5 Top Repairs to Tackle Before Listing Your Home

When you put your home on the market, you obviously want to get as much as you can for the property. A lot of things can affect your home’s value, including many items that are largely out of your control. That’s not saying that you can’t do anything to bring the value up before listing your home, however. In fact, there are some things that you absolutely need to do before you even think about sticking that “For Sale” sign in the yard.

Depending on what city, county and state your home is in, there may be code requirements you need to address before you’re allowed to list or sell your property. On top of that, however, here are five fixes that you can make to help get the most from your home when you sell.

Water Stains

If you’ve got water stains on the ceiling or walls, they tell potential buyers that there are leaks somewhere. It’s possible that you already took care of the leak, but a buyer isn’t going to know that, and will likely assume that there’s still a nasty surprise waiting for them somewhere. You obviously need to track down the leak and repair it, but after that’s done you should do something about the water stain as well. Don’t just slap a thin coat of paint on them and call it a day, either; take the time to do it right so that the stains don’t reappear.

Slow Drains

If you have slow drains in your home, this can be a big red flag for some home buyers. They might ask about the plumbing, or even want to run more water to see what the water pressure and drains are like everywhere else. To head off potential problems it’s important to do your best to take care of the issue. In many cases it’s a relatively easy fix, though there are some causes of slow drains that will take a plumber to straighten out. Still, the effort you put into it now can result in a higher selling price once someone buys the house.

Switches and Outlets

People don’t want to buy houses that have electrical problems. If your switches or outlets look discolored or beaten up, this can lead people to assume that there are problems even if there aren’t. Take the time to replace any damaged, discolored or malfunctioning switches and outlets, along with any non-working fixtures or “mystery switches” that you might have around the house. Even if it’s not a very big job, it can have a major impact on how potential buyers view your home.

Trip Hazards

Are there any loose bits of carpet or wood on your floor that you’ve learned to just step around? Fix them before you have people in to look at the house. You might have gotten used to them, but a potential buyer won’t be. They’ll see potential tripping hazards as something they’ll need to fix, and they’ll negotiate the price down as a result.

Walls and Ceilings

Are your walls drab, dull and damaged? Take the time to fix any holes or dings before you list the house. A little bit of drywall repair can go a long way, and this can be a perfect time to update the look of your rooms with a fresh coat of paint as well. Don’t neglect the ceiling either, since those little issues that you’ve learned to overlook will stick out like a sore thumb to potential buyers.

Need Help?

If you have some repairs to make before listing but don’t know where to start, we can help you find the pro you need to get your home in tip-top shape.

Décor Color Choices Can Be Psychological

Although choosing a room’s color is highly personal, it’s worth noting that studies have linked specific color tones to psychological behaviors. In fact, many doctors, scientists and design experts believe that certain colors can actually influence your mood or motivation.

The following list provides a general interpretation of commonly held views about how we perceive color. It may help you decide on the colors you’ll use in your next interior painting or decorating project. While some suggested connections may seem obvious, others might surprise you.

Yellow: concentration, attentiveness, optimism.
Orange: abundance, expressiveness, passion.
Red: emotion, creativity, appetite.
Purple: status, opulence, indulgence.
Blue: trust, confidence, productivity.
Green: tranquility, comfort, nourishment.
Brown: honesty, sincerity, simplicity.
Black: contemplation, dedication, commitment.

Of course, subtle differences in hues and shades can evoke different emotional responses. As a result, complementary colors can sometimes seem to conflict with the expected psychological response to your primary selection. So, despite all the available scientific information, you should consider your instincts as well.

Gentle Ways to Deal with Insects in a Home

A growing number of homeowners are uncomfortable using traditional pesticides for a variety of reasons, including health and environmental concerns. If you’re among them, here are some natural ways to deal with insects in your home:

• Use a mixture of unsweetened lemon juice and water to deter spiders. Spray the solution near doorways and window sills where these arachnoids can enter.
• Combine an equal mixture of vinegar and water to create an effective deterrent for a variety of crawling insects, particularly ants. Spray the solution on floors and countertops that are close to these creatures’ food sources.
• Believe it or not, invest in a fake wasp nest (which you can purchase at your local home improvement store) to deter real wasps from building a nest on your property.
• Experts recommend that you test any surface spray you plan to use to make sure it doesn’t stain or otherwise harm the surface.

