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How to Measure Your Home’s Square Footage

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Square Footage BasicsDetermining the size of a house or its square footage is one of the misleading and confusing metrics in the home building and selling business. The problem is that no one person uses a set standard to measure a home’s square footage, but rather do it differently.

However, there has been a move in recent years to generalize things and create a universal standard such as the ones used by architects. In addition to this, there are several real estate state boards that specify a process to determine the area of a home, but this is just a recommendation and not mandatory to use.

The one aspect that holds true is that the area of a home includes the thickness of the walls in the interior therefore is never measured from the inside of the walls. Here are two steps to consider when determining the square footage of a home.

Gross Area

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but sometimes real estate agents and builders in an effort to show the largest number measure the entire perimeter of the home and on all floors. Further, these measurements may not include stairs and porches, making it extremely hard to compare houses with one another.

Your county assessor or auditor is your relatively impartial source, where they measure the size of all houses the same way considering they do it for tax purposes. But even with this technique, the measurements taken by auditors and assessors may not be the exact reflection of the size of the home, but it does make it easier to compare houses.

Defining Separate Spaces

List the areas of your home separately rather than all at once into one number. It is highly recommended that you measure the perimeter of the home first including the exterior wall sheathing, without including the brick or siding and just the framing on all the floors.

Next, you need to minus the upper level of the spaces and also subtract the area of stairs on the second level as they’ve already been accounted for on the first floor. You may have spaces that are less than 6 feet high so do not include them in your count as you need to list those separately.

If you still can’t figure out the square footage of a home, it is best to consult your selling agent or builder and enquire about their basis for measurement. And if you’re comparing homes based on size, you will want to know exactly what that number includes!

How To Landscape Your Home For Fire Safety

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Home Fire SafetyWildfire season is on the prowl, leaving homeowners in a quandary on what safety measures to have in place to prevent such instances. One of the most important measures to stave off flames from wildfires and one that’s often overlooked is the landscaping of the home.

With regards to fires, paying attention to landscaping doesn’t just apply to those living on western hilltops, because forest, bush and grass fires can occur anywhere in the United States. So here are a few ways on how landscaping can protect you from wildfires and other types of fires.

Make A Defensible Area

The fact is that embers landing on the decks, porches, roofs and gutters ignite most homes that go up in flames during a wildfire. So the first thing you need to do is create a buffer zone aka a defensible space around these areas and home in an effort to reduce these sources of fuel.

Keep all vegetation and flammable materials three to five feet away from your home, and also eliminate trees, shrubs, plants and grasses from this perimeter. Other things to do is clear the leaves, trim tree branches and clean up the debris accumulated under porches, decks and other structures.

Moving away from the house, you might want to consider adding walkways, patios, driveways, gravel paths, etc. These types of hardscaping aspects not only add visual appeal to your home, but maintain a gap between the vegetation and your home in the event of a fire.

Additional things to consider within the first 100 feet perimeter of your home are moving woodpiles at least 30 feet away from your home, regular maintenance of the lawn, trimming low tree branches and thinning out shrub and trees among others.

Plant Fire-Resistant Plants

Embedding your landscape with fire resistant plants is highly recommended. Some of the good choices in fire resistant plants include butterfly bushes, roses and hostas, but there are several other fire resistant plants you can choose from.

How and where you populate fire resistant plants can also have a dramatic effect, but the best technique is to keep the smaller plants near the home as they have thick leaves, meaning that they can preserve hot water and also have the ability to withstand draught.

Keep Water Sources Handy

Wildfires are one of the biggest challenges of the fire department so it is a good idea to designate and maintain an emergency water supply especially if you live in a remote area. Keep 100 feet of garden hose at a minimum attached to a spigot, and if you have a healthy budget, consider installing a swimming pool or a cistern or small pond as an alternative.

Along with the tips mentioned above, good planning and a bit of elbow grease can go a long way when it comes to fire safety, and it is best to plan ahead rather than waiting for the unfortunate to occur.

5 Biggest Turnoffs When Touring a Home

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Home Staging BasicsThere’s more to a real estate’s agent profile than just touring houses and assisting homebuyers with the small details associated with buying or selling a home. Good real estate agents also have a wealth of experience therefore tour homes frequently, which makes them experts in their field, and gives them an edge over their competition. This results in great value for both buyers and sellers because they get premium advice.

After touring many, many homes during their career, these real estate agents have experienced any manor of unappealing sights, which made them wonder if the seller was even aware that there was a showing scheduled for that time. So here are a few of those unappealing sights and how to avoid them.

