5 Mistakes Every Buyer Makes

From the moment you begin to browse properties online to when you’re handed the keys to your new home at the closing table, there is a plethora of decisions to make throughout the home buying process. It’s not unreasonable to think that you’ll make a few mistakes along the way – but in a seller’s market every misstep is magnified. With a bit of knowledge, however, and a savvy real estate agent by your side, navigating a hot seller’s market doesn’t have to be catastrophic.

With these 5 tips you’ll be better able to avoid the pitfalls that plague nearly all homebuyers in hot seller’s markets.

#1. Getting Overly Anxious

In a seller’s market, you’re likely to compete against multiple offers. That’s why when you find a home that seems to fit all of your criteria, it is incredibly difficult to avoid getting overly anxious and rushing to buy the house. Knowing that others are bidding on the same house should not change your own buying parameters. Carefully consider any decisions to push the limits of your loan approval, accept contingencies that you otherwise would not entertain, or make uncomfortable concessions.

Our Advice: When you start to feel anxious, just remember, this is not the last house on earth. Take a moment to measure your desire against the reality of the situation. All you can do is make your best offer. If it is passed on, keep looking.

#2. Waiting Too Long

Now that we’ve told you to calm down, don’t wait too long! Kidding – no, but seriously, there is a big difference between getting overly anxious and waiting too long in limbo weighing your options. In a seller’s market, you do not have a lot of time to sit around second-guessing yourself. Thoroughly go through other relevant comps in the neighborhood with your realtor so you’re educated and ready to move quickly on the next suitable home that comes on the market.

If the home is in your price range, fits all of your criteria, and you have evaluated your goals, go ahead and put in an offer. While you’re waffling, another buyer may swoop in.

Our Advice: Know what you are looking for ahead of time, make a list, and when all your non-negotiables are checked, go ahead and make your best offer. Again, if someone else gets the house, then it wasn’t meant to be – move on. At least you won’t be kicking yourself for hesitating when you should have acted.

#3. Going it Alone

If you have an experienced agent helping you buy a home, you can avoid these and many other mistakes that buyers make in a seller’s market. Falling back on their knowledge and experience in the market can help you in the long run.

Our Advice: Talk to the most experienced buyer’s agent in your area, they can help you navigate the heated terrain of a hot seller’s market.

#4. Guessing About Finances

Time is of the essence in a hot seller’s market. Since we’ve already established the need to act quickly and know your limits, it only makes sense that you would have a good idea of your financial capabilities in advance of house-hunting.

Our Advice: Speak with your mortgage professional in advance and get a pre-approval letter. Not only will you know where you stand financially, you’ll be able to attach the letter to your offer to show the seller’s you’re a serious, pre-approved contender.

#5: Getting Caught Up In Minutiae

In a seller’s market the demand for houses outnumbers the supply of them, giving sellers have the upper-hand. Because your offer may simply be one in a line of many, it’s important not to write an offer that’s overly-concerned with minor fixes, saddling the seller with unnecessary repairs and delaying the sale. They’ll simply move on to the next offer. Try a home warranty credit instead, that can help eliminate the back and forth in negotiations and ease buyer concerns.

Our Advice: While you should never abandon crucial contingencies – even in a hot seller’s market -it’s important to consider whether arguing over who fixes that broken garbage disposal is worth losing your dream home over. Discuss home warranty credits and must-have contingencies with your realtor to submit the best offer possible for you and the seller.

Advertisements

5 Questions Buyers Should Ask at Open House

Image via HomeAdore
Image via HomeAdore

An open house is an opportunity to leisurely tour a home, taking in everything from the amenities to the neighborhood. That’s why it is important to take advantage of the attentiveness of the agent on-site to ask some pointed questions, especially if this house could be “the one.” Consider five critical questions to ask the next time you are spending a Sunday afternoon checking out open houses in your area:

#1. Why is the home on the market?