Creating Quiet in a (Sometimes) Noisy Home

Does your spouse like to practice the drums in the evening? Does your teenager like to play video games, with the volume turned up high? Are there other sources of noise you’d like to minimize?
There are many ways to soundproof areas of your home to reduce noise. Here are some ideas:

Furniture placement. Surprisingly, where you place furniture can dramatically reduce incoming noise. For example, a bookshelf that covers one third of a wall can muffle sound from an adjoining room by 25%.
Noise harmonization techniques. Soft music, air fans, and other sources of rhythmic noises can actually reduce the unpleasantness of incoming sounds.
Area rugs. Adding an area rug, even on top of existing carpeting, can significantly reduce noise coming from the floor below.
Acoustic tiles and panels. These are special ceiling tiles and wall coverings that are designed to diffuse and reduce sound infiltration. There are some products on the market that are remarkably easy to install.

Kitchen Fires 101

Several of the biggest fire hazards in your home all live in your kitchen. The oven, the stovetop, your toaster… when you think of all of the heat sources your kitchen contains, it’s almost a wonder that it doesn’t burst into flames on the regular. Joking aside, the kitchen is usually a pretty safe place so long as you keep an eye on things. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore fire safety rules when in the kitchen, of course – knowing how to handle a kitchen fire can mean the difference between a scare and a tragedy.

Kitchen Fire Safety

There are a number of potential causes of kitchen fires. There are the usual fire hazards such as electrical shorts, but you also have kitchen-specific risks such as splashing oil or something falling onto a heating element. Because there are so many potential causes of a kitchen fire, your fire safety measures need to be a bit wider reaching than what you might use for other rooms in your house.

A smoke detector is important in the kitchen, as is a fire extinguisher that you can access easily. Make sure you choose the right fire extinguisher, though; opt for an ABC fire extinguisher if possible. These can be used on Class A (trash/wood/paper), Class B (oil and liquids) and Class C (electrical equipment) fires. Establish an area where you can put oven mitts, cookbooks and similar materials far enough away from the stovetop to prevent any of them from falling onto a hot surface. Inspect kitchen appliances regularly for damaged cords or other fire hazards and replace anything that could present a danger.

Oven Fires

If a fire breaks out in your oven, your first instinct is likely to open the oven and try to put the fire out. That’s one of the worst things that you can do, though; opening the oven provides much-needed air to the fire and can make it significantly worse. Just opening the oven door can cause the fire to explode outward, potentially burning you and spreading to surrounding surfaces.

Instead, turn off the oven and leave the door closed. This will limit the availability of oxygen, causing the fire to die down and eventually go out on its own. Keep an eye on the fire, though, since if it doesn’t start dying out or seems to be getting stronger, you’ll likely need to call the fire department to deal with it.

Fires on the Stovetop

Stovetop fires come in several forms. If something falls onto a hot burner, that can cause a fire. If oil or other flammable liquids get too hot or splash out of a pan, that can also cause a fire. Even letting a pan boil dry can cause a fire. Fortunately, the majority of stovetop fires are preventable by keeping an eye on the stove whenever there’s at least one hot burner.

If a fire breaks out on the stovetop, there are a few things that you can do. If it’s a very small fire such as a grease fire in a pan, simply putting a metal lid on the pan may be enough to put the fire out. Slightly larger fires can be doused using baking soda, but do NOT use flour… though you may have heard that flour is okay to use, flour is finely ground dried plant material and is actually very flammable. Your fire extinguisher is also an option, as is calling the fire department before things get too far out of control.

Keeping Your Kitchen Safe

One key part of fire safety is making sure that your smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment stays in good working order in case you need them. HomeKeepr can help you find the pros you need for preventative maintenance, fire extinguisher inspections and more essential fire prevention services.

Cleaning Household Appliances

When the next bowl of chili explodes all over the inside of the microwave or you finally give in to the inch thick layer of pizza burn off inside your oven, this page of advice for cleaning household appliances will be right here waiting for you.

