Friday, December 26, 2014

Selling a house with clutter - By Dan McGowan

When you own a home, it is easy to accumulate more stuff than you intend to. With enough closets, spare bedrooms and a garage or shed, you can quickly fill your home to bursting with all manner of things. Unfortunately, all of this stuff can really get in the way when you decide to sell your house.

Buyers want and need to see the full potential of your house to picture themselves in it, but that can be difficult to do when it is covered up in your things – no matter how important they may be to you.
Selling a cluttered home is hard due to the fact that many people do not have the necessary vision to see beyond it. Appearance is critical in real estate sales. Luckily, there are solutions, things you can do now to make your home look its best and sell more reliably 

Renting a storage unit or pod is the easiest way to get rid of the clutter. Garage and yard sales are a great way to rid yourself of the clutter and make some cash as well! You want to make the inside of your home to appear as large as you can. Having clutter and too much furniture makes a room appear small and potential buyers sometimes can’t see through this. 

Everyone has a clutter black hole. It may be a closet or a drawer in the kitchen. Clean them out. Buyers open up closets and if they see that it’s packed, they might think the house is too small for them. Go through the closets and donate all the clothes you haven’t warn for some time.

Take pictures down and clean up the counters in the kitchen. On the outside of your home, get rid of old flowers that have died or any clutter that is just hanging around. First impressions are everything when a buyer drives up to your home. I’ve had buyers that refused to get out of the car when the appearance of the outside of the home was cluttered. 

While you are cleaning out your home of all its accumulated clutter is a good time to take a look at any necessary work that needs to be addressed before you put it up for sale. Eventually the buyer for your home is going to have a home inspection. There is nothing more important than being well prepared for the home inspection as it is a major hurdle to cross in any real estate transaction. More sales fall apart at a home inspection than in any other point in the sale. De-cluttering your home will give you the opportunity to look it over with a finer eye for things that you may notice during your day to day life. 

A real estate agent will be able to go over your property with a fine tooth comb offering suggestions based on experience of selling homes like yours. Don’t be offended with any advice you get as the realtor is trying to guide you in a way that gets your home sold in the quickest amount of time for the most money possible.

Dan McGowan is a realtor at Coldwell Banker Team Real Estate in Windham.

Choosing a fireplace for your home - By JT Construction

Whether you are building your dream home or updating an existing home, a fireplace can add warmth and coziness in the winter months. There are many considerations for choosing a fireplace that’s right for you, and all will add to the value of your home.

There are a few common concepts for heat to consider for your fireplace – gas, wood, or a wood-burning stove.
  • Gas log fireplaces. Gas logs provide more atmosphere than warmth, but can still heat a room enough to be comfortable. They may also be installed in fireplaces that don’t have any ventilation and run off of propane or natural gas. After the fuel supply is connected to the gas log set, the fireplace is ready to enjoy at the click of a button, making it more convenient than starting a traditional wood fire.
  • Wood burning fireplaces. Burning wood in your fireplace involves maintaining the chimney for proper ventilation, keeping a supply of wood on hand, and starting a fire by hand. Traditional wood burning in a fireplace can pull heat out of your home as well as most of the heat from the fire, making it a major source of energy loss in winter. On the bright side, roasting marshmallows indoors and smelling the wood burn elicits a fondness for times past and is not available with gas logs or a stove.
  • Wood burning stoves. Wood burning stoves do require a steady wood supply, but have the ability to heat an entire house. Additionally, the heat from a stove can be routed through your HVAC system and reach every room, significantly cutting down on your energy bills. Many also include a top that can be cooked on in the event of a power outage.
The design surrounding your fireplace will have an overall effect on the ambiance a fire has in a home. Stone and ceramic surrounds are both popular choices. A raised hearth is nice for sitting beside the fire on cold nights, but a level hearth may suit your needs just as well.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Deck the halls...with safety - From Tricia Zwirner at State Farm

Who wouldn't prefer to spend the holidays in a festive home setting rather than in the emergency room? But falls, fires and injuries often happen while people are decorating their homes for the season. Help reduce your chance for injuries with these timely tips.

 Prevent fire.
·        If you have a real tree, choose a fresh one and water it frequently. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimate 240 wintertime fires start with dry Christmas trees each year.
·        Check light strands to be sure they're not frayed. Discard lights that have exposed wires or show signs of wear. And reduce the chance for current overload by connecting no more than three strands of lights together.
·        Never leave lit candles unattended, especially near children or pets. Extinguish flames before you leave home or go to bed. Better still: Use battery-powered candles.
·        Place your tree as far from the fireplace as possible, and keep other combustible materials away from the flames. Don't let garlands or greens hang over the mantel where they might ignite.
·        Further reduce the chance for wintertime fires with these tips.

