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So you bought an investment property, now what?

Image Source: Christopher Harris on Unspash

Investing in a home is a great way to build passive income but earning from your investment will take a little groundwork to become a well-oiled machine. This is your beginner’s guide to owning an investment property so you can set up that foundation properly to avoid future headaches.

 

Make sure it’s livable

It’s important to start with your home inspection before you start making plans. Use the inspection report to prioritize the maintenance issues.

Before a tenant moves in, make sure the home is livable. Handle the important items that affect the livability of the property, either now or in the near future. If the inspector noticed a leak in the roof or holes that could lead to infestation, take care of those first. Other maintenance issues to prioritize are the fuel and the hot water source.

If your city has inspection and registration requirements, be sure to cross check those inspection checklists with your current property. If the property wouldn’t pass now, make sure it will pass by the time the city sees it.

 

Upgrade the space

Once your property is in livable condition, it’s time to upgrade. If you have any left-over budget after the necessities are handled, consider adding a bedroom or a bathroom where you can find the space. These rooms heavily impact the rental price, and the more you have the higher the price. If there’s no space for another bed or bath, think about finishing the basement or upgrading some of the appliances to make the property more attractive to potential tenants.

Use similar properties in your neighborhood as your inspiration. These units are your competition, think about what you can add, or even take away, that would help you compete. Ask yourself what about your home is unique and in what ways does that affect your rentability? If every unit in your area has hardwoods, how can you make your carpeted home appealing? Maybe new carpet? Or is switching to hardwoods, or vinyl laminate that looks like wood, worth it?

 

Market it to future tenants

You need two things in your listing: 1) Great Photos 2) An Amazing Description

After you’ve perfected the property, it’s time to tell potential tenants that it’s available. Creating the listing is essential in drawing eyes on the unit so you can show it to as many people as possible.

Renters looking to move are quick to make their first impression of a property with thumbnail photos on a map. So, take lots of great, bright, photos of the entire place to showcase the amenities and show potential tenants what it looks like, then choose the best photo to be the first in the lineup. Remember to get the lighting is just right to show every corner of the listing. Dark photos scare tenants away, making them think the unit is dingy and dirty. Light and bright photos show a clean home that’s move-in ready. They can imagine themselves living there a lot easier than in dark and cramped looking units.

Next, they’ll read the description. This is again where other listings in your area can help you.

Read other listings to structure your description and to draw inspiration on what tenants might think is important. Find the selling points and emphasize those above the unique features, especially if those unique features are obvious in the photos.

 

Is the Condominium Lifestyle Right for You?

Image Source:  Grand Warszawski via Shutterstock

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.

If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

 

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds up-keep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Whether living in a condominium works for you depends on your current and planned future lifestyle. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that most homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear your neighbors.

Space: Except for very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amount of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. HOA bylaws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive.

 

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

What amenities are most important to you?

Amenities vary location to location. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Most buildings will have a rental cap, so be sure to know what that cap is if you’re buying as an investment. Parking can also be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

 

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Ask to review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

Your November To-Do List

The month of November brings the end to daylight savings time, for most of us anyway, and the start to the holiday season. Don’t be left in the cold, jumpstart your preparations with this quick checklist.

 

Check Your Fire Safety System

Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors to make sure they’re in working order. Locate your fire extinguisher and be sure the gauge shows that it has enough pressure. If it isn’t already stored in or near the kitchen, re-locate it closer to the oven for quick action should Thanksgiving dinner go up in flames.

 

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

Don’t let a stinky garbage disposal ruin your appetite, keep it smelling fresh with a few pieces of lemon rind and some ice cubes. The lemon cleans and deodorizes the odor causing bacteria and the ice scrapes away any debris, as well as sharpen the blades.

 

Check and Repair Other Plumbing Issues

Run the water in each sink to determine if it’s draining properly.