A fair question, right? The house is lovely, has amenities aplenty, a fantastic location and a more than fair asking price. It’s all too perfect, what gives- surely zombies must be crawling the stairs from the basement each night, right? If the agent answers this simple question with things like: life changes, downsizing, upsizing, job, new baby, financial reasons, there’s likely no cause for concern. But don’t simply take the listing agent’s word for it, read their whole response, including their body language. A stumble in their answer may indicate something more serious precedes the move, like a drop in property values or a recent uptick in crime.

#2. Are there any major issues with the home?

From an ethical standpoint (and a legal one) the listing agent should tell you about anything that may prevent the home from being up to code or unsafe. Is the garage unsecured garage and vulnerable to break-ins, is the addition unpermitted? Is the foundation cracking? Make sure you know before falling in love and writing your offer.

#3. What renovations have been made and when?

This question is a matter of personal preference; some prospective buyers will care if there have been renovations and some prefer that the home is in original condition. What you want to know are things such as, whether the area that is now the den was once the garage? If so, this room may lack energy efficiency, or present foundational issues down the road. It’s not a bad thing to be in a home that has been renovated, but like a person’s medical history, it’s best to know as much as possible going in.

#4. Is there any history of water damage?

Take stock of the prospective home’s setting – and then ask the right questions. If the home sits atop a hill (however small it may be), you can most likely be assured that water drains away from the home. However, if it sits at the bottom of hill rainwater will likely collect along a particular side of the home.  If the home is situated at the bottom of the hill, you should be asking the listing agent about leaks in the basement.

#5. Are there any active offers on the home?

Finding out there is another offer already on the table after touring a home makes many prospective buyers feel duped. But in fact, an offer is just a step in a very long process. A lot can happen between an offer and closing. One offer doesn’t stop the whole show – until that contract has been signed and keys handed over, the listing agent keeps moving forward with other potential buyers.

5 Trendy Kitchen Design Tips

5 Trendy Kitchen Design Tips

HomeAdvisor offers up their hottest trend tips for the kitchen.

Guest Post by HomeAdvisor

Looking to put your kitchen on point with the latest trends? Here’s how to incorporate what’s hot right now into an enduring design that will never go out of style.

#1 Give in to grey

If you want to update your kitchen’s color, consider going grey. Designers have noted that grey is racing toward the top spot for kitchen design color, especially when mixed with white or black. Grey is great for cabinets and shelving, in particular, because it complements the color of many plates and glasses — and it’s also less likely to show scratches and dents than other colors. If your cabinets are in good shape, consider talking to a painter about painting them grey.

#2 Focus on function

Your kitchen should always be functional — and these days, there are a number of innovations available to help increase efficiency. Cabinet designers have revolutionized cabinets and with the introduction of soft-close and button-activated drawers and doors, for example, which minimize wear and tear. And there are a number of pull-outs, inserts and hideaways sure to make any homeowners life a lot easier. If you’re interested in updating your cabinets, consult a professional to see what’s possible.

#3 Embrace tech

No modern kitchen is complete without some form of tech gadgetry. Install only what you’ll actually use — and what you can actually afford. Some options include:

  • Energy-saving, sensor-activated lights
  • Meat thermometers that plug into your smartphone
  • Hands-free faucets
  • A digital counter to keep track of how long food’s been open
  • Smart countertops that can measure the weight of food
  • Bluetooth-enabled frying pans
  • Remote-controlled crock pots

#4 Go with the flow

Your house has a flow; the rooms are designed to integrate into one another — dining room, living room, etc. Keep the integration of your kitchen in mind when you’re designing, and achieve a flowing aesthetic with:

  • Appliances that blend with cabinets or shelving
  • Books, vases, servingware and other pieces complementary to those in other rooms.
  • A color scheme that extends or balances the colors used throughout the rest of the house.

