socialize.”

“Garden walls, planting beds, large boulders, stone edging, accent stones, pillars or columns, seat walls, and stepping stones are examples of in-demand features,” says Al Ferrante, owner of Century Building Materials, in Lindenhurst, NY.

In fact, you may even have a hardscape on your property and not even know it! Ferrante says the concrete or stone steps around your doorway could be considered hardscape.

Water hardscape features

Homeowners also like water hardscape features because they offer several advantages.

“In addition to being aesthetically appealing, they are functional for masking traffic noises and for providing additional privacy to your own space,” says Raboine. The sound of running water is also relaxing for most folks.

Some examples of water hardscape features are “waterfalls, fountains, ponds, stream bed,” Ferrante says. These can range from a simple accent to an elaborate focal point.

“The combination of dry and water hardscapes in a yard can improve the livability and beauty, such as adding the classic pairing of a pool and patio,” Henriksen explains.

Hardscaping trends

Photo by Ro | Rockett Design

If you're looking to stay on the cutting edge of design—or are considering selling your home in the near future—consider these hot hardscaping trends.

  • Mix and match: “Mixing materials, textures, and colors in a well-designed space can create eye-popping focal points and designs,” say Raboine. For example, use a different color hardscape for your patio border. This helps define the space.
  • Sleek and modern: Modern, linear designs are increasing in popularity. “Porcelain pavers, for example, are ideal for a contemporary design and are incredibly durable, frost-resistant, skid-resistant, stain-resistant, and easy to clean,” Raboine says.
  • Multipurpose walls: Retaining walls can also be used as benches for seating. Or you can build raised planters or garden beds into the walls to grow herbs and vegetables.

Approximate costs

As with any type of home improvement project, costs vary depending on the size and complexity of the hardscaping, as well as the materials used.

As a general rule, Henricksen says, you can expect to pay $7 to $22 per square foot for hardscaping.

“For example, the installation of a 10-foot flagstone patio with a natural stone gas-burner fire feature will generally cost around $6,000,” she says.

Raboine estimates the following costs for other hardscaping projects:

  • Paving a patio: $900 to $1,000
  • Retaining wall: $3,000 to $8,000
  • Patio/eating area: $1,000 to $2,000
  • Fire pit: $300 to $1,500
  • Pool deck: $3,000 to $12,000
  • Outdoor kitchen: $4,000 to $20,000

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By and photo credit: Realtor.com, Terri Williams

Should You Do Home Upgrades Now ... or Right Before You Sell?

by Amy McLeod Group


Home sellers are often told to make upgrades to their house before they sell ... but when is the best time to get those home improvements underway, in terms of scoring the best ROI?

It's a tough balance to strike. After all, the sooner you remodel your kitchen or retile the bathroom, the more you'll get to enjoy it all yourself. But if you make those improvements too long before you sell, you risk them looking run-down and outdated by the time you want to market your home. So, when's the right time to give the green light?

If you're agonizing over such questions, we can end your misery now—in a good way! Here’s how far in advance of listing your home you should do certain home improvements, so they'll still look fresh enough to fetch top dollar.

7 to 10 years out

Well, you’re quite a planner, aren’t you? That’s cool … we’ll play the long game with you. Here are upgrades you can safely undertake when you still have significant time until your sale.

1. Redo your landscaping

This is truly one of the few housing projects that gets better with age, since shrubs and trees only improve as they mature. And, bonus: It's likely that it will never look dated, says Lisa Shiroff of Leafy Green Landscaping in Buena, NJ. However, she cautions, think twice about unique or difficult-to-maintain items if you are concerned with resale value—we’re talking elements like a meditation nook, bocce ball court, or koi pond.

“Most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, or finances to maintain those areas, so keep your additions relatively mainstream and user-friendly,” Shiroff says.

2. Update the garage door

Believe it or not, updating your garage door is the top upgrade you can make in terms of return on investment.

“Curb appeal is key when you’re getting ready to sell your home, and garage doors can dramatically improve the look of your home,” says Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans in Laguna Hills, CA. Since garage doors can last for up to 40 years, this is an update you can enjoy right now, without worrying about taking a depreciation hit.

3. Replace your roof

If your roof is more than 20 years old and you plan on selling, you may want to replace it, suggests Taylor Willson, owner of Willson Home Inspection Inc. in Tampa, FL. For one thing, you may receive immediate savings from your insurance company, he says, and beyond that, “A newer roof is a great selling point.” Choose a hardy material, like concrete tiles or asphalt shingles, that have a long useful life.

