Decoding a Home Inspection Report: What Buyers Need to Know

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The home inspection is a critical step in the home buying process. It generally confirms the buyer’s favorable impression and perhaps identifies a few issues that should be part of negotiations. In some cases, however, the home inspection can uncover real problems that can throw the entire deal into question.

For the typical home buyer, it can be difficult to interpret a home inspection report, and to know which points are especially significant —possible deal breakers— and which are common and easily addressed. It’s a good idea to get familiar with some of the components of a home inspection report, and to know what sorts of questions to ask as they arise.

The Big Red Flags

The purpose of a home inspection is to verify that the home’s structure and systems are in good shape and working order. It protects the buyer from inheriting problems that weren’t obvious in touring the home, and is absolutely a necessary step, no matter how pristine the property appears. Generally, a few minor issues won’t derail a deal, but there are some things that should give the buyer pause, and definitely indicate some re-negotiating, at least.

Forbes recommends watching for these home inspection red flags:

#1. Problems with drainage or grading

This can cause a multitude of problems ranging from rotting wood frame to the shifting and/or cracking a home’s foundation over time. A good inspector will notice possible signs of foundation movement. If this is noted on a home inspection, understand that repairs will be costly.

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#2. Worn out roofing

Watch for any mention of signs of aging such as cupping, curling, blistering, lifting, splitting, insect damage, cracking, rotting and missing granular/sections. These symptoms of an aging roof may be warning signs of future water intrusion unless a new roof is installed; and once again there is a hefty price tag to this sort of project.

Wondering how to maintain a roof? Here are some tips.

#3. Unsafe wiring

Defective electrical wiring is a common cause of residential fires. Also, be aware that the number of electrical outlets in the home is significant. Too few outlets can lead to the overuse of extension cords, which places too much stress on the electrical system. You should also be mindful of any exposed wires. Remedying any of these problems will require a professional and the associated costs.

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#4. Faulty plumbing

This can indicate substantial problems that may even necessitate replacing the entire system. Pay attention to the smallest leak, since the potential for damage is considerable.

Other signs of trouble include mold, water damage, foundation damage, or insect infestations. All of these can be the result of poor maintenance, which has a negative effect on the property as a whole.

What to Do With the Report

Once you’ve received an inspection report, what’s the next step? Be sure to reach out to the inspector if you have questions or if you feel that information is missing. How you handle the report has a big impact on your actual purchase price and on the condition of your new home.  Here are some tips for how to proceed:

  • Discuss it with your real estate agent

Share the report with your agent. They see dozens of reports, and will be able to quickly identify any areas for concern.  They can also recommend contractors to handle needed repairs.

  • Get an estimate for repairs

Have the contractor come to the house and share the inspection report. Make sure that the estimate you’re given covers the specific repairs called for in the inspection. Get a firm timeline for when the work could be accomplished.

  • Negotiate with the seller

Based on your meeting with the contractor, decide which repairs are most important to you, and what issues you may not be interested in addressing. Discuss the inspection report and required repairs with the seller. Negotiate how those will be covered: the seller may make the repairs or may provide compensation for repairs that you arrange.

The ideal scenario is a clean inspection, although it’s rare that a home has no issues at all. A favorable inspection boosts buyer confidence, as it should. It indicates a home that has been well cared for, and helps deals move forward more quickly.

Improving Value with Glasshouse

If you’re selling your home, being able to demonstrate meticulous maintenance is a big plus. Our Glasshouse customers have 24/7access to detailed maintenance reports on their property, and can document that their home has been on a comprehensive maintenance schedule. We like to think we make the inspector’s job easy.

Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or simply understand the importance of preventative maintenance, connect with our team at Glasshouse to learn more about our preventative maintenance service.

How To Maintain Your Range/Oven?

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The kitchen range is your home’s workhorse. Rarely does a day pass without the use of this appliance to create the food we enjoy, so a working range is pretty much essential to a smooth-running household. With good maintenance, a range will last up to 15 years.

Regular maintenance can keep your range working efficiently and prolong its life. This is mostly a matter of routine, thorough cleaning. Here are some basic steps in caring for different types of kitchen ranges:

The control panel

Use a light-duty cleaner or simply soap and water with a rag. Using abrasive pads or too harsh of a cleaner can wear off the decal indicators, which identify the knob controls for each burner.

Smooth electric stove tops

If a heavy spill occurs, use a razor scraper to remove large food deposits. Apply a cooktop cleaner. Remove the remaining residue with a scratch-free pad and then apply a coat of cooktop protectant.

Gas stove tops

Some gas stovetops are made of porcelain-coated steel and can be cleaned exactly the same as an electric smooth top. Stainless steel tops should be cleaned with heavy-duty degreaser and a non-abrasive pad. Avoid using too much water when cleaning, especially around the knobs, as this can cause a short.

