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7 Home Maintenance Projects You Might Overlook—but Really Need to Do

by Amy McLeod Group


The big improvements always get all the glory—the classic kitchen remodel, the bathroom addition, the transformation of a once creepy basement into a media room. But what about all those little projects around the house?

Sure, they may not be as gratifying as ripping out 1980s cabinets, but tackling necessary home maintenance chores now will save you big headaches down the road. So before you undertake another huge home improvement, check out these projects that you might have neglected—but really should take on.

1. Clean your exhaust fans

"Two maintenance areas that home buyers often overlook have to do with fans—bathroom exhaust fans and attic or ventilation fans," says Kathleen Kuhn, the CEO and president of HouseMaster.com, a home inspection franchise.

Bathroom exhaust fans play an important role in reducing odor as well as moisture, which helps prevent mold and mildew. And attic or ventilation fans are designed to expel hot air from the top of a home and draw cooler air in. This helps save energy and reduces the potential for costly heat-related damage to the roof or roof framing.

 

Both fans should be cleaned and wiped down every three months to ensure they are functioning properly.

2. Fix broken window seals

"One of the most harmful delayed maintenance issues I see in the field is broken window seals," says real estate agent Jodi Moody of Smoky Mountain Realty in Lenoir City, TN. A homeowner might notice a piece of caulk peeling up around a window's edge and think it’s no big deal. Most often, it simply goes unnoticed.

"Unfortunately, once a window seal is broken, problems are created that homeowners can’t see until major damage occurs," says Moody.

Those problems include moisture, condensation, mildew, mold, and wood rot, which build up in the window framing and eventually move into the wall. Entire window frames and even sections of flooring can eventually rot, due to the moisture seeping in through missing or damaged window caulk.

"Homeowners should inspect their windows twice a year, and repair any cracked or torn caulk, rubber seals, or damaged wood as soon as possible," says Moody.

3. Repair small foundation cracks

Foundation cracks can naturally develop over time. And though tiny cracks may not be a problem at first, it's a good idea to patch them before they increase in size. Large cracks could result in your having to replace the foundation completely, which could cost you big bucks.

"You can repair a small crack with a concrete sealer that you can find at any home improvement store," says Sacha Ferrandi, founder and principal of Texas Hard Money and Source Capital Funding.

4. Lube your garage door springs

Preserve the longevity of your garage door with some simple maintenance, so you won’t have to replace it sooner than needed.

"Lubricating the springs will help a garage door last a lot longer," says Ferrandi.

Be sure to apply a lubricant annually to the rollers, hinges, and tracks. Since garage doors have a heavy workload, use a heavy-duty lubricant such as silicon spray or motor oil.

5. Drain and clean the water heater

Water heaters naturally build up mineral deposits over time. This forms a thick, crusty coating that will begin to chip off and clog faucets, drains, and the water heater valve. Such deposits can also cause your water heater to run constantly, which can crack the inner lining and run up your utility bills.

"You may even end up needing to replace your water heater, which can cost you a good amount of money," says Shawn Breyer of Atlanta's Breyer Home Buyers.

The good news is that the fix is simple. Every six to 12 months, place a small bucket underneath the drain valve on your water heater and drain the sediment out of the tank. Here's more on how to flush a water heater.

6. Check out your crawl space

One commonly overlooked area of the home is the crawl space below your house.

"That cramped underbelly of your house actually has a purpose, and just like any other part of a home, it needs maintenance and can save a home from costly damage," says Nick Rorabaugh, brand advocate for Rev Sells, a realty group based in Athens, GA. "I have seen several instances where a homeowner received the unpleasant news after a house inspection that their crawl space had moisture damage."

Avoid that possibility by laying a vapor barrier or installing a humidifier to protect against mold, water damage, and termites. Bonus: This can improve the air quality of a house as well.

7. Caulk your kitchen sink

The sink is subject to daily wear and tear. And the chemicals in cleansers added to the frequent exposure to water, can damage the caulking.

"Avoid leakage under the sink, with the simple fix of recaulking," says Vivian Young, senior content manager at GoodNightsRest.com.

Removing all traces of the old caulking is key and a trusty utility knife will do the trick. Clean up any loose grout, rinse off the area, let it dry completely, and you’re ready to caulk. Here's more on how to caulk sinks, windows, and more.

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

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

Don't Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn

by Amy McLeod Group


Autumn brings pumpkins and—love 'em or hate 'em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

But just because the weather's cooling off doesn't mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

"It's easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall," says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

But fear not: We've got you covered with our checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this season. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need backup.

1. Properly store your yard equipment

Storage shed
Björn Forenius/iStock

 

One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don't prep your equipment this fall. That's because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

And it's not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

Lester Poole, Lowe's live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you'll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

2. Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

If you haven't tracked down your home's water shut-offs yet, now's the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you've found them, give them a test.

