How to String Christmas Lights: 9 Tips to Save $$

Christmas lights can be modest displays to show good cheer, or million-bulb light-apaloozas that draw gawkers from near and far.

Here are some tips on how to get the most from — and spend the least on — your holiday display.

You’ll need a partner. And some heavy-duty extension cords.

#1 Safety First

Emergency rooms are filled with homeowners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.

#2 Unpack Carefully

Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.

#3 Extension Cords Are Your Friends

Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.

#4 LEDs Cost Less to Light

LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.

#5 Dismantle Lights Sooner Than Later

Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.

#6 Plan Next Year’s Display on Dec. 26

Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).

#7 Permanent Attachments Save Time

If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.

#8 Find Those Blueprints

Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.

#9 Store Them in a Ball

It sounds counter intuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.

Written by: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

What are 3 Common Contract Contingencies for Home Buyers

Contract contingencies were called a somewhat derogatory term during the 1970s. Agents used to call contract contingencies “weasel clauses” because a contract contingency would let buyers weasel or slip out of a contract. This means that prospective homeowners could cancel a contract without penalty paid to the seller and there was no risk to the buyer.

Types of contract contingencies vary from state to state, but many contingencies are common to every state. Below are types of contingencies you can expect in Arizona:

Common Purchase Contract Contingencies for Home Buyers

Loan Contingency.

Even though a buyer may hold a loan preapproval letter, further investigations concerning the property or the borrower could result in a loan denial. Some loan contingencies run all the way to closings, and other types might exist for a few weeks. Most real estate sales contracts contain a contingency clause that permits the buyer to cancel the purchase if the loan is not approved by the lender. The lender could reject the loan for a number of reasons, including discovering a defect in title or receiving an appraisal that is too low.

Loan Appraisal.

The lending institution generally hires an independent appraiser to inspect and assess the value of the home. If the appraiser designates an appraisal value that is below the sale price of the house, then the mortgage lender could refuse to extend the loan. Some parties may include a specific appraisal contingency provision which would allow the buyer and seller to adjust the purchase price to match the appraisal so that the purchase can be completed.

Home Inspection.

One of the most important contingency clauses involves the right to perform an inspection by a professional. The buyer initially reviews and accepts the seller’s disclosure form called the Seller Property Disclosure Statement (SPDS) wherein the seller discloses any defects with respect to the property. Even upon receipt of a disclosure form that does not reveal significant defects, a Buyer has the right to hire a home inspector and conduct a complete inspection of the home as agreed upon in the contract. In Arizona, an inspection period is defined in the contract as a set number of days during which a buyer must perform any inspections of the property.

If the inspection reveals defects, the Buyer uses the Buyer’s Inspection Notice and Seller’s Response (BINSR) to request and negotiate repairs to the property.  The BINSR is an addendum to the Arizona Association of Realtors Residential Purchase Contract that allows, in an organized manner, the buyer to request repairs and the seller to respond. If the inspection reveals defects, buyers may walk away – or elect to ask the seller for repair work, closing credits, or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered. Sellers have a set period (5 days is common) to respond one of three ways: 1) agree to all of the buyer’s requests, 2) offer a modified solution back to the buyer, or 3) decline to make any amends. In response, the buyer can continue to negotiate, accept the seller’s position, or end the transaction within a set number of days (also 5 days, commonly). If the buyer declines the seller’s solution within the time period, they are free to end the transaction and recoup their earnest money. Of course, all communications back and forth between buyer and seller regarding inspections and negotiations around them must be done in writing.

Buyers should also take note of the following:

Lead-based Paint. If the home was built prior to 1978, the seller must provide the buyer with a lead-based paint disclosure form. Buyer should use certified contractors to perform renovation, repair or painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in residential properties built before 1978 and to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

Wood Destroying Pest Inspection. Termites are commonly found in some parts of Arizona. The Office of Pest Management (OPM) regulates pest inspectors and can provide the buyer with information regarding past termite treatments on a property. If pests or dry rot conditions are noted, there could be an additional expense to negotiate.