If your bathroom sink is not draining quickly, a great natural way to clear debris, with ingredients that you likely already have in the house, is to put ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar, then plug the drain and let it sit for an hour. When you unplug the drain, pour boiling water down until it drains quickly.

Send a snake down your tub drain, then add a hair trap to each drain to prevent future blockage, especially when you have guests over for the holidays.

For a slow kitchen drain, the likely cause is a build up of fat, oil, or grease (FOG drain clog). The best way to clear this kind of clog is with 2 liters of water and a few tablespoons of dish washing detergent. Pour slowing and keep pouring until the drain is cleared.

 

Pull Out Your Winter Essentials

For those of you in cold climates, get out the shovels and replenish the ice-melt bucket before the snow and ice hit this season. Don’t get caught in the storm, make sure they’re easy to access or easy to pull out when the weather forecast calls for below freezing temperatures.

It’s also a good idea to get out your snow gear and toys. Don’t miss an opportunity to play in the snow because you can’t get to your shed to pull out your snow boots, gloves, or sled!

 

Check and Replace Floor Protectors

Prevent damage to your floors by checking any pads on your chair legs as well as the rug mat.

Make sure the pads on your chairs, sofas, and tables are intact so when you move them, they won’t rub and scuff or dent flooring. Lift the rug to double check that the rug mat isn’t causing damage to the floor as well. Sometimes, the adhesive can stick to the floors, leaving a residue that’s almost impossible to clean, this is especially important on cement floors.

 

Prepare the Guest Bedroom

Has it been a while since anyone, besides the dog or cat, has slept in the guest bed? This is a great time of year to wash the sheets and clean the room in preparation for holiday guests. And don’t forget the cobwebs in the corners! Organize and re-stock the closets so your guests can easily access more blankets and towels during their stay. 

 

Once you’ve completed your November checklist, you can sit back with your hot apple cider and know that you’re ready for the holiday season.

Buyer Beware: Is That House For Sale Haunted?

Image Source: Canva

              A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.  

              When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.

              While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step:

 

 

Ask to see the seller disclosure form

              In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.

              In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.

              The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.

              Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.

 

 

Ask Google about the history of the home

              In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today,  we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.

 

 

Ask the neighbors and your agent  

              This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.

Windermere Foundation Has Raised Over $1.5 Million This Year!

 

Windermere offices throughout the Western U.S. have been busy raising money and making donations to non-profit organizations in their local communities that provide services to low-income and homeless families. And their efforts are paying off; so far this year we’ve raised over $1.5 million, bringing the total raised by the Windermere Foundation to $39.5 million since 1989.

 

Here are just a few examples of how our offices are giving back to their communities:

 

Fort Collins, Colorado

The Windermere Real Estate office in Fort Collins held its 5th Annual Windermere Foundation Tailgate Party on Friday, September 20. The family-friendly event featured food, drinks, a bouncy house obstacle course, corn hole, face painting, and live music. Over $1,800 was raised for the Windermere Foundation during this event. All proceeds from the tailgate “party with a purpose” benefitted Partners Mentoring Youth and Crossroads Safehouse.

 

Centralia, Washington

The Windermere office in Centralia, WA sponsored the “Down Home: A Toledo Shindig” event held at Bonanza BBQ on September 14 to benefit Toledo School District students in need. Local businesses and residents came together to donate auction items, food, and volunteer their time. Windermere owner Dan Gorton spearheaded the organization of the fundraising event, seeing a need in the community that was not being met. The Gortons provided the venue and the BBQ. Other sponsors provided additional food items, entertainment, and big-ticket items for the auction. The event raised $34,000 for a fund to help provide basic needs for students in the school district, things that low-income families couldn’t otherwise afford.  

 

Photo Courtesy of Josie Ray Photography

 

Spokane, Washington

The Windermere office in Spokane, WA held their annual Windermere Shoes and Socks Event at their local Big 5 sporting goods store on August 24. Windermere agents and family members volunteered their time to help 132 children select a pair of shoes and socks. An additional 250 pairs of socks were also donated by Liberty Lake Rotary. In total, the Windermere office donated over $5,400 to provide shoes and socks to local children in need.

