Category Archives: homeowners

Three Easy Upgrades to Increase Home Value

Contact Maxine for more home improvement tips.

Whether you’re planning to sell or rent, a little renovation goes a long way in helping to increase your home’s market value. For most homeowners, the biggest concern is usually the budget required for upgrades, renovations, and home maintenance. The great news is that there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on home improvements. Here are three tips for some of the best home upgrades that add value:

  1. Knock down a wall, and go for an open concept. Not only will it create the illusion of a bigger space, but it’s also a home design trend that’s very much in demand today. Just make sure to have the wall assessed for possible electrical wires housed behind it before hitting it with a sledgehammer.
  2. Brighten up the bathroom. Bathrooms are among the most important considerations for many tenants and prospective homebuyers, so it’s pertinent to get this area of the house right. Buff up the tiles and replace the faucets, showerheads and toilet seats. There’s no need to replace all the tiles, just those that are cracked and chipped. The trick is to find the right cleaning agent that can help make the tiles look good as new.
  3. Apply a fresh coat of paint. Choose modern color palettes to give the house a fresh new look.

Source: Reprinted with permission from RISMedia ©2020. All rights reserved.

A great year for housing

In case you are not subscribed to my newsletter, here is some good news and excellent reading about the housing market from our friends at Freddie Mac.  If 2019 was any indication, 2020 will be a relatively good time for potential homebuyers to make the transition to homeownership.

Questions? Call Maxine for answers! 703-836-1464

Over the last 12 months, interest rates fell by almost a whole percentage point and high demand resulted in a steady increase in home values across the nation. Current market projections forecast low mortgage rates continuing into 2020, providing potential buyers the opportunity to lock in favorable mortgage terms and start building long-term financial independence.

Let’s break down the housing market’s latest trip around the sun.

Strong equity gains

You often hear that one of the benefits of buying a home is building equity. But what exactly is equity? In the simplest terms, equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage. It’s the portion of the home that you own. Over time, through paying down your principal balance and your home’s appreciation, you can build equity.

But it’s important to note that some markets appreciate faster than others and there is no guarantee that your home will increase in value. It all depends on market conditions at the time you sell your home.

According to CoreLogic’s most recent homeowner equity report, 2019 was a strong year for equity gains. On average, U.S. homeowners with mortgages saw their equity increase by 5.1% since the third quarter of 2018 and the average homeowner gained approximately $5,300 in equity over the past year.

Interest rates dropped

2019 was a year of declining interest rates. According to our mortgage rates survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged an interest rate of 4.51% at the start of the year but dropped to a low of 3.49% during September of 2019. Our latest forecast predicts that in 2020, rates will remain low, averaging around 3.8%.

So, will 2020 be a good year to buy a home? A look back at the past year shows a strong and steady market. Based on the forecast, the outlook is promising for the housing market with interest rates projected to remain low and appreciation expected to continue as we settle into the next decade.

Freddie Mac. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Should I Sell or Remodel?

Anything that gets as much use as your home shows wear and tear after a few years. Colors and decorative styles look tired and outdated, or you may need more room due to an addition in the family. So do you sell or remodel and stay?

Image resultAsk your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty professional to show you homes for sale that have the size, features and finishes you want, and create a comparative market analysis of homes like yours so you’ll know what you can reasonably expect to net if you sell.

You’ll pay about 12% of the sales price and more in closing costs to sell and purchase another home. Moving costs are about $2,300, (if you have 4 movers at $200 per hour) for an intrastate move and about 7,400 pounds of household goods, according to the American Moving and Storage Association.

If you decide to remodel, make sure your design will meet your needs for years to come. You’ll need the right team – contractors, kitchen planners and interior designers to help you put it all together. Talk to your lender to learn how much you can borrow and if that sum will help you meet your remodeling goals.

Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

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Spring – a time for new beginnings – is just around the corner. It’s time to air out the winter blahs and let the sun shine in. But there’s no need to knock ourselves out or over-spend on cleaning supplies. The home editors at Good Housekeeping magazine offer tips on cleaning every corner of your home without exhausting yourself or your wallet:

One simple solution: No need to spend money on specialized cleaning products. Fill an empty spray bottle with a quart of warm water mixed with four tablespoons of baking soda, and use it for most surfaces, including windows, counters, tile, and appliances.

Toothpaste trick – If your kids are a little too creative, a dab of toothpaste will remove colored marker stains from wooden tables.

Wipe out wall doodles – A good sprinkling of baking soda on a damp sponge should wipe your walls clean of ‘artwork.’

Funky cutting board? – Rub the cut side of a lemon over it to remove old stains and odors.

Wake up patio furniture – add a squirt of dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Wipe down surfaces and hose them off with plain water.

Soften scratchy towels – Get rid of mineral build-up by washing scratchy towels in the hottest water possible with nothing but a cup of ammonia added.