The oven interior

Whatever model you own, you should clean the interior of your oven three to four times per year. Spills and drips should be removed as soon as possible, as they will smoke and may eventually catch on fire.

Self-cleaning ovens

Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the self-cleaning function. This feature heats the interior of the oven to a temperature high enough to incinerate food particles and spills. The process generally lasts for 2 to 4 hours.

Important: Never use a cleaning solution to clean the interior of a self-cleaning oven unless it is made specifically for self-cleaning ovens.

Non-self-cleaning ovens

Simply wait until the oven is cool to the touch, remove the oven racks and spray oven cleaner directly onto the interior surface. Wipe with a clean rag.

Racks

Clean the racks by letting them soak in the sink. Then, scrub the racks using regular kitchen sponges. Don’t leave racks in an oven during a self-clean cycle.

Range hood

Clean your fan blades with warm soapy water on occasion to prevent buildup of dirt and grease. This will help avoid excess stress on your motor and keep it from overheating. Clean the filter frequently as it is the part that will collect grease the fastest.

How to Choose a New Range

Once your range has reached the end of its useful life, there are many considerations in choosing a replacement. Pricing can range widely, with many good options at $1000-$1500. High-end brands like Kitchenaid, Viking, Thermador, and Jenn-Air have models selling for up to $6000.

There are a variety of range types. The most popular and easiest to install are freestanding ranges. With this model, the oven control panel is typically on the back panel, above the cooktop surface. Some kitchens have slide-in ranges, which easily slide in between surrounding cabinets and give a custom, built-in look. The oven controls are on the range front and there’s no back panel, which showcases your backsplash.

Most electric and gas ranges are 30-inches wide. Pro-style ranges usually span 36 inches or more. Capacities generally range from 2 to nearly 4 cubic feet.  Ranges can be fueled by electricity, gas, or a dual-fuel system, which pairs a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Both power sources have their advantages. The type of range you choose may be dictated by the existing setup in your kitchen.

#1. Electric smoothtop

Ranges with electric radiant smoothtops are the most popular type. Most models have at least one high-power burner and expandable dual or triple elements that let you switch from a large, high-power element to a small, lower-power element within it.

One downside of this type of cooktop is that there is a lot of residual heat, so when reducing the temperature it can take a few minutes to reach the lower setting.

#2. Electric Induction

Electric ranges with an induction cooktop use magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface to quickly generate heat directly to the pan, offering precise simmering and control.

Magnetic cookware is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of a pot, it will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless-steel cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t.

#3. Gas

Gas stoves provide more responsive and precise heat.  The flame makes it easier to judge the heat, to get a feel for it, and to quickly move from a high setting to a lower one. Most ranges have four surface burners in three sizes, and some have a fifth burner instead of a center section.

Once you know which type of range you want, it’s time to take a look at the available features. Here are some popular ones:

Control lockout—These let you disable the oven controls, and are especially good for homes with small children.

Double ovens- Great for cooking a big meal. You can cook at different temperatures simultaneously.

Expandable elements- these can accommodate griddles and larger pots for more efficient heating.

Convection- Convection ovens use one or more fans to circulate hot air and reduce cooking time.

Time/Delayed Start- This lets you set a time for the electric or gas oven to start and stop cooking.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System
And, don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How to Prevent Water Intrusion

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One of the more significant budget lines you add when you become a homeowner is for home maintenance and repair. U.S. News reports that on average, homeowners will spend between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and the costs tend to increase as the house ages.

Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize repair costs. Looking after your home’s structure and systems can extend their life and often prevent damage that will lead to costly repairs. One of the most damaging elements your home is exposed to is moisture. That’s why it’s so important to keep water out.

Water does more damage to your home than anything else, and the damage is usually gradual. Even small leaks, left unrepaired, lead to mold and mildew, rot, and eventually termites and carpenter ants. You can avoid a lot of expensive repairs just by keeping an eye out for moisture. Water can affect different areas of your home in different ways, so here are some tips for keeping things dry in key locations.

Insurance Institute of Business and Home Safety tells us that these are the most common places where water intrusion occurs:

        Windows and doors

        Roof

        Foundation and Exterior walls

        Plumbing

Surprisingly, kitchens and baths are not listed. They will fall under plumbing, and there’s certainly the potential for water intrusion there. Other places to check regularly are the clothes washer and water heater.

Common Area #1: Household plumbing

If leaks in your kitchen pipes go undetected, the damage can be extensive. Long-term drips will ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and can run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, causing mildew and rot. This will require a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring.

Watch out for dark spots under pipes or changes in water pressure that may indicate a leak somewhere in the system. Remember to check the water lines to your icemaker and dishwasher regularly, in addition to the sink.