4. Keep up on repairs

Repairs should have a permanent spot on your “to do” list. If it’s broke, then, yes, please fix it.

“Don’t put off repairs while you wait for the optimum time,” says Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist at Fixr.com. “They help your home retain value and can keep a small problem from becoming exponentially bigger.”

5 years out

This is a good time to start thinking about big-ticket items that will affect your resale and that you won’t want to pay for all at once. Here are some to consider.

1. Replace major systems

We’re talking HVAC systems, plumbing … anything whose average life expectancy is relatively long, and where you want your listing to showcase that these key systems are less than five years old. Replacing them now allows you to enjoy the improved operation and potential energy savings, while avoiding a concession in the sale price when the time comes, Willson says.

2. Check on anything with a warranty

This is also a good time to do a check on any items that have a current warranty—such as windows and appliances—while they are still covered, suggests Frances Dawson, with Re/Max Executive at the Lake in Cornelius, NC.

3. Switch out your front door

Another important element of “curb appeal,” your front door can really make your house pop, says Edstrom, as well as potentially increase your energy efficiency. Front doors can last for decades, but they are also exposed to the elements, so this is a good time frame to allow you to enjoy the aesthetics and energy savings, without running the risk that it will look too weathered come sales time.

2 years out

Two years is nothing in a home’s history, so it’s time to really start getting serious. Here’s what to do to start prepping for a relatively imminent sale.

 1. Reno the kitchen or bathroom

This can be subjective, but you’re probably safe doing an overhaul in this time frame if you are hoping to get some personal enjoyment out of your updates. Miguélez suggests, however, that you pick your decor carefully to avoid being stuck with an upgrade that’s already dated.

"A ‘trend’ is something that’s predicted to last roughly 10 years, so your safest best is to find a look that’s been on the upswing for roughly two to three years," Miguélez explains. "That means it will look relevant for a while, rather than something that is already five years old and potentially nearing its expiration date.”

Dawson recommends seeking the opinion of a local real estate agent, who can steer you to cost-effective updates that will increase the value of your home without over-improving it. And, she says, beware of DIY.

“If you don't have extensive prior experience, hiring a professional is going to be cheaper in the long run, because the DIY look is unappealing to your potential buyer.”

2. Get to organizing

This is also a good time to start cleaning out storage areas, closets, cabinets, the garage, the attic—anyplace you have an accumulation of stuff, Dawson says. Your future self will thank you for getting this time-consuming project out of the way now.

3. Have a home inspection

Very few sellers do this, but it’s smart to have your home professionally inspected right about now, so you won’t run into any nasty surprises when selling time rolls around.

“It is always less expensive to repair items before you get into negotiations with a buyer,” Dawson points out.

1 year or less

It’s crunch time, and now is the time to attend to all the high-traffic areas, as well as make improvements that will freshen up your listing.

1. Redo flooring

Pets and kids can scratch up your floors quickly, so wait as long as you can before refinishing floors. Replace carpet, too, if it’s dingy, and especially if it has pet odors.

2. Roll on a fresh coat of paint

Walls get dinged up constantly, so painting right before putting your house on the market can really make it sparkle. It’s also a quick job that you can get done in a week or two.

3. Replace all your accessory items

These are things like bedding, throw pillows, chair cushions, patio furniture, shower curtains, plumbing fixtures, cabinet pulls—all the embellishments that provide the “lipstick” for the foundational elements.  Shop those sales and switch out everything you can, Dawson recommends.

“You want the house to shine like a new penny, not appear to be well-loved," she says.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Cathie Ericson


I don't know about you, but once the thermometer ticks past 70 degrees, a lightbulb goes off in my head: Is this the year, I ask myself, that I can finally build the outdoor space I deserve?

Of course I can! And so can you. With a little work, you'll soon be grilling in your outdoor kitchen or reading in a hammock on your sunny patio.

But don't drop the ball: There are some elements commonly forgotten during an outdoor renovation that can ruin it all. Go through this list before breaking ground, to ensure your backyard space is up to snuff. And get ready to enjoy the summer!

1. Proper lighting


Photo by Native Son Design Studio 

You'd think being able to see at night would be an important patio requirement, but you'd be surprised how often lighting systems are skipped.

"Many homeowners spend time and money creating an outdoor space but forget about this key element," says Joe Raboine, the director of residential hardscapes at Belgard.

Consider first how you intend to use the patio. If you're hoping guests might linger over long conversations, provide low lighting around your seating nooks. And if your backyard BBQ plans involve lots of late-night drinking games (because, why not?), illuminate the entire space with string lights.