Toys and Baby Supplies

Selling your home when you have kids can be challenging especially when they’re a newborn. Buyers for the most part can understand that keeping the house tidy under these circumstances can be trying and stressful, and although they overlook this for the most part, it is important to at least make an effort to tidy up during a showing of the home.

It is best to store kids stuff such as toys and baby supplies in dedicated storage containers, and note that buyers have a hard time with sanitary and personal items. So leaving items such as dirty baby bottles, breast milk or breast pumps on the kitchen counter is definitely not advisable.

Pets and their Supplies

Pets have the potential to enhance the overall appeal of a home, but they could also have adverse effects when it comes to selling the home especially when dirty cat litter boxes and dog bones are lying all over the place. Just like having a dedicated section for kid’s supplies, it is highly recommended that you have one designated for pet supplies as well.

Dirty Dishes and Clutter

Bathrooms and kitchens are the key selling points of a home owing to the fact that these are the most visited areas of a home. So it is important to keep things organized by putting appliances such as blenders, toaster ovens, coffee makers away rather than leaving them on the kitchen counter, which will also free up some valuable space.

Toiletries and Personal Items

Keeping things organized should not be limited to the kitchen, but should be done in the bathroom countertops as well. Put away your prescriptions, body lotion containers and dirty towels, because the last thing you want to display is the feeling of a used bathroom.

Toilet and Toilet Seat

After a buyer has toured your home and they love what they’ve seen so far, the last thing they want to see is a dirty toilet or even your toilet seat down. This is not a common mistake most home sellers make, but is definitely worth mentioning because it has been overlooked by some as well.

These are some of the common mistakes most homesellers make when showing their home so it is best to avoid them in order to sell your home fast and for the right price.

After You Purchase Keep Going To Open Houses

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Home Purchase BasicsThere has been a relatively new phenomenon in the home buying market that is all too familiar to anyone who has ever purchased a car. As you drive your new steed off the lot you know that the value just fell by half, which has always been the way of the car-buying world. But what happens when you buy your new home, after spending countless hours researching and going to open houses?

It used to be that you just had a good feeling that you had invested in bricks and mortar (or timber and plaster). Since the debacle of the market collapse of 2007, if you have dared to buy, you may have been aware that the neighbor’s home sold for $20,000 less, weeks after you closed on your new home.

Homebuyers’ Remedy For Remorse

Well, that is an uncomfortable moment; you have the overwhelming sensation of being overcommitted for the next thirty years. An experience you can handle for a nice ride that you will be happily driving for the next ten years but financed over five years. When the sums involved are ten times higher and six times longer it can lead to intensive buyer’s remorse.

The best way to address this angst is to keep going to a few open houses in the weeks following your purchase. You will have the opportunity to speak with the seller’s agent who will be able to reassure you with knowledge that will likely confirm your realtor led you to the right choice. Many of the viewers at open houses are sellers rather than buyers who want to know what’s going on in the market.

Reassuring Connections

Talking to the listing agent may give you some leads to vendors and services that will help you to get settled in by updating the style of your new home. Walking around open houses will also let you see some of the trends in home design, what’s new that adds to the comfort of your home and the latest in color schemes and furnishings.

If there are some appealing final touches, very likely the listing agent will have been involved in the choices and they will be able to offer tips beyond what you see in the home you are viewing.

Hold On Tight And Visit Open Houses

Making a big commitment to a home is an overwhelming experience; there is bound to be a settling in period as you and your family become accustomed to the new environment. That is why it is the time when you are most sensitive to rumors and financial pressures. Besides that house that looks like yours down the street, which just sold for less may be structurally distressed or some sort of forced sale such as a foreclosure.

These are the things that a listing agent at a nearby open house is going to be familiar with. Keep going to local open houses to learn more about the market and the community and it will help to break the ice and get past those remorseful buyers blues.

These Post Storm Cleanup Tips Will Speed Your Recovery

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Storm Cleanup TipsHurricanes, floods and tornadoes are not inevitable but, as a homeowner, you need to have a plan of action to deal with events beyond your control. A little preparation now will help you respond with the least amount of stress and the quickest return to normal after the storm.

The Mindset For Recovery

The one thing that makes the most difference in how you respond to disaster is preparation. If you do have some warning it will give you time to find safety and that must be an absolute priority for you and your family. Once the danger has passed you will face the daunting task of cleaning up.