In the bath, check the floor around your toilets, tubs, showers, and sinks. Look for any soft spots or moisture. Check for leaking faucets, dripping or “sweating” pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

Don’t forget to check the caulk. Replacing old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials, and it helps keep water where it belongs.

In the laundry room, inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or wetness. These should be replaced every few years, or sooner if problems are found. Take a minute occasionally to inspect the water heater for signs of rust or water on the floor.

Promptly repairing plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Common Area #2: Doors and windows

Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, which can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Look for discolorations in paint or caulking as well as swelling in windows, doorframes and surrounding materials. Keep caulk in good repair and seal leaks promptly.  This has the added benefit of reducing your energy costs.

Common Area #3: Roof and gutters

Check the roof regularly for any signs of leaks or damage. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents. Replace or repair missing or damaged shingles promptly, and keep the surface clear of debris that can allow damaging moisture to build up.

Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters back up and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can greatly extend the life of your roof. Clean and inspect gutters at least once a year.

Common Area #4: Foundation

Foundation repairs can be disruptive and expensive. Prevent water intrusion through regular inspections. Look for cracks or holes in the foundation or external walls, and seal them promptly.

You can keep water away from the foundation by ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation. Keep an eye out for dripping outdoor faucets, which can wreak havoc on foundations over time.

Some other quick tips for preventing water intrusion from damaging your home:

  • Investigate changes in your water bill; a spike may indicate a leak.
  • Keep plantings away from foundations and water lines. Roots can cause unseen damage.
  • Disconnect your hoses. If the water sitting in them freezes, it may back up into the pipe and cause problems.
  • Install water detection devices. These can alert you to low moisture levels or slow leaks that are harder to detect with the eye.

If home maintenance seems overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how Glasshouse can automate your home’s maintenance with regularly scheduled maintenance visits.

10 Easy Home Upgrades to Tackle in a Weekend

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One of the pleasures of owning a home is making gradual additions and upgrades that make it more comfortable, convenient, and beautiful. For many of us, the only time to get these done is to devote a weekend to the project.

Weekend projects can be a great change of pace and really give you a sense of satisfaction. There are probably some little improvements around your home that you’ve been pondering for months. With some solid planning you can accomplish a surprising amount on the weekend.

Here are a few projects that are simple enough to tackle in a single weekend and will add to the enjoyment of your home for many more weekends to come.  

#1: Mount that flat screen

Hanging your TV frees tabletop space and also makes it visible from more parts of the room. Plan to get this job done one weekend. It’s really just a matter of careful measuring and driving a few screws. You’ll need these tools to do the job:

  • Cordless drill
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Screwdrivers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Level
  • Drywall saw
  • Utility knife
  • Masking tape

Follow the instructions including with your particular mounting hardware, paying close attention to setting the bracket level. You will likely need to have a couple of helpers on hand to help hold the TV in place for measuring.

#2. Add some storage

Another very effective project for making your home feel more spacious is the addition of shelves to help control clutter.  Shelves can also serve a decorative function, providing a place to display your favorite art or books, adding personality to your home.  

Installing custom shelving is a great weekend project, and there are many options and approaches to choose from. How you build yours can depend on the space you have available, the materials you want to use, and what they’re designed to store.

#3. Assemble new furniture

This is a project that you can’t rush, so the weekend can be best for tackling any sort of assembly. You may have a new accent table or some exercise equipment to put together. With a few basic tools, the task is ideal for the weekend.

#4. Repair a fence

Fences can be a great enhancement to your property, but they do require maintenance. Fixing loose boards or sagging gates can instantly revive a fence, and boost your home’s curb appeal.

#5. Install safety upgrades

Keeping your loved ones safe in their home is a great goal, and many safety upgrades are quick and easy. You can add child guards to cabinet doors, safety gates on stairways, and accessibility ramps anywhere they’re needed. Bracing furniture (like bookshelves) is also a great idea, especially in areas prone to earthquakes.

#6. Repair torn screens

A small detail, but well worth tending to. Torn screens are unsightly, and they don’t fulfill their function of keeping insects outside where they belong.

#7. Seasonal decorations

Decking your house out for holidays can be a really fun weekend project. Creating a festive and welcoming atmosphere can make special times at your home even more memorable. Keep in mind that the decorations have to be taken down and stored, as well, so allocate a weekend for that as well.

#8. Outdoor living upgrades

Another seasonal aspect of your home is the outdoor living space. One great project to prepare for the summer months is a complete cleaning and servicing of your barbeque equipment. You can prolong the life of your grill with thorough cleaning. Corrosion and rust will keep a grill from performing at its best, so it’s important to get to parts like the burners and fire box, and to replace worn or broken parts.

