10 Common Deck Defects: Solved

Fri, 12 Aug by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.15.49 PM

Summer is upon us and the outdoor living season is in full bloom. In neighborhoods all across the country, people are using their backyard decks for grilling, sunbathing and entertaining, day and night.

However, it’s important to make sure your deck is safe and structurally sound before using it. Start by conducting an annual visual inspection of the entire deck. You don’t have to be a professional builder or home inspector to spot trouble; you just have to know where to look. Listed below are 10 common defects that can cause a deck to fail.

When inspecting your deck, pay particular attention to these 10 areas. Then, if you find anything suspicious, you can either fix it yourself or hire a professional carpenter. However, if you notice any serious structural problems, cordon off the deck and call a licensed engineer to evaluate the situation and offer a solution.

1. Loose Ledger

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.12.32 PM

When a deck is attached directly to the house, it’s supported by a long, horizontal, pressure-treated board called a ledger. The end of each floor joist is fastened to the ledger, usually by a metal hanger. Most catastrophic deck collapses occur because the ledger is either badly decayed or not properly fastened to the house.

To prevent water from seeping behind and rotting the ledger, there should be a continuous length of metal flashing running along the ledger. The flashing must extend up behind the house siding and overlap the top edge of the ledger. If the ledger on your deck has no flashing, you must install one, which is a relatively easy job if the decking runs parallel to the house. Simply pry up one or two rows of decking, install the flashing and replace the deck boards. If, however, the decking runs perpendicular to the house, you’ll have to raise every deck board to expose the ledger.

It’s also important to confirm that the ledger is bolted tightly against the house along its entire length. It should be fastened with lag screws or, better yet, carriage bolts. Check to be sure the lags or bolts are fastened into solid house framing, not just plywood sheathing. If your ledger is attached with just nails or decking screws, install half-inch-diameter lag screws or carriage bolts, spaced 16 to 24 inches apart. If the ledger is badly split or cracked, replace it.

2. Cracked Concrete Piers

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.17.21 PM

Most elevated decks have vertical wood posts that rest on top of concrete piers or extend down into concrete-filled holes. Either way, inspect the condition of the concrete to make sure it hasn’t cracked in half or begun to crumble and disintegrate. You should also measure the diameter of the piers. To provide proper support, each one should be about three times wider than the post.

If you have an on-grade deck that sits close to the ground, it’s probably propped up by concrete blocks, bricks or poured-concrete piers. Take a flashlight and peek beneath the deck to confirm that none of the supports has shifted out of position, cracked or sunk into the ground. If necessary, jack up the deck, install temporary bracing and then replace any damaged supports.

3. Weak Posts

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.18.26 PM

Elevated decks are typically supported by tall vertical wooden posts. In the past, 4×4 posts were commonly used, but most modern decks are supported with 6x6s, which are much stronger and more dimensionally stable, meaning they’re less likely to bend, twist, warp and split.

Carefully inspect each post to ensure that it’s firmly attached to the concrete pier at the bottom and to the deck frame at the top. Check the base of the post for water damage by poking around with an awl. If the awl sinks deep into the wood or the wood fibers are soft and spongy, then the post is rotting. If a post shows any signs of decay or damage, replace it immediately.

4. Bad Beams

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.19.45 PM

All but the tiniest decks have large horizontal beams resting on top of the support posts or piers. The beams, in turn, support all the floor joists. Therefore, the structural integrity of the entire deck is dependent upon the condition of the beams.

Check the beams for large cracks and water damage. Confirm that the beams are securely fastened to the tops of the posts or piers. Peer down the length of each beam to be sure it’s not sagging under the weight of the deck. If it is, you’ll need to shore it up by installing one or more supports. If the beams are made of untreated lumber, they must be at least 12 in. above the ground.

5. Faulty Floor Joists

As mentioned earlier, the ledger board and beams support all the floor joists, which are usually spaced 16 in. on center. The ends of the joists often sit in metal joist hangers. Be sure that each hanger is firmly fastened in place with hanger nails, not screws or common nails.

Replace any joist that’s badly cracked or has extensive water or insect damage. Pay particular attention to the ends of the joists, which have a tendency to rot and split. Check for joists that are sagging or badly bowed.