When the scale of the disaster is at the level experienced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy professional help will be slow in coming. Here are a few things that you should be ready to do after a storm.

Get Dried Out

The highest priority is to dry out all water damage as rapidly as possible. Remove the materials that have soaked up water such drywall and insulation. You need to get the air circulating and ventilating to remove humidity to minimize the risk of toxic mold and mildew.

Use water and disinfectants such as bleach to clean up after the floodwater has been drained. Unfortunately, just because it is dry does not mean it is safe; the water may have contained sewerage or other contaminants.

Get The Lid Back On

Survey and seal your roof. Inspect carefully for water damage and leaks. If there is significant damage try to get advice from a roofing contractor; the key is to get the roof watertight as soon as possible to prevent leaks that will further damage your home before you can put it right.

Likewise, you will need to clear up broken glass and board up any shattered windows. Safety, security and control of access are the objectives here.

Gather Up The Wreckage

Remove wreckage and debris for around your property. Bushes and shrubs collect debris like a comb collects loose hair so you may have to prune them back severely to clear them out and to help them to regrow. The most challenging part of this will likely be large branches and whole trees that have been uprooted in the storm; you may wish to consult a tree surgeon to know how to remove tree trunks safely and efficiently.

This Too Shall Pass

Good documentation is critical to making a solid claim against your insurance. Take pictures of the damage beginning as soon as you set to dealing with the damage. With the age of the Internet and mobile devices it is much easier than in the past to create detailed records.

Finally, even if it is severe damage remember that it will be put right eventually. A little thought ahead of time will prepare you for the worst if it should happen. In any case, like the insurance policy that covers the repairs to you home, let’s hope that you never need it.

Treat Your Indoor Plants Like Family

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Plant BasicsIf you have indoor plants you may understand the comfort and hominess they bring to a house or condominium; they help to make a house a home. So here are three quick tips on what you should do to take good care of your plants.

The Goldilocks Approach To Indoor Plant Nurturing

Plants depend on getting water to survive. They literally exist on water air and sunlight and not much more. However, there is the possibility of too much of a good thing. Some indoor plants prefer direct sunlight while others need to have some shade. Some plants are optimized for desert climates and others for cooler, wetter regions. It is important to have the right amount of water to keep them green and fresh. Too much water for some plants is almost worse than no water at all.

The quality of air is more consistent throughout the world in the sense that it contains the gases that plants use with sunlight and water to build the structures of their cells and keep growing. The one thing to consider about the air that your plants breathe is the temperature. Tropical plants will suffer and whither in a cold winter draft. Likewise, the hardier plants of cool climates may not do well if they are located too close to a radiator. Get the conditions for your plants right and they will thrive and grow.

Room For The Roots

It is also important to have adequate rom for the roots of your chlorophyll-creating companions. The roots of plants are designed to secure them to a fixed point on the ground and to draw in water and soil based nutrients across the surface area of each root. This works best when the roots have space between them to soak up all of the goodness that is around them.

When you have too small a container for them the roots become a solid mass and loose the ability to function effectively. The result will be that growth will stop and the plant will slowly die. Be ready to provide pots of increasing size and transplant your growing greenery before you get to the point of having more roots than soil in the pot.

Get The Soil For The Occasion

It also helps your plants to have the right material in which to grow. The best soil for potted plants may not necessarily be that which they have in the wild. Planting in a garden bed or growing free in the wild allows open transport of nutrients throughout the roots as well as unrestricted growth. Potting soils with materials such as perlite, clay or organic matter are popular alternatives that are designed to give nutrients to the roots of your potted plants, retain moisture and to create aeration for the roots.

Take care of your plants and they will bring comfort into your home. Each type of plant has its own best conditions and it pays to do a little research before taking them in; you will have either a limp dry rag of vegetation that cost too much down at the garden center or you have a fine investment in a beautiful blossoming indoor plant of a companion that helps to turn your house into a home.

Not So Fast On That Neighborhood Foreclosure Purchase

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Foreclosure BasicsA Blight On The Community

The last decade now has been an adventure in real estate to say the least. We went from the heady days of the real estate bubble, when it appeared that no investment could go bad, to the lows of the property crisis, when it seemed like half the houses in North America were in foreclosure.

Although the state of affairs has returned to what would previously have been recognized as normal, the market still has plenty of distressed properties to dispense with. If one of them is in your neighborhood or, even worse, right next door to you it can bring a plague of unfortunate effects on your community.