#9. Add weather stripping

This weekend project may be invisible to the casual observer, but you can bet that it will be plain to see in your future energy bills. Refresh the weather stripping around doors and windows to keep your home more comfortable year round while also keeping energy costs under control.

#10. Install new light fixtures

This instantly updates the look of your home. You can add an eye-catching fixture on the front porch, or make your kitchen more functional by adding task lighting where you need it.

Getting the Help You Need

There are plenty of projects around the home that can be done in a weekend and have a big impact. For some of us, weekends are for relaxing and enjoying our home, not working.

If you’d like to get some upgrades done but can’t spare the time yourself, remember that Glasshouse can handle these jobs for you, as part of our on-demand services for members. Check out our site to see how a Glasshouse home maintenance subscription can free up your weekends and keep your house in tip-top shape.

Selling Your Home? Give Buyers Confidence with Glasshouse

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Preparing to sell your house means shifting your perspective a bit. You have to start seeing it not as your home, but as a place where others might want to live. As you probably know, there are dozens of things you can do to make the property more attractive to potential buyers.

Of course the initial impression that a home makes is critically important. That is what fuels the drive to improve curb appeal, make any necessary repairs, and upgrade fixtures and appliances.  It has spawned a whole industry, devoted to preparing and staging the home to make it more visually appealing, so that buyers can picture themselves living there.

Once prospective buyers get past the initial impression they are looking for indications of the home’s value. They want to decide whether to make an offer, and if so, how much the home is worth. Well-maintained features and systems show that a home has been well cared for, and buyers feel more confident about making an offer.

Keeping up with maintenance tasks, large and small, help a home retain its value. Industry observers tell us that neglecting maintenance can result in a 10 percent decrease in the value of a home. Without maintenance, an average home can depreciate by thousands of dollars.

When the time comes to sell that house, inspectors are likely to find a laundry list of needed repairs, and potential buyers can easily be scared off by the types of problems that will come to light.

A university study showed that regular maintenance boosts home value by about 1% per year, so maintenance slows down depreciation. That fact, combined with the fact that real estate prices overall tend to increase over time, means more value in a well-maintained home.

For the most part, if you’ve practiced good maintenance over the years, it will be evident. Any of the exterior features –siding, roof, landscaping –as well as the cosmetics inside are easy to observe, but what about when it comes to your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical, and other systems?  Unless you’ve been able to keep scrupulous records and receipts, you may not be able to demonstrate to potential buyers how well they’ve been maintained.

A sale can hang on considerations like these. Indeed, financing a purchase may be impossible for some buyers when a home requires certain repairs.  FHA loans, for example, won’t be granted for homes with structural issues.

The more you’re able to assure the buyer that the home is solid and well maintained, the more comfortable they’ll feel. Having a third party validate your statements about home maintenance can be the kind of assurance that will help buyers reach a decision.

Working with the house managers at Glasshouse can be the ideal solution. We can provide complete records of the maintenance completed on your home, along with information on the age and condition of its systems and structural elements.

Having Glasshouse as your ally means never having to wonder whether you’ve covered all of the important preventative maintenance that your home needs. A detailed and personalized maintenance calendar means that nothing is neglected or left to chance.  

Our dedicated house managers make quarterly visits to complete a preset list of maintenance tasks, building a digital catalog of the home’s systems and appliances with each visit.  They will also provide informative maintenance reports following each visit.

This comes in handy when the time comes to sell. Not only will you have few, if any repairs to make before putting the house on the market, which can save considerable time, but you’ll also be able to provide the potential buyer with peace of mind.  They can hear about how the home has been professionally cared for by the professionals who handled the job.

Preventative maintenance can save thousands in repair costs. It’s estimated that every $1 spent on home maintenance saves $100 on repairs. Explore our site to see how Glasshouse works to make it easy to keep your home in peak condition, so you can enjoy it now and maintain its value so you can find the right buyer when the time comes to sell.

Give potential buyers confidence in the value of your home with Glasshouse.

7 Ways Homeowners Can Add Real Value to Their Properties

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Whether we’re talking resale value or day-to-day enjoyment of your home, making upgrades and improvements are a sure way to enhance your property’s value. For resale, today’s buyers are often looking for up-to-date, well-maintained spaces and keeping your home in tip-top shape can help you stand out in a sea of available properties.

For homeowners considering making improvements, it can be hard to know which options and projects are best. The idea is to make changes that make the home work better for you and also increase the potential sale price down the road.

For these purposes, several upgrades and improvements are historically the best options.

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Click here to download the full infographic.

#1. Add Attic Insulation

Adding attic insulation is a project that returns as much as 116 percent of the cost. Depending on the size of the home, this can carry a price tag of $2000 and up, but you’ll recoup that cost and more, while also saving considerably on energy costs.

