May 24, 2022

Do Plants Help Sell a Home?


When you’re looking to sell your house, there are a lot of little things that you can do to increase the likelihood that some prospective buyer is going to make an offer. Many of the tips you’ll find to improve your home’s appeal focus on things inside the house, ranging from paint colors to furniture and a variety of other little tweaks. There is something else that you can do to improve the appeal of your home that’s often overlooked, though: add some plants.



A lot of people don’t put much thought into the plants around their home when prepping for a sale, and this can be a big missed opportunity. From fixing up your lawn and garden to adding splashes of greenery indoors, there are several ways that you can leverage plants to help sell your home when the time comes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Increase Your Curb Appeal

While interior staging is important, it’s easy to forget that the outside of your home is the first impression that potential buyers are going to get. There are obviously a few external things that you can do, such as slapping a fresh coat of paint on the door and cleaning up the windows a bit. However, one of the biggest boosts to your home’s curb appeal comes in the form of improving your lawn and external plants.

As soon as you start considering selling your home, it’s time to treat brown spots or thin areas on your lawn so that everything is lush and green. Cleaning up flower beds, adding decorative plants on the porch or along the walkway, and otherwise sprucing up the look of the outside will go a long way toward capturing the attention of potential buyers. Just like a shabby exterior can dampen buyer enthusiasm, a well-manicured lawn and decorative flowers or trees can get buyers excited before they even step inside.

Bringing in a Touch of Nature

Exterior landscaping isn’t the only way that plants can help you sell your home. Potted plants, vases with fresh flowers, and even small decorative potted trees or other tall plants can add both color and a sense of freshness to your home that are hard to replicate. It’s the same reason that a lot of grocery stores have fresh flowers near the entrance to the store; when people see plants and flowers, their brains immediately focus on the idea of freshness and life. In stores, this makes people assume that the produce is all fresh, and in your home, it helps potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house.

If you choose flowers or other plants with pleasant scents, bringing them in can add to the overall freshness of the air without the need for artificial air fresheners or incense. This can let your plants serve double duty, improving the quality of the air while also adding a splash of color and life to your home. Just make sure to avoid plants that produce a lot of pollen or else you may have some cleanup to take care of before potential buyers come for a tour.

Call Some Help if Needed

It’s possible that you won’t really be able to take care of everything you want to do all on your own. Perhaps you have trees on your property that need trimmed or have to have dead limbs removed. Maybe you want to revitalize a flower garden but don’t really have the time. It’s even possible that you’d love to add some floral touches to your home, but aren’t really sure what would go best with your house. It’s okay, we’ve got you covered.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
May 17, 2022

More Smart Ways to Automate Your Home

In the early days of home automation, getting your home set up typically required buying a central hub that your devices could connect to and coordinating everything from there. In some cases, you might have even needed multiple hubs, since not all devices worked on the same network. While automation hubs and alternate networks still exist, these days most automation is done using your home’s Wi-Fi network and digital assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
With smart home automation having come so far in recent years, there may be more options available to automate your home than you realized. While the specific automation that you use depends on how your home is set up and your own personal preferences, it’s worth it to explore a few different options to see if there’s something new that might fit into your home setup.


Automation Options

There are a number of ways that you can automate your home. You’ve likely at least heard of some of the more popular options, such as smart lights and smart thermostats. Smart video doorbells and automated garage doors are also increasingly popular and may be automation options that you’ve considered for your own home. These all share the advantage of you being able to control them remotely from smart home apps and can typically be integrated with digital assistants for hands-free use.

These aren’t the only options available to you, of course. Smart door locks allow you to automate access to your home, window sensors can give you alerts if you leave your windows open, and flood sensors can help protect your home from flooding and broken pipes. You can even integrate smart smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors into your home to give you immediate alerts in case there’s danger even when you’re away from home. If that’s not enough options, smart plugs are available which allow you to control existing devices by turning the power on and off remotely at the outlet where the device plugs in.

Smart Automation Routines

One of the big advantages of modern home automation is that none of these devices really exist in a bubble anymore. You can set up home automation routines that utilize multiple devices together, and can even use the state of certain devices to control others. Smart motion sensors can automatically turn on lights when they detect movement. Bedtime routines can adjust speaker volume and lighting in bedrooms to create a perfect sleep environment. You can even set routines that kick off before you get up, so that your coffee is brewed and specific lights are on so you can start your day on a positive note.