#5 Maximize your space

Everything in your kitchen should have and do a job. Storage should be sleek and efficient, making the most of every nook and cranny. If your cabinets aren’t performing at their peak, consider reorganizing them. You might also consider replacing some of your upper cabinets with open shelves — a growing trend that can either help or hinder in the efficiency department. If you need help designing an efficient kitchen, we recommend consulting with a designer.

DO’S and DONT’S for Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

Think you know what it takes to sell your home? The Jills share their top 5 “do’s and don’ts” for getting your home in tip-top shape for the market.

Preparing your home for sale takes some effort. By following these tips your home will be ready to hit the market.

Do: freshen up your home so that it shows in the best light possible. A fresh coat of paint, some landscaping and pressure cleaning goes a long way. You want to wow people from the second they lay eyes on the home so curb appeal is crucial. Be consistent from the outside in and make sure every room makes a great impression.

Don’t: overspend on major renovations that may overvalue your property. Be aware of comps and know your limits. You don’t want to spend a significant amount of time and money becoming the biggest fish in a small pond when that fish will still be worth about the same as it was before.

Do: Make your home as inviting as possible- leave a coffee table book open to a random page and a candle burning to give off a relaxed and intimate feel. Flowers are always a plus but make sure they look alive and well.

Don’t: leave out personal items or clutter in your home. Buyers need to imagine themselves living in the home and they can’t do that when all they see is your family and your life. Clearing out and cleaning up will allow them to see how beautiful the home is and will give them the opportunity to envision themselves living there.

Do: listen to advice. You hired your agent for a reason. Let him or her guide you as to when it makes sense to improve and when it  doesn’t. When it does, seek help from a decorator and/or architect. Find the best professional and let them do what they do best.

12 Spook-Free Safety Tips to Keep Your Kids & Pets Safe this Halloween

12 Spook-Free Safety Tips to Keep Your Kids & Pets Safe this Halloween

Halloween is full of tricks, treats, ghoulish games, frightening frocks, cute costumes, glowing Jack O’ Lanterns, pumpkin packed parties and, of course, spookiness! Unfortunately, all of the  fall festive fun has dangers lurking. Whether you are a parent of two-legged loved ones or four-legged furry loved ones, it is critical to be aware of the true goblins hiding behind all the ghostly fun.  I called upon two experts who have simple tips for a safe, scare-free Halloween to keep your children and pets safe.

First up are the experts in keeping your little people pumpkins safe. They may have “boo” in their name, but there is nothing scary about Boo Boo Busters. As a leading professional childproofing service, they know a thing or two about keeping your kids safe. Next, are Halloween safety tips for your pets from Dr. Anthony George, doctor of veterinary medicine and certified veterinary acupuncturist. He has been taking care of all kinds of pets for over 20 years and his tips are sure to keep you furry friends from howling at the moon.

Halloween-Safety-Tips-v3

Kid Halloween Safety Tips:

  1. Choking hazards: As a good rule of thumb, a choking hazard is anything that can pass through a cardboard toilet paper roll holder unobstructed. Look closely at all the items that you are putting out on display. From bats and ghosts to the pumpkins you roast. Hazards lurk everywhere!
  2. Flashlights: Child safe flashlights have a child safe battery door that is secured by a screw to prevent removal of the battery, which prevents the parts from becoming choking hazards. Use flashlights or electric candles to light up your pumpkin too, flames and kids don’t mix.
  3. Halloween lights: Look for Halloween light strings that have tamper resistant bulbs that can’t be removed easily and remember cords pose a strangulation hazard. All cords should be kept short, out of a pathway and tight. Take the excess cord and bind it up with a zip tie. Make sure the cord can’t be made in to a loop to be placed around a child’s neck.
  1. Pumpkin carving: Remember to only use child safe cutting tools while carving pumpkins, even as an adult. Kids learn by watching you, so if you use real knives know  they will want to do the same. As soon as you turn around to grab something you forgot… little hands wander.
  2. Costumes: As a kid it’s a joy to dress up. Our job is to make sure dress up is safe. Costumes should never obstruct movement, never cause visual impairment and never pose a tripping hazard. Stick to material that is form fitting. If it’s loose, baggy or long it could create a tripping hazard. Avoid masks that can impair vision. Face painting is the safest mask.
  3. Glow at night: Make sure your child’s costume is visible or is is equipped with something that makes them visible. Glow sticks are great and kids love them, but remember, never hang anything around their little necks unless you are using a child safe breakaway lanyard. A couple glow sticks secured to shoes can be seen from a long way away. Flashlights are a good eye catcher as well as fun.
  4. Candy: Remember to make sure you go through and check all the candy you are keeping. The candy should be in name brand with sealed packages. For candy bars, be sure you cut them into small pieces that are easy to chew. This also helps to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with. Unfortunately, ghouls are sometimes disguised as regular people. No candy treats, until Mom or Dad has taken a good long look at the loot!

