Winterizing 101

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A view from the Crum Team House

You’ve prepared the menu for Thanksgiving this week, you’ve bought the ingredients, set out a schedule and know exactly how many–or few–stores you will hit up on Black Friday, but still you feel like you’ve forgotten something. Okay, your response is more likely to be cranberry sauce than winterizing your home, but still many homeowners forget to do proper annual maintenance checks that will save them time and money during the winter months when both are precious commodities. Below are some checks that I always recommend to my clients and a few suggested by Zillow.

Vacant Homes: If you own a vacant home or plan on taking a trip during the winter months, make sure to keep your house at a balmy 45 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing.

Storage: Don’t forget to put away patio furniture, cushions, hoses and cover BBQ’s and AC units to prevent damage from the elements.

Weatherstripping: Cold air can seep in through those little gaps between your door and the door frame, quickly reversing any effort you take to heat your home. Weatherstripping covers the sides and top of the door and a sweep fills the space between the threshold and door bottom. Hardware stores and home centers sell numerous products in metal, foam, rubber and plastic for this purpose and many can be installed in an afternoon.

Windows: This may be another area where additional weatherstripping or caulk is needed to fill any visible gaps, though that still might not be enough remediation to prevent drafts. While windows add much needed winter light, they can let out a lot of heat — up to 12 times more than a wall if they’re single pane. Blinds can keep a little heat in, but heavier shades or curtains will minimize heat loss.

Fireplace: Fantasizing about a cozy evening in front of the fire? Your romantic night might be cut short if your fireplace hasn’t been serviced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys are swept at least once a year.

Furnace: It’s also recommended that furnaces be serviced once a year. A heating system can break down at the most inopportune time is it’s not serviced. Worse, it can pump carbon monoxide into a home or eventually stop working. While a furnace service can run up to $100, the cost benefits are undeniable, considering the cost of a major fix or replacement.

Ducts: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose between 10 and 30 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if duct work is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.

Pipes: Frozen pipes are a royal nuisance, but with a little effort, many instances can be prevented. The best way to tackle these is to wrap pipes that run the exterior of the home with heating tape. Turn off the water and drain the remaining water at the inside valves. You can also purchase insulated covers for additional prevention.

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Median Home Prices Rising in Reno/Sparks

Home prices still rising in Reno/Sparks.

Home prices still rising in Reno/Sparks.

Home prices in the Reno/Sparks area have increased by 26.8% in the third quarter of 2013 to $224,800 according to the National Association of Realtors. While much of the rest of the economy continues to stutter, real estate in Northern Nevada is chugging along. In September there was a 5% increase in existing home purchases from last year, although sales slipped from August by 21% which can be attributed to the seasonal drop off of sales according to the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors.

Sellers still have a lot to gain from listing even in the winter because  of several factors; demand is high and inventory is low with only 3.4 month’s of inventory in August (6 months is considered normal), buyers are still looking for good deals and probably being motivated to act now because of rising interest rates. According to Realty Today and  USA Today, the average 30-year mortgage rate jumped to 4.35 percent this week from 4.16 percent the last week and the 15-year mortgage rates also went up to 3.35 percent from 3.27 percent.

What will get you off the sidelines and buying or selling in the next few months?

Median Sales Price

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Make De-cluttering Less Detestable

De-cluttering doesn’t have to give you a headache.

Many people shrink at the thought of organizing, de-cluttering and throwing out their unwanted or needed stuff, but when it comes to moving or showing your house, it becomes a necessity. Believe me, few buyers can overcome the initial impression of a unkempt house where they have to side-step clutter left and right and packing will become that much easier when there’s less of it to do. If it’s been 10 years since you’ve used that drum set or if you’re holding onto those old gift baskets just hoping they’ll become useful in the future, the following tips from REALTOR Magazine are for you.

1. Study the entire house. Sellers shouldn’t tackle every room in one fell swoop. Go room-by-room, starting at the front door. Sellers should pretend they’re seeing each room for the first time, says Kammie Lisenby, CEO of The Organizing Experts in Seattle. The goal is to make rooms resemble those in a hotel, says professional organizer Katrina Teeple, owner of Operation Organization in Los Angeles.

2. Make piles. Sellers should organize piles as they clear each room — for example, stack items to keep, give to family or friends, donate to a charity, sell online, get hauled away, and consign. They should bear in mind the size of the home they’re moving to, their degree of sentimental attachment, and the financial value of each item. It’s best to put highly personal items aside in the keep pile, such as family photos they don’t want buyers to see during showings, says Lisenby.
Tip: Sellers could offer a buyers’ allowance to do their own decorating, says Barry Izsak, owner of Arranging It All in Austin, Texas, and former NAPO president.