2. Electricity

Nothing is worse than planning your perfect patio layout—complete with a keg cooler, botanical garden-worthy lighting, and a show-stopping Christmas display your neighbors will never top—only to realize you forgot one essential element: electricity.

"Be sure to install a few electrical outlets for supplemental holiday lighting or just working on a laptop," says architect and interior designer Leslie Saul.

And no, you can't just add one outlet and be done with it. Will you want speakers? A fridge? A TV? Make sure everything has juice.

3. The position of the sun

Photo by Prime Design Tasmania Pty Ltd 

You can't bask in the sun if there is no sun. Before constructing the patio of your dreams, pay close attention to the trajectory of that big ball in the sky.

"The location of the sun relative to an outdoor area is one of the most important elements to consider when designing an outdoor living space," says Shaun Gotterbarn, an architect with Alisberg Parker. "Understanding the sun’s path throughout the day and studying the shadows cast by trees and neighboring buildings allows you to make sure you have your seating area in the perfect place."

4. Outdoor storage


Photo by Harrison's Landscaping 

Once temperatures dip, it'll be time to store away all the things that made your outdoor space an enviable destination to begin with. But unless you factored in storage space from the jump, you might find yourself shoving patio cushions into your kids' closets and gardening tools into your pantry.

"Lots of water-resistant outdoor storage allows for a beautiful, clean outdoor space," says patio designer and blogger Eric Clark. "You need multiple easily accessible areas to store outdoor cushions and throw pillows and protect them from rain and mildew."

Or, build your storage into your patio design. If you're adding an outdoor kitchen, leave plenty of cabinet space for your outdoor must-haves, or construct custom cabinetry that blends seamlessly with your siding.

5. Drainage

Here's a shocking secret: Your patio is outside. Where it rains. And rain loves to wreak havoc.

"When rainwater pools on your foundation, you’ll find yourself not only dealing with a safety hazard, but also eventually, you’ll need to redo the entire groundwork," says Robert Himmaugh, manager of Acadian Windows & Siding.

Prevent damage by installing a gutter around your patio roof—if it has a roof, of course—and by paying attention to drainage. Your patio should slope away from your home's foundation, and the ground should slope away from your patio base, as well.

6. Privacy and noise


Photo by Wolf Design Studio 

Plan on throwing raucous parties in your new outdoor space? Good for you—unless you've built it right next to your neighbor's backyard.

Alternatively, maybe your neighbor is the one throwing the ultra-loud parties. Consider building your outdoor living space on the opposite side of the property, allowing you to enjoy your evenings quietly reading, not growling about the sixth keg stand (so far).

Of course, in a tiny backyard, you might not have many options. Get clever about your construction to add privacy and reduce sound.

"Vertical gardens can double as fences, and water features can mask noises," Raboine says.

And Saul recommends adding trellises, on which you can grow beautiful climbers, like clematis. That's a two-for-one deal: privacy and style.

7. Utilities

Adding utilities, like gas lines for BBQs and water lines for your wet bar, can be a pain. But installation is significantly easier if done during construction.

"Think about their location before you start construction," Gotterbarn says. Even if you're not building a kitchen now, you might want to later, so make sure all necessary utilities are easily accessible.

8. That winter view

Sure, your patio offers a fantastic summer view. But what will you be staring at come winter?

"For those of us who live in northern climates, our patio may be shut down for half the year, although we will be looking at it all year long," Clark says. "Often we're staring at ugly furniture covers protecting mini-mountains of clustered furniture, half covered with snow."

To save your eyes this sadness, Clark recommends choosing decorative outdoor lighting (weather-resistant, of course), landscape rocks, and colorful all-weather chairs to "focus the eye on more interesting views, as you stare at the patio through the window while cooking dinner."

9. Future plans

Chances are, your gorgeous outdoor space is just a fraction of your eventual dream landscape, Saul says.

"It's always good to create a master plan, even if you don't plan to implement it all at once," she says. "Then you'll know what infrastructure to install early, so you'll be ready to go later, without all the mess."

Do you plan to turn your rocky sideyard into a gorgeous grassy expanse? Consider in-ground sprinklers. And if you're dreaming about a koi pond, water pipes can turn that fantasy into reality. You can design around the empty space, leaving it unimpeded for whatever your future brain cooks up.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe

12 Genius Yard and Garden Maintenance Hacks to Simplify Your Summer

by Amy McLeod Group


Having a lush green yard as a retreat is fantastic. But maintaining a yard? Easier said than mowed. So the question then becomes: How can you enjoy your backyard oasis with the minimum of effort on pruning, weeding, and anxiously hovering over every blade of grass?