 

Windermere offices are proud to host events in their communities, like the ones mentioned above. These generous donations to the Windermere Foundation further our mission to support low-income and homeless families in the areas where we live and work. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.

 

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit WindermereFoundation.com.

Your Complete Guide to Home Appraisals

 

Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process.

Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

 

Appraised value vs. market value

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

 

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals. 

They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out
  • The home’s layout and features
  • Home updates
  • The overall quality of construction
  • An estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

 

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report is sent to your loan officer, real estate agent, and/or lender in about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal if they request it. Typically, the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

 

What if the appraisal is too low?

A low appraisal can present a problem when there’s a large difference between what you’ve agreed to pay and the appraisal price.

Usually, the seller’s agents and the buyer’s agent will respond by looking for recent sold and pending listings of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it. 

 

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.

 

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

To ensure the appraisal process is smooth and efficient, provide your appraiser with the information and documents he or she needs to get the job done. The documents you will need include:

  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • If you have a mortgage, provide the information about your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have.
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
  • Any personal property that is included in the sale, like appliances and other fixtures.
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant

 

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary delays.

Our Favorite Real Estate Podcasts

 

Podcasts are a growing medium as listeners search for new sources of entertainment and information. In 2018 there were about 550,000 podcasts, in 2019 there are more than 750,000. Listeners are growing too, an estimated 20 million more people in the U.S. are listening to podcasts this year as compared to2018. 

This growth in audio entertainment inspired us to pull together a few of our favorite real estate podcasts. Whether you’re interested in investing in real estate, looking to make a move to a new home, or just want to know what’s happening in the market, here are our recommendations:

 

For Investors:

The Millennial Real Estate Investor

Find your niches in Real Estate with Dan Mackin and Ben Welch, who host experts with stories about their investing successes and challenges. Learn from the experienced guests on this show the many ways to get into investing and succeed at it.

Listen to Millennial Real Estate Investor wherever you get your podcasts (Icon linked):

 

Cash Flow Connection

If you’re drawn to the commercial side of real estate, Cash Flow Connections with host, Hunter Thompson, is an informative podcast that interviews leading investors, sponsors and managers. Learn about all the aspects of commercial real estate from all viewpoints to find the right fit for you.

Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, was just interviewed about the state of the real estate market, and what to expect in the next recession (hint: it won’t be driven by housing). You can listen to that episode here.

Listen to Cash Flow Connection wherever you get your podcasts:

 

For Those About to Move

Windermere Home and Wealth

Host Brian Bushlach interviews business owners, local guides, and Windermere agents in each episode about different areas throughout the Western U.S. and what they have to offer to those who live or visit there. Learn about what’s attracting newcomers to the area, and what the local real estate market looks like. This podcast is sure to stir your wanderlust.

Listen to Windermere Home and Wealth wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Finding Home with 106.1 KISS FM

Join first-time home buyers, and radio personalities, Anthony and Carla Marie from 106.1 KISS FM, as they walk through the home buying journey with their Windermere agents. This podcast is both entertaining and informative as they ask the questions you’ve always wanted answers to. With their knowledgeable real estate agents by their sides, they’re taking you along as they get approved, look for houses, and even put an offer on a home.

Listen to Finding Home on iHeartRadio:

 

Stay Informed

Housing Developments

Hosted by National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard and Chief Lobbyist Jim Tobin, this podcast covers updates in the housing market and building industry across the nation. Learn from experts in the field about recent laws and the news of the industry.

Listen to Housing Developments wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Real Estate News with Kathy Fettke

This podcast is aimed at real estate investors who want to stay curren on the latest real estate news. Presented in bite sized episodes, listeners can learn about laws, regulations, and economic events that affect real estate and their local market. 