Pet Halloween Safety Tips:

  1. Pet costumes: Yes, your pet looks absolutely adorable in that costume! Keep in mind, your fuzzy family member might not be as thrilled with the outfit as you are. Feel free to get an amazing photo, but respect the fact that your pet may want to get out of those duds as soon as possible. Make sure the outfit is comfortable, and pay special attention to straps that may impinge upon the neck and areas where the extremities meet the body. Never leave a pet unaccompanied in a costume to avoid any “wardrobe malfunctions!”
  2. No chocolate! : Most people know chocolate is toxic for their pets. Chocolate contains methyl xanthine, which can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from stomach upset to tremors, hyperthermia and seizures. At high doses, chocolate can lead to collapse and even death. Generally speaking, the darker and more concentrated the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be. There are helpful charts available (for instance on petMD.com) that can tell you what doses are dangerous for your pooch. If in doubt, it is always best to contact your veterinarian to see if immediate treatment is needed.
  3. Watch out for Sugar-Free: Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found commonly in sugar-free gum as well as other products, can be extremely toxic to dogs. When ingested, it can cause a significant release of insulin, which can lead to extremely low blood sugars. At high doses, it can also lead to liver failure. If your pup has ingested this substance, always contact your veterinarian immediately; your pet may  need treatment and supportive care.
  4. Healthy treat dangers: If you’re offering healthy alternatives this Halloween, keep in mind that grapes and raisins can be extremely toxic to dogs. Some pets are more sensitive than others. In some animals, the toxin can lead to stomach upset initially, followed by kidney failure within 24 hours. It is always prudent to contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested these substances.
  5. Burning Jack O’ Lanterns: Flames and fur aren’t a good combination. Just as you do for kids safety, consider replacing that Jack-O-Lantern candle with a flickering LED light.

Now that you have the ghouls at bay, enjoy your Halloween! Wishing you and your entire family a night full of treats and no tricks!

Can’t Miss Pet Trick or Treaters

In case you missed it, we are still wagging our tails about reaching our Home for Dogs project goal of finding homes for 20,000 adoptable dogs this year. We reached out to our Facebook fans who believe that a house isn’t a home without paws looking for some of the funniest, cutest and most creative Halloween costumes and they didn’t disappoint!

Apple as Britney Spears

Harley as Marilyn Monroe

Rosebud the Howlaween Queen

Zelda as Ariel from The Little Mermaid

Zoey the Dino

Hinckley the Lovely Lady Bug

Benjamin the Frog Dog

Beau as a Pupacinno

Lovey & Mae are the cutest things we’ve ever seen!

Mack (Daddy!)

Blanche all tuckered out from Halloween festivities.

SUPER Frankie

Paisley ready for Trick or Treating!

There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Gizmo

Can we just talk about Daisy’s balancing skills?