"The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst," McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

Now's also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in the pros: If you can't locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average(depending on the severity of the leak).

3. Clear out your crawl space

While you're winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

DIY: While it's still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter's worst happens.

Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

4. Close your crawl space vents

During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home's perimeter.

"The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics," says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. "The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there."

Here's why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

DIY: "When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed," Humes says. "Just remember to open them again in the spring."

If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

5. Kick-start your composting efforts

Compost bin in the garden

fotomem/iStock

Now's the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don't even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

"Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden," Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

"Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer," Poole says.

Next year's tomatoes will thank you.

DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. 

6. Protect your trees

Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, "sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split," Poole says.

He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what's wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.

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

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe
Holly Amaya contributed to this article

Help, We Have a Leaky Roof! What to Do If This Happens to You

by Amy McLeod Group


I’ve known we needed to replace the roof above our front porch for some time now. It’s flat (water doesn’t drain well from it); we live in Florida (there are downpours nearly every day); and I can see the spreading stains on the stucco from my office window. It’s been on my expensive-things-we-should-do list for a while.

As we started to gather estimates on the repair job, however, we began wondering if we should replace the roof on our entire house instead. It’s already 20 years old, and even though it’s largely in good shape now, we know it has to be done sooner or later. Since roofers would be up there anyway, maybe it was the right move, even though the idea of spending money on something so boring—yes essential, but boring—wasn’t on my things-I-want-to-spend-money-on list.

How much does it cost to replace a roof, anyway?

If you had asked me what a new roof might cost a month ago, I would have given you an estimate so laughably short of the mark that Bob Barker would have forever banned me from the “Price Is Right." The initial quotes we got for a new roof were jaw-dropping—upward of $50,000 jaw-dropping.

Of course, there are many variables when it comes to cost, including the type of roof, where you live, and the size of your house.

We happen to have a concrete tile roof, and our home is over 3,000 square feet. So, we’re on the high end when it comes to roof replacements, but it's a big expense any way you look at it.

On average, the cost of a new roof ranges from about $22,636 for asphalt shingles to $38,600 for a metal roof nationwide, according to Remodeling magazine.

With these figures burning my eyes, my next question was: Do we really need to replace the whole roof? Or could we do just the necessary repairs?

How long does a roof last?

Complicating this decision, we’d like to sell this house in the near future so we can move closer to a new job. So, can we just wait it out and hope for the best?

Experts say most roofs last between 15 and 40 years, while some, such as those made of tile shingle, are meant to last hundreds of years. However, how long a roof is meant to last and how long it actually lasts are often two very different things.

For example, Connor Sullivan, a storm restoration specialist with American Roofing, says a three-tab shingle roof is supposed to last 20 to 25 years, but most last only 12 to 15 years due to weather, improper installation, and lack of ventilation. An architectural shingle roof is designed to last up to 40 years, but he says most usually last only 25 to 30 years.

That means we could have 10-plus more years with this roof—or not.

To reroof or repair?

It all seems like an expensive gamble, but industry experts say there are some important factors to consider.

“If you're only going to be living there for a couple more years and then selling, it may make sense to make minor repairs and move on, assuming the roof is in generally good shape,” says Corey Crossman, a real estate agent and broker in Raleigh, NC.

“If you plan on staying for the long haul and your roof is giving you trouble, it's better to replace it right away and enjoy years of a good roof rather than put it off and battle roof leaks and other problems.”

He says what you don’t want to do is continue repairing a roof that has outlived its life expectancy.

“Many homeowners would rather spend a few hundred dollars here and there to make repairs than take the big hit and spend several thousand for a new roof," he says. "But in most cases, they'd be better off investing in a roof replacement, enjoying the best years of the roof, and then reaping the rewards if and when they sell the home.”

If your roof has been damaged due to weather, don’t forget to contact your insurance company, as some repairs or replacements may be covered under your homeowners policy.

“Going through insurance should always be your first option to save you from spending an arm and a leg on something your insurance should be helping you with,” Sullivan says.

We did indeed contact our insurance company, and it deemed a small portion of our porch roof damage to be weather-related. We got a small check to help cover the cost of repairs.

What's the ROI on a new roof?

The question of a new roof’s return on investment,or ROI, is a big variable to consider as well. Of course, there are no guarantees, and experts have varying opinions on the ROI of a new roof. Most say it’s not 100%, but it can make a significant difference when it comes to selling a home.

“If your house needs a new roof and the roof costs $10,000, it probably doesn't mean you'll be able to sell the home for $10,000 more than your competition,” Crossman says.

“However, where you can really cash in is the speed at which your house will sell. A home with an old or failing roof just begs for lowball offers and will likely be sitting on the market for quite some time before a buyer is willing to step in and pay market price for it," Crossman continues. "If you don't want to sell your home at a discount and you want to sell fast, opt for the new roof.”

