Nine Inexpensive Tips To Get Your Home Ready to Sell

Nine Inexpensive Tips To Get Your Home Ready to Sell

Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars on a bathroom or kitchen remodel, but getting your home ready for sale doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of things you can do yourself (or pay someone to do) that are easy and cost effective. Here are some tips on where to start.

Painting

Dollar for dollar, perhaps nothing has a bigger impact on the price than a gallon of paint. Brighten up those dark rooms and put a coat over those dramatic accent walls. New paint even adds a fresh smell to a musty room.

Clear Space in Cupboards and Closets

Your home can look like it doesn’t have enough storage space if the closets are wall to wall clothes and shoes. Take at least half of what is in there, out and store, sell or donate it. Same thing with cupboards and cabinets in the kitchen and bath. Make no mistake, any visitors will look inside of them.

Clean Windows, Sills and Frames

If you are selling your home, just cleaning the window glass isn’t enough. Take the time to clean in and around the windows, including in-between and the frames. Open and close them to ensure they are in good working condition.

Pay Particular Attention to the Entranceway

Often times, real estate agents will fumble sorting through keys at the front door while showing a home. There is literally nothing else to do in these precious moments than to look around. Make sure this area is pristine and pleasant.

Mow, Trim and Edge

Now is the time to have your lawn, bushes and grass looking as good as they ever have. Spend a few dollars and get your mower blades sharpened and get that yard into shape.

Clean Carpeting and Flooring

Whether you do it yourself or pay a professional, it is important that floors are clean and spotless. Clean flooring makes the home look well kept and clean carpeting can remove any slight lingering odors.

Store Personal Photos and Mementos 

Personal photos and personal items can add to a home’s cluttered appearance. It also can serve as a constant reminder to a buyer that this is someone else’s home. You want to make it easy for them to imagine your home as theirs.

Use Simple Staging Tricks

Take at least the time to stage the living and dining areas with fresh flowers, plants, place settings on the dining room table, a centerpiece and other small touches.

Pay Attention to the Small Things

Multiple small items in need of repair can quickly add up in the mind of a prospective buyer. Look for the little, inexpensive things you can quickly repair. These may include a leaky faucet, broken or missing handle on a drawer, cracked glass in a window or small wall damage.

When buying your own new home, make sure you compare before selecting your homeowners’ insurance. Odds are it is a policy you may have for a long time. Contact one of our independent insurance agents for help.

Should You Buy or Should You Rent?

Should You Buy or Should You Rent?

There is a lot to think about when it comes to the decision to buy or rent. Some simply don’t want the responsibility that comes with owning their own home. Others are tired of paying rent without building equity. The decision to buy or rent can depend on a variety of factors including personal finances, interest rates, housing prices, flexibility and location. Here is a closer look at when you should consider buying over renting.

Need for Flexibility

Perhaps more than anything, whether you should buy or rent will depend on your need for flexibility. If you are at a point in your life where you want stability and plan to stay in the same location, buying could be the way to go. If you may change jobs, get married, have kids or are unsure of where you will be in a year or two, renting is probably the better choice.

Interest Rates

Low interest rates are a great pathway for buyers entering the market. This can mean a more affordable house or more house for the money. Renters rarely get a break when interest rates are low, but that can be very beneficial for buyers. If you are looking to transition from renter to buyer, low interest rates are a plus.

Housing Values

If housing values increase too much, buying becomes more difficult. If you are renting a place where the rent has remained relatively stable with increasing housing values, you may be better off renting. This often has to do with whether you are renting from an individual investment property owner or a large real estate investment and management company. Some landlords appreciate great, long-standing residents and will work to keep rents lower.

Down Payment

One of the big barriers to home ownership is having a down payment. There are, however, programs for first-time buyers and non-traditional funding methods that can help you get into home ownership. You may pay a bit higher interest rate, but you may not need a large down payment.

Ability to Maintain Your Own Property

If you are purchasing a pre-owned home, you can count on a variety of fixers/improvements to be made. Do you have the skills or inclination to get them done? Some people are handy and some are not. Being handy is a big plus when considering buying your own home.

Keep in mind, home ownership comes with other expenses like property taxes, maintenance, HOA fees and home insurance. Accounting for all of these in your budget can help you make the best decision for you.

If you decide to buy, shop for the best mortgage rate and allow us to assist you in finding the best homeowners insurance policy at a price you can be comfortable with. Contact us to learn more.

Refinancing? Review Your Homeowners Insurance

Refinancing? Review Your Homeowners Insurance

With close to historic lows in interest rates, many homeowners have taken the time to refinance their homes or take out a home equity loan. This should trigger a homeowners insurance review as well.