Foreclosure Toxic Disaster Zone

Homeowners who live next to distressed properties have the concern of them being occupied by transients or turned into a methamphetamine factory, the contemporary equivalent of a toxic waste dump, fire hazard and a hotbed of crime. This will do real and significant damage to the value of all of the surrounding homes, just as many owners are beginning to struggle out of negative equity.

There might be a temptation to buy the foreclosed property to save your own home’s value and the quality of life in the neighborhood. This strategy sounds good if you can afford it on paper but there are many practical issues that arise. Unless you have lots of cash to spend on high risk ventures and even more patience, the process of purchasing a foreclosed home can turn out to be extremely stressful and downright fraught.

Cracked Foundations And Clouded Titles

Once you get into the process of closing on the purchase you might find some last minute claims on the title or liens that had not been obvious before you entered escrow. A previously obscured second loan could send up the closing price significantly. It may even turn out that the rightful owner is impossible to find.

A property that has not been occupied by a responsible owner or tenant for an extended length of time can have any number of faults that you will have to address out of your own funds, once you secure the title. The former owners or transients may have stripped all of the fixtures and fittings before moving on. They may have left forty years worth of hoarded junk piled to the ceiling or there could be some fundamental structural fault such as a cracked foundation.

Risky Neighborhood Heroics

If you can make it work to rehabilitate a foreclosed home you could be doing a favor for the entire neighborhood. The removal of an eyesore and returning the property to normal occupation will improve the quality of life and value of homes in the immediate vicinity. Overcoming blight is a real favor for the community.

Fixing up foreclosed homes by members of the community is possibly the best outcome for all stakeholders. It is not always possible because the risks involved make it much easier for cash investors than for local homeowners who might have to seek funding from a financial institution. If you are intending to put a bid in on a foreclosed neighborhood home it is best to consult a foreclosure attorney and establish all of the risks. Once you have overcome the risks and uncertainty you may have found a good investment and done a good turn for your community.

Perk Up Your Tired Kitchen With Paint And Imagination

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Kitchen Remodeling TipsWhen it comes to freshening up your kitchen on a budget a little creative thinking, some paint and not much more, are all you need to make a big difference. A dark wood style set of cabinets is pretty standard in the American home. You can lighten up a dingy kitchen just by removing and renovating the cabinet doors and then returning them refreshed.

A lick of paint and some small-scale details will make the style of a house built twenty to thirty or more years ago come back to life. If your kitchen is not a disaster and your appliances are fully functional, why should you spend tens of thousands of dollars starting again from scratch?

Removing And Re Hanging Cabinet Doors Is Not Construction

The doors will need to be cleaned and sanded and prepared for paint a little elbow grease goes a long way to saving the cost of new cabinets. There are numerous techniques that will help make your old stuffy doors into original creations.

Application of paint with a spray gun will give a smooth glossy finish, assuming your starting material is smooth also. If you use sponge rollers or brushes you will get other effects again. The addition of molding before painting lets you change the style in any way that you can imagine. Anything from old country shaker to the most baroque design is yours for the choosing.

The Art Of Kitchen Appliance Applications

Another trick is to add the same detailing and molding to panels that you attach to your existing appliances. By paneling your under-the-counter appliances such as your dishwasher to match the style of your cabinetry you create an undisrupted finish and a big improvement. Likewise, concealing the front of your refrigerator can improve the look and provide an element of fun. Try using matching beading and details but including a white board as part of the center panel.

If you can find some inexpensive fittings such as updated drawer handles and doorknobs that match your style you will have a small thing that really tips your kitchen cabinets over to become a feature for your home.

Whether For Living Or Sale This Update Makes Good Sense

A key to this the entire process is to take great care to get the color right before you commit. When it comes to walls you can more easily repaint if you decide that the color is wrong but with kitchen cabinets the extra labor involved means you want to be certain to get it right the first time around.

For DIY kitchen redecorators who are seeking to prepare for a sale at the best market price there could be a reward in the form of an easier sale. It is unlikely that such projects can impact your realtor’s market analysis or the value declared by the appraiser. However, it might be a selling point, one that helps buyers consider your house or condominium as a home, and that might give them just a little more motivation to buy.

Make Certain You Have Permits For Your Home Improvement Project

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Planning PermitsRemember This One Thing About The Permit Process

When you first start thinking about a new home expansion project or if you are considering building a new home from the ground up, you might assume that your first stop is your local architect or construction professional. That is something that you can hold off on. Instead you should look to lay the groundwork based upon the input of your local planning office.