Demetrius Gray, former roofing company owner and CEO of WeatherCheck, a technology startup that monitors properties for hail damage, offered this insight. “The ROI can vary a lot because a bad roof can be a deal breaker when it’s time to sell because they cause appraisals to fail,” he says. “A new roof should be about a 5% increase in value, and more if the workmanship and material warranties are transferable.”

Repair or replace: What we did with our roof

In the end, we decided to repair our roof where necessary and focus our funds on other home improvement projects. We’re painting the exterior, replacing the outdoor lights and fixtures, getting a new front door, and doing some other cosmetic changes to make the house look more modern. We’re hoping this adds some value and curb appeal and will allow us to enjoy the house more for the remaining time we spend in it.

We don’t assume the ROI on these improvements will be as high as that for a new roof, and we realize we may end up having to replace our entire roof down the line. In the meantime, we’re excited about our home makeover, crossing our fingers we made the right decision and hoping the hurricane seasons are mild.

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

By: Realtor.com, Julie Ryan Evans


Owning your home feels great—that is, until the roof leaks. Or a pipe breaks. Or the HVAC just dies—in the middle of a summer heat wave, no less. Which begs the question: How much should homeowners set aside to take care of regular home maintenance and repairs?

If this question catches you off guard, don't feel bad—you have plenty of company.

Xavier Epps, finance expert and CEO of XNE Financial Advising, in Washington, DC, has prepared hundreds of financial plans for new and current homeowners.

"You'd be surprised at the number of clients I've prepared financial plans for that didn't want to consider budgeting for the repairs and maintenance of any sort," he says.

Epps finds that almost 70% of the time, clients actually reject the idea of adding such a line item in their budget. But here's why you should—and how much you should allot to this important fund.

Emergency fund vs. home maintenance fund: What's the difference?

First things first: Budgeting for predictable maintenance and repairs is not the same as saving up for the emergency fund every household should have. An emergency fund, equal to living expenses for a minimum of one to three months, is often recommended as a buffer for unexpected expenses and loss of income.

For example, if you get sick and can't work for two months, your car breaks down (beyond normal maintenance), or you have to travel on short notice to a funeral—those are all emergencies.

If you've already used your emergency fund to perform routine home maintenance and repairs, you won't have any cash reserves left when a true emergency strikes. You should have an amount in your monthly budget allocated specifically for home maintenance and repairs, both planned and unforeseen, so you can afford to keep your house in tiptop shape without jeopardizing your important emergency fund or going into debt.

How much should I budget for home maintenance and repairs?

"Budget between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home for annual preventative maintenance and repair costs," says John Bodrozic of Sacramento, CA, who's co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management platform.

Where your actual costs fall in that range depends largely on the age and condition of your home.

If your home is newer, or if it has been recently and thoroughly renovated, you might be able to budget less for maintenance and repairs, at least for the first few years.

"If your home is less than 5 years old, then use the lower percentage of 1%, as most of your home's equipment, appliances, building materials, fixtures, finishes, etc. are still relatively new, thus probably in good working condition," says Bodrozic.

If you bought your place new from a builder, you may even have warranties on individual items in your home, or an overall warranty. That could substantially reduce the amount you have to spend on repairs while the warranties are in effect.

Don't assume that living in a new home is maintenance-free, however, or that you won't need to make changes and improvements to it. A home that hasn't been lived in before may not have all of the features you need. And homebuilders often do a cursory job of landscaping. When you discover how little topsoil they used in your yard, you may need to budget for outside improvements, too.

If your home is more than 25 years old, on the other hand, plan on budgeting closer to 4%.

"Nothing lasts forever. The natural life span of the collection of materials your home is made of is getting older, therefore you will have more fix-it and repair costs," Bodrozic says.

Another way to predict expenses for home upkeep is to look at how many square feet you have, both in the house and outside. Home prices vary widely throughout the country, but as a general rule, the bigger the house and lot, the higher your maintenance costs. A home on significant acreage generally requires more maintenance than a tract house on a postage stamp–size lot, regardless of how much the house is worth. Or when you need a new roof, you'll pay a lot more on a larger house.

Reasons to keep track of past home maintenance expenses

If you've lived in your home for a number of years and you've kept the place up, one way to budget for maintenance and repairs is to look at what you spent last year. Repairs and replacements, especially, can seem like one-time expenditures. However, over time they tend to average out. The refrigerator may have been replaced last year, but in a 20-year-old house, that's not the only thing that's wearing out. This year, it may be the dishwasher or water heater. Get ready for it.

If you haven't lived in your house for long or if you don't have records of how much you spent last year, consider tracking your home maintenance and repair costs. At least mark them on your credit card bills, or keep the receipts in a marked file.