Depending on how you have them set up, these automation routines can kick off on a schedule, from a voice command, or in response to other actions. This can be really useful if you have certain things that you want to happen at specific times, but other things are only done as needed; you can program multiple routines in different ways to have your home running exactly like you want it to at all times. If you install additional automated devices later, you can even add them to existing routines with minimal effort from your digital assistant’s app.

Automating Your Home

Depending on the scope of what you want and your experience with electronics, a lot of home automation can be done as DIY projects. If you lack time or tech experience, though, you might want to get some help setting your automation up. 

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
April 19, 2022

Does My Heat Pump or A/C Need Replacing?


Summer is just around the corner, and for a lot of homeowners, that means having to run the air conditioner or heat pump around the clock just to keep ahead of climbing temperatures. These tools are amazing for keeping things cool, but after a while, they too can get worn out and need replacing. Do you know how to tell if it’s time to retire your current unit?


Efficiency Is Everything

Many people believe that if their unit is still working, it’s still doing its job, but with HVAC systems this isn’t always true. Efficiency is really everything, and an air conditioner or heat pump that’s slipping in this department may be on its way out the door. Older units may still cool just as well as they always did, and regular maintenance can ensure they live longer lives, but as parts start to wear, efficiency may begin to lag behind.

You’ll notice it in little things, like the amount of electricity your unit is using to cool your home compared to, say, the same month five years ago. Sure, weather patterns need to be accounted for, but if the amount of fuel used by your air conditioner or heat pump continues to climb year after year, you’re losing efficiency and your unit is showing its age.

Your utility bill is a great place to go for this information, but you can also gauge how efficient your unit is by checking the data from your smart thermostat, too. The longer you’ve had the thermostat, the more data it will have collected about all sorts of things, including, on many models, the weather outside your home.

Some Units Simply Become Obsolete

Although efficiency is really important to your HVAC happiness, another pressing issue is at play when trying to determine if your unit is ready to be replaced: obsolescence. Older air conditioners and heat pumps may have parts that are difficult or impossible to locate from distributors, driving up prices or making repairs untenable.

On the other hand, your parts may be just fine, but your coolant may not be. For example, if you have a slow leak that’s repairable, you’d need to replace the coolant that had escaped, with more of the original coolant. Many older units still contain coolants that are no longer manufactured or legal to sell, and your options are very few when it comes to changing the coolant in one of these units.

As long as your coolant is going strong, there’s no issue, but as soon as there is, even a well-functioning older unit may become completely useless. It’s not that your unit is worn-out, as such, but when you can’t get the coolant you need, and the potential for retrofitting to something more modern is a costly one, it really only makes sense to upgrade.

Not Sure If It’s Time To Throw in the Towel?

If you’re still not certain if it’s time to upgrade your air conditioner or heat pump, it makes sense to have a professional check it out. They can answer any questions you may have about the unit’s longevity and efficiency, as well as its environmental impact, and help you decide if it’s time to retire the beast or keep it in service a while longer. Sometimes, all an air conditioner needs is a good checkup and cleaning to go back to running at its best, after all.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
April 11, 2022

Growing Up: Getting Your Vertical Garden Ready for Spring

When you don’t have a lot of space or open ground around your home, planting a garden might seem impossible. After all, plants need room to grow and soil to grow in, don’t they? While this is true, there is more than one way to get a garden growing. If you have limited outdoor space or don’t have room for a large garden plot, one option is to set up a vertical garden instead.

While not every garden plant is feasible for a vertical garden, you might be surprised at all of the things that you can grow vertically. Of course, you’ll first have to get your vertical garden set up and ready for spring planting. You have a lot of options with how you do this, so let’s take a moment to cover the essentials of what your vertical garden should have.