Bumble Frida

Sky nailing 3 spooktacular looks

Daisy the Spider

Happy Howlaween from these animals! (Willow & Buster)

Mr. Felix is looks pretty dapper in his costume

Princess Lulubelle

Abby put up with this trick and wants to know where her treat is

Casey has street cred in her dog park

Angus ready to howl at the moon

Peanut is picture perfect

Penne & Luigi are double the trouble

Gizmo giving his friend a lift

Logan can visit our garden any time (Those ears!!!)

Blue gets down to business

Frida as Shark Bait

Jetta holding it down for the kitties of the world

And last but not least, my fur-baby Rory, who was less than pleased that I interrupted his royal slumber to pose for this picture.

Keep your pets safe this Halloween with these helpful tips.

5 Fantastic Kitchen Staging Ideas for Fall

5 Fantastic Kitchen Staging Ideas for Fall

Wow fall clients, homebuyers and guests with these easy staging ideas from HomeAdvisor

Selling your home in the fall means adding small seasonal elements to make your home feel warm and welcoming. And, what better place to do that than in the kitchen? Here are some ideas to help you make your kitchen — and your home — appeal to fall homebuyers:

Fall counter decor

You should always keep the countertops nearly clear when potential homebuyers are walking through. In fact, you should keep it down to about two to three essentials if you’re living there from day to day. For the fall season, you can add small elements like placemats, fruit and leaf decor (window drapings, vase, etc.).

fall 1

“Fall odors”

The smell of leaves, apple pie, pumpkin and cinnamon evoke the cozy feelings of fall. Candles are nice and actually baking something “fall-like” before a showing is a sure way to make potential buyers feel more at home during a showing.

pie-pumpkin-sm-01

Colors of fall

Depending on the current condition of your home, you might consider a fresh coat of paint. What color you decide to use may or may not be influenced by the season. While you should always lean towards neutral colors, you might consider accent walls or cabinets in browns or dark tones of red or green if you think they would work. The cost to paint an interior room is about $380, though prices will vary depending on the size of the room.

Bringing nature in

If there are windows in the kitchen, make sure to keep them clean. Depending on the weather outside during a showing, you might open them and let the fresh air in. It helps to create a flow between nature outside and the atmosphere you’re trying to create in the kitchen. If your budget allows, you might also accent the windows with fall-like window treatments to create an even easier flow. If you don’t have these treatments, a professional home stager can sometimes find them for a reasonable price.

e2681e5dc178b70e7e8a98a16527edcf

Natural lighting elements

Lighting is an essential element of home staging, no matter the season. In fall, in particular, it’s all about enhancing the twilight or sunset and complementing of all the fall colors. For lighting in your kitchen, consider accent and track lighting. Or, you could install recessed lighting on a dimmer switch, which will allow you to control the brightness of the kitchen to complement the mood outside.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free

8 Overlooked Places Your Heat is Escaping

Save Money on Heating navigation banner

A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget — roughly $350 — on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It’s among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort, according to Energy Star.

Start in the attic, since that’s where you’ll find some of the biggest energy drains. Then tackle the basement to prevent cold air that enters there from being sucked into upstairs rooms. Finally, seal air leaks in the rest of the house. Here are eight places to start.

1.  Insulate Around Recessed Lights

Most recessed lights have vents that open into the attic, a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it’s easy to see why researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed them as a leading cause of household air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle ($8 to $30) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

2.  Plug Open Stud Cavities

Most of your house probably has an inner skin of drywall or plaster between living space and unheated areas. But builders in the past often skipped this cover behind knee walls (partial-height walls where the roof angles down into the top floor), above dropped ceilings or soffits, and above angled ceilings over stairs.

Up in the attic, you may need to push insulation away to see if the stud cavities are open. If they are, seal them with unfaced fiberglass insulation (less than $1 a square foot) stuffed into plastic garbage bags; the bag is key to blocking airflow. Close large gaps with scraps of drywall or pieces of reflective foil insulation (less than $2 a square foot). Once you’ve covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place. To see these repairs in action, consult Energy Star’s DIY guide to air sealing.