The sad reality is many mortgage  holders don’t even think about their homeowners insurance once they acquire it when purchasing their home. This can lead to inadequate coverage and even unnecessarily high home insurance premiums. How can you determine if you are overpaying? The answer is simple. Compare. Better yet, you can get the assistance of one of our independent home insurance specialists to compare for you.

Because we are independent agents, we are qualified to review the policies underwritten by any company. We can look at the coverage and limits of your policy to see if they meet your needs today. Upon your approval, we will then seek out quotes from our network of companies to see who can provide the optimum coverage at the best price. The final choice of a new company, or to keep your current policy, is up to you. We simply show you your options.

Think about the changes to your home and neighborhood over the past five or ten years or more. Did you do a kitchen or bath remodel? Have you added a room, hot tub or converted a garage? These changes can impact the value of your home. You also may benefit from lower rates due to efficiencies in the industry. The point is, it’s time to compare.

There is a bit of irony in that homeowners will be inspired to undergo the relatively complicated and detailed process of refinancing to save on their mortgage, but will allow their home insurance policies to go on and on without reviewing them for potential savings. Now, however, may be the time.

If it has been years since you’ve dusted off your home insurance policy or if you are considering refinancing, get a review and price quote. Contact us today to get started saving tomorrow!

What’s Behind Red Doors?

What’s Behind Red Doors?

Have you ever noticed a red door on a home that just seemed a bit out of place? The home may otherwise be beautifully color coordinated and designed, but there it is…that bright red door. Is there some significance to it? What, if any, is the meaning behind having a red door on a home? Turns out, red doors have multiple meanings depending on history and culture, all intended to bring some form of good karma into a home. Here are a few stories behind the meaning behind having a red door.

It Is Meant as a “Welcome” Sign

Many roots behind having a red door are traced to the word “welcome”. Early American travelers on horses would often look for homes with a red door, meaning they would find a welcoming, safe place to spend the night. For many homeowners today, a red door simply signifies “welcome.”

It Symbolizes “Harmony”

For some, a red door is a symbol of harmony for those that live there, and they hope that those who enter will share in that harmony.

Love and Warmth

For some, adding a red front door signifies an atmosphere of love and comfort.

A Safe Place for Escaped Slaves

Red roofs were said to be a part of the underground railroad and indicated a safe place where escaped slaves could find protection and refuge.

Luck and Prosperity

Like other symbols like a horseshoe hung above the door, a red door served to attract luck and prosperity.

An Indication of a Mortgage Free Home

Some families use a red door to indicate that their home is mortgage free. Along with a mortgage burning party, some would paint their front doors red in celebration of the financial achievement. In this situation, a red door is a sign of pride.

In reality, there are so many stories rooted in history, ethnicity and legend, finding one true source for the meaning behind the red door is nearly impossible. Virtually all, however, are based on good feelings and a welcoming attitude.

While a red door can serve as a symbol of safety, warmth and protection, nothing can protect your home like homeowners insurance. A well-crafted homeowners’ insurance policy protects your structure, outbuildings, contents and even against liability claims. We invite you to contact one of our independent home insurance agents today for your no-obligation price quote.

Increasing Rents: A Closer Look

Increasing Rents: A Closer Look

If you rent the space you live, you may have recently experienced an increase in your rent payments. While some of the increase can be attributed to inflation, there are some other factors that are contributing to the increase.

Decades ago, when one would rent an apartment, for example, it was pretty much just a few rooms and major appliances. Today, apartments generally include more features and amenities. These additional investments have put pressure on investors to get a return on investment.

Washers and Dryers

More rental units are including washers and dryers or at least hook-ups to attract tenants. This can save a resident on the laundry costs.

Wi-Fi

More communities are including Wi-Fi either throughout the community or at least in common areas.

Recreational Facilities

To remain competitive, apartment communities have added an increasing number of recreational facilities like pools, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, fitness and business centers and more. These all come with maintenance fees that are also increasing.

Utilities

It is common for apartments to include utilities on some level. It may just include trash removal and water or could even include gas or electricity. It can’t be overlooked that these costs are going up.

Storage

Many apartment communities have additional storage available even if it involves a small additional fee. This can eliminate the need for off-site storage, which can be more expensive.

Security

As security becomes a bigger concern for tenants, apartment communities have responded with greater electronic security and some even include patrols.

The point is that rent payments include much more than just living space. It includes everything from features and amenities to maintenance and security. We’ve wanted more and more from the space we rent and apartments responded. But it all comes at a cost.

Even with inflation, renters insurance remains an affordable form of financial protection. You can help protect your belongings and even get liability protection for less than you may think. Contact one of our independent insurance professionals to get your no obligation price quote today.

The Explosion of Home Delivery Services

The Explosion of Home Delivery Services

The early 2020’s will be known for several things, the biggest of which, of course, will be the pandemic. The pandemic, however, fueled other developments including the at home or remote working movement, Zoom meetings and the acceptance and growth of at-home deliveries.