If the joists are cut from untreated lumber, they must be at least 18 in. above the ground.

6. Defective Decking

While composite lumber and PVC (plastic) decking are growing in popularity, a vast majority of decks are still covered with wooden deck boards. Walk back and forth across the deck and inspect each board for signs of rot, insect infestation, water damage, splinters, large cracks and popped fastener heads.

Also, make note of any boards that are badly twisted, cupped or warped. Remove and replace all damaged decking.

7. Rickety Railings

In most municipalities, decks higher than 30 in. above the ground must have a perimeter guardrail. It’s critically important that railings be kept in good, sound condition.

Start by confirming that each railing post is firmly attached to the deck frame and free of large cracks, rot and insect damage. Railing posts should be fastened with lag screws or carriage bolts, not nails or decking screws. If the bottoms of the posts are notched around the rim joist, check to be sure the posts aren’t splitting at the notches.

Each vertical baluster must be securely fastened to the horizontal rails. They must also be in sound condition and spaced no more than four inches apart. The handrail should be free of rough spots and splinters. Sand or plane the handrail, as necessary, to create a smooth surface.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.21.08 PM

Measure the height of the guardrail from the decking to the top of the handrail. It should be at least 36 in. high, although some towns require deck railings as high as 42 in. Check with your local building department for the correct railing height in your town.

8. Unsafe Stairs

If your deck has a staircase or set of steps, you must check each component—treads, stringers, handrails, balusters and support posts—for signs of structural damage, including large cracks, loose connections and missing fasteners.

The bottommost step and the bottom ends of the stringers are most susceptible to moisture-related problems, including water damage, rot, bug infestation, mold and mildew. Check the top of the steps or staircase to ensure it hasn’t pulled away or slipped down from the deck frame.

Make sure your handrails are in working order and aren’t coming loose. The building code requires all staircases to have graspable handrails measuring between 1¼ in. and 2¼ in. wide.

9. Busted Bracing

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.22.13 PM

 

Most tall decks have diagonal bracing angling up from the support posts to the deck frame. The braces help stabilize the deck and deter it from swaying back and forth. Inspect each brace for large cracks or rot, especially at the ends. Replace all damaged braces. Then, confirm that each brace is securely fastened with lag screws or carriage bolts, not nails or decking screws.

10. Hardware Trouble

Chances are good that your deck was built with some sort of metal hardware item, which helped to speed construction and create strong joints. However, these pieces of hardware can’t do their job if they’re not in sound condition.

If the ends of the floor joists sit in metal joist hangers, inspect each hanger to be sure it’s not rusted or loosely attached. It’s also important that a nail be driven through every mounting hole in the hanger. If you see any open holes, drive in a hanger nail, not a common nail.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.23.44 PM

Metal post anchors are often used to secure the bottom end of a support post to a concrete pier. Confirm that the anchors are free of rust and in firm contact with both the pier and post.

Metal straps or hangers are often used to reinforce the connection between the top of a staircase and the deck frame. Carefully inspect the hardware to be sure it hasn’t ripped, rusted or pulled loose.

By conducting an annual deck inspection and making all necessary repairs as soon as possible, you can rest assured that your deck is safe for family and friends all summer long.

This guest post was written by Joseph Truini, a home-improvement expert who provides advice about all types of DIY projects, including how to fix your deck. To find wood decking boards and other materials that you may need for deck repairs, visit The Home Depot.

6 Renovations That Can Add Value to Your Home

Fri, 05 Aug by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 12.38.12 PM

A lot of people get excited at the idea of a home renovation. They have grand ideas of how they want their home to look. But one thing to keep in mind is how those ideas will affect your home’s value once it comes time to sell after a tenure of nine years, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

It’s important that you do some research before committing to any home renovation project. A good place to start is with a cost versus value report. The report is based on information gathered from real estate agents and RemodelMAX, an online remodelers estimator tool. It will will help you outline the average cost, resale value, and cost recouped for a number of home renovation projects, providing both national and regional estimates. City estimates are also available, but you have to register to access these reports.