Roof Inspection. If the roof is 10 years old or older, a roof inspection by a licensed roofing contractor is highly recommended.

Sewer Inspection. Even if the listing or SPDS indicates that the property is connected to the city sewer, a plumber, home inspector, or other professional should verify.  If a home is not connected to a public sewer, it is probably served by an on-site wastewater treatment facility (conventional septic or alternative system). A qualified inspector must inspect any such facility within six months prior to transfer of ownership. Sewers can also get clogged from tree roots or deteriorate over time. Plumbing companies can insert a camera into the sewer line to check for damage during a sewer inspection. This is an expensive repair.

Private Well Inspections. If the home is not connected to city water but rather has a private well, buyers may want assurance that the water is potable and meets acceptable health standards. A well inspection can also deliver stats on how fast the water can be brought to the surface.

Swimming Pools and Spas. If the property has a pool or a spa, the home inspector may exclude the pool or spa from the general inspection so an inspection by a pool or spa company may be necessary.

Radon, Imported Drywall, Mold or Asbestos Inspections. Sometimes home inspectors will call for additional inspections by licensed entities to check for special situations such as radon gas, imported drywall, mold or asbestos; however, mold and airborne health hazards are most often not detectable by a visual inspection. To determine if the premises you are purchasing contain mold or airborne health hazards, you may retain an environmental experiment to perform an indoor air quality test.

Soil Problems. The soil in some areas of Arizona has “clay-like” tendencies, sometimes referred to as “expansive soil.” Other areas are subject to fissure, subsidence and other soil conditions. Properties built on such soils may experience significant movement causing a major problem. If disclosed or if the buyer has any concerns about the soil condition or observes evidence of cracking, the buyer should secure an independent assessment of the property and its structural integrity by a licensed, bonded and insured professional engineer.

Previous Fire/Flood. If it is disclosed there has been a fire or flood on the property, a qualified inspector should be hired to advise you regarding any possible future problems as a result of the fire or flood damage.

Preliminary Title Report. Title investigations will disclose easements, monetary liens of record, including the ability of the seller to transfer clean title to the buyer, and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R) information. If you can, always order a title policy. You might discover an easement falls on the property line right where you want to build a fence or put in a pool, and that could be grounds for cancellation of a contract.

Homeowner Association Documents. Buyers should obtain a copy of all homeowner association documents, including meeting minutes, if applicable. Pay special attention to the Home Owners Association (HOA) reserves. A deficiency in the reserves could be a red flag that the HOA is in financial trouble or the HOA dues might be in line for a steep increase.

5 Reasons Why Winter is a Great Time to Buy or Sell a Home

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5 Reasons Why Winter is a Great Time to Buy or Sell a Home[/fusion_title]

It’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t try to buy or sell a home during the fall and winter months.

This is generally considered the “offseason” in real estate. Many sellers mistakenly believe that the cold weather will keep buyers away and that no one is looking over the holidays. Unfortunately, many real estate professionals perpetuate this myth by advising their clients to “wait until the spring” to list their home.

The truth is, homes are bought and sold year round. And while the market is definitely quieter here in Minnesota during the fall and winter, savvy buyers and sellers know how to use this slow down to their advantage. In fact, depending on your circumstances, now may be the ideal time for you to purchase or list a home.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, there’s no need to wait for the spring. Read on to discover the top five reasons that it can pay to buy or sell a home during the offseason! 


What’s the number one reason to buy or sell a home during the offseason? Less competition!

This can be particularly beneficial if you’re a seller. Come spring, a huge wave of new listings will hit the market. But if you list now, you will have fewer comparable homes with which to compete.

In the spring and summer months, it can be difficult for your property to stand out in a crowded market. You may end up with a surplus of homes for sale in your neighborhood. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see multiple listings on a single street during the peak selling season.