Listen wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Keeping Families Warm from Head to Toe

 

Windermere is in its fourth season of helping #TackleHomelessness with the Seattle Seahawks!

Each year, as part of that campaign, Windermere hosts a “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive for a local non-profit. This year, we are collecting warm winter gear for our new non-profit partner, Mary’s Place, an organization that provides safe, inclusive shelter and services to women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.

We are asking for donations of NEW hats, scarves, gloves/mittens, and warm socks for all genders and sizes.

From October 14 through November 8, you can drop off donations at our participating Windermere Real Estate and Property Management offices in King and Snohomish Counties**. Once the drive is over, our friends at Gentle Giant Moving Company — our winter drive partner for the past three years — will once again generously donate their time and trucks to pick up the donations collected by our offices, to deliver to Mary’s Place.

Since 1999, Mary’s Place has helped hundreds of women and families move out of homelessness into more stable situations. Across eight emergency family shelters in King County, they keep struggling families together, inside, and safe when they have no place else to go. But shelter capacity is limited and there are still hundreds of families sleeping outside in cars and tents each night. Please help them stay warm during the cold winter months by dropping off your donations to our participating offices. 

Feel free to contact your Windermere agent or local office for more information, or email justask@windermere.com.

 

    

 

**Windermere Winter Drive Drop-Off Locations

Bellevue

Bellevue Commons

Bellevue West

Federal Way

Federal Way-West Campus

Kent

Kirkland

Kirkland Yarrow Bay

Lynnwood

Maple Valley 4 Corners

Mercer Island

Property Management – Bellevue

Property Management – Everett

Property Management – Edmonds

Property Management – Seattle North

Property Management – South

Redmond

Seattle-Green Lake

Seattle-Greenwood

Seattle-Lakeview

Seattle-Madison Park

Seattle-Magnolia

Seattle-Mount Baker

Seattle-Northgate

Seattle-Northwest

Seattle-Queen Anne

Seattle-Sand Point

Seattle-Wall Street

Seattle-West Seattle

Services Company

Shoreline

Snohomish

Designing Your Rental To Feel Like Home

Stylizing your own home can be a daunting but rewarding challenge. When you own your living space, it’s easy to feel a sense of ownership over every piece of your design. But for renters, the challenge is a bit different. Despite limitations, it’s no less important to one’s well-being for a residence to convey a sense of ownership and self. To make a rental unit feel a bit more like home, we collected a few ways to imbue your abode with your own spirit, without risking your security deposit.

 

Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key.

Add some simple, no-to-low damage shelves, bookshelves that stand on their own, baskets, or use under the bed storage. Search for furniture that doubles as storage, like an ottoman that opens up or a side table with a drawer or shelf. 

 

Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room.

We suggest you either take them down and save them somewhere so you remember to put them back when you leave. Another option is to hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get all of your security deposit back! 

Before making changes like this, or adding hardware like curtain rods, be sure to ask your landlord for permission. 

 

Accessorize – A MUST when decorating your space are small items like pillows, throws, candles, books, and light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. These are easy ways to add your unique style that you can take with you from one place to the next. 

 

Wall Art – Hanging art with hooks and nails can damage the walls, which might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it at move out, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf can be all you need.

Again, ask your landlord before you add any holes in the home. When you’re touring, ask the landlord to keep the existing holes in the walls so you can use them, or ask if you can get the paint color information so you can patch and touch-up yourself, upon move-out. 

 

Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug, and prevent further damage as you live there.

Additionally, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space, plus they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.

 

Do you have any great tips to decorating a rental? Let us know in the comments! 

Prepare Your Home for Winter

As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:

  

Cracks & Leaks

Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.

Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.

 

Windows & Doors: 

Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.

Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.

 

Rain Gutters: 

Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.

Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

 

Pipes: 

Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.

Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

 

Heating System: 

Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.

 

Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves: 

Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.

 

Outside: 

Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.

If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

 

Emergency Kit: 

Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.

For a more complete emergency preparedness guide, visit https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.