To help you determine what renovation projects could add value to your home, here are seven renovations that are worth considering:

1. Bathroom

When renovating a bathroom there is no need to go overboard with a complete overhaul. In fact, according to Remodeling’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report simple low-cost renovations on average yield a 10% higher return on investment compared to upscale renovations. Instead, consider adding new light fixtures and some paint to revitalise your bathroom.

2. Kitchen

According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 53% of real estate professionals believe that the kitchen is one of the most important rooms to prepare before putting your home on the market, so this isn’t a room that you want to ignore. However, the national average for a minor kitchen renovation is likely to set you back $20,122 with a resale value of $16,716. Since you’re only likely to recoup 80% of the cost, be sure to consider minor repairs and a gentle spruce up before undertaking any major kitchen renovations.

3. Income Suite

One of the most direct ways of adding value to a home is to have an income suite. Whether you have a beautifully finished basement or an attic/apartment living space, having the option for a tenant (or even just a guest room), will no doubt boost your value.

4. Make A Good First Impression

First impressions count and they also generate a higher return on investment. Entry and garage door improvements feature near the top of the Cost vs. Value rankings, so if your entrance way looks a little dated this may be a good place to start.

5. Energy Efficient Windows

The real estate world continues to go green, so the more energy efficient your home is, the better. Energy Star claims that adding Energy Star-rated windows can save you up to $500 a year. If your windows look like they’re from the 1970s, it could turn off potential buyers.

6. Energy Efficient Insulation

Attic insulation has the highest return on investment of any project listed on the 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, with a 116.9% return on investment. If your attic lacks proper insulation, the average cost of installation is estimated at $1,268 with a resale value of $1,482.

Do some research before making any major renovations and you’ll be more likely to make decisions that will pay off when it comes time to sell.

This guest post was written by Sara Luckman of CityBlast. The team at CityBlast helps over 10,000 agents and brokers with their social media marketing, keeping their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn up-to-date and professional.

HOME SELLING TIPS: GOING ON VACATION WHILE YOUR HOUSE IS ON THE MARKET

Sun, 17 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 7.32.47 PM

Your home is on the market and ready to sell – it could be snapped up any day now, but you have a vacation coming up or would like to take a trip out of town. So what do you do?

Consult your real estate agent

“Communication is at the center of real estate,” insists Todd Mobraten, former president and CEO of USRES Inc. and its subsidiary, RES.NET Inc.

Good communication between you and your real estate agent is key. Be upfront and tell your agent that you’re planning a vacation, well in advance. Your agent can tell you your options and help you develop a plan for how to handle any queries or issues in your absence.

Check in with your loan officer, lawyer, home stager, photographer, handyman, escrow officers and any other real estate professionals that you’re working with. They need to be looped in case they have to jump in to help while you’re away. Let everyone know that they may receive a call from you or your real estate agent.

If you have not already done so, give your agent the contact information of all the players on your home-selling team. In the interest of home safety, ask that all parties involved keep your trip confidential, to lessen your home’s vulnerability as a target for burglars.

Develop a plan of action

Once everyone on your home-selling team is on the same page, make sure you’re aware of what is expected of you, so you have a game plan for handling anything that comes up and know what you can manage remotely. Some things can be coordinated over the phone, via email or using signature software and other tools, but for those that can’t, make sure you have a proxy or a clear set of instructions for your real estate professional.

Your plan should also include check-ins and status updates, as well as expected response times to prevent a communication breakdown.

“The real estate transaction centers on the negotiation. It is during the offer negotiation process that communicating accurately and in a timely manner is absolutely paramount,” adds Mobraten.

Prepare your home

Before you leave, make sure your home is set to make a great first impression. Staging your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be effective, and goes a long way to keep a prospective buyer interested versus turning them off immediately. Ensure your home is clean, and don’t neglect the exterior. Your yard should be extra tidy and well-maintained too. Even if you normally DIY, you may need to schedule landscaping services if your vacation will be a lengthy one.

Same goes for the inside; consider hiring a cleaning service, even if you just have them come by right before you leave for vacation or just before any open houses your agent may have planned while you are away.

Owner of Accent Maid Service, Inc. Cheri Forslund says, “Using a cleaning service regularly while your home is on the market will pay off. But if you are on a tight budget use a cleaning service just for your open houses.”