Choosing a Garden Location

The first thing that you need to take into account is exactly where you’re going to locate your vertical garden. Your options may be limited depending on where you live, but if you choose a suboptimal location, then you’re going to have a hard time getting your garden to grow. At a minimum, you’re likely going to want a location that gets direct sunlight for at least part of the day, and a full 6 to 8 hours of sunlight will probably be required for most plants. If you have specific fruits or vegetables in mind already, do a bit of research into their sun requirements to help determine exactly what you’ll need. A southern-facing view may help you to get the sunlight that your plants need.

Access to water is also important. While you can always water your vertical garden by hand, it can save you a lot of effort if the garden is located in a spot that will get watered when it rains. Having access to the ground soil may be beneficial as well, though it isn’t a hard requirement; if you live in an apartment or otherwise plan on establishing your garden on a balcony or other location that doesn’t have open soil, you can always create your own growing environment with containers.

Establishing a Garden Framework

Once you have a location, your garden is going to need a growth framework so that it can actually start growing upward. Trellises, wire cages, tripods, and even fences can all make solid support structures so long as they are sturdy and able to be secured. These can be attached to the exterior of your home or other buildings, connected to balcony railings, or even secured into the ground. The method of securing your framework isn’t that important. What is important is that it’s secured well enough to be able to stand the weight of growing plants and eventual fruits or vegetables.

With the support structures in place, it’s time to prepare your soil. If planting directly into the ground, you’ll need to till the soil and add compost or other nutrients. If setting up containers, choose a soil or potting medium that will encourage root growth to help ensure that your plants are secure as they start to grow up. The weight of the soil and the eventual fruits or vegetables will help to keep the containers in place, so you don’t have to worry as much about securing them as you do your supports.

Growing Your Vertical Garden

Once you’ve got your vertical garden set up, you can plant a variety of beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and even melons and pumpkins vertically. You’ll likely need to tie down the vines early on and provide support for the fruits and vegetables as they grow, but the work will be worth it.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 28, 2022

What to Consider When Adding On

Additions can be a good way to get more functionality out of your home. Your addition might be an extra bedroom for your expanding family, a home office to provide you with a space to work from home, or even a sunroom or hobby area. Your add-on might even be a way to add more space to existing rooms, removing or extending walls to let your current kitchen, bedroom, or other area flow seamlessly into your new addition. There are just so many possibilities.

Regardless of what you plan to use the room for, though, adding on to your house is a big undertaking and may be kind of a big investment as well. Even relatively small additions can be a big project, so it’s important that you know exactly what your plans will entail before you start work on expanding your home. To help with this, here are a few things to consider when making plans to add on to your home.

Planning the Expansion

Though you may have a good idea of where you want your addition to go, it’s important to spend some time actually planning it out. Consider details such as where the property line is located, whether there are any size or location restrictions based on state and local building codes, and whether there will be issues with the location of utilities or the slope of your property that could cause problems. Taking the time to rule out potential problems with your addition now will save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Another thing to keep in mind is how well your addition will combine with your existing home. While you obviously have a good reason to want more square footage, if you just have an added room tacked awkwardly onto your home, it can have a major impact on your home’s overall value. A good addition will blend seamlessly into your existing home, matching the exterior and making it difficult to tell that an add-on was made down the road.

Cost and Investment

Depending on the sort of addition you want to make, the budget for your add-on can fall within a pretty wide range. It’s very important that you spend some time researching exactly what it will take to make your expansion plans a reality. The time of year, materials costs, and factors such as the size and types of materials you choose will all affect how much you’re going to have to spend. Taking the time to do a bit of research and consult with your contractor about the options available to you can end up making a big difference in the final cost of your expansion.

This is important not just because of the immediate impact to your pocketbook, but also the overall difference that it makes on your home’s value. All the money that you put into your addition is an investment in your home, and you want to get the biggest return on that investment that you can. Making smart choices and not letting your budget balloon out of control will go a long way toward maximizing your home’s value in comparison to the cost of your add-on. It’s more work now, but you’ll be thanking yourself if you find yourself wanting to sell your home at some point down the road.

Moving Forward With Your Addition

Choosing the right contractor is one way that you can affect the overall cost of your addition and maximize the return on your investment.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 26, 2022

What’s the Difference Between Prequalified and Preapproved?

What Does it Mean to Prequalify? 