In the United States it is the local municipality, such as the county or city that has jurisdiction over the rights to modify real estate property. There are likely to be state and Federal regulations to which you will be expected to adhere but your municipality is the institution to which you will have to make your case for official written permission.

Professionals will be glad to help but will bill you at the high rates you might expect from them. The planning office staff will be helpful and will not charge you for basic advice. So the first step is really to draw on the knowledge of the planning office to establish if you actually need the sort of permits that require a professional’s touch. There is no point paying unnecessary expenses for what might be just a small DIY project.

And Do Not Let This Other Thing Sneak Up On You

You will have to find all of the records and it might turn out there might be previous improvements that did not have the proper authorization. You will be expected to get everything up to code and approved before you are granted permission to make further improvements.

When you visit your municipal planning office gather all the available records relating to your project, you will need them. It will also be helpful to visit the assessors’ office. The records there will be more complete and up-to-date; after all you do not want to leave out any important information at this point. There are many ways that it can come back to bite you if some disqualifying fact is discovered late in the game.

Cost Saving Combinations

Check with your municipality to find out if different types permit applications that can be combined. For instance, it might be possible to combine the permit requirements that that you need for assorted utilities, such as plumbing and electrical work. If so it means that you can save on the cost of multiple permits, if you file for them at the same time.

If you determine that your project will need planning consent or permits to proceed then you really do need to have the best professional advice to get the ball rolling. Once begun it can be complex and time consuming, as well as expensive.

Planning permission and permit approval are critical issues in any project that involve investment of cash and resources. Failure to obtain the correct permits can cause your municipality to demand the demolition of your prized extension. However if you start out by working with the authorities and have all of the right permits, as well as the appropriate professional advisors, you will have a project that is built on solid foundations.

3 Must Do Fall Lawn Maintenance Tasks

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Lawn Maintenance Basics lawn-maintenance-basicsThere are 3 important lawn maintenance tasks to take of when you begin to embed lawn to bed in order to achieve a good looking lawn come springtime.

Get The Air Flowing

The first step is to aerate the landscape for better circulation and to get the nutrients down in among the roots. Next proceed with the over-seeding process to avoid thatching. This can never be a better time to plant for cool season grasses to create new lawn and patch up existing areas. The cooler weather generally removes the competition from the fertilized weed seeds so the grass is able to establish a strong footprint.

Tackle Those Pesky Weeds

It is important to remove those dandelions and perennial weeds such as clover. These are often seen in the winter owing to the fact that they take away herbicide applications and other important nutrients from the soil into their roots. To address problem areas, use an organic alternative such as vinegar based, other acidic herbicide products.

Feed The Soil

Fall is the ideals season to nourish the soil for healthy winter lawns. Applying the last bit of organic slow release fertilizer strengthens the grass to last through the winter season. As a general rule, laying down one to four pounds per 1,000 sq. foot of turf is ideal in areas that receive a lot of sun, whereas areas of your lawn that are predominantly shadowed won’t require nearly as much. It is highly recommended that you get your grass tested first to determine any shortage in nutrients so that you may address then with an appropriate dosage of filter. If you have warm season grasses, you will need to fertilize in the spring and not fall.

When the trees begin to shed their leaves, make sure you rake often to keep your lawn as debris free as possible. Along with fall maintenance, here are a few other ways to keep your landscaping in great condition.

  • Rake your leaves often which will not only make your lawn look cleaner but removing debris from walkways also creates a safer environment
  • Mulching your garden beds will provide a an extra layer of security as winter arrives
  • Use a pressure washer to wash the exterior of your home to clean up any leaves from the trees so that your home looks more appealing
  • If you’re summer flowers are wilting or fading after a long summer season, consider replacing them with fall friendly fresh mums or colorful flowers

While performing these three tasks mentioned above, you will have to simultaneously continue your usual lawn maintenance tasks even though the weathers a bit cooler and your grass is in a much better state than it was last summer. You must also continue mowing, and with heightened settings on your mower of maybe 2” so you’re chopping the blades a little less that you typically do. Keep doing this until you notice that your growth has come to a halt and the lawn is inactive.

Just a little attention to your lawn will go a long way throughout the year. If you stick with these simple pointers you can be sure of a yard you can be proud of, both for your own family’s enjoyment and when it comes time to stick a “For Sale” sign in the ground in the spring.

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