#2. Replace the Garage Door

A new garage door freshens up the whole façade of your home, instantly increasing curb appeal. The cost, which starts around $2000, can be nearly all recovered. On average, 91 percent of the cost will be reflected in an increase of resale value.

#3. Upgrade the Entry Door

Simply replacing a faded or out of date entry door is an instant facelift for the home, and you can expect to recoup over 90 percent of the cost. Depending on materials (wood and steel are popular options), the installed cost can range from $1500 to over $5000.

#4. Complete a Minor Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen and bath are the rooms that buyers look at most closely, so improvements here can have a big impact on selling price. Homeowners can recoup just over 80 percent of the cost of a minor kitchen remodel. This would involve new paint and flooring, countertops, hardware, and cabinet doors. The cost would run about $25,000 for this level of upgrade.  

#5. Window Replacement

An improvement that has a really profound effect on a home’s overall appearance, as well as energy efficiency is window replacement. You can expect to recoup 72 percent of costs associated with this upgrade, and it will significantly cut heating and cooling costs.

The price for window replacements depends upon the size of the house, and also on the material used. Vinyl windows are very low maintenance and prices begin around $15,000 for a small, 3-bedroom house. Wood frame windows are slightly more expensive, starting around $25,000.

#6. Update Your Home’s Entrance

For some homes, it makes sense to upgrade the entire entryway, rather than only replacing the front door.  You’ll recoup about 70 percent of costs on this project, and it can add tremendously to the home’s visual impact and first impression.

This involves replacing the entry door, adding sidelights and upgraded casings. New entry lights will complete the transformation. The cost for this project will start at $10,000.

#7. Regular, Documented Maintenance

The condition of a house for sale has tremendous influence on the sales price as well. No matter how many upgrades it has, a poorly maintained home will lose value. U.S. News reports that “someone will pay $15,000 more for a well-kept house that’s move-in ready than they will for a house that needs $5,000 worth of work.”

Without proactive maintenance, your home could lose 10 percent of its value, just because it looks worn. A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that maintenance actually increases the value of a house by about 1% each year.

The money spent on maintenance, coincidentally, should average about one percent of the purchase price of your home. Making that investment is essential to prevent more costly repairs that can be necessary when systems or materials fail. Preventative maintenance is far more economical than reacting to damage or breakdowns.

The key to benefiting from conscientious maintenance when the time comes to sell is good record-keeping. Being able to show clear maintenance records will assure buyers that your home is in top shape. Glasshouse keeps meticulous records for each client, available electronically, when you need them, in real time.

Dedicated maintenance managers develop a schedule to handle all of the essential upkeep on your specific property, so you know that everything is covered. Beyond that, they keep detailed records of everything they do. So you can verify the filter size your furnace needs using your phone and you can also demonstrate to a potential buyer that your home has had an optimal level of maintenance. Smart move!

5 Must-Know Tips for Buying Home Appliances

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While they may not do much for the charm or ambiance in your home, major appliances have a critical effect on your comfort and convenience. A new refrigerator is not nearly as exciting as a new car, but it is arguably more important in terms of making your daily life more convenient and healthy.

Maintaining and replacing appliances is a part of home ownership, so educating yourself on those topics is a smart move that will save you money in the long run.  For most homeowners, it’s good practice to learn some basics about kitchen, laundry, and HVAC equipment before the day comes when they must be replaced.

#1. Budget

You can always get a better deal if you have little time to look around. Give yourself that luxury by checking out appliance deals before you need them. Check the owner’s manual for your equipment to be aware of the expected lifespan for each appliance, and then plan to replace most of them at or before that time.

Keep in mind that there is usually some wiggle-room in appliance pricing, so don’t hesitate to haggle a bit. Base your bargaining on an understanding of the average price ranges, and you could save yourself $100 or so.

#2. Timing

Finding the best deal on the appliance you want can be a matter of timing.

The best time to buy most major appliances is during the months of September and October. During these two months, manufacturers unveil their latest models, so the previous models are discounted.

Refrigerators are the exception. Those new models are rolled out in May, so spring is the best time to shop for a refrigerator.  Another special consideration is air conditioning systems, which can be found at a discount in the winter months.

When inventory lingers into January, discounts can be even deeper, although you won’t have as many models to choose from.

Holiday weekends and the end of the month can also be good times to check appliance prices. Black Friday can be a great day to pick up a new appliance, and many merchants have sales on holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day.

#3. Options to Consider

The number of features and options available in appliances keeps growing, and sorting them out can be a little overwhelming. Count on perennial experts, like  HGTV, Bob Vila, or CNET for unbiased reviews and important details. Consumer Reports is also a fantastic resource, with lots of free information online. A subscription will get you access to a wealth of additional informative reports on topics like appliance brands most prone to need repairs.