When you prequalify for a home loan, it means you’re getting an estimate of how much you may be able to borrow based on the information you provide about your finances and your credit check. While it isn’t as formal as being preapproved, getting prequalified is an excellent first step when you begin your home search, as it will help you establish your budget and know how much you may be able to borrow. This process will also introduce you to the various mortgage options you have to choose from.
Information needed for prequalification includes:

  • Credit check
  • Income information
  • Debts and assets
  • Bank account information
  • Down payment amount

The prequalification can be completed online, over the phone, or in person. You’ll receive a prequalification lender, which you can use to show an agent or seller that you’re serious about buying. Although it can be helpful, a prequalification isn’t seen as being as serious as preapproval. The lender goes off the information you provided and does not verify everything you’ve given them is correct, up to date, and comprehensive. Meaning, while you may get a loan for the amount stated, it can also change when a lender does a more thorough check.

What Does it Mean to be Preapproved?

The preapproval process involves a lender investigating your income, assets, credit history, and debts before providing you with an amount they believe you can afford. Getting preapproved confirms to the seller that you’re serious about buying their home and that you can secure a mortgage, making you more likely to complete the purchase. Being preapproved can be extremely valuable in a competitive market, as it will help you stand out from the other homebuyers.
You don’t have to receive prequalification for preapproval. If you know you’re financially prepared to buy, you can decide to move ahead to the preapproval process.
Information needed for preapproval may include:

  • Credit check
  • Paystubs from the last thirty days
  • Bank statements from the previous two months from all accounts
  • Investment account statements from the last two months
  • W-2 and 1099 statements from the previous two years
  • Federal tax returns from the last two years
  • Driver’s license
  • Social security number
  • Total monthly expenses
  • Down payment amount

Additionally, if someone is helping you pay for the home, you’ll need a gift letter signed and dated by the individual assisting you.
Once you submit this information to a lender, you should receive their decision within ten business days. If you are preapproved, you’ll receive a preapproval letter informing you of the offer to lend you a specific amount for sixty or ninety days, along with the type of mortgage the lender is willing to offer. Since the lender verifies the information you provided, this is a much more serious step than prequalification.
While you may receive preapproval for a mortgage, it’s important to remember it does not guarantee a mortgage. If there is a change to your income, assets, or debt level before the closing date, a lender may decide to deny the loan.
Prequalification and preapproval are just a part of the mortgage application process. Check out this list of nine things to consider before and during this critical part of the journey to finding your next home.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 21, 2022

Conquering Cottage Kitchen Clutter

Cottage-style kitchens are an increasingly popular option when it comes to creating an attractive yet functional kitchen layout. These cottage kitchens usually rely on an open layout so that everything is easily accessible regardless of what you need. In lieu of bulky cabinets and endless drawers, these kitchens make heavy use of open shelving and pegboards to hold everything. It can be a very attractive look for your kitchen and a pretty functional layout as well, but if you’re not careful, it’s also an invitation for chaos.

The ugly truth is that cabinets and drawers became popular because they keep all of the clutter and disarray hidden safely away and add a bit of built-in organization to the pandemonium of kitchen layouts. Do away with most of the cabinets, and all that clutter is left out in the open. Fortunately, there are ways to tame it. It does require a bit of thought in your approach, though.

Be Smart With Your Shelving

One of the big traps that people fall into with cottage kitchen shelving is trying to maximize its display properties without thinking about how to maximize efficiency. The look of plates, glasses, and various other bits of kitchen must-haves arranged neatly on shelves is certainly appealing. If you’re not careful, though, you’re going to end up with at least some of your shelves being overcrowded and a pain to work with as you sort through them to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The key to successful shelving is to arrange everything so that it’s not only appealing to look at but also on the shelves for a particular reason. Before placing anything on shelves, stop and think about which shelves those specific items would be best on. Consider where in the kitchen you’ll use them the most, and install shelves in those areas so that your prep tools can be near your prep station and your baking tools can be near your oven. Supplementing your shelving with under-table drawers, cabinets, and other unobtrusive storage solutions can also aid with this without ruining the cottage aesthetic you’ve created with your shelving.