How can I save money on home maintenance?

Follow these tips to keep your annual home maintenance and repair expenses as low as possible, and still keep your house in tiptop shape:

  • Know your home. If you're about to buy a home, be sure to have it inspected, and try to determine how old each appliance and major home component is. "Remember, every piece of the home has a useful life attached to it, so it's best to get a feel for how old the items are as soon as you can," says Epps. "If you buy a home with 10-year-old hardwood floors, there's a great chance you'll need to budget for replacement or refinishing." Likewise, wall paint usually needs to be redone in five to 10 years, and an HVAC system may last 10 to 15 years, according to Epps. Consider creating a schedule of when you may need to replace major items.
  • Be proactive in your home maintenance. You'll save money in the long run by proactively maintaining your home, rather than waiting for something to quit working. This includes obvious upkeep such as mowing and pruning your yard, plus the jobs that are more easily forgotten—like changing the air filters, cleaning your dryer ducts, and checking your fire extinguishers, according to Bodrozic. "It's important to keep a recurring schedule of these tasks, because if you don't do them, you are more likely to have larger, more expensive repair costs when things break," he explains. You might even want to use an organization app such as HomeZada to create a recurring list of maintenance tasks for you.
  • Don't delay when you discover signs of trouble. If the dryer isn't getting the clothes dry, clean out the vents now. Don't wait until it is impossibly clogged or starts a fire. Any dripping sounds or signs of water intrusion? Fix it or call for professional help, before structural damage and mold occur. Pests and wildlife intruders also need to be dealt with promptly—termites cause over $5 billion in property damage every year, which is rarely covered by homeowners insurance, according to Tommy Giardino, senior vice president of operations at Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta. If you hear noises from rodents and squirrels, take action immediately. "Rodents and squirrels are known for using insulation for building nests and gnawing on wires, which can lead to electrical fires," he says.
  • Learn the basics of home maintenance. You can save a lot of money by learning home maintenance basics. Know your limits, however. It's more cost-effective to hire a pro than it is to take on more than you can handle, or worse yet, to get hurt trying.

Dreaming of homeownership? Let The McLeod Group Network find your find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Sally Herigstad

Your Winter 2019 Home Maintenance To-Do List: Have You Checked It Twice?

by Amy McLeod Group


We won't sugarcoat it: The thought of doing home maintenance right now is pretty blah—especially with the holidays looming and weeks of gloomy winter days on the horizon. Who wants to do housework when you can curl up and binge-watch "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" instead?

So you're forgiven if this is one article you don't want to read. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch, you should at least skim it. That's because winter chills bring a number of home-related ills—and if you don't keep up with a little maintenance now, you could be in for catastrophic repair costs later.

So pull yourself out of hibernation mode and get started. The good news? We've done the heavy lifting for you, identifying the top tasks to tackle—and what professional help will cost you if you find yourself in over your head.

Give your gutters one last scrub

Hopefully, you've been clearing out your gutters on the regular. But once every tree is bare, it's time for one final cleaning session to "avoid moisture building up against your house—and ice dams," says Derek Christian, the owner of Handyman Connection in Blue Ash, OH.

Ah, ice dams: winter's favorite boogeyman. These troublemakers happen when warm air meets a cold, wet roof, creating supersized icicles. Eventually, that ice and moisture can find their way underneath your shingles, rotting your roof, and leaking into the living spaces below.

But ice dams are easily avoided—as long as you do a little prep.

DIY: Cleaning out your gutters is simple enough to do yourself. For extra protection, Jason Metzger, the head of risk management for PURE Insurance, recommends installing heat strips on your gutter or roof edges to keep frozen precipitation from building up.

Call in the pros: Have you been really lackadaisical with your gutter cleanings? An expert can scoop out all the gunk. Expect to pay $100 to $250.

Turn on your humidifier


Holiday humidifier. istock/Qwart

Is your furnace prepped for winter? While this might vary based on your specific model, Christian advises homeowners to check their furnace for a "winter" and a "summer" switch, which controls your humidifier.

"In the summer, the airflow to the humidifier needs to be cut off; but in the winter, you want air going through it," he says.

That keeps your skin from drying out, your eyes from itching, and your floorboards from creaking.

DIY: Switching your humidifier on is an easy task. If your furnace lacks this feature, a stand-alone humidifier, like this Honeywell model, will do the job.

Call in the pros: Adding a humidifier to your furnace is simple. Costs start at about $370.

———

Insulate (and inspect) the attic

House always feel drafty? Your attic could be to blame. Check to make sure this space is sufficiently insulated. And while you're up there, make sure no rodents can shimmy in and create their own winter retreat. (Eek!)