Refrigerator

The fridge often seems like the center of the home, and there are a wide range of styles and options from which to select. Styles include top freezer, bottom freezer, French door, side-by-side, built-in, and mini.  Other important factors to consider are capacity and energy efficiency. 

Some desirable features to consider:

  • In-door ice and water
  • Door-in-door storage
  • Air purifiers/evaporators
  • Zoned temperature controls
  • Flexible shelf and drawer design

Range

A major consideration here is whether you’ll buy gas or electric. If you’re replacing your old range, you’ll save money by sticking with your existing power source. Freestanding units also tend to be more cost-effective than built-ins.

Features:

  • Control lock-out
  • Double ovens
  • Expandable stovetop elements
  • Convection option
  • Time/Delayed start

Dishwasher

Using a dishwasher can actually be more energy efficient and use less water than washing by hand. According to Energy Star, newer models use less than half the energy of hand washing, and can save up to 5000 gallons of water per year.

Dishwashers with an Energy Star designation are, on average, 12 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than standard models, so they can potentially save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance.

Features:

  • Adjustable or extra racks
  • Soil sensors
  • Rinse and hold
  • Self-cleaning filter
  • Stainless steel tub
  • Hidden touchpad controls
  • Quiet operation

Washer       

Clothes washers are available as top or front-loading. Click the link to read what Consumer Reports says about the advantages of the different types.

Features:

  • Automatic detergent dispenser
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Extra rinse cycle
  • Stainless steel tub

Dryer

Here again, you face the choice between gas or electric models.

Features:

  • Moisture sensor
  • Auto-dry cycles
  • Extended tumble
  • End of cycle signal

Furnace

For home heating, gas is generally the most economical power source, while electric systems can be lower in initial cost.

Home heating units have seen tremendous improvement in recent years, both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. According to Consumer Reports: “… today’s more-efficient gas furnaces can save you up to $40 for every $100 you spend on fuel compared with older models. They are also, on average, less likely to need repairs, according to our survey of subscribers, who told us about 21,132 furnaces they bought between 2008 and early 2014.”

Features:

  • Zoned heating
  • Dual air exchangers
  • Variable speed blower
  • Air filtration

Air Conditioning Units

90 percent of new homes in the U.S. are equipped with central air conditioning. Whether you’re looking at a new installation or replacing an aging unit, similar factors should be considered.

Maintenance is critical for keeping your AC running efficiently, and many installation companies offer the option to include some regular maintenance in the installation cost.

#4. Installation costs

For the average homeowner, installing major appliances is best left up to a pro, so the cost of installation, to include removing and disposing of the old unit, must be factored into cost.

A good way to save on installation costs is to use existing utility connections and locations. Stick with the current power source (usually electric or gas) to avoid expensive reconfiguration.

#5. Measure your space

When you’re replacing an existing appliance, double-check the space to ensure that the new model will fit your existing site. Remember that they have to fit in the door. Here are the most common sizes for home appliances:

  • Refrigerator –This measurement can vary depending on capacity, but the most common width is 36 inches. Be sure to allow room for the refrigerator’s doors to swing open, and for a one-inch clearance around sides and back for adequate airflow.
  • Range – Most electric and gas ranges are 30 inches wide, while some pro-style units measure 36 inches.
  • Dishwasher -Most conventional dishwashers are intended for a cavity measuring 24 by 24 inches.
  • Washer/Dryer– Most laundry appliances measure 27 inches wide, but some models with bigger capacities measure two or three inches wider.

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Does It Cost More to Maintain Your Home or Your Car?

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While you’ve most likely spent considerably more to buy your home than your car, you may be surprised at how much less expensive –proportionally- it is to maintain your home.

This is great news, considering that your home is likely your biggest investment, and one that you could very well be looking to sell at some point in the future. A key difference to remember when we’re looking at cost of ownership is the fact that cars depreciate over time, while home values appreciate. Let’s compare.

Cars

The Kelley Blue Book tells us that the average price of a car in the U.S. is now $33,000. The Wall Street Journal tells us that Americans bought a record-breaking 17.5 million cars and light trucks last year. Cars are considered essential, and worth the cost of ownership.

But beyond the cost of financing and fuel, how expensive is it to maintain a car? There are several contributing factors, as you well know:

  • Tires
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Taxes, license and registration fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Depreciation

The American Automobile Association (AAA) published a study last year that laid out the costs associated with each of these. They note that costs do vary depending upon the type of vehicle, with SUVs costing more than 50 percent more to maintain than small sedans.

Our purpose here is to compare the cost of caring for your car to that of maintaining a house. To get an idea of what maintenance will cost for a car, we can look at the average costs related to these areas:

  • Taxes and Fees $665
  • Maintenance and Repairs $767
  • Tires $147

These considerations will cost an average of $1579 annually. This cost does not take into account the average annual cost for fuel ($1682), and is in addition to any loan or insurance payments you may or may not have. It doesn’t factor in depreciation, with its messy calculations (although AAA estimates around $2500 annually!).  It’s the cost of taking care of your car.