To go back in time just a bit, prior to the pandemic, home deliveries were mostly made by the US Postal Service, FedEx, United Parcel Service and your favorite pizza place. Since then, Amazon continued to grow its fleet and a whole host of food delivery services joined the bunch. These, of course, included UberEats, Grubhub, Doordash, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and others. Major grocery chains got into the act, so now millions of people either pick up their groceries in one step at the store or have their items delivered to their homes.

Of course, there’s a price to pay for all this convenience in fees and tips. There are also a LOT more people coming to your front door, carrying boxes of everything from the latest technology to tonight’s dinner. What you may not realize is that this puts you more at risk from an injury liability claim.

You see, all these folks who come onto your property are considered invited guests. Like friends and family, you are responsible for their safety while they make their rounds. If there’s an uneven sidewalk and a trip, you could be held responsible. If there’s not enough light and they fall, you could be liable for injuries. If your dog should bite them or even scare them to where they injure themselves, it could be on you.

This is why now, more than ever, you need to make sure you have enough liability coverage on your home or renters’ insurance.

If you think a below average tip makes a delivery person angry, wait until they twist their ankle or break a wrist due to a hazard on your property.

Homeowners’ liability insurance can not only protect you from the financial damage of a liability claim, settlement or judgement, but it can also cover the legal costs associated with the claims.

If you are taking advantage of home delivery services, you owe it to yourself to connect with our agents to verify your liability coverage.

Don’t wait until the next delivery you get costs you more than expected. Updated your homeowners’ insurance today.

 

Home Improvements That Provide the Best ROI

Home Improvements That Provide the Best ROI

Sure, most anything you do to improve your home will likely increase its value. All home improvements, however, are not created equal. Some improvements have been tracked to determine which investments will provide the greatest return. Here is a look at what the experts say are the improvements most likely to give you the best ROI.

Replacing a Garage Door

While not inexpensive at about $3,900, a new garage door can provide a return on investment of almost 95%. This is particularly true if a current door is showing its age. A garage door is the biggest moving part of a home and can be well worth the money.

A Manufactured Stone Veneer Exterior

One of the most impressive ways to improve curb appeal is through a manufactured stone veneer upgrade. At $10,000+, professionals estimate your return will be about 93%. It can also help you sell your home quicker.

A Modest Kitchen Upgrade

Real estate agents will often focus on kitchens and baths, and while important, you have to be cautious about spending too much. A minor kitchen upgrade can return 72% of your investment at resale. Larger than $25,000 investments in kitchens will see diminishing returns.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding won’t rot or warp like wood siding and it is maintenance-free. It not only looks great but can return about 7 cents on every dollar you invest in it.

Vinyl Windows

New vinyl windows look great, insulate you from sound and weather, and improve security. Homebuyers love homes with new energy-efficient windows and homeowners can expect about a 70% return on an average $19,000 investment.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is durable, long lasting, maintenance free and attractive. An average $16,000 investment in vinyl siding should return about 68% of that investment.

Wood Deck

A wood deck can actually give you a greater return on investment than a composite one. A wood deck should return about 66% on each dollar invested while a composite one should return a bit less at 62%.

Making wise investments in your home is important to avoid overpaying. The same is true with home insurance. There is no reason to overpay when all you have to do is contact one of our independent insurance agents. They’ll do the shopping for you! Connect with one of our professionals today.

Dog Etiquette for Homeowners

Dog Etiquette for Homeowners

Approaching someone else’s pet has its own set of rules. You should never give it a treat or anything to eat, for that matter. Without approval of the owner, you shouldn’t reach down and pet an unknown animal without permission from the owner or by asking “Is he friendly?” You should keep small children away from dogs unless the owner signals approval.

There are also a variety of steps that should be taken by homeowners who own dogs in a neighborhood.

A Constantly Barking Dog Can Be (Is) Annoying

Sure, dogs bark, and as an owner, you may even be able to tune it out. But a dog that constantly barks or who barks outside at night is annoying. There is training available and even devices that can be purchased to minimize a dog’s incessant barking. Don’t wait for an anonymous note to show up in your mailbox or a visit from Animal Control to take action.

Don’t Allow Your Dog to Roam the Neighborhood

If you don’t have a fenced-in yard, attach your dog to a leash when placing him outside. An unattended dog may take the opportunity to visit other areas of town, leaving you to put up wanted posters. Worse yet, he could get hurt by accident or even harm someone else.

Keep Dogs Leashed When Walking

Sure, your dog may be friendly, harmless, lovable and may know a good joke or two, but others don’t know that. Keeping a dog leashed and “reeling him in when others approach is good dog etiquette.