"Make sure any gaps and holes into your attic are sealed tight," Christian says. "As winter approaches, critters will be looking for somewhere to spend it."

DIY: Stuff gaps with insulation, and fill cracks with caulk to keep the critters—and the cold—out.

Call in the pros: If you're noticing a severe lack of insulation (or you require six blankets just to keep your body temperature normal), hiring a pro to add insulation will be worth the cost. The national average to install blown-in insulation is $1,400.

———

Create a cleaning schedule for the new year


Seasonal cleaning calendar. 
istock/ RapidEye

With 2019 rapidly approaching, now's the time to institute good home habits that will keep your space clean and organized year-round. And what better time to tackle the mountain of grime that's accumulated over the year than the frigid winter months when you can't go outside?

DIY: Creating a regular cleaning schedule makes a huge difference in keeping your home tidy and organized.

"Hang a calendar in your kitchen where your whole household can see it," and assign tasks to the household, says professional organizer Kacy Burns.

Take it one step further with weekly, monthly, and quarterly reminders.

Call in the pros: Just can't bear the thought of starting a new year with chores? If you've ever considered a cleaning crew, now’s the time. Figure on paying $200 to $300 for a one-time cleaning, but you may be able to negotiate that price down with a regular cleaning schedule.

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Fireproof your home

With temps plummeting, you've probably already switched on your heat a few times, gathered around the fireplace, or lugged out a portable heater to warm your feet on chilly nights.

"With all these heat sources in use, homeowners must take precautions to protect themselves from house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning," says Sophie Kaemmerle, a home improvement expert with NeighborWho, a property information website.

DIY: If you haven't done so recently, replace those smoke detector batteries.

Call in the pros: If you smell gas or your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping, leave the house and call 911, followed by your utility company, which will send out a team to investigate the problem. Still feeling wary? Most fire departments will do a home safety check if you request one.

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Maintain a smart temperature

Consider installing a smart thermostat to keep your home's temperature even. Today's models —like the über-popular Nest—will alert you if the temperature inside your home suddenly falls. That can be a lifesaver when you're on vacation, preventing frozen pipes and other winter disasters.

DIY: If you're not ready to upgrade your thermostat, you can do your part to maintain an even temperature.

"Leave interior doors, cabinets, and vanities open to keep the whole home heated," Metzger says.

Call in the pros: Is your thermostat struggling to keep temperatures even? Are cold spots in your living room bugging you on snow days? A whole-home energy audit, which costs about $400, can identify the cause.

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Hunker down for winter storms


Ice storm

istock/DenisTangneyJr

In most parts of the nation, the first snow has already fallen—and more is surely on the way. Before the next bomb cyclone/polar vortex/sharknado blizzard (hey, it could happen), make sure you're prepared for the worst-case scenario.

"Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

DIY: Make sure you have a (working) generator, and stock up on batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Invest in a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to stay up to date with news in case you lose cellphone reception. Store wintry weather supplies—such as snow shovels and window scrapers—somewhere you can access them easily.

If you live in an area particularly prone to snow, mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles to help snow plowers see where to go, suggests home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill.

And remember: A buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Thinking about buying or selling a home in the new year? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe, Holly Amaya 

9 Gorgeous Spring Decorating Ideas to Usher in the New Season

by Amy McLeod Group

Spring is officially here, and the days are longer and lighter—if not warmer, in some places. And with the new season comes a chance to hit the reset button on your home's decor. It's time to stash away heavy throws and that snowflake-themed doormat and bring out a brighter look.

"Springtime is your chance to renew the spaces you live in and take them out of hibernation," says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

To help you ease into the new season, we've gathered nine gorgeous ways to upgrade your interior and exterior style. The best part? They're cheap and easy. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and bring some spring fling into your home.

1. Add cheery wallpaper

Photo by Ed Ritger Photography 

Quick and easy peel-and-stick wallpaper is ideal for spring, especially if you choose a joyful, bright print. Seek out lively patterns, including pink and green branches, pastel polka dots, or bird themes.

And if you're not sure you want to redo the entire room, put this temporary look on an accent wall. You'll still have a pop of springtime color, but with less commitment.

2. Display rustic birds' nests
 

Photo by Adrienne DeRosa 

What says "rejuvenation" more than the very structures that nurture life? Bring these natural elements inside by collecting old nests that you're certain aren't in use or by hitting up the crafts store for faux versions.

Place your nest collection under a glass cloche or fill it with fruit, flowers, or, as Easter approaches, colored eggs and bunnies.

3. Show off fresh flowers

Photo by Dreamy Whites 

Fresh flowers are a must this time of year.

"I love calla lilies, irises, and tulips in a bouquet placed in a nontypical spot such as your nightstand or bar cart," says Sara Chiarilli, an interior designer with Artful Conceptions in Tampa, FL.