3. Create a spreadsheet. A master list of what rooms will require organizing tasks can be helpful. This will also aid in prioritizing expenses, such as home improvements, paint, and staging elements. To play it safe with finicky buyers, sellers should go neutral in paint and decor, says Teeple.

4. Empty closets. Often becoming a graveyard for all the belongings home owners don’t know what to do with, clean, spacious closets are a coveted feature among buyers. Izsak suggests eliminating anything not worn or used in the last two years. Aim to dispose of 50 percent of wardrobes since most people only wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time, he says. The remaining items should be stored on uniform rods, or in labeled, see-through bins, says Teeple.

5. Clear off counters and bookcases. Get rid of books that won’t be reread, particularly now that so many people read online. Add a few home decor items for sparkle. When in doubt, follow the “rule of three,” a mantra among home stagers, by clustering items into threes to create visual appeal. The final effect should reflect a neutral style.

6. Inspect the home’s exterior. Depending on the time of year, sellers may need to hire a professional to clear leaves, snow, or ice, so that they don’t hide a home’s features. Messiness and wear and tear on the outside indicates to buyers that the inside hasn’t been cared for well.

7. Check curb appeal all around. While the front yard is key to making a good first impression, more home owners spend time out back, so sellers should be sure lawns, shrubs, trees, and amenities like a fence and air conditioning condensers are maintained.

8. Spruce up the kitchen. This is the home’s most popular gathering spot and another place where everything gets dumped—backpacks, car keys, cell phones, etc. The rule of three applies here, too. Don’t stuff anything into a pantry or cabinets; get rid of it if it hasn’t been used in a few years. Also, clean out the refrigerator and freezer.

9. Make bathrooms spotless. Not every seller has a spa bathroom to unwind in, but clean grout, tiles, shower door, and vanity can make a big difference in an average bathroom. Clear out the prime real estate of a medicine cabinet, add crisp white or other neutral towels, fresh soaps, and a plant, Teeple suggests.

10. Purge basements, attics, and garages. These are a home’s purgatories—where stuff goes to never see the bright light of day, says Izsak. Anything that’s been moved at least twice and not opened needs to be reassessed, says Chris Seman, president of Caring Transitions in Cincinnati, a relocation service. Separate the items to be stored in see-through bins to reveal their contents; do so by categories, such as holiday decorations; and be sure bins are labeled clearly and have lids to keep out pests.

11. Professionalize an office. With more home owners working from home, a separate room or corner for an office can boost sales appeal. Have sellers clear up paper piles and file documents—but remember, most home owners only reference 5 percent of their files, says Seman. The work area should include good illumination, a comfortable chair, and clean equipment, says Izsak.

12. Get rid of belongings. Now it’s time for your sellers to rethink what to do with everything in piles. Here are some upsides and downsides to these decisions:

  • Sell or auction through an online vendor like Craigslist or eBay or at a flea market. Downside: It may take time to get the desired price.
  • Leave at a consignment shop to get stuff out of a house now. Downside: Proceeds get shared, and it may take a while to sell.
  • Give away to family, friends, or a nonprofit such as freecycle.org. Some communities let residents leave stuff outside their house with a sign, “Take it!” Upside: It gets rid of things fast.
  • Have a group haul it away such as 1-800-Got-Junk?Upside: This avoids driving it to a dumpster.
  • Donate to a charity. Upside: It gets out of a house, helps someone in need, and provides a deduction. Fill out IRS Form 8283 if total exceeds $500.
  • Organize a yard sale. If time is of the essence, the seller could hire a professional who sets up tables, takes money, and gets rid of what doesn’t sell. Downside: Proceeds get shared.

13. Don’t repeat collector mania. Once you move into your new home with fewer possessions, purchase carefully.

Fall in Love with Reno/Tahoe

Fall in Reno

Fall in Reno

It’s fall y’all and as we put away the Halloween candy and costumes, start contemplating Thanksgiving or try to avoid the subject all together and slowly watch our waistlines expand, I thought I’d compile a list of all the other things to look forward to in the fall around the glorious Reno/Tahoe area. You can hardly walk a block in downtown Reno during the summer without running into some kind of parade, concert, food festival, fun run etc. etc., but in the fall there are plenty of things to do too. Below is a list of events in November that should appeal to everyone in the family, and I’ve included links to the appropriate website to find out more information.

For an even more exhaustive search of events, concerts and things to do visit the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority website here.

So what are you’re favorite things about fall in Reno/Tahoe? Mine has to be the first snow fall at the lake as seen below.

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Lake Tahoe, Westshore

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Sunnyside Resort