Climb carefully.
·        Use a sturdy wooden or fiberglass ladder to hang exterior lights. Aluminum ladders have the potential to conduct the current of a frayed light cord.
·        Always work with a partner when hanging outdoor lights. He or she can hold the ladder steady, fetch materials or get help if you are injured.
·        Plan to hang exterior lights over a weekend when you have more daylight hours to work in.
·        Inside, stand on a sturdy ladder to put the star on the tree or to reach other high places. Don’t lean off the ladder while decorating; climb down and move it closer.
·        Put cookie jars and candy dishes out of reach of small children and deter them from climbing up to get a treat.

Avoid toxins.
·        Avoid using fire salt or other products that add color to flames. Children who ingest these products can experience severe gastrointestinal problems.
·        If you're using artificial snow on your tree, allow for proper ventilation to avoid lung irritation, and avoid contact with eyes.
·        Wear gloves if decorating with spun glass ("angel hair") to prevent eye and skin irritation.
·        Avoid decorating with poisonous plants such as holly and its berries, Jerusalem cherries and mistletoe. (Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias aren't poisonous. However, because eating the leaves can lead to upset stomachs and contact with the leaves can cause skin irritation in some people, it's best to monitor children and pets near these plants.)

Tricia Zwirner is Windham’s local State Farm agent. She can be contacted for all your insurance needs. Like a good neighbor…State Farm is there. 

Title Insurance - why you need it - By Carrie Colby

The title is what gives you ownership of a property. As a buyer you want a clear or clean title — one that doesn’t have liens for unpaid taxes against it, or claims of ownership by a faraway aunt or uncle, or a surprise easement through the backyard to reach power lines or a cell phone tower.
As for your lender, he wants to know that the loan is going to a legitimate transaction — the seller really does own the property and therefore can sell it to you.

The Title Search

In other words, nobody wants an unpleasant surprise after the settlement. So a couple of things happen. First, a title search is conducted. Public records are examined manually or by computer or both. It depends on how pertinent records are kept in your area. The searcher looks at deeds, wills, and trusts, tracing the history of the property back many, many years. Among the important questions is whether all past mortgages and liens have been paid. Does anyone hold an easement? Are there any pending legal actions?

But what if the title search misses something and it comes back to bite after you’ve moved in? This could happen. Buyers have even been known to lose their houses because of clouded ownership — some past problem that wasn’t discovered.

Title Insurance

The way to avoid losing everything is to buy title insurance, which is available from title insurance companies, title agents, or, in some states, attorneys.

Title insurance is a one-time, up-front investment with rates based on the purchase price of your home and the type of policy you buy. Some are more comprehensive than others.

Oversimplified, title insurance insures a homebuyer — and a mortgage lender — against loss resulting from title defects, whether these defects are known or unknown at the time of the sale or the refinance. In the language of the title industry, the insurance covers both “on record” and “off record” problems.
For example:

•A person in bankruptcy who has no authority to sign the deed conveys property to a third party.
•A grandson forges his grandmother’s name to a deed and conveys her property to a third party, or to himself. 

•A mortgage (deed of trust) is properly recorded on the land records, but there is no legal description identifying the property that is subject to the mortgage. As a result, creditors are not put on notice of the existence of this mortgage lien, and may make another loan, which will not have first-trust priority.

•A deed (or other legal document) is improperly recorded with the wrong legal description.

The policy protects you by making the insurance company liable for most claims against your ownership. If a critical document was overlooked during the title search and you actually lose the house, you’ll likely receive damages — but only if you bought an owner’s title insurance policy at closing. You can see why experts advise you to do this.

Make sure you understand the policy you’re buying — what it covers and what’s excluded. The owner’s policy should cover your full sales price. If you want a policy that covers the value of your home as it increases, ask about adding an inflation rider.

Your lender wants a policy, too. He or she won’t even loan you money unless you buy a separate lender’s title insurance policy to cover the bank’s interest in your property. The lender’s policy should be for the amount of the mortgage.

In the end it is extremely important to buy your own Title Insurance Policy. I have seen quite a few instances where home owners have saved themselves several thousand dollars in attorney’s fees by making a claim against their title insurance policy.