Look no further than "Home Hacks," our weekly series on simplifying all aspects of home life. Since yard maintenance may be looming large over you right about now, here are some smart shortcuts to make the coming warm-weather months way easier.

1. Get your garden tools in good shape

After months in cold, damp storage, your gardening tools can likely use a spring cleaning. To shine rusty tools without elbow grease, soak them in white vinegar for 24 hours, then scrub with steel wool. Keep tools from rusting again by storing them in a bucket of builder's sand. (It really works!)

2. Water less for longer

"Instead of frequently watering your grass lightly, water it only two times per week for longer periods of time," says Barbara Roueche, brand manager for lawn-care equipment manufacturer Troy-Bilt.

The reason: Not only will you save water, but this promotes deeper grass-root growth, thus enabling your lawn to better tolerate drought.


Take a cue from a good rainfall to determine how much water your grass needs. About 20 minutes, twice each week, should do the trick.

3. Use old newspaper and never pull weeds again

Weeds in your flowerbeds are a time-stealing eyesore (plus weeds steal moisture from flowers, causing them to wilt). Banish weeds for the entire summer with this simple trick.

"Pull all the weeds from your beds once, and then add a layer of newspaper beneath mulch," says Roueche.

Newspaper will block new weeds from taking root, as well as help retain moisture. It is also nontoxic and will eventually decompose into the soil.

4. Kill weeds with vinegar

You can also brew up an all-natural vinegar mixture to keep weeds away, says Roueche. Not only is this hack environmentally friendly, it's also a safe option for those with pets sniffing around the yard.

Pour 1 gallon of everyday white vinegar into a bucket and add 1 cup of table salt. Stir the solution until the salt dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap to help the mixture stick, and you've got a powerful weedkiller. Funnel it into a spray bottle and spray liberally on the weeds on a sunny day. Any weeds hit with this solution will die within several days.

5. Shine outdoor furniture

Clean stains on plastic outdoor furniture by rubbing marks with a dab of white toothpaste. Toothpaste's tiny granules gently clear stains that most other cleaners can't reach.

If you need to revive sun-faded colors on plastic furniture, polish with a small amount of petroleum jelly or mineral oil. Let the jelly or oil sit for an hour, then wipe it off for a refreshed shine.

6. Prevent pests with pantry items

"Instead of using harmful pesticides, repel critters by sprinkling coffee grounds or citrus peels in your garden," says Roueche.

Both are natural repellents for pests, because of their odor and acidity. Bonus: Coffee grounds also serve as a fertilizer and improve a soil's drainage, water retention, and aeration.

7. Protect your garden from animals and pets

Hate how animals (your own, or intruders) tend to munch on your garden's offerings before you can get a taste? Some plastic forks can fix that.

"Stick plastic forks point-side up around delicate plants," says Jennifer Harder, founder and CEO of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers. Most animals will steer clear lest they hurt their delicate feet.

8. Keep your roses healthy with milk

Roses are susceptible to unsightly fungus, in the form of blotches on leaves. The answer is in your fridge. Take half a cup of milk and add it to a cup of water in a spray bottle.

"Then spray the watered-down milk onto your rose leaves to kill spotting fungus," says DIY expert and Liberty Mutual Insurance consultant Chip Wade.

9. Skip watering your plants

Always forgetting to water your plants? A hack using plastic water bottles can save you the trouble. Fill them with water, then use a needle or pin to poke a few holes in the cap. From there, half bury the water bottle upside down in the dirt near the plants you want to water. The holes in the cap allow for a slow trickle to keep plants hydrated for as long as a couple of weeks (depending on the size of your water bottle).

10. Mow easier

While most people mow back and forth across their lawn, turning around once they reach the sides, there is an easier way: Mow in a spiral shape, from the inside out. This reduces the amount of turning, which is tough to wrangle with a push mower and all but impossible with a ride-on mower. Here's more on how to mow a lawn.

11. Don't bother raking up lawn clippings

Hate raking up your lawn clippings? Leave them on your lawn instead. They'll help fertilize your lawn and keep it lush. Your best bet is to keep these clippings short enough that they won't clump on top of your grass, but rather fall to the earth below. A good rule of thumb to make this happen is the one-third rule: Snip just the top third of the blades of grass so they're small enough to fall through.

12. Make your lawnmower nonstick

A great way to keep cut grass from clogging up your lawnmower's cutting blades is to use cooking spray on the blades.