3.  Close Gaps Around Flues and Chimneys

Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least 1 inch from metal flues and 2 inches from brick chimneys. But that creates gaps where air can flow through. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing ($12) cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk ($14). To keep insulation away from the hot flue pipe, form a barrier by wrapping a cylinder of flashing around the flue, leaving a 1-inch space in between. To maintain the spacing, cut and bend a series of inch-deep tabs in the cylinder’s top and bottom edges.

4.  Weatherstrip the Attic Access Door

A 1/4-inch gap around pull-down attic stairs or an attic hatch lets through the same amount of air as a bedroom’s heating duct. Seal it by caulking between the stair frame and the rough opening, or by installing foam weatherstripping around the perimeter of the hatch opening. Or you can buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit for stairs ($150) or doors ($350 and up).

5.  Squirt Foam in Medium-Size Gaps

Once the biggest attic gaps are plugged, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses.

6.  Caulk Skinny Gaps

Caulk makes the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

7.  Plug Gaps in the Basement

Gaps low on a foundation wall matter if you’re trying to fix a wet basement, but only those above the outside soil level let air in. Seal those with the same materials you’d use in an attic: caulk for gaps up to 1/4-inch wide and spray foam for wider ones. Use high-temperature caulk around vent pipes that get hot, such as those for the furnace or water heater. Shoot foam around wider holes for wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement walls to the outside.

In most older houses with basements, air seeps in where the house framing sits on the foundation. Spread a bead of caulk between the foundation and the sill plate (the wood immediately above the foundation), and along the top and bottom edges of the rim joist (the piece that sits atop the sill plate).

8.  Tighten Up Around Windows and Doors

In the main living areas of your home, the most significant drafts tend to occur around windows and doors. If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weatherstripping goes a long way toward tightening them up. Bronze weatherstripping ($15 to $35 for 17 feet) lasts for decades but is time-consuming to install, while some self-stick plastic types are easy to put on but don’t last very long. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years. Nifty gadgets called pulley seals ($9 a pair) block air from streaming though the holes where cords disappear into the frames.

Weatherstripping also works wonders on doors. If a draft comes in at the bottom, install a new door sweep ($9).

Before Working in the Attic, Take Some Precautions

Try to do attic work on a cool day. Wear protective gear: disposable clothes, gloves, and a double-elastic mask or half-face respirator. Bring along a droplight, plus at least two pieces of plywood big enough to span two or three joists to support you as you work. To save trips up and down a ladder, try to move up all of the materials you need before you get started.

One warning: If you find vermiculite insulation, hold off until you’ve had it checked for asbestos; your health department or air-quality agency can recommend a lab.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/insulation/home-air-leak-seal-tips/#ixzz3npzWQ5R6
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook

Winter Tips for Patio Furniture

The winter in Massachusetts can be a time of snow accumulation, biting cold, and whipping winds. So when the season changes in December, many homeowners choose to pack up their patios for the winter and go into “hibernation.” However, if you do a few maintenance tasks to get your patio prepared for the upcoming harsh winter months, you might actually be able to use it every now and again. Here are a few outdoor patio ideas that will make transitioning to the winter season more bearable, and maybe even encourage you to step outside for your morning cup of coffee.

Remove Your Patio Furniture

The first task to take care of before winter arrives is clearing your patio of all large items. Remove any and all chairs, tables, plants, and backyard tools. Give each furniture item a quick shower with a hose to remove debris, and allow it to dry in the sun. Take the umbrella from your outdoor patio table and wipe it down to remove any dust or dirt that has accumulated over the summer. Cover each item with a large trash bag and store them neatly in the garage, a tool shed, or beneath a large tarp. The goal here is to remove them from exposure to the elements so that they will be fresh and ready to use next spring. It’s also easier to shovel snow and clear pathways on your patio when it’s not full of furniture. If you don’t have room to store your patio furniture, simply remove the cushions and stack them neatly into a corner, out of the way.