And in the yard, look to pansies and azaleas.

"Azaleas [can act] as colorful and well-behaved foundation plants on the east side of your house, where they'll receive afternoon shade," recommends Matt Michaels of Lowe's.

"Pansies are a great springtime bloom because they're hardy in cold weather and come in an array of shades, many with bicolor faces," adds Rhianna Miller of RubberMulch. Plus, they thrive in both full sun and part shade and can be planted in pots, flower beds, and hanging baskets.

4. Change up your throw pillows

Photo by Mandeville Canyon Designs

The beauty of a neutral couch is that you can change out your accessories with every season, Chiarilli notes. Pack away dark throw pillows and accent blankets, and go for lighter colors.

"If you live in a warm-toned house, pick yellows, soft pinks, and orange—and for cool tones, select light blues, greens, and silvers," she says.

5. Swap in brighter lampshades

Photo by Nick George | Photographer

Out with dark, tweedy toppers, and in with paler, more delicate shades. Pinks, lavenders, and lime greens herald the season, offering your living room a spring glow for not much money. Check out chain stores such as T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Target for inexpensive lampshades for every room.

6. Switch to lightweight bedding

Photo by Roger Oates Design 

If you've been hibernating underneath dark, fuzzy throw blankets and heavy duvets, it's time to strip the bed! With warmer temps and brighter days on the horizon, consider lighter pastels for pillows and throw blankets.

"Rose quartz, for example, is the perfect springtime color, and it mixes beautifully with gray paint tones that have become so popular lately," Chiarilli says.

And remember, spring can bring on allergies. If you have special pillows and sheets (Allergy Asthma Technology makes hypoallergenic bedding), now's the time to bring them out, says Julie Coraccio, the home organizing expert at Reawaken Your Brilliance.

7. Display fragrant herbs and fruits

Photo by Chris Snook 

Spring is all about the green. Line up small pots of basil, thyme, and mint on your kitchen or laundry room windowsill, and breathe in the fresh, vernal scent.

Or pile bright green fruits such as Granny Smith apples, limes, pomelos, or Anjou pears into a bowl or shallow platter on the counter or dining room hutch.

8. Change your bathroom linens

Photo by Habitat Architecture 

A zippy new shower curtain is an easy spring upgrade—and it'll likely cost less than $30.

"And don't forget to change out your hand towels and candles," Chiarilli says. "It's so important that your home smell like spring when you walk through the door, so try jasmine, the perfect soft scent."

9. Paint the front door

Photo by Rick & Cindy Black Architects 

The entrance to your home deserves a little springtime love, too. Consider slapping a fresh coat of paint on your front door—and think vibrant spring colors such as a zesty coral, a tranquil aqua, or a bright lemon yellow.

"Get a new doormat, and add a pretty wreath or door basket with silk flowers and greens," Gray-Plaisted suggests.

If you live in a cooler climate, try putting cold-hardy bulbs in your outdoor planters and then adding one to each side of your door or garage. Voila—a fresh entryway that makes it clear spring has sprung at your house.

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Kelly Geddes

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

Types of Kitchen Countertops: Which One's Best for You?

by Amy McLeod Group

There are many types of kitchen countertops, and each has its particular pros and cons, including the price. Since this surface can have such a big impact on how a kitchen looks, you might be wondering: What's the best kitchen countertop for your home?

That depends, of course, on your sense of style and your cooking proclivities. So whether you're looking to renovate your kitchen or are shopping for homes and wondering whether you'll love or hate the counters you see , here's a guide to the various types of kitchen countertops and how to figure out which one's right for you.

Granite countertops

Price: $60 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Granite countertops are one of the most popular kitchen features, and they often make top 10 lists of desirable features among builders surveyed by the National Home Builders Association.

Made from a naturally occurring composite of quartz, mica, and feldspar, each granite countertop is unique with its materials coming straight from nature. Another bonus? These countertops are hard and resistant to scratches.

Cons: Granite countertops are expensive relative to other options—and if you have funky colors in mind, forget granite, since it comes only in natural colors. Like other natural stones, these counters need to be treated with a stone sealer on a regular basis. It's also difficult to repair a chip to a granite countertop, so homeowners should be careful not to drop anything heavy on these counters.

Laminate countertops

Price: $10 to $40 per square foot

Pros: Laminate countertops are sometimes called Formica, which is technically a brand name for a combination of paper and resin that's bonded together with high heat and pressure. They're a lot cheaper than their stone counterparts, and you can find a variety of designs that mimic a wood look or the design of more expensive stone.

Cons: Because they're inexpensive, you get what you pay for. Easily scratched and chipped, laminate countertops do not stand the test of time.

Corian countertops

Price: $40 to $65 per square foot

Pros: Corian countertops (another brand name, this time from DuPont) are a fusion of acrylics and polyesters. Made in a variety of colors but crafted to look like natural stone, Corian countertops are nonporous and easy to clean.