"This saves a lot of time on cleanup and maintenance, by keeping grass from sticking to the blades," says Harder.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 
Lisa Kaplan Gordon contributed to this post

5 Hot Hardscaping Trends Homeowners Should Try Right Now

by Amy McLeod Group


Whether you're putting your place on the market or just looking to give your crib some extra curb appeal, your property's exterior design deserves just as much attention as the interior.

But while you might've spent hours contemplating new window shutters, light fixtures, and foliage, there's a good chance one exterior improvement has fallen toward the bottom of your priority list: your hardscaping. After all, how much can you possibly change a pathway or sidewalk?

Well, a lot, apparently.

The truth is, hardscaping is one of the first—if not the first—things to consider when sprucing up your outdoor space. We're talking about the structures or materials that divide sections and provide places to walk and sit.

"Hardscaping should be the first component considered [because] it’s really the structure of the landscaping," explains Frederico Azevedo, founder and CEO of Unlimited Earth Care. "If hardscaping is left as an afterthought to the overall design, it will disrupt the flow of any property."

And, just like the plants you choose to grow in your backyard or the color you use to paint your front door, there are plenty of hardscaping trends that will help your property shine. Below are five expert-approved ways to improve your property’s walkways, sidewalks, and pathways.

1. Grass
Photo by Westover Landscape Design
 

Once upon a time, having grass sprout between your slabs of stone was considered sloppy and distasteful. Today, however, it's actually encouraged to integrate greenery into your hardscaping.

"Grass-jointed paving paths combine structured geometry, lush natural textures, and vibrant color," says landscape architect Janice Parker. "They provide an overlapping of formal and informal elements. Thoughtful stone selection, based on the architectural aesthetic of the home, ensures that the style works equally well for contemporary or traditional landscapes."

While a symmetrical and evenly spaced pathway will pair nicely with a manicured yard, it doesn't have to be perfect. Mixing different-sized and -shaped slabs will create the illusion of a naturally made pathway, which is also trending.

2. Crushed stone
Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC 

Want to create a beautiful walkway but don't have the time for a big project? Consider using the ever-so-trendy crushed stone.

"It's loose, has lots of texture, and produces great sound when traversing," explains Michael McGown, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group. "It speaks to casual informality, and lets the plantings define the path."

Not only does crushed stone look nice, it's also easy on your wallet andMother Nature. The total cost will vary based on the pathway, but a 50-pound bag of crushed stones can cost less than $40.

"It's very inexpensive, so replacing existing hardscape is probably within the means of a typical homeowner or home buyer," McGown says.

And it's eco-friendly: Crushed stones are more permeable than, say, a slab of concrete, so the water and grass underneath your pathway will still be watered and nourished, McGowan adds.

3. Reclaimed brick
Photo by The Design Build Co.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure—and the world of hardscaping is no exception. Specifically, McGowan says, reclaimed brick is having a moment.

"Reclaimed brick [has] color and texture," he explains. "It’s got a natural patina and looks authentic and timeless. [Bricks] blur the line between contemporary and traditional."

Don't get us wrong, we love a freshly paved sidewalk as much as the next person; however, there's something cozy and inviting about reclaimed materials.

4. Sustainable sidewalks
Hailshadow/iStock

Installing solar panels and planting trees are two obvious steps toward sustainability, but did you know you can apply the same eco-friendly ethos to your hardscaping?

“I’ve always been engaged in working sustainably, so seeing more options and materials coming forward in the past few years is really exciting,” Azevedo says. “Sustainable hardscaping materials are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate the ground.”

While Azevedo points to urbanite (aka repurposed concrete) and recycled granite as suitable alternatives, he encourages homeowners to think outside the cinder block.

“Crushed seashells, particularly mollusk shells, which have been a burden on landfills in recent years, make an excellent ground cover for paths, or as acidity-controlling mulch for flower beds,” he says.

5. Luxurious limestone
Photo by Hutker Architects 

All of the architectural greats feature limestone: the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, now, your walkway. While crushed stone and brick are suitable materials for your hardscape, they give your property a very specific look and feel. Limestone, on the other hand, is versatile enough to be a blank canvas so you can let your yard's foliage take center stage.

It "can provide elegance to either" contemporary or traditional style, McGowan explains.

And unlike brick, which has a predetermined shape, you can cut limestone any way you'd like. So whether you want a straight sidewalk or something with more curve, this is one material that can get the job done.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Mulvey

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1900 Hines St SE #220
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Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.