Common Appliances and How to Clean Them
For some people, cleaning is as natural as walking and breathing. But for the rest of us, it takes effort and probably some knowledge that we’re currently lacking. After all, it’s not such a big deal to clean a microwave, but for some reason it feels like it takes forever. Without further ado, here’s how to clean basically everything useful in your kitchen.

Microwave

Pre-prep Work: Put a coffee mug or small bowl full of water and slices of lemon in the center and run the microwave on high for about three minutes, or until the liquid is turning to steam. This will help soften food splatter and the lemon smells nice. You can also use other citrus fruits or forego it entirely and use a drop of dish soap.

Break It Down: Take out the turntable and anything else that will come loose. Toss these parts in the dishwasher and run it. Or wait if you have other stuff to stick in there and make it a full load.

The Nitty Gritty: Wipe down the walls of the microwave with a sponge, cloth or several paper towels, plus your favorite dish soap and water or all purpose cleaner. There’s not really a wrong way to clean a microwave. Wipe the outside while you’re at it, especially the buttons.

Garbage Disposal

Pre-prep Work: Unless you have a clog, there’s not much in the way of prep work to do. Flick the switch, run some cold water to make sure there’s not any food left in the device.

Break It Down: Some garbage disposals, like Insinkerators, have removable baffles (the black part that’s just inside the drain). If yours is removable, take it out. If not, then move along.

The Nitty Gritty: Cleaning a garbage disposal is really easy. Just clean your removable baffle, if present, and toss some citrus fruit inside. Most garbage disposals no longer use blades (don’t stick your hand in to find out unless the breaker is turned off), so the ice cube trick does nothing, but citrus is still a big deal. If it’s really smelly, drop some liquid dish soap inside and run the water until the bubbles stop.

Dishwasher

Pre-prep Work: Running an empty load with a measuring cup full of vinegar or bleach can help start the process off right. These chemicals help eliminate chronic smells, you’ll be really happy you did. DO NOT USE DISH SOAP.

Break It Down: Remove the racks and anything else that comes loose, like cutlery baskets. Take those to the shower and wait for further instructions.

The Nitty Gritty: First clean any screens that might be protecting food grinders or other moving parts. You can just wipe that out. Next, there’s such a thing as dishwasher cleaner. Your life will be immeasurably easier if you just buy a few of these and use as directed to clean the inside of the dishwasher.

Last, go find those racks you put in the shower. Spray them down with a removable shower head or take your chances with the regular kind. If they’re very dirty, give them a going over with soapy water and a sponge. Go slide those bad boys back into the machine. Wipe the outside.

Refrigerator

Pre-prep Work: Put food into a prepared cooler and turn the ice maker off.

Break It Down: Pull out all the shelves and drawers at once and place them in or near the sink.

The Nitty Gritty: Start with the empty fridge cavity and wipe everything down, from the top to the bottom. Warm, soapy water is fine for most residue, tough grime can be knocked out with all-surface cleaner. Next, do the door interiors.

Now wash the shelves and drawers and leave them to dry. Once all of that is complete, put the fridge back together and repeat with the freezer. Change your water filter and turn the ice maker back on when you’re done. Wipe the fridge outside down last.

Freestanding Range (this also applies to cooktops and ovens that exist independently)

Pre-prep Work: Smooth top ranges just need their tops wiped down. Turn the pilot lights off on gas ranges.

Break It Down: Pull knobs, remove grates, pull coils and catch pans, as applies to your stove.

The Nitty Gritty: If you have a stove with a self-cleaning oven, find your manual and figure out how to use it. Most will lock themselves, heat until they’re super hot and you only have to wipe the racks down and get the ash (there’s never much) out of the bottom. This will take a few hours. Maybe several hours. But it’ll be super clean.

For the top, wipe the bit that’s not removable down with soapy water. Grab the coils and set them aside and put the rest in the dishwasher. No reason to work too hard. Glass top stoves sometimes need harder cleaning. There’s a gritty glass top stove cleaner available commercially.

Put it all back together like you found it. Good work!

You Could Clean Your Own Appliances, Or….
You could find a great cleaning service in your HomeKeepr community. Just log on, ask your real estate agent for a recommendation and choose from the home pros that are sent your way. You’ll never have to worry about cleaning appliances again when you have a cleaning service handy. Recommendations are better than reviews, come and see the difference!