And if you have pets, placing them in a pet hotel so your real estate professional and housekeeper won’t have to worry about them when entering your house may be a good idea.

Don’t forget about security

Call your security provider to let them know you’ll be out of town. Ask about off-site monitoring, video surveillance and patrols. Your provider should also have some tips on how to make it look like your home is occupied, such as the use of timed lights, and other suggestions on how best to secure your home while you’re away.

“Burglars often target unoccupied homes. Therefore, whether you’re gone for two weeks or two months, it’s important to make it seem like you never left,” Jeff Bates, CEO of Vector Security.

Piled up mail is a sure sign that there’s no one home, so be sure to have someone collect it for you or have the post office hold it until you get back.

For showings, give your real estate agent a separate alarm code for the house and ask that a list of visitors is maintained so you know who enters your home at all times. Also, ask your agent to ensure all windows and doors are locked before leaving the home.

Final thoughts

Check your homeowner’s insurance to make sure it’s up-to-date and your coverage is comprehensive and includes personal liability coverage.

“Homeowners insurance covers the structure of your home and your personal property, as well as your personal legal responsibility (or liability) for injuries to others or their property while they’re on your property,” according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

In the off-chance that there is damage to your property or somebody has an accident while you’re away, you want to make sure that you’ll be covered.

This is a great opportunity for your real estate agent to schedule multiple showings because with you out of town, your house will be like a model home. Keeping this in mind, you can relax and enjoy your vacation knowing that you’ve left your home in the care of competent professionals who have your best interests at heart.

MOVING DURING THE SUMMER WITH KIDS

Sat, 09 Jul by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 1.17.06 PM

Approximately 17 to 20 million people are expected to move this summer, and according to U-Haul, the majority of Americans move between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“People feel more comfortable with the idea of moving house during these three to four months because of the favorable weather conditions, the summer holidays, and various other seasonal factors that seem to promise a safe, comfortable, and efficient relocation,” says relocation professional Ethan Greenfield.

If you’re planning on relocating your family during peak moving season, start planning as early as possible in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

Here are some tips to help make your move stress-free:

Have a moving checklist

Your moving checklist should cover all aspects of the move, from filling out a USPS change of address and notifying all relevant parties of your move, to unpacking and organizing your home on arrival. Break your tasks down into manageable phases starting several weeks out.

Once you’ve covered all of the necessary detail, create a version of this list for every member of your household. You can create a printable coloring checklists for young ones and have them color in each item in lieu of checking it off the list, and create a digital task list for your teens using an app like Moving Planner.

Help your kids pack

Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to help you — or even independently pack up their own rooms. Determine what they can handle and give them some age-appropriate tasks. Make packing fun by turning it into a game or offering them rewards as they complete their assigned tasks. Apps like Chore Wars that gamify chores will help you keep track of everyone’s progress.

For little ones, Bright Horizons Family Solutions® suggests letting children pack and label one box of their favorite things that they can look forward to opening upon arrival at their new home.

U-Pack moving expert Brittney Lee also suggests packing some surprises for your kids. “Sneak a few surprises into your kid’s moving boxes. In their clothing box, leave a new shirt for their first day of school. Or add a new toy to the toy box. These fun surprises will make unpacking much more enjoyable!”

Get professional help

If you’re planning on managing the move yourself, consider enlisting the services of movers, cleaners, and baby and pet sitters, especially for moving day. Although they may try to sell you on their full services, keep in mind that you can typically customize packages to fit your needs. If you don’t need help packing, just hire movers to collect and deliver your belongings.

Don’t be afraid to ask about deals and discounts. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, movers are required by law to observe the 110 percent rule, so they have to deliver your possessions for “no more than 10% above the price of a nonbinding estimate.” Shop around for the best deal for you and then be sure to negotiate based on what you can afford. The FMCSA also suggest protecting yourself by being aware of your rights and responsibilities when moving.

Pro Tip: If you don’t plan on hiring a cleaner, don’t pack your cleaning supplies.