Cons: Corian can scratch more easily than stone and is also less resistant to heat. Leaving a hot pot on the counter can cause it to warp.

Marble countertops

Price: $100 to $150 per square foot

Pros: Pulled right out of the ground, marble makes for a gleaming surface and adds polish to your home. These countertops go well with almost any decor.

Cons: Because marble is porous, these countertops are considered "high maintenance," requiring sealing every few years. They likewise chip and stain easily. Even a few drops of wine or other acidic liquid can etch the surface, while a bracelet or belt can scratch the marble's beautiful finish.

Butcher block countertops

Price: $45 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Butcher block countertops are another name for thick, fancy wood. If you're looking to green your living space, using a renewable resource for your counters may be a hit. Wood is sustainable, and it offers a rustic, homey feel.

Cons: Wood requires high maintenance. If these countertops are not resealed regularly (about every six months), mold and bacteria can take over, and the countertop will need to be replaced. The necessary upkeep often lowers the resale value on this type of counter, as buyers can be turned off by the hard work they see ahead.

Quartz countertops

Price: $75 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Don't let the name fool you. Although quartz is one of the most commonly found minerals, quartz countertops are not mined from the earth. Instead, these countertops are "engineered stone," meaning they're created in a factory. This creates a countertop that has the advantage of being hardy but also requires less maintenance than natural stone. The surface is nonporous, making it stain-resistant, and most spills can be cleaned with mild dish soap and water.

Quartz countertops (which may be known by brand names such as Caesarstone) are known for having excellent resale value when you're looking to sell your home, says Abigail Guignard, owner of Neoesque Designs of New York, NY.

Cons: If you have a habit of putting your hot pots directly on your countertops, beware, since this can cause permanent discoloration. Quartz is resistant to chips and scratches, but if they do happen, you will likely need to call in a professional to fix them, as special tools are required.

Soapstone countertops

Price: $50 to $100 per square foot

Pros: Soapstone countertops are made from a gray or black stone that has a white-veined look and a soft, "soapy" feel (hence the name). Popular with professional chefs, they add a warm, homey feel to a kitchen and are perfect for a rustic design but translate just as easily into a modern or contemporary space.

Cons: Because the stone they're made from is soft, soapstone countertops are even easier to chip than hardier granite or quartz.

Concrete countertops

Price: $65 to $130 per square foot

Pros: Yes, concrete countertops are all the rage, thanks in part to "Fixer Upper" star Joanna Gaines. Since these countertops are custom-poured, homeowners can add everything from unique stones to embedded glass or tile, incorporating a piece of themselves into their kitchen design. Sturdy and resistant to chipping and scratching, concrete countertops do crack, but the cracks are easy to fix precisely because more concrete can be mixed up and poured in.

Cons: Concrete has to cure, which means you'll have to wait a while before you can use your counters. If you want something that can be installed in a day, steer clear! Concrete is also porous, which means these counters can stain easily and require regular resealing.

Stainless-steel countertops

Price: $65 to $95 per square foot

Pros: Although they're more commonly spotted in commercial kitchens, stainless-steel countertops can easily be incorporated into your home. They offer up a surface that's extremely durable and very easy to clean—exactly the reasons they're popular in pro kitchens.

Cons: Because stainless steel is uncommon in residential kitchens, you may take a hit on the resale value, Guignard warns, as it may not be something your buyers like. These counters also tend to be cold to the touch, which may detract from the ambiance of a warm, homey kitchen.

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

By and photo credits: Realtor.com

Ah, January. The time of new beginnings, new resolutions, and, in most of the country, a seemingly endless stretch of cold and gloom. We get it: You just want to hibernate, catch up on "The Crown," and scroll Instagram. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch (or treadmill, if you're on that kick), take heed: This is the absolute worst time to have a major home maintenance problem.

"Catastrophic issues tend to happen in the winter—and when those occur, nine times out of 10 it's due to failing to plan," says Janet O'Dea, owner of Powers Plumbing in San Diego. "Taking some time to anticipate and be ahead of maintenance issues throughout the year takes a lot of pressure off."

 

 
 

We couldn't agree more. And that's why we've done the heavy lifting for you, season by season, so you can avoid the pain (and expense) of costly home repairs. Now that's a resolution we can get behind!

1. Get ready for (more) winter storms

In most parts of the country, 'tis the season for freezing rain, sleet, and blizzards. Ensure you're ready for the next big storm before it strands you.

DIY: First, make sure you have a working generator, and keep a stash of batteries for flashlights and lanterns at the ready. 

"Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.

Also a must-have: a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to keep you up to date on news in case cellphone reception goes out. Check the condition of your snow shovels, gloves, and window scrapers, and store snowy weather supplies near the door where you can access them easily.