What Can Smart Switches and Light Plugs Do For Your Home?

“Siri, how much water did I drink today?”

“Alexa, what’s on TV tonight?”

“Google, turn off the lights!”

You know the drill. We’re all starting to talk to ourselves under the guise of speaking to our smart speakers and voice assistants. There’s nothing at all wrong with this, but it’s a future no one could have conceived even a decade ago. Smart speakers were cool for creating grocery lists, but that’s just a fraction of what they’re capable of now.

Your computer friends can control your lights and outlets from anywhere now. How cool is that?

The Power of Smart Switches and Plugs

Smart switches and plugs are among the most underrated components of a smart home. In fact, they’re a cheap way to get into the smart home world if your home wasn’t built with this type of equipment in mind.

They’re simple to install and essentially disappear after a few days. After all, they’re just boring plugs and switches, right?

Well… that’s one way to look at it. But, then again, how long do you go in a day without interacting with an outlet or a switch? Are you using either right now?

Behold the Handy, Hidden Household Helpers

If you really think about it, you use outlets and switches all the time for a wide range of reasons. Smart switches and smart plugs are no different, they’re a frequent touch item in your home. But they’re so much more than power regulators. Smart switches and plugs can do things for your household like:

  • Making mornings tolerable. Most people have heard of the coffee pot that’s powered using a smart outlet. You fill it up at night, then your programmed smart outlet switches on in the morning and starts the coffee cycle. It’s a popular trope, but it’s also a real thing… so you have that to look forward to.
  • Proving peace of mind. Whether you’re across town or across the state, it’s not a great idea to advertise that you’re not home at night. Your smart switches and plugs can be programmed to flip on and off at different times to make it appear that you’re just hanging around the house.
  • Conserving resources. Believe it or not, a lot of homeowners find that they save a lot of energy with smart plugs. The better units have use reporting built in, all you have to do is check your app to see which ones are using up the most juice. Create a schedule for those plugs, then check your usage again in a few months. Adjust the whole thing as necessary.
  • Creating a safer indoor environment. Are you the kind of person who doesn’t like to walk into a dark house, even when it’s yours? Then smart switches and outlets should definitely be on your shopping list. You can turn all the lights in the house on when you pull into your subdivision or driveway, making it clear that you’re home, in case any ghouls (or burglars) happen to be lurking.
  • Assisting people with handicaps. You may not need the help now, but even a debilitating sports injury can be enough to make you want to scream when you forget to turn a light on or off and are already across the room. For people who are permanently disabled, that’s an every day event. Today with the help of Siri, Alexa and Google Home Assistant, all anyone needs to do is shout, “Siri, turn off the kitchen lights!” and it’s a done deal.

Those little almost-invisible switches and outlets are pretty busy, looks like. They’re also an inexpensive way to jumpstart your smart home transformation. For example, if you wanted a way to turn your bedroom’s ceiling fan light off at night, you would save a bundle to install a smart switch versus using smart light bulbs and the switch won’t burn out any time soon, so bonus!

Ready to Make a Move Toward a Smarter Home?

Even if you have an older home, you can start transforming it into a smart home with switches and outlets. Every home and family will have different needs that a smart home can service, but due to the dizzying array of equipment out there, it can help to speak to a home pro about your plans. Not sure where to find one? Start in your own backyard with HomeKeepr. Your real estate agent can recommend a smart home consultant or installer to help you pick the right bits and pieces to build the perfect, smartest home on the block.

Crack or Canyon? When is it Time for Driveway Repair?

Sometimes it’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill. Other times, like when your driveway is starting to show some wear, you might instead try to make a crack out of a canyon. It’s not that you don’t want to make a driveway repair, but often it’s hard to know when the time is just right. So, how can a homeowner know for sure?

Wear and Tear on a Driveway is Normal
It’s not unusual to see a few small cracks or pits in the surface of your driveway as it ages. Asphalt, especially, pits, cracks, heaves, alligators and buckles. Cement, on the other hand, mostly just cracks. Other types, like specialty driveways made from bricks or pavers are best to always be assessed by a professional, so it might not be a bad idea to have one out yearly.