Have a moving day plan

“Moving day is one of those tasks we all want to get done with as fast as possible, [so] it’s best to have a solid, uncomplicated plan to make moving day as easy as it can be,” says real estate and finance expert Craig Donofrio.

Make a list of everything that needs to get done on the day of your move, including who is responsible for what tasks. Don’t forget to incorporate time for breaks, meals and refreshments into your plan. Building buffer time into your schedule will also help you stay on track in case any last minute tasks or issues pop up.

If you’re donating any clothing or household items, today is also a good day to schedule pickups. Organizations like Donation Town (in the U.S and Canada) and Pick Up My Donation (just in the U.S.) allow you to look up nearby non-profits and schedule a pickup online.

And don’t forget to designate a safe spot for any items that you plan to travel with. Make sure that the movers know you’ll be handling them yourself.

“Have your essentials with you – [keep] in mind that your shipment may be delayed considerably during the peak moving season. You may have to survive for a week or so in your new home without your belongings, so make sure all your valuables and essentials travel with you,” adds Greenfield.

What about the kids?

Keeping your children safe and busy on moving day will be a priority. Consider enrolling them in a summer program or daycare for the day, or hiring a sitter to watch them while you’re working with the movers and checking things off your to-do list. Scheduling a farewell playdate with their friends, having friends or family watch them, or even asking your neighbor to watch them while the movers are at the house are also viable options.

USING GOOGLE MAPS TO HUNT FOR YOUR NEXT HOME

Fri, 24 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.10.50 AM

According to comScore, Google Maps is one of the top 10 smartphone apps in the country. Globally, approximately one billion people use Google Maps to perform one billion searches every day. It’s a popular and useful tool, but how can you use it in your search for a new home?

Explore the neighborhood

Go for a virtual walk around your target suburb with Street View. This feature allows you to take a virtual tour of the city streets, even letting you to step into local businesses like restaurants and stores that have indoor maps available.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.01 AM

Google Earth lets you zoom out to get a better idea of the surrounding area. You can map out nearby parks, grocery stores, and essential services like the fire department and police station. Get an idea of where they are in relation to the properties you’re considering and how they’ll affect service or even noise in the area.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.18 AM

Create custom maps

As you come across homes that you’re interested in visiting, mark them on a map. My Maps not only allows you to pin places of interest, but you can also add notes on each location and include directions to each listing in case you’re planning an offline visit.

My Maps also lets you upload photos and videos that you’ve taken at these locations to your map, making it into a multimedia guide. You can change the titles of markers, marker colors and shapes on your map to indicate different things, making it easier to distinguish between places that you’ve visited or even color-coding homes by category or some other designation (i.e. green homes, multi-generational homes etc.).

Collaborate in your search

Once you’ve created your annotated map and marked any attractions in the area that you’d like to visit, you can share the map with your family and have them weigh in and comment on it. They can share what they like and dislike, add homes to the map, and easily eliminate undesirable properties without even having to leave the house.

You can also share the map with your real estate agent, who can add newly listed houses that might not be on your radar, remove homes that have sold, or even add commentary based on their area expertise.

Other features

Google Maps also has mashups, where other sites present their data in ways that may be useful to you during your search for a new home:

Walk Score: Find out how walkable your target neighborhood is. Walk Score also lets you evaluate your transportation choices and get a commute report, explore safety and area amenities, and plug into what the locals are saying about the neighborhood.
Instant Street View: Instantly displays any address in Google Street View without you having to access the actual Google app.
Satellite View of My House: Pulls up a satellite view of any location.
Area Calculator: This tool lets you calculate area, which you can use to determine the area of a plot of land, measure a roof, or even to measure a perimeter if you’re trying to figure out how much fence you’ll need for your new home.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.11.43 AM

Most of these features can be accessed online and via mobile as well, so you don’t have to be glued to a computer. And since you can visit any city in the world, using Google Maps is especially useful if you’re relocating.

 

How Much Home Can You Afford?

Fri, 17 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 4.11.18 PM

According to a Google Consumer survey, 50% of prospective home buyers start searching between six and 12 months in advance. Because purchasing a home is the largest lifetime financial investment for many, if not most consumers, it comes as no surprise that a wealth of research usually comes before deciding on a home.