Barbecue Grill - Flickr/Steven Depolo

Image Source: Flickr/Steven Depolo

Clean the Barbecue Grill

Many people don’t take the time to thoroughly clean their barbecue grill before the winter arrives, which is why it looks like a disaster in the spring. If you have a charcoal grill, get rid of the old coals and ash. Scrub the grill down with a degreasing agent and give it a good rinse down with your hose. If it’s a gas grill, make sure to safely shut off and unscrew the gas lines, then store the tank in a cool, dry location or return it to your local retailer. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper storage or disposal.

Tidy Up

If your patio is located near trees, take the time to sweep up leaves and debris before they have a chance to get covered up by snow in the winter. Use a high-powered nozzle with a patio and driveway cleaning solution to wash the bricks or cement surface thoroughly. Give your patio a fresh start, so that when spring rolls around again it will be clean and ready to be arranged.

Bench and Lights

If you plan to spend any amount of time outside on your patio this winter, you’re going to need weatherproof seating that is easy to move around. Get yourself a lightweight plastic bench made entirely of recycled materials. These benches are usually easy to lift, attractive, and can accommodate multiple people. If you don’t want to purchase a new bench, you can also leave two patio chairs outside and cover them with a heavy duty, weather resistant furniture cover. Also, remember that in the fall and winter it gets dark outside earlier, so add additional outdoor lighting to your patio so that it will be more welcoming. Try mini holiday lights or landscape lightingsystems.

Bench - Flickr/US Fish and Wildlife Service

Image Source: Flickr/US Fish and Wildlife Service – Recovery Act Team

These outdoor patio ideas make it possible to enjoy your back or front yard even during colder winter months.

Main Image Source: Flickr/Lee Haywood

The Ultimate Moving Day Count Down Checklist

The Ultimate Moving Day Count Down Checklist

Everything you need to know to prepare for an easy moving day.

Guest Post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

Just thinking about the process of moving can put you in a panic but don’t worry, there is no need for it. Unlike the popular perception, it doesn’t need to be a stressful and overwhelming process. A bit of planning ahead and the to-dos of moving are very manageable.

Okay, so what are the to-dos and when do I do them? Here you go, use this expert two-month moving calendar to keep you organized. Simply follow these steps and check them off one-by-one. The insider secret to a stress-free move: stay in the know and know what is ahead!

EIGHT WEEKS TO GO:

  • Start the process of selecting a mover.
  • Check your mover’s record with the BBB, on Yelp and other social review sites. A great reputation is the best way to choose a mover.
  • If you’re being relocated by your company, verify what the company relocation policy covers and what responsibilities fall on your shoulders.
  • Start to inventory your belongings: Decide which items to donate, recycle, to take and which items (if any) need to go into short-term or long-term
  • Your tape measure is your new BFF – measure all the rooms in your new home, include layouts of doors, closets and windows. Measure all the furniture that is going with you and create scaled cutouts to place in a scaled layout for each room. Think: to scale rooms and furniture ala paper dolls. Once you have finalized a room layout that works, photocopy your final layout for each room. Give a copy to the movers on moving day and tape a copy to each room.

FOUR WEEKS TO GO:

  • Mail change of address cards or change your information online to:
    • Post office
    • Social security
    • Insurance companies
    • Credit card companies
    • Credit bureau and/or other creditors
    • Employer (to forward W2s)
    • Car registration
    • Broker
    • Mail order accounts
    • Department of motor vehicles
    • Magazines
    • Friends and relatives
  • Arrange to clean furniture, drapes, etc. in your new place if necessary.
  • Gather personal records (medical, dental, etc.)
  • Arrange to transfer children’s school records
  • Gather all pet’s vet records and make sure all pets are micro chipped and it corresponds to a cell number that goes with you on your move. Order new tags and licenses with new address.
  • Check homeowner’s insurance policies to see if moving is covered. Be sure your new home is protected by transferring fire, theft and other personal-property insurance.
  • Start to pack.