A Place for Everything

Pegboards are another common sight in cottage-style kitchens, but they can become a messy array of items stuck up seemingly at random if you aren’t careful. It can take a little while to find an ideal layout of your spoons, tools, and other pegboard items, but once you have it then you should do everything you can to keep it. Even a few items placed incorrectly can throw off the entire arrangement and lead to your perfect organization falling into clutter.

A great option here is to get everything placed on your pegboard and then carefully trace around the various items lightly with a pencil. Once you have outlines of everything, remove it all and take the pegboard down. Carefully fill in those outlines with paint, using a variety of colors that match or accent the dominant colors in your kitchen. For added flair, paint a small stripe on the handles of your spoons and other tools that match the space you filled in for it on the pegboard to make it easy to see when anything is out of place.

Designing Your Dream Cottage Kitchen

The more thought you put into the design and functionality of your shelving and other cottage kitchen storage solutions, the easier it will be to avoid clutter in the future.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 15, 2022

Make Your Home More Pet Friendly

Having pets can enrich your life in a number of ways and can even improve your overall mental health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, not every home is really set up for pets. By making some improvements to your home and its layout, you can make it much more pet friendly, and help keep your furry (or scaly or feathery) friends safe and happy as you spend your time together.

Exactly how do you go about making your home more pet friendly, though? There are a few things you’ll need to consider, including the type of pet you have, its indoor/outdoor habits, and its size. While many of these things are specific to your individual pet, there are some more general changes that you can make to help make your home more pet friendly as well.

Update Your Interiors

If you’ve got an older house, you might want to do a few interior updates to help ensure that your pets are safe from harm. Redoing the walls to remove old paint that could have lead or other unwanted compounds goes a long way toward this goal, while also giving you a way to significantly change the look of the inside of your home. Your floors may need an update as well, such as replacing old frayed carpet with new carpeting or installing new vinyl. This could also be a good idea if you’ve got old wood floors and are concerned about scratching or splinters as your pets go back and forth with heavy paws and claws.

There are other changes that you can make as well. Replace frayed curtains or broken blinds with something a bit more modern to not only keep your pets safe but also keep your home looking nice as well. Depending on your home, you might have additional projects in mind that will not only improve the look but also help to keep your pets much safer from day to day.

It’s All About Access

A big part of making a home pet friendly comes down to controlling access. The parts of the house (or outdoors) that your pet is allowed into should be easy for them to access. Areas where they aren’t allowed should be difficult for them to access, but ideally easy for you to get into. Home updates to accommodate this can include things like adding pet doors, installing new doors that latch easily, or hanging interior gates that you can use to block and unblock access to specific rooms or other areas with ease.

If you have pets that are allowed outside, these sorts of considerations apply out there as well. Installing a fence, adding a watering station, or making other exterior accommodations for your pets will help keep them safe while outside, even as they’re allowed more freedom than they would have gotten as an indoor-only pet. Just make sure that any exterior changes that you make don’t run afoul of local ordinances or HOA agreements before you start work, so you can avoid problems down the road.

It’s Their House Too

In some cases, you may find yourself wanting to make some bigger changes to your home in order to better accommodate pets. Perhaps you want to change out some of your windows with larger ones so that your pets can more easily look outside. Maybe you need to update your HVAC system to better remove pet dander from the air. You might even decide to add on a small room or other area that’s designed specifically for your pets’ use.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 9, 2022

Filing a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

Nobody wants to have to file a homeowner’s insurance claim. After all, filing a claim means that something has gone horribly wrong at home. Maybe it’s damage from a storm, or a frozen pipe that burst, or some other unexpected problem. Whatever the cause, the damage was severe enough that you need to make a claim on the policy that up until now you’d hoped would never actually have to be used.

Exactly what’s involved with filing a homeowner’s insurance claim, though? While the filing process is similar to that with other forms of insurance, there are a few things about homeowner’s insurance that might seem confusing if you’ve never really dealt with it before. To make sure that everything goes smoothly, here’s some advice on what to expect when filing a homeowner’s insurance claim.

Contacting the Insurance Company

The first thing that you need to do to file a homeowner’s insurance claim is to contact your insurance company. This doesn’t mean that you should drop everything and call your insurance, though. Depending on the situation, there may be a few other things that your insurance company tells you to do before they can actually start working on a claim, so you may want to at least get them started first.