Search the neighborhood and the school district. Define which features are the highest on the family’s priority list.

Recent research, however, found that many people might not have spent long enough studying how much home they could afford. Newsday reported that 1 in 3 American homeowners – a total of 19 million people – spend 30 percent or more of their income on their mortgages and other housing expenses.

So how can you figure out how much home you can afford?

Make sure you have a few financial safeguards in place

-Get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified) for a mortgage
-Ensure you still have a rainy day fund before sinking all your savings into a home
-Be certain you are ready to stay in one place for several years before tying up money in a somewhat illiquid asset

Calculate a reasonable percentage of your income

Aim for between 25 and 30 percent of take-home pay on housing (this means your net pay, not your gross income). Lenders like Wells Fargo recommend something right in the middle — 28 percent. This includes any extra monthly income you might earn from freelancing, side jobs or investments. This should not include savings or retirement accounts.

Assess your current debt payments

Are you paying on student loans? How much are your car payments? What about your monthly credit card payments? Do you have any other mortgages? What other debts do you have? This is a short list of the expenses you should add up. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, the amount of debt you hold in comparison to your income, should not exceed 36 percent, according to Wells Fargo. That DTI ratio will also include the mortgage and associated expenses you are applying for, so include that as well.

Figure out how much your down payment will be

The recommended amount for a down payment is 20 percent of the total cost of the house. (Remember to include closing costs!) However, buyers can access Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages where you can put just 3.5 percent down. Keep in mind: most mortgages with less than 20 percent down will incur private mortgage insurance (PMI), which you’ll need to add to your overall expenses. Whatever the amount of the down payment, calculating it will let you know how much you’ll need to borrow.

Find out your interest rate

A combination of your credit score, your DTI ratio and your down payment amount will all figure into the interest rate on your mortgage. Adjustable-rate mortgages tend to start out with lower initial interest rates but can flex with time, tracked by indices such as the Federal Reserve Board. Fixed-rate mortgages might start out a little higher but remain fixed throughout the life of the loan. The length of your mortgage can also impact your interest rates.

Tools to help you with the math

Doing the math to understand the true cost of buying a home can be challenging. Fortunately, online calculators can help you make the entire process easy. Happy house hunting!

4 Features of an Energy Efficient Home

Sat, 11 Jun by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 3.45.34 PM

When shopping for a new home, the importance of finding energy efficient digs might be high on the list. Energy efficiency helps reduce the amount of energy you use in your home and in turn can reduce your energy bills as well as your home’s environmental impact. But there are options for energy efficiency beyond a roof covered in solar panels — and could lead to a higher resale value, too.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), there are a host of things to consider for an energy efficient home.

Energy-reducing appliances and electronics

The easiest way to identify energy efficient appliances is with the Energy Star logo. The Energy Star signifier is bestowed upon appliances and electronics that are meaningfully more energy efficient than the government standard. Energy Star-branded refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers as well as air conditioners, televisions and heating units can all increase the efficiency of your home. For example, an Energy Star washer alone can save you $70 a year in utility bills. Plus, you’ll use 10 fewer gallons of water.

Insulation and temperature control for heating and cooling

The DOE found 56 percent of home energy costs go to heating and cooling. Spray foam insulation can help reduce the amount of lost heat or cooling by filling in holes in attics, near wiring, behind small walls, in basements and around plumbing vents. You can also save by using a digitally programmable thermostat to bring down expenses and keep homes efficient. The DOE found homes saved up to 15 percent by dialing thermostats back as little as 10 to 15 degrees during the average 8-hour workday.

Water heating

After heating and cooling your home, your water heater can be another large cost, accounting for as much as 18 percent of your utility bill. After the basics – repairing leaks and updating pipes – be sure to buy an energy-efficient model heater and set your heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should give you comfortably warm water for most uses within your home. Draining water from the heater can also remove build up to help it run more efficiently.

Lighting

Burning an incandescent bulb costs between five and ten times more than the purchase price of the bulb. Energy-efficient lighting like Light Emitting Diode (LED) or Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs can transform energy usage in your home. Both LED and CFL lights can last ten times as long as incandescent bulbs and use less than half the energy.