Easy copper cleanup – A little ketchup – yes, ketchup! – will get those copper-bottomed pots and pans shining.

Dishwasher duty – Once every few weeks, especially while flu season hangs around, get rid of bacteria by adding a quarter cup of bleach to the regular dish cycle.

Disinfect the disposal – Run a few lemon peels, a little salt, and a few ice cubes through it to sanitize and banish odors.

Don’t forget the sponge – Keep that wet sponge clean and bacteria-free by zapping it in the microwave for one minute.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Five Best Kitchen Remodeling Tips

When you shop for a home, what do you look for in the kitchen? Granite counters? Storage? Breakfast bar? Sparkling stainless appliances? If you’re buying an older home like most buyers, you may have to update to get the look and features you want. Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Work with a kitchen design professional. They’re trained to help you solve the most challenging kitchen problems and to work within your budget. A kitchen designer can recommend contractors and oversee all installations to make sure they are done correctly. Some can serve as contractors for a turnkey job.
  2. Hire qualified contractors. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Check references, licenses, and make sure their subcontractors are also bonded and insured.
  3. Consider the age of the home for a more organic look. For example, mid-century linoleum floors are more in fashion now than ever before. New patterns and colors in tile can mimic wood or stone for easy upkeep. Try porcelain instead of wood on cabinets for a sleek minimalist look.
  4. Be willing to compromise on costs or space. Cut the expense of new cabinetry by replacing some uppers with trendy open shelving. Splurge on granite for the island, but finish the other countertops with a workhorse stone-like laminate or tile.
  5. Don’t try to save money by doing work you aren’t qualified to do. You may be able to install flooring or a backsplash with a friend and a tutorial, but if a job requires a license like an electrician or plumber, it’s best to hire a professional.

Of course, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464 for tips, suggestions, and referrals to our list of vetted contractors.

The Seller Who Tests the Market

When you see the market rising, it’s tempting to price your home even higher than nearby homes that recently sold. So you tell your listing agent that you want to “test” the market to see if you can get even more for your home.

Sometimes, it’s appropriate to choose a list price higher than recent comparable sold homes, but that strategy seldom works unless the market is climbing rapidly. If you’re looking for a quick, hassle-free sale, you need to decide which is more important – getting more for your home or moving on to your new life somewhere else.
Let’s say your neighborhood’s highest, most recent home sale was $500,000, and your agent suggests a listing price of $510,000. You want to test the market at $530,000 – which is $20,000 more than your agent recommends, and $30,000 over the latest comparable.

Your home hits the market at $530,000 and has tons of showings the first week. Your strategy is working, except that you don’t receive any offers. By the second week, there are few to no showings. Agents are reporting back to your listing agent that their buyers said your home “needs work,” or that they “found something more suited to their needs.”

After months of making two mortgage payments, your home finally sells at $518,000. Meanwhile, you paid months of overhead to get $9,000. You actually lost peace of mind and threw away a lot of money.

Overpriced homes simply take longer to sell. If you’re tempted to “test the market”, remember that the market will test you.

For accurate pricing, staging, and home selling assistance, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464.

Five Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

If you are anything like me, you look a the lawn mower and just hope it magically starts… when it does not respond to mind control, I close my eyes and pull the cord as hard as a can and home the drat thing does not take off without me!  This article is perfect for all levels of lawn mower users… and even if you cannot change the oil yourself, you will at least know when to find someone to change it for you!

The lawn mower is the workhorse when it comes to outdoor maintenance. To keep your machine in working order all season long, continued care is essential. One of the most important maintenance tasks is changing the mower’s oil, say the experts at Briggs & Stratton, an outdoor power equipment provider. Oil from the previous season may be mixed with grass and other debris, inhibiting its use and the machine’s overall performance. Generally, oil should be changed at least once a year, or after 50 hours of operation for a push mower and after 100 hours of operation for a ride mower.

Most homeowners can conduct an oil change for a push mower in less than 15 minutes—a significant savings compared to having it serviced by a professional. The steps:

  1. To allow oil to drain more easily, run the engine for a short time to warm it up.
  2. Shut the engine off and disconnect the spark plug. Remove the oil fill cap or dipstick, and place a pan (or other container) under the oil fill. Tip the mower on its side, with the air filter side facing up and the oil fill facing down, to drain the oil.
  3. Once oil has been collected, fill the mower with new oil. Pour in an amount (and specific type) recommended by the manufacturer; this information can be found in the operator’s manual. Screw the oil fill cap back into place, and wipe up any drips with a rag or towel.
  4. The oil may also be changed using the oil drain, which is located on the underside of the mower deck. Consult the operator’s manual for instructions specific to the mower.
  5. For a ride mower, unscrew the plug from the drain funnel located at the bottom of the engine, and let the old oil flow through the hose into a pan or bucket.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.