If your claim involves burglary, criminal damage to your property, or any other legal matter, you’re likely going to want to go ahead and call the police, because your insurance company will require a police report. You’ll also want to shut off the water or gas if necessary and take any other actions that are required to make your home safe. Take pictures (ideally with timestamps on) before you take any action, so that you can show the insurance company what the situation looked like before your intervention, then take additional pictures once you’ve shut things down. This documentation will be important to your claim once it gets started.

The Claims Process

Once you contact your insurance company, you’ll need to go through the specifics of what happened in as much detail as you can provide. If you had to shut off the water or take any other action, be sure to describe exactly what you did and let them know that you have before and after pictures as well. Point out any safety concerns such as broken windows that need to be boarded up, or any other safety-related repairs that might need to be made, so that your insurance agent can make note of them before you take any additional action. Be sure to take before and after photos of those repairs as well.

After your initial call, and any temporary repairs or changes that your agent approved have been made, you’re going to have to fill out some paperwork and take additional pictures and videos to document everything you can about the claim. The insurance company will likely send someone out to inspect your home in person as well, and you may have to go over all of these details again with them. Make copies of all your pictures and videos, and save every receipt related to the incident, including both any materials that were needed for temporary repairs, and things like hotel receipts if the house isn’t safe to stay in until repairs are complete. It may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, but once the company approves your claim, you’ll be glad that you documented everything.

Making Repairs

When your claim is finally approved, you’re going to need someone to make the repairs that your home needs. While your insurance company may have some suggestions, in many cases you’ll be free to choose your own contractors and other pros that will work with your insurance company throughout the repair process.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs
March 1, 2022

Why Choose an All-Electric Home?

There are a number of choices available to you when it comes to how you heat and cool your home. While many people choose electric means of cooling, heating is often a different story. The heating options for your home include things like gas heat, wood-burning heating, and even ambient heating solutions that use steam or hot water to pump heat through pipes in concrete flooring. Some homes even use a combination of these methods to heat different rooms in the house.

If you’re considering how you want to heat and cool your own home, however, there is something to be said for using an all-electric solution. While electric heat and air might not be right for every home or every homeowner, it’s at least worth considering if you’re in the market for a new home or are planning out a new construction project. If you’ve never really given an all-electric home much consideration, here are a few things that you should think about.

Rising Home Heating Costs

It seems like every year, the cost of heating your home is going up. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is fluctuations in the cost of heating fuels such as propane and natural gas. Depending on where you live, using these fuels as a heat source can be pretty expensive over the course of increasingly harsh winters when you’re going to have to run the heat a lot. Supply issues can also make it difficult to get refills of fuels like propane when you need them, and if you are able to secure a refill for your tank, then the increased demand could drive prices even higher.

While the cost of electricity also sees periodic increases, electric power isn’t as prone to wild fluctuations as some other fuels are. This can create more price stability over the course of a season, even in the event of severe winter weather that might drive up demand and pricing for some other fuels. Given that your home is already wired for electricity, it also offers the convenience of giving you a single bill for your heating and cooling needs without the requirement of scheduling refills or making other provisions to secure fuel.

Harnessing Solar Energy

Another big potential advantage of going all-electric is that you can use solar energy as a means to offset or even eliminate your heating and cooling costs. By installing solar panels on your roof or near your home, you can offset your use of grid power, or even charge batteries that your home will draw some or all its power from. Depending on the size of your solar setup, this can result in a significant decrease in the amount that you pay to heat and cool your home (and run everything else, too) throughout the year.

The savings from going solar can extend beyond just your heating and cooling costs, too. Installing solar panels at your house may qualify you for certain tax breaks or other benefits, saving you money when it comes time to pay your taxes as well. If you have a large enough solar setup, you may even be able to produce more power than your home uses. Depending on where you live, this could give you an opportunity to sell some power back to the grid, actually making money off of your home’s power setup.

Choosing an All-Electric Home

There are several ways that you can go all-electric, from buying a house that already has an all-electric setup to having a new electric unit installed to replace previous heating and cooling equipment. If you’ve already got an all-electric setup, you can also look at options such as solar to reduce your costs even more.

Posted in Real Estate Blogs