7 Things To Have On Your Checklist When Choosing A Real Estate Pro

Sat, 21 May by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 8.56.40 PM

As a homebuyer you’re about to embark on one of the biggest, most stressful and exciting journeys in your life. You need to be certain that you can trust your real estate professional to deliver the goods.

However, choosing the right realtor can be difficult. There is a lot to consider, and with fierce competition between agents, all of the information can be a little bit overwhelming. Here are some key steps to help you pinpoint the real estate agent that will be the best fit for you.

1. Speak With Former Clients

When you meet the agent in person, they obviously will be putting their best foot forward. So, for a more unbiased view of their work habits, try to speak with people who have worked with them in the past. Online testimonials are a great place to start. But for more in-depth insight into the agent’s area expertise, check out their Facebook page. If you have friends in common, ask them about their experience with the agent in question.

2. State Board Records

Check with your local REALTOR® board for license information, employment history and disciplinary actions.

3. Industry Designations

Real estate agents often go above and beyond minimum education requirements to specialize in specific areas of the business. Depending on what you’re looking for, you might want to look for an agent with specific credentials and designations.

CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) – Looking for a residential home? These professionals have been specially trained in residential sales.
ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) – Qualified ABR agents specialize in helping their clients buy their new home. To become an ABR, agents first need to have the required experience before they are able to undergo specialized training. Once qualified, agents are able to assist you through the entire process, from locating suitable properties based on your wants and needs to closing the deal. These agents are top of their field.
SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) – These agents have specialized knowledge and experience working with people in the 50+ age range.

Also, don’t disregard peer-given awards; these can be a sign of an accomplished agent.

4. How Long They Have Been In Business

This is obviously a great measuring stick for an agent’s experience. You can find out how long they’ve been in business through the licensing association. However, newer agents with the right work and community experience often offer a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to get the job done. Who you choose depends on your personal preference and real estate goals.

5. Current Listing Inventory

You can find an agent’s listings online through their social media pages, personal website and sites like realtor.com. Take a look at how their past and current listings compare to the type of house you are looking for and explore their marketing strategy. Also, take note of the number of listings they have and ask them what their typical inventory looks like.

Be prepared with listing inventory questions, should you take the next step and interview the agent. Do they specialize in select neighborhoods? What is their niche area? How long do homes typically stay on the market?

6. Knowing The Neighborhood

A good agent should know about other available properties in their area of expertise “off the top of his head,” says Robert Irwin, author of Tips & Traps When Buying a Home. “You want someone like that who’s on top of the market.”

Aside from inventory expertise, ask the agent about the aspects of the community that are most important to you, including school ratings, restaurants, the community, shopping and other local amenities. In addition to knowing what most attracts homebuyers to the area, a good agent also will understand the challenges homeowners in the area face.

7. Do They Have a Strong Online Presence

Social media is the new word-of-mouth, so an agent’s online presence can be a good gauge of how up-to-date they are on the market and their industry connections. Do they have an active Facebook, Twitter or Linkedln page? Are they updating their social media pages regularly with knowledgeable content? If they are, this is a good sign that they have their finger on the pulse. Smart agents often utilize online tools to streamline their social media systems and processes.

Choose Wisely

There is a lot to consider when you start looking for an agent. Don’t just pick the first one you find. Do your research online, interview at least 3 different agents and choose someone who you connect with and has your best interests at heart.

Want to get your home search started today? Search for properties in Canada or the United States at Realty Executives.

This guest post was written by Sara Luckman of CityBlast. The team at CityBlast helps over 10,000 agents and brokers with their social media marketing, keeping their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn up-to-date and professional.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Ways to Go Green in Your Home

Fri, 13 May by realtyexecutivesnw

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.06.07 PM

We’ve all heard the canon: reduce, reuse and recycle. But how can you put that to use in your own home?

Reduce your junk mail

Everyone’s mailboxes have gotten at least one piece (or one ton) of junk mail over the years. According to the NYU School of Law, nearly half is thrown away completely unopened and less than a quarter is recycled. Out of more than 40 pounds of mail received, less than 10 gets to a recycling bin.