THREE WEEKS TO GO:

  • Make arrangements to discontinue current utilities and schedule the start-up of new utilities:
    • Telephone service
    • Telephone listings
    • Cable TV
    • DSL/Cable/Phone line for internet access
    • Electricity (check for refund)
    • Gas (check for refund)
    • Fuel oil
    • House cleaners
    • Babysitters
    • Dog walkers
    • Gardeners
    • Pool Service
    • Diaper service
    • Water
    • Water softener
    • Parking
    • Other: ________________________
  • Have appliances serviced for shipment.

TWO WEEKS TO GO:

  • Arrange to transfer local bank accounts. Speak to your bank and find out about new checks being printed, etc. Don’t forget your safety deposit box contents.
  • Ask doctors, dentists and veterinarians for medical records.
  • Cancel newspaper delivery.
  • Refill all prescriptions. Get prescriptions transferred to new pharmacy closer to new home.
  • Make arrangements to move children and pets. Do you need a baby sitter for a day or two? A pet sitter?
  • Confirm that mover will move houseplants; if not, make arrangements. Houseplants, usually, cannot be moved by a mover, especially on long distance or out of state moves.
  • Start to disassemble any shelving, closet systems, etc. that you plan to take.
  • If you need one, hire a cleaning crew to come clean your empty place to get your deposit back. Will your new place need a cleaning crew before move in too?

ONE WEEK TO GO:

  • Pack in separate boxes the items necessary for first days in new home: Label “LOAD LAST.” And label where to put each of those boxes in your new home: “top of kitchen counter.”
      • Medicine (always keep prescriptions on you)
      • Comfortable clothes
      • Linens and towels
      • Toothbrushes and toiletries
      • Paper goods
      • Disposable plates and silverware
      • Foil and wax paper
      • Plastic containers
      • Microwave
      • Vacuum cleaner
      • Garbage bags
      • Tool kit
      • Step ladder
      • Extension cords
      • Light bulbs
      • Cleaning items (mop and pail, broom and dust pan, etc.)
  • Each member of the family should also pack a suitcase with what they need for a few days while you’re getting settled into your new place. Don’t forget cell phone chargers, medications and favorite teddy bears.
  • If the movers are packing all or part of your goods, call to schedule and confirm the details. Make sure your mover knows how much packing you expect to do yourself and how much you expect them to do.
  • Plan to use up most food items before the move. If you have any leftover food on moving day, donate it to Move For Hunger.

TWO DAYS TO GO:

  • Defrost and dry refrigerators/freezers to be moved.
  • Gather valuables and important documents from jewelry cases, safe deposit box, etc. to take with you in car. Do not pack these items with your other belongings.

MOVING DAY:

Moving Out

  • Arrange to be on hand for last minute details and to give directions to movers.
  • Leave the whole day for your move. Don’t plan to go back to work, arrange a dinner date, etc.
  • Have payment for movers on hand. Avoid having to run out to bank, ATM, etc.
  • Have tips ready for everyone who is assisting you: cleaning crew, doormen, nanny, dog sitter, movers, etc.
  • Before leaving, check each room and closet. Check garage, basement and attic.
  • When you leave, turn off lights, close windows and lock doors.

Moving In

  • Supervise placement of boxes and furniture. Refer to your premade layout. Scotch tape a copy of the layout to each room’s door.
  • Check for damages. Inspect large items; look for boxes that are crushed or open. Inform the moving foreman and review the claims procedure with him.
  • Go back to the truck. Make sure nothing was left behind. Check all the compartments where fragile items are often kept for their protection.
  • Settle in to your new place, take photos for friends and family. A new chapter in your life has just begun! Let the new adventure begin!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com