We also love this novel tip from home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill: Mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles, to help snow plowers see where to go.

Finally, a buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.

Call in the pros: If a limb is buckling, have it removed as soon as the weather permits—expect to spend $75 to $150, depending on how much of the tree you lost.

2. Clean your oven

"Homemade food can really contribute to winter coziness at home, but unfortunately, the oven and its vents can easily turn into the dirtiest feature in the kitchen because they collect a lot of grime and grease," says Jasmine Hobbs of London Cleaning Team.

And over time, built-up grease can cause your appliance to use more power while turned on.

DIY: To clean your hood filters, fill a sink or a bucket with boiling water; add a quarter-cup baking soda and some liquid dish soap. Mix well and submerge the filters. Let them soak for a couple of minutes and rinse thoroughly. If your oven has a self-cleaning function, use it at least once a month. If not, apply a paste of baking soda and water, then scrub.

Call in the pros: If you never clean your oven and the thought of all that stuck-on grease is putting you in panic mode, you can call a reputable cleaning service. Most pro cleaners will charge a flat rate for whole-house cleaning and will include the oven; you'll spend between $115 and $236 for the whole kit and caboodle, depending on where you live and your home's grime level.

3. Inspect the property

Yes, it's cold and the last thing you probably want to do this time of year is walk around outside. But trust us, it's time well-spent.

"Home issues that are more susceptible in the winter—such as frozen pipes, window and door drafts, and the condition of a home’s gutters—can be easily detected during this time of year," says Patrick Knight of WIN Home Inspection.

DIY: Most big inspection issues are best left to a pro, but while you're taking stock, check off this easy to-do: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You should be doing this regularly, but it's even more important in the winter months, when windows tend to be closed and heaters are running overtime.

Call in the pros: Consider spending some of that Christmas cash on a professional inspection, especially if it's been a while. Strong winter winds and cold temps help inspectors detect drafts and insulation failures. Plus, winter gives inspectors a better idea of how the home structure and roof holds with the extra weight of snow and ice. And fireplaces and heating systems are more active during the winter months, making identifying problems easier.

It's also a great time to check out crawl spaces and attics, which can easily reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the summer months, making safe inspections nearly impossible.

Expect to spend upward of $300—and be sure you select a licensed, insured, and experienced pro for the job.

4. Take care of your wood floors

Winter can wreak major havoc on wood floors: Rock salt can stain wood (and its rough crystals can scratch floors), while indoor heaters can dry it out, causing problems like shrinkage and cracked floorboards.

DIY: Avoid using vinegar to remove stains, advises Dave Murphy of N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Instead, place rugs and mats in the highest-traffic areas. To lock moisture in the air and prevent heat-related damage to your floorboards, run a humidifier. And, of course, engage in routine sweeping, dusting, and mopping.

"This will also prevent particle and salt buildup," Murphy says. "And remember to mop with the boards, and not against the grain."

Call in the pros: In the end, winter's effects may be too harsh to manage on your own. Consider professional refinishing, which averages between $1.50 and $4 per square foot.

5. Block drafts

With temperatures down and indoor heaters working overtime, you'll know if your weatherstripping isn't up to par. And over time, all that unwanted cold air can increase your energy bill in a major way.

DIY: If the cold air is getting in under a door, pick up a door sweep at a local home improvement store. This doodad is typically made of hard plastic and attaches to the bottom of your door, sealing any gaps.

Call in the pros: Feel like you're wasting way too much energy during the winter months? Conduct an energy audit. A trained auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency and give you a list of recommended improvements. You can also find instructions for a DIY energy audit at Energy.gov.

6. Alleviate allergens

An estimated 50 million Americans live with allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and many of their conditions are exacerbated by indoor allergens such as dust mites and animal dander.

The main sources of indoor allergens? Pets top the list, of course, but other culprits include wall-to-wall carpet, soft furniture, stuffed toys, bedding, damp areas, indoor plants, mattresses that aren't in allergen-resistant covers, and pillows and bedding that can't be washed in hot water.

DIY: Clean dust from your blinds and ceiling fans using your vacuum's attachment kit, and make it a regular practice to vacuum all upholstery and carpets.

Once a week, wash your bedding in hot water (at a temperature hotter than 130 degrees), and consider investing in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can filter almost 98% of allergen particles in the air, according to the AAFA.

Another good buy?  A zippered allergen-resistant cover for your mattress, which the AAFA says is even more effective than an air purifier at removing indoor allergens.

Call in the pros: For your living room upholstery and other soft furniture, consider professional steam cleaning. Expect to spend upward of $200.

Let The McLeod Group Network assist you with all your home buying and home selling needs. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By and photo credit: Holly Amaya, Realtor.com

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
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.