Home Appreciation

Your home, on the other hand is all but certain to increase in value over time. That’s what makes real estate such a great investment. Bay Area home prices have come back strong from the crisis of 2008, at a rate far ahead of national numbers.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price indexes for the Pacific region have increased by more than 54 points over the last 5 years, well ahead of the national average of just over 29 points for the same time period.

Specifically in San Francisco, home prices rose by over 11 percent in the year between October 2014 and October 2015. In dollars and cents, that means that a home valued at $200,000 at 2014 would have gained over $22,000 in value in just one year.

The cost of maintaining your home varies, naturally. It depends on these variables, according to The Balance:

  •      Age – the maintenance costs tend to rise as the home ages
  •      Weather – extreme climates boost maintenance costs
  •      Condition – a home that’s been neglected will cost more to maintain
  •      Location – this can make a home more vulnerable to water damage and other factors
  •      Single-Family vs. Attached – the single-family home will cost more to maintain

Do the Math…

So let’s see: if the average car costs $33,000, and we can expect to spend just over $1500 to care for the car, that means we will be putting right at 4.5 percent of the car’s value back into it each year for maintenance. This line of thinking ignores the fact that the value of your car actually drops over time.

For your home, which as we’ve seen, gains value over time, experts generally recommend that you budget about 1 – 3% percent of your home’s purchase price for maintenance and repairs. So for a home priced at $700,000: budget $7000 annually for maintenance and repairs.

These numbers make one thing very clear: home maintenance is a bargain compared with caring for a car. We all expect to pay a price for using our car all year, but there’s a tendency to avoid spending money on home maintenance until something goes wrong.

That’s a key phrase, because good preventative maintenance can greatly reduce your overall costs by keeping the need for repair and replacement to a minimum. Keeping your systems in top working order increases their lifespan and helps you avoid costly breakdowns.

Want some help with that? Glasshouse Service Providers will oversee the care of your home at an annual premium of just $396.

How to Maintain my Furnace

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Your furnace is key to keeping your home a comfortable and healthy environment. It also probably represents your largest utility bill. For these and other reasons, it’s important to properly maintain your furnace.

Good maintenance improves efficiency and the efficiency of your furnace can make a major difference in your energy bills. Heating accounts for approximately 30 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  A well-maintained unit can run efficiently for 15-25 years, but keep in mind that newer units are vastly more efficient than models manufactured before stricter regulation went into effect in 1992.

There comes a time when the cost of fueling an older unit should be weighed against the cost of replacing it with a more efficient model. Some signs that your furnace may soon be ready to go include:

  •         Soot streaks around the furnace cabinet
  •         Excessive moisture condensation on windows and cold surfaces
  •         Signs of moisture on metal flues and pipes
  •         Moisture at the base of vents or flues

Meanwhile, keeping up with regular maintenances is the key to getting the most efficient operation possible from your furnace. Make yourself familiar with tips for increasing efficiency, and make sure that your unit gets the care it needs. Annually, start-of-season service by a professional can be very inexpensive –often under $100- and will extend the life of your system.

Heating systems have 3 components: the source of heated air, distribution (blower), and control (thermostat). Dirt and grime can inhibit the performance of all of these; so much of the maintenance involves cleaning parts.

One of the most effective ways to improve efficiency is to change the air filter. This is a quick, cheap, and easy job that homeowners often do themselves. It should be done at least once a year, but can never be done too often. For units that see heavy use in the winter, it can be a good idea to replace the filter monthly. This helps your furnace run more efficiently and also improves the air quality in your home.  

You can easily clean the system’s registers as well. Just remove the cover and vacuum the duct opening.

Other parts of the furnace benefit from regular care, but are not as simple to access. These are most often left to a professional. Here are recommended steps for gas furnace maintenance.

  •      Shut down the system
  •      Clean the combustion chamber
  •      Inspect the flue pipe
  •      Check the blower belt’s wear and tension
  •      Vacuum out burner and blower cavities
  •      Clean the flame sensor
  •      Lubricate bearings
  •      Seal leaks in ductwork

Don’t forget that adequate insulation can help to boost your system’s efficiency too, and will save energy costs. Adding insulation and weather-stripping can be an ongoing effort, and some is always better than none. So you can make those improvements a little at a time with little expense in terms of time or money.

A great benefit of regular maintenance is that it keeps you aware of your equipment’s condition. That way you’re prepared when the time comes to replace it. A new furnace can represent a sizable investment for most of us, with average prices for equipment and installation around $5000, ranging up to $8000-$10,000, so it’s nice to have a little notice rather than an unexpected breakdown.