To reduce this waste, the easiest option is removing yourself from mailing lists. Those in the U.S. can go online and select preferences for the National Do Not Mail List. This free resource not only helps you reduce what you receive at your home, but will also prompt you regularly to review your preferences and keep the mail from coming long term. A quick call to 1-888-OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688) will help pare down unnecessary credit offers, too.

The Canadian Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail Service makes it easy to reduce the number of marketing offers received by mail. And to opt-out of receiving marketing calls, the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission’s National Do Not Call List or 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) is an option.

Reuse the results of grocery trips

Groceries are a great area to find reusable materials.

Reusable shopping bags are everywhere, but if you don’t have some yet, there are plenty of other options. Plastic shopping bags are great trash can liners for your bathroom bins. Paper bags can become textbook wrappers for kids’ school books.
Bread ties can help organize cords behind your entertainment center.
Old coffee cans can become holders for flour and sugar in the kitchen. Even the unused food can be reused.
Old banana peels can double as natural, better smelling polishers for leather shoes, instead of the processed shine in the can. Plus, once you’re done shining, dry and grind the peels as a fertilizer booster for that backyard garden.

Recycle because many don’t – or don’t correctly

Most neighborhoods ask you to place all recyclables into one bin, despite the fact that doing so often increases the contamination risk, Waste Management Director of Public Affairs Susan Robinson told Wired. This has been shown to encourage the practice, but beware — there’s so much enthusiasm to recycle, at times, that people put anything and everything into recycling bins, causing more work for crews and more contamination of recycled items.

Need an example of a city that’s doing recycling right? In 2013, San Francisco achieved an 80% landfill diversion rate, which was the highest in the entire country. By banning plastic bags that aren’t compostable, requiring composting for both individuals and commercial businesses that produce a certain amount of waste and accepting a wider variety of materials than most other cities, San Francisco is ahead of the curve on recycling.

To find out more about recycling in your city, head to your local waste management website.

6 Tips For Selling Your Home with Kids

Fri, 29 Apr by realtyexecutivesnw

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 3.06.54 PM

Summer is a prime time for families to move and take advantage of the time away from school. If you’re trying to sell a home with a gaggle of children in tow, it can feel like you are juggling a lot all on your own. But did you know that according to the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly two-thirds of all buyers searching for their new home have kids? More than one in six had three or more kids that would be living in the home.

You can embrace your kids’ place in your life while also making your home the most universal to potential buyers. Here’s how:

Before it goes on the market
1. Clean up everything: Give yourself time to do a deep clean of the home before photos ever go up in your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Then, ensure your kids keep their play to certain easy-to-clean sections of your home to maintain that hard work.

2. Make things multi-use: Just because many buyers might have children themselves, doesn’t mean that they won’t still be trying to picture all parts of your home as multi-use spaces. (Who doesn’t want a home gym or office space once the kids head off to college?) If you do stage a playroom, make sure to highlight all the usability of the space to appeal to various buyers.

3. Temper bedroom decor: Racecar beds and ballerina-themed wallpaper can definitely make a kid’s day. But a buyer with three boys might have a hard time picturing one of them in a princess-themed palace. Neutral wall colors and tidy décor can help your home feel family friendly for anyone’s children.

While it’s for sale

4. Make sure you’ve got timing down: Set yourself up for success by providing ample head’s up before a showing to ensure your kids haven’t left a skateboard in the front drive or a teddy bear on the kitchen counter. Showings frequently happen on weekends, so give yourself a break and have a hotel staycation or visit to the grandparent’s house, so you can fit multiple showings in a weekend without ruffling your children’s feathers.

5. Keep your kids involved in the process: While packing up some items in their rooms, let your kids have some say about what they get to keep out versus storing away. This will make the process easier for them. Incentives for helping you keep the home pristine can help, as well. For every week they keep their rooms clean, let them pick Friday night dinner or a Saturday play activity.

6. Find a great real estate pro: It’s hard to juggle real life with moving, so don’t worry if you can’t keep all the balls in the air. A great real estate professional will help you organize the process. Plus, they can advertise your home the right way to bring that sweet-spot buyer right to your doorstep, even with a stray toy in the corner of the playroom.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Grande Prairie Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.