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5 Tips to Help Your Home Sell in the Winter

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

True or false- the best time to sell your home is typically during the spring and summer months— true. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t sell during the winter and still get a great price.

If you’re considering selling this winter, here are several tips to help you prepare your home:

  • Snow removal: In order to set foot inside your home, buyers have to get there first. Shovel the snow and use salt to melt any ice patches, and ensure that the path to the lockbox (if you’re using one) is clear for agents.
  • Curb appeal still matters: Even though people won’t be spending much time outside the home for several months yet, it’s still important to maintain the exterior— clean out the gutters and keep trees and shrubs trimmed to help buyers envision what your home will look like during warmer months.
  • Set the scene: Create a cozy feeling during showings— add blankets to the couch, light some candles and use tasteful Christmas décor if selling during the holidays. If you have a fireplace, use it to showcase both its ability to warm up a room and its added aesthetic to your home.
  • Light it up: Winter has a tendency to remove a lot of natural light. To combat this, open window treatments during the day and utilize lightbulbs and candles to create as much lighting as possible.
  • Keep on eye on the weather: Be prepared for delays due to bad weather— showings, inspections and even document transmissions can be delayed if a winter storm rolls in. 


Sometimes homes sell for more during the snowy months because there is less inventory to choose from, although the amount of time to sell is dependent on weather, which in turn is dependent on the number of showings you’ll get. Even though there are fewer buyers during the winter months, the buyers that ARE looking tend to be more motivated. While there are benefits to selling during the spring and summer, there are also benefits to selling during the winter as well. 


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Norway-based Company Develops Smart Home Technology to Monitor Radon Levels

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Did you know that radon causes more deaths from lung cancer every year than both carbon monoxide and house fires combined? The scariest part is that you don’t have to travel far for radon to affect you— it could start in your own home. In fact, recent surveys have shown that 1 in 5 homes in the US have elevated radon levels.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that occurs naturally in soil. It can be released from rock, soil and water, and when it decays, solid particles begin to form and can cling to water molecules, dust, or even directly to lung tissue.

When the interior of a home is warmer than outside (most nights year-round), the home draws soil gas out of the ground to replace lost air that escaped out of the top, thus increasing overall radon levels. While radon detectors have been around for years, the tests can take days to come back from the lab and since daily radon levels tend to fluctuate, the tests aren’t always the most accurate.

New Technology On the Horizon

Airthings, a Norway-based company, has developed the Airthings Wave, which utilizes digital sensors and smart home technology to measure a home’s radon levels over an extended period of time, rather than just a moment in time. Since the system is all electronic, homeowners are now able to monitor radon levels 24/7. The indicator light on the device will either turn green (healthy levels), yellow (temporary high) or red (unhealthy levels).

Source: https://airthings.com/wave/

Installation is easy— simply use standard AA batteries and a single screw to attach it to a wall or ceiling. Homeowners can also check radon levels and receive notifications through a free app that keeps track of both short and long term data. If radon levels are detected as being dangerous for more than 48 hours, the app will notify the homeowner and recommend next steps.

Experts recommend hiring a contractor to implement a radon reduction system if radon levels are high. A reduction system will reduce levels by up to 99%. The cost for installing this system typically ranges anywhere from $800 to $1,200, though it will usually cost more if the home has a completely finished lower level or a crawl space. Additionally, the Airthings Wave retails on their website for $199 and arrives at your doorstep within one month of ordering.

It can take years for those exposed to radon to begin showing symptoms. While there are many controversies about radon levels in homes and whether they’re actually linked to increased cancer risks, the old saying “better safe than sorry” may carry some weight for those homeowners who want to take precautions and don’t want to risk it. 


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6 Things To Do Before You Take That Vacation

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

Summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that vacation time is over. Did you know that August is the second most popular month of the year to travel? With 36% of respondents vacationing this month, it’s a good idea to prepare your home to be unoccupied for days or weeks at a time.