Pick Up After Your Dog

Be prepared to clean up after your dog when going for a walk. It is not only poor etiquette to leave his mess on a neighbor’s lawn, but it is rude. The same holds true for parks and bike and walking trails.

Notify Your Homeowners’ Insurance Company

If you get a dog, it is your responsibility to notify your home insurance company. While it may or may not cause a change in your premiums, at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you are covered should your dog bite or otherwise cause harm to a visitor or delivery person. In some instances, breed restrictions may impact coverage. It is best to let them know.

There are a lot of things that go into being a good neighbor. Being respectful, taking care of your property, pet etiquette and carrying proper home insurance are just a few. If you have questions about homeowners’ insurance or would like a free quote, we encourage you to contact us.

The Unseen Value of New Windows for Your Home

The Unseen Value of New Windows for Your Home

Few home improvements make a more powerful difference in a home than new, modern, energy-efficient windows. Inside and out, new windows look great. Yet most of the value in new windows is unseen. Here’s a quick look.

Sound Insulation

New quality windows can make a dramatic difference to the interior sound quality of your home. Do you have a neighbor who likes to mow his lawn at 7am on Saturday mornings? No problem. Live on a busy street with truck or motorcycle traffic? Does the guy across the street enjoy his classic rock a little too loud? Many owners are surprised at the significant reduction in interior noise. New windows also won’t rattle like those old aluminum ones in a thunderstorm.

Weather Insulation

While appearance is important, energy savings tops the list of why homeowners choose to purchase new windows. How bad are your current windows? Place your hand on the glass. If the glass feels warm in summer and cool in the winter, it is the transferring outside temperature inside. That doesn’t even take into account air leaks that can develop in older windows over time. New windows can improve interior comfort while saving enough energy to help pay for them.

Improved Security

Home security has become increasingly important to homeowners. Along with adding security systems and cameras, many are opting for double pane and laminated glass windows that improve home security. This can also help minimize damage in areas where high winds can be a problem.

Increased Value

Certainly, a significant improvement like new windows will improve the cash value of a home, but it also improves value in other ways. The interior sound in a home is quieter and more solid. Lower energy bills are attractive to future buyers. A home with new, insulated windows just feels more comfortable and valuable.

Making home improvements is a good time to touch base with your homeowners’ insurance agent. No matter where you’ve purchased your home insurance, our independent insurance agents are qualified to review that policy. They can even shop for improved coverage at a price you can be comfortable with. Contact us for your no obligation, no cost home insurance price quote today.

Home Wiring Basics

Home Wiring Basics

Your home’s wiring is like its nervous system, sending electrical charges and energy through your home. Wiring, however, has changed through the years, in some cases, pretty dramatically. Here are some home wiring basics you should know.

Why Your Wiring is So Important

Home wiring is covered by standards or codes that are required to be met. These electrical codes govern wiring and help keep homes safer. If changes are made that don’t meet these codes or standards, not only could your home become less safe, but it could become difficult to sell if caught by some future home inspector.

The Difference Between a Wire and a Cable

While often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a wire and a cable. A wire is a single conductor of electricity, whereas a cable is two or more wires contained in the same jacket.

Types of Wiring Through the Years

Like rings in a tree trunk, wiring can often tell the age of the home in which it is contained. Here are some examples through the years.

  • Knob and Tube Wiring– Extremely popular from the 1890s through the early 1900s, knob and tube wiring ran “hot” and neutral wires separately through the home using porcelain insulators and tubes. Wiring was often coated with a rubberized cloth coating. Many old homes still have remnants of this type of wiring in place, and in some cases, in use. It is considered unsafe by today’s standards because it is not grounded.
  • Flex or Greenfield Cabling– From 1920 through the forties, metal flex cables became popular in homes because they offered more protection for wires, flexibility, and when installed properly, were grounded. They still didn’t contain separate grounding at outlets, however.
  • Non-Metallic Sheathed Cable– Through the 1930s, a first generation of sheathed cables became popular for their ease of installation. They contain both hot and neutral wires wrapped in one cable of rubberized cloth. It was still ungrounded and was found to only have a lifespan of about 25 years. If found today, it should be replaced.
  • Metal Conduit– This metal tubing allowed for individual wires to be pulled through it and gained popularity in the 1940s. The metal tubing also provided an effective ground. Metal conduits are still used today in many homes, especially where wiring may be exposed.
  • Modern NM Cable– This more modern cabling has both hot and neutral wires that are contained in a durable and flexible vinyl material. It is long-lasting, flexible and easy to install and is found in virtually all modern construction.

Old wiring is one reason home insurance can be more expensive for older homes. If you are unsure of the age of the wiring in your home, contact a trusted electrical contractor.

If you haven’t had a homeowners’ insurance policy review in years, we invite you to contact one of our independent agents. Your review and price quote is free and comes without obligation.