The good news is that with energy savings you’ll recoup your investment in a new system fairly quickly. To calculate that time, follow these steps:

  • Determine how much you already pay annually for heating costs.
  • Calculate the price of your furnace including installation. Be sure to subtract any government incentives or rebates.
  • Check the predicted annual energy usage for your new furnace to determine what it will cost you to run.
  • Subtract the cost of operating your new furnace for a year from the cost of operating your old furnace for a year to see what you’ll be saving.
  • Divide the total cost of your new furnace by the energy savings it will provide to see how long it will take for the furnace to pay for itself.

Even where major home systems like the furnace are concerned, it can be easy to forget about them until something goes wrong. When maintenance is neglected, breakdowns are practically guaranteed, no matter how excellent the equipment. Making a relatively minor investment in preventative maintenance helps you avoid the stress, inconvenience, and expense of equipment failure, and it saves energy costs every month to boot. It warms the heart to think of it.

For more on “How to Maintain” various items in your home, check out our list of popular blogs below:

How to Maintain my Roof

How to Maintain my Gutters

How to Maintain my HVAC System

Don’t forget to download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

6 Perfect Housewarming Gifts For Millennials in the Bay Area

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Millennials. Such a familiar term, and for good reason. They’re the largest demographic in the U.S., and they’ll continue to dominate as the boomers age. In fact, Pew Research tells us that in 2015 for the first time, there were more millennials than Baby Boomers in the U.S. workforce. The Census Bureau predicts that they’ll soon outnumber the Boomers by almost half a million, and the difference will only grow as the years go on.

These statistics help explain why so many of your clients fit into the millennial age group. While for years they have tended to prefer renting to buying their homes, it appears as though this is changing. The NAR’s Generational Trends Report for this year is showing that millennials are growing up, and their home-buying decisions are becoming more traditional.

While they’re becoming more traditional in some ways, millennials continue to hold many views that set them apart. They like to work collaboratively, interact on social media, and form a strong connection with their communities. Many millennials are actively involved in the community, in addition to holding challenging jobs.

When you’re thinking about a useful and memorable housewarming gift for your millennial clients, it’s good to keep these points in mind. Millennials are keenly interested in taking care of their homes, which represent such a major investment. They also feel that spending time with family and friends is very important for a well-balanced life.  Their families may be growing, and they have busy careers.  

What are some housewarming gifts that can appeal to these priorities?

#1. Cater to their tastes

If your clients have ever made a passing reference to specialty brews, they will love a monthly subscription such as a craft beer of the month club. The Rare Beer Club delivers two to six bottles of beer to subscribers each month. It features a wide variety of beers, and a subscription like this has an extra advantage. It keeps your name in the client’s mind for an extended time, a sure way to increase referrals.

There are dozens of options for subscriptions that deliver specialty treats and gourmet foods – even beauty products, jewelry, and more. Your clients will appreciate the customized feel of this gift.

#2. Help protect their investment

The home represents a huge investment for all of us, and millennials want to retain its value. This requires good preventative maintenance, but young families seldom have the time, tools, and expertise to handle the job in a comprehensive way.

Gift your lucky homeowner with a subscription to Glasshouse, which professionally handles all of the routine maintenance for the home, taking the task off the homeowner’s plate to give them more time for family and friends.

#3. Accommodate their devices

Millennials love technology, so a gift that complements their devices can be a hit. There are some amazing but inexpensive accessories for smart phones, iPads, and other devices available from merchants on Etsy. Many are handmade and very unique, like docking stations and stands made from wood and other natural materials.

#4. Help them kick back

Another great subscription idea is one that helps millennials relax and enjoy some entertainment. This could be a subscription to a streaming site like Hulu or Netflix, or a one-time gift of tickets to an upcoming concert that you know they’d love. Movie passes can be a great gift for a family.

#5. Tech is their friend

With millennials, you can’t really go wrong with technology. Pick an item that they likely don’t have (everyone has an iPhone), and will help make their home cozier. A Nest thermostat can be a great gift, and it keeps on giving through lower energy costs and a more comfy home climate. Another winning techy gift might be a Roomba vacuum. Fun, practical, and very techy.

#6. Make a donation

Millennials make charity donations at a high rate, so your clients might appreciate a donation made in their name. Pick a local charity that lets them feel connected to their new community. Go Out and Help’s site provides an extensive list of Bay Area charities, so you can choose one that meets your client’s interest and your budget.

Bay area millennials are an important segment of the community’s home-buying population, and a terrific potential source for referrals. Show your appreciation for their business by choosing a housewarming gift that demonstrates your understanding of their priorities. Consider the individual, and choose one of the suggested gifts above to make a lasting impression.