For the rest, you can probably tell when it’s getting close to time to dress the drive up again.

But it’s not just a cosmetic improvement, repairing your driveway stabilizes the pavement or slab itself in many cases. Asphalt is much more plastic than cement, so unless the cracks are small in your cement drive, expect a big job.

Asphalt can often be restored from a sad shape, so long as most of the surface is intact and it’s not badly buckled.

When to Patch and Repair Asphalt Driveways
Choose a warm day when it’s going to be dry for a bit. Also, make sure you can move your vehicle elsewhere, either to the street or to a neighbor’s driveway for the next two days so the new sealant can dry. You should evaluate it yearly, but anticipate only really needing repairs every three to five if you’re dedicated to preventing water damage to the surface with proper use of gutters and other precipitation diverters.

Between resealing, patches and repairs, scrub the surface regularly with mild dish soap and warm water to help keep your driveway at its best. It should look slick and black and maybe even a little bit shiny. When it starts to look more dried out, keep an eye out for other changes or plan to reseal it in the very near future. A nice black driveway always looks its best, anyway.

Repairing and Patching Cement Driveways
Cement driveways are a bit of a different story. Some cracks can be sealed by a homeowner with simple tools, others cannot. It’s not always clear how extensive the damage is when you’re experiencing extensive cracking or have areas that are no longer flush with the rest of the surface, so this is definitely a job for an experienced handyman or driveway expert.

There are several interesting new technologies that are being used to lift cement pads back into place with materials like polyurethane foam. It’s really something to see! Although not available everywhere, the technology can salvage some driveways that would otherwise have to be busted out, hauled off and repoured, a process that can be a real headache.

You can clean your cement driveway with a power washer if you know how to use one very delicately so that you don’t remove the thin surface coat. Otherwise a driveway brush, mild detergent and a hose will do the trick for regular cleanings.

When in Doubt, Call a Pro
There are a lot of parts of your property that leave lots of room for error. Your driveway isn’t one of them. If you have any doubts about your ability to evaluate, repair, replace or even handle the materials required to do so, call in a pro. But where do you find one?

Just check your HomeKeepr community! Your Realtor already knows the best companies in town for your driveway type and can recommend them to you with a click of a button. Your HomeKeepr community always has your back, often from your back pocket!

Confidence and security come from inexpensive driveway inspections, and HomeKeeper is the best place in town to find the team for the job.

Spring Cleaning… Your Air Conditioner?

Spring is a time of beginnings. You get a chance to start over, to try something new and to get your air conditioner ready for the hot summer to come. It might not be as romantic as the budding of trees and blooming of flowers, but having your air conditioner in tip-top shape is arguably far more useful.

When you start your spring clean, don’t forget your air conditioner. In just a few minutes, you can improve its efficiency while helping it continue to run well for years to come.

First, A Basic Explanation of Air Conditioning Technology

Your air conditioner isn’t magic, but it’s pretty close. These devices were actually invented in the early 1900s as a way to reduce indoor humidity in paper plants. It just so happened they have a side effect that we rely on even today.

Air conditioning systems depend on the expansion and contraction of gasses to pull moisture out of the air by cooling it down. This is basic physics at work — warm air holds more water, cool air holds less.

When air is pulled into your air handler (for many, this is a furnace) through your warm air return, it’s forced over a tent-shaped coil that uses refrigerant to cool the air as it passes. A blower then blows that cooled air back into the house.

So What Does the Outside Condenser Do?

The air conditioning condenser that most people consider to be “the air conditioner” is actually a giant heatsink. See, when the air is cooled inside your air handler, the refrigerant is what’s absorbing most of the heat. It then gets pumped to the condenser, where the heat collected inside your house is released to the environment.

It’s really a pretty simple idea that has made a huge change to how we live, play and work.

Your Air Conditioner Spring Cleaning Checklist

There’s no time like spring to do a little air conditioner tune-up. A lot of the heavy lifting will have to be performed by HVAC professionals, but there are things you can do to keep your system running longer as a homeowner. Generally, these items should be done at least once in the spring before you start using the A/C and again in the fall when you’re ready to put it away for the year.