There are many precautions you can take to ensure your home stays safe while you’re away. Here are a few tips to help reduce the risks:

  • Only 17% of homes in America have a home security system, and homes without one are three times as likely to be burglarized. While these systems are not cheap, they are a wise investment and can save you a headache and a lot of money later down the road.​​
  • Putting a hold on your mail and newspaper for the duration of your time away will make it look as though you are home, or at the very least, that someone is stopping by your house regularly to collect the mail.​​
  • This may seem like an obvious one, but is easy to overlook while packing and running last minute errands before you leave town. Lock all windows and doors and once you’ve locked them, double-check just to be sure.​​
  • We’ve all been told at one point or another to put our lights on a timer while on vacation, but smart bulbs like these can be programmed through your smartphone and controlled from wherever you are. It may also be a good idea to switch up the times that you activate the lights every day to further create the illusion that someone is home.​​
  • It may seem silly to water the plants, clean up the yard and mow the grass before leaving on vacation, but think about it– a home with a tidy yard implies that the home is occupied, and is more likely to deter a burglar.
  • You never know when a power surge will happen, so why take the risk while you’re away? Disconnect any electronics that don’t need to stay plugged in, such as the TV, your laptop, a hair dryer, etc.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about security measures to take the next time you leave for vacation and leave your empty house behind– after all, a vacation is intended to be relaxing, so don’t stress out!


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5 Areas to Focus On: How to Increase Your Home’s Resale Value

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

It’s the hottest time of year, and with that comes the hottest selling season. When aiming to sell, keep in mind that the littlest changes can often have the largest impact when trying to increase the resale value of your home. Here are a few ideas to get you started on preparing your home to sell this summer, while also getting a great price for it:

  1. Declutter

It is important to keep in mind that some of the changes you will be making may not suit your personal preferences and tastes— that’s okay! Packing away family photos and sports memorabilia will be less distracting during showings. Keep in mind that many buyers cannot visualize a space, and if you have too much “stuff”, this can overwhelm them and leave them with a negative impression of your home.

  1. Spruce up the bathrooms

42% of real estate professionals surveyed by Consumer Reports agree that bathrooms are one of the most important rooms in a home to have in good condition. You can invest as much or as little as you want into renovations and updates, but simple projects such as re-grouting the tile or replacing an old toilet could give you a potential increase in asking price of up to 3%.

  1. Update the kitchen

Millennials currently make up 34% of all homebuyers, and a “modern/updated kitchen” is one of their top criteria when considering which home to purchase. New or repainted cabinets, stainless steel appliances and a fresh coat of paint can completely transform your kitchen and potentially add between 3 and 7% to the asking price.

  1. Give the walls some TLC

Walls should be a backdrop rather than a focal point when trying to sell. Certain colors work better in some rooms than others and may have an impact on selling price. Homes with warm neutrals such as wheat yellow in the kitchen sell for $1,360 more on average. Comparatively, neutrals such as grey-beige win in the living room, adding an average of $1,104 to the selling price.

  1. Remember the curb appeal

The exterior of your home can easily be neglected when renovating the inside, but some potential buyers won’t even make it through the front door if they aren’t impressed with the outside. Basic landscaping, installing outdoor lighting and planting a few flowers can make a world of difference, and may bump up the asking price by up to 5%.  New roofs are also a huge bonus, as it shows buyers that the home has been cared for, and 31% of real estate professionals agree that the roof is an important part of the home to have in good condition.

In order to attract buyers and leave them with a positive and memorable impression, it’s important to spend a little time spicing up your home without going overboard. Researching which projects will suit your home best before spending money on unnecessary renovations will help to ensure that you’re only putting in what you’ll get out when offers start rolling in. 


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Looking To Sell? 5 Projects to Improve Your Curb Appeal

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

With nice weather becoming a constant and summer just around the corner, this time of year presents a great opportunity for sellers to prepare their homes to hit the market. Many people shop online first, and often times the first image of a home they see is an exterior view. If this initial image doesn’t impress a buyer, they may move on to another home and not continue to consider yours.

These simple projects can help improve the curb appeal of your home if you’re looking to sell this summer:

  • Add a Pop of Color

Because eyes are instinctively drawn to color, adding a few flower pots or hanging flower baskets near your front door or porch can add visual interest and draw positive attention to the exterior of your home.

  • Hang Outdoor Lights

Lighting is a feature that many buyers take into consideration when purchasing a home, and exterior lighting is no exception. Taking the time to install outdoor lighting or hang string lights can enhance your porch or deck area and highlight exterior features of your home that buyers may be interested in.

  • Update Your Fence

Fences, or a lack thereof, are an exterior feature that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Buyers with children or pets will appreciate the presence of a fence because it will create a private and safe area. If you have a fence, consider whether it needs a fresh coat of paint or if any boards are broken or loose. If you don’t have a fence and investing in one is feasible for you, consider the style, color and amount of time it will take to have one installed.  

  • Invest in Landscaping

Adding landscaping to any home can increase the home value and attract the attention of buyers. A few DIY project ideas include planting trees or flowers, cleaning the edges around walkways, or hanging a hammock. While some landscaping projects don’t require the help of a professional, other attributes such as water features or retaining walls may require an investment if you’re looking to up your curb appeal game.

  • Stage an Outdoor Living Room

If you don’t already own patio furniture now might be the time to invest, especially if your home offers views.  Staging an outdoor area with chairs, a table, colorful cushions and an outdoor rug can help buyers visualize afternoons lounging in the sun and evenings spent relaxing with friends, which may contribute to their overall decision to purchase.

While completing these projects isn’t necessary in helping to sell your home, they are all possible options to consider if your curb appeal needs improvement. Regardless of budget or time, there always steps to take in order to add home value and attract buyers' attention.


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5 Easy Steps to an Energy-Efficient Home

by Hart Real Estate Solutions

The simplest things can make a big difference in the efficiency of your home. Many homes waste energy that could have easily been saved—but not yours, because you found this article.

Here’s a few easy ways to save a ton of money on your home energy bills:

#1. Choose the Right Windows

Windows are the biggest source of heat loss/gain in a home.

If you own an old home that still has single-pane windows, replace them with newer, energy-efficient windows and you’ll probably see an immediate difference in your energy bills.

A choice as simple as the type of windows you buy can make all the difference. You should always consider frame materials and designs when buying new windows. Hinged windows are more efficient than sliding windows because they allow less air leakage between seams. As for the materials, avoid metal frames because they conduct heat, and choose insulated fiberglass window frames for the best efficiency.

Special note: Choose the right windows for your climate. If you live in cold, wet climates, choose materials like vinyl, fiberglass, or wood-resin composite (windows labeled with U-values less than .3 are the most insulated).

#2. Seal the Leaks

If you see a gradual increase in your energy bills over the years (given prices or anything else hasn’t changed), you might have a leak somewhere on your home’s exterior. If this is the case, you should call an HVAC company and have them do and energy audit on your home to find any hidden leaks.

In the meantime, look around your window frames and doorways, beneath your baseboards, and around flues and chimneys. If you find a leak, you can either use caulk, weather-strips, or foam spray insulation to seal it up.

Special note: Sliding barn doors can make a tighter seal than hinged doors in some cases, because it fits in a slot inside the door frame rather than against it (plus they could go well with rustic styles homes if you have one).

#3. Get a New HVAC System

Older HVAC systems are much less efficient than new and improved designs that are available today. If your current system is more than 10 years old, it would be wise to either get a new one or make improvements to bring it into this decade.

Special Note: Humidifiers can be integrated with your HVAC system to add water vapor to the system’s air flow, which can greatly improve humidity levels during the dry seasons of fall and winter (which might help when you have a sore throat)

#4. Pack More Insulation

The amount of insulation a home has is arguably the most important aspect in keeping your home energy-efficient. We’ve seen a beautiful home in a great location with hardly any flaws but one that turned a few buyers away- the insulation was so bad that the energy bills were outrageous!

Older homes like that one could have insulation that became compressed or shifted out of place over the years. Adding the appropriate amount of insulation to the attic will have the biggest effect, given that it is installed properly with no gaps and with the recommended amount of insulation for the region.

Special note: Adding insulation to your walls does not have to be a big demolition project (unless that’s what you want). Contractors can blow insulation into the walls without tearing all of it down.

#5. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Isn’t it wonderful how advanced technology is getting these days? New programmable thermostats that are available now can be set to change the temperature of your home on a schedule, so you won’t have to remember to adjust it every day before you leave the house. Some new thermostats can even change the settings remotely. Imagine the cost savings!

It’s that time of the year again! The weather is getting warmer, the BBQs are firing up, and Spring cleaning has begun! It’s time to take care of all those dreaded chores that you’ve been putting off all year. But before you start going on a cleaning frenzy, be sure to prioritize the most important areas of your home—areas that you probably didn’t realize was so important.

Here’s a list of some of the most important Spring cleaning tasks that you should be taking care of every year.   

Dusting…

Refrigerator Coils

Refrigerator coils are a dust magnet, and if left unattended, accumulation of dust can impair energy efficiency. Too much dust will force your refrigerator to work harder and spend more costly energy to keep your precious groceries cold.

Cleaning them is easy. The coils can be found on either on the bottom or back of the machine. Just take a vacuum with an upholstery attachment and suck up all the big chunks. Then, use a duster or a specialized refrigerator coil brush to clean between the coils and pick up any pet hair or dust that’s clung to the coils.  

Ceiling Fans

It’s easy to forget about your ceiling fans, so here’s a friendly reminder to clean them before you start flinging dust around the room. Dusty ceiling fans are also a big source of allergens, which you don’t need more of in the Spring, or ever.

Baseboards

Much like other crevices of your home where you don’t typically pay attention to, baseboards can accumulate a lot of dust. So, don’t forget about the baseboards, especially if you’re getting ready to move out of an apartment. Landlords might keep more of your deposit if you leave more for them to clean (it happened to me).

Washing…

Pillows—not just the pillow cases

Yes, your pillows are washable. Once or twice a year, you should be washing your pillows to clean off your nasty sweat and dead skin cells, which dust mites love!

Comforters

Just like pillows, comforters are also a favorite place for dust mites to hang out.

Mattresses

You might think it’s protected by your sheets, but it’s not. While you’re washing your sheets, pillows, and comforters, vacuum the mattresses, then spread baking soda on it and let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming it again.

Deep Cleaning…

Shower Heads

If you have hard water, shower heads can easily accumulate lime scale that is tough to remove…or is it? If you wrap a plastic bag full of distilled white vinegar over the shower head and let it soak for a few hours, magic happens!

Appliances

So things that do the cleaning, don’t need to be cleaned, right? WRONG! Your dishwasher, washer, and dryer can actually get quite gunky if you don’t clean them on a regular basis. Here’s a few secrets to get the job done right.

Dishwasher—Food and leftover soap can build up along the bottom and sides of your dishwasher. Place a shallow bowl of white vinegar in the dishwasher and sprinkle a LITTLE BIT of baking soda along the bottom, then run it through a hot cycle.

(Important note: vinegar mixed with baking soda starts a chemical reaction, which is why it does a good job cleaning, but can also cause explosive fizzing if too much is added)

Washer—Dirt and detergent can build up in your washer and can even stimulate mold growth in the worst cases. A cup of bleach through the hottest cycle possible should do the trick!

Dryer—While you should be cleaning off the lint screen after every cycle, you should also occasionally pull off the hose in the back and try to remove as much lint as possible (a leaf blower works great!). Hint: if it takes longer than normal to dry your clothes, it’s time to check the hose.

Carpets

Advice from the Environmental Protection Agency: you should be steam cleaning your carpets at least once or twice a year. Bacteria and dust mites thrive in dirty carpets, so don’t put yourself or your children at risk of health issues and allergies. Plus, carpets are not cheap, so keep them in their best shape!

Filters

Filters obviously can’t do their job if they are clogged up, which would increase energy use while spreading dust throughout your entire house. Air filters, furnace filters, and even vacuum filters should all be checked on a regular basis and replaced when necessary.

 

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Water descalers, a salt free water softener system, are relatively new technology used to soften water with a magnetic system. Rather than diluting hard water with salts, descalers transform the molecular structure of mineral deposits to a suspended state with nanotechnology. In this suspended state, minerals that cause hard water (mainly calcium, sulfur, and magnesium) are prevented from sticking to surfaces and causing lime scale buildup.

Problems with Conventional Water Softeners

Conventional water softeners add salts and chemicals that can lead to some complications that descalers avoid.

#1 One health concern from conventional water softeners is that added salts in your drinking water will increase your sodium intake, which is not what you’re looking for if you have high blood pressure or heart ailments.

#2 When added salts and chemicals are heated in your water lines, heavy metals can be leached from copper pipes and any soldered joints, which can lead to severe health problems in high concentration.

#3 The added salts and chemicals from water softeners are also corrosive, reducing the life expectancy of your plumbing and appliances.

 

Benefits of Water Descalers

Water descalers eliminates these issues. No added salts or chemicals are added to your water, providing you and your family with healthier drinking water, with less wear on your plumbing and appliances. Water descalers also do a decent job removing and preventing scale buildup—enhancing the performance of water heaters and increasing the lifespan of your water lines.

Another major benefit of this system is that it minimizes salt discharge into sewer lines and groundwater. Approximately 400 lbs of salt can be added to the ground each year because of water softeners. Salts can be detrimental to the environment, killing plants and affecting the health of animals that drink from it. It is also costly to process water with high salt content in water treatment plants, which your taxes pay for.

 

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