Inventory in the fall and winter months, however, can be significantly lower. That means your home will not only receive more attention from buyers, but you may also gain the upper hand in your negotiations. In fact, research found that homes listed in the winter are nine percent more likely to sell, and sellers net more above asking price in the winter than any other time of year.1

Buyers also have a lot to love about the real estate offseason. While some buyers need to move during the winter, many bargain hunters search this time of year in hopes of scoring a great deal.

Smart buyers will continue to scan the market during the fall and winter for hidden gems that pop up during the offseason. There are always highly motivated sellers who need to sell quickly. And with less competition to bid against you, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. If you’ve been looking for a good deal on a home or investment property, now may be the best time to look!

So while a “slow market” may scare off some buyers and sellers, it can actually be the perfect time of year for you to list or purchase a home. While the rest of the market is hibernating until spring, take advantage of this opportunity to get a jump start on your competition!


During the spring and summer, you’re likely to encounter “lookie-loo” buyers who are just testing the waters and unrealistic sellers who are holding out for a better offer. But the serious buyers and sellers stay active during the cold weather and holiday season, often because they need to move quickly. In fact, research shows that homes listed in the winter sell faster than any other time of year.1

January and February are peak job hiring months, which brings a surge of buyers who need to relocate quickly to start a new job.And of course life changes like retirement, marriage, divorce, and new babies come year round. While families often find it more convenient to move during the summer when school is out, the reality is that many don’t have the option to wait. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time,” not because of seasonal factors.3

If you prefer to deal with serious, highly-motivated buyers and sellers who want to act fast and don’t want to waste your time, then the offseason may be the perfect real estate season for you.


Another key benefit to buying and selling in the offseason is the increased personal attention you’ll receive.

While I strive to provide unparalleled client service throughout the year, I simply have more time available for each individual client during slower periods. Similarly, I find the other real estate professionals in my network—including title agents, inspectors, appraisers, insurance agents, and loan officers—are able to respond faster and provide more time and attention during the offseason than they are during the busy spring and summer months. The result is a quicker and more streamlined closing process for all involved.


Clients who move during the offseason often report significant cost savings. Moving costs may be discounted by 15 percent or more during the winter months, and moving companies can typically offer more flexibility in their scheduling.4

Home renovations and repairs can also be less expensive in the offseason.5 Whether you’re fixing up your property prior to listing it or remodeling your new home before moving in, contractors and service providers who are hungry for business are often willing to work for a discount this time of year. If you wait until the spring and summer, you may be forced to pay a premium.

Home stagers and decorators are also more likely to negotiate their fees during the winter. And you can often score great deals on new furniture and decor during the holiday sales.

Whether you’re buying or selling, count cost savings as another compelling reason to consider an offseason move.


Finally, listing your home during the fall and winter offers one key—but often overlooked—advantage: less lawn maintenance!

Good curb appeal is crucial when selling your home. According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough.That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door.

If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, I generally advise clients to implement a frequent schedule of mowing, edging, watering, weeding, and trimming shrubs and hedges. You’ll probably want to plant flowers, as well, to brighten your exterior. After all, a lush landscape is a key element in attracting spring and summer buyers.

If you list in the offseason, however, your lawn maintenance list is significantly reduced. While I do recommend that my sellers keep their exterior clean, tidy, and free of leaves, snow, and ice, you will probably spend much less time on outdoor maintenance during the winter than you would if you listed your home in the summer.


Now that you know all the great reasons to buy or sell a home in the offseason, it’s time to decide whether you’re ready to make your move.

Every client’s circumstances are unique. Whether you needto move quickly or you simply wantto take advantages of all benefits this season has to offer, it’s a great time to enter the market.

Give me a call today to schedule a FREE consultation … and you could be ringing in the New Year in your new home!


  1. Redfin –
  2. Top Resume –
  3. National Association of Realtors –
  4. Angie’s List –
  5. Build Direct –
  6. National Association of Realtors –