Change your furnace filter. Whether it’s on the ceiling, on the floor or inside your furnace or air handler, a clean filter is a filter that can let the most air through for cooling. And the easier it is for the system to pull air in and cool it, the more comfortable you’ll be with the least amount of cost. Investing in an electrostatic filter that you can wash and reuse is a smart move for the long term.

Flush your condensation line. There’s a pipe or tube that comes out of your furnace or air handler and runs to a drain somewhere. This is the condensation line. All the moisture your system is pulling out of that warm air has to go somewhere, you know? That somewhere is a pan that empties via this tube. Just open it up from the top (which tube it is should be obvious, but if you can’t find it, ask your HVAC professional), slowly pour in about a cup of vinegar or bleach. If the liquid moves, you’re gold. If not, you may need to spend some time investigating the issue. More often than not, it’s algae growth in the tube or mineral deposits, both things you can flush out, but require some patience to remove.

Clean your a-coil. That tent shaped coil mentioned above is called the “evaporator coil” or the “a-coil.” It can get dirty, which makes it a lot less efficient at removing moisture and cooling the air. If you feel brave, and you’re careful, you can wipe the coils clean or use a shop vac. They’re very similar to the coils on the back of your refrigerator, treat them the exact same way.

Comb the fins on the condenser. If you look closely at your outside condenser, you’ll notice that the part that’s inside the cage is made up of a whole bunch of teeny fins. These little guys can get damaged by accident, causing them to be less efficient because they’re not really in an optimal configuration anymore. All you need to fix this is a fin comb. This simple device lets you straighten bent fins, restoring your unit to its former glory.

Spray the condenser down. Last, but far from least, you’ll want to spray your air conditioner’s condenser down with a hose. Start by wetting all the fins with a garden sprayer, then go back around and spend some time slowly flushing out the dirt, one section at a time, working top to bottom.

Ready For An A/C Tune-Up?

If spring cleaning your air conditioner isn’t getting the results you’re looking for, it may be time to get an HVAC pro out to give it a once-over.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

6 Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

Springtime. A great time to go through the closets and find anything you’re not using. What do you do with all that unwanted junk in your trunk? For lots of homeowners, the choice is clear: it’s yard sale time.

Running a Successful Yard Sale is Simple

There are so many things in life that people will remark, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it….” when presented with a related struggle. This is not the case with a yard sale. They’re a lot of work, but they’re not all that tricky to pull off. If this is your first yard sale or you simply want to be sure you’re doing all you can to make it a success, these are tips just for you:

  1. Check your insurance policy. Hey, it seems innocent enough until someone slips and falls and breaks a bone. Suddenly you’re on the hook for their medical expenses. Do you have enough coverage for this? Check with your agent before you start that big sale.
  2. Label everything. It can be tempting to simply put things in bins that are labeled with prices, but it’s much better to label everything so no one is confused. Your kids can be great helpers here, it’s a low risk job that will keep them busy for hours.
  3. Group like items. When you set things out, group them by use or some other common theme. After all, if you sell someone a bucket, they might also want to buy that hose.
  4. Pretend you have an outside store. Everything in a store is for sale for the right price, so make sure that you clear the area of anything you’d rather not sell (or at least put a sign on it). Also, keep your money in a safe place like a money box, keep records on sales, and while you’re at it, get a credit card reader that will work with your phone (many companies offer these for low or no cost swipe fee).
  5. Line up plenty of help. Buying stuff at a yard sale can be fun, but running said yard sale is generally pretty boring. Make sure you’ve got plenty of help so that you’re not forced to spend the whole weekend sitting all alone at the check-out table.
  6. Advertise liberally. If you want to sell something, you have to tell people it’s for sale. Advertise liberally, using social media, local media like newspapers and signs that you’ll post a day or two before the big day.

Donating to Charity

Many people make arrangements with a local charity to collect the items that did not sell. You can do this, too, just keep in mind that most charities will not allow their volunteers inside your home. In these cases, you’ll have to be present in order to donate stuff. It might be just as easy to box up the remains and toss them in the back of your vehicle for a ride to your local charitable drop off.

Happy selling!


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash