The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire Family

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire FamilyWhether you are hunting for a project that will pry the kids away from their phones or you just want a head start on the spring, few home projects are as rewarding as a vegetable garden.

Invest a few hours in planting today, some maintenance throughout the year and soon you’ll be enjoying some delicious, home-grown veggies. Ready? Let’s get started!

Selecting The Right Spot For Your Garden

The first decision you will need to make is where your garden will live. If you are new to gardening, you can start with a small patch of land in the corner of your backyard. The area needs to have full exposure to sunlight at least six to eight hours each day. Your plants will also need watering, so ensure that your hose can reach the plot or that you have another water source nearby.

Having good soil is necessary but not critical as you can buy a load of topsoil from a local nursery. You may want to invest in a composter as well so that you can make efficient use of food waste.

Choosing Which Vegetables To Grow

Next, you will need to choose what you want to grow in your garden. As mentioned above, if you are new to gardening you can start small with a few simple vegetables. Tomatoes are an excellent choice as they continue to produce throughout the year and can be used in so many different types of food. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are also a great choice. If you like fresh herbs, consider setting aside a part of your garden for basil, thyme and other herbs.

Materials You’ll Need To Get Started

As you might imagine, you do not need very much to start a garden. Some soil, gloves, a few hand tools and seeds or starter plants are enough to get going. Take the family out for a trip to a local nursery and ask about the best plants to start in the spring. From there, a trip to one of the large home supply stores will provide you with the rest.

Make What You Can, Buy What You Can’t

Finally, don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun project! If you decide you need planter boxes, try to build them instead of buying them. Figure out what you can recycle or upcycle from around your home to use in the garden. Try to avoid buying over building unless you’re stuck.

Follow the steps above and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you decide you need a more substantial yard, contact our offices today!

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the WinterThe days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and the kids are back in school.  The question is – is your home ready? Break out your checklist and let’s run through five key maintenance tasks that will get your home prepared to face the winter.

Pack Up And Protect Your Outdoor Furniture

Unfortunately, the arrival of winter means that the patio has to be closed up for the season. It’s time to get chairs, tables and other furniture covered up or stored if you have space. The BBQ will also need to be covered or moved off to the shed or another dry area.

Get Your Windows Ready For Cold Weather

Next, take some time to inspect your windows for drafts, leaks and other issues. This can be as easy as shutting them tight on a windy day and using your senses to determine if any air is leaking in. Depending on where you live in the country, you might need to do some additional work on your windows to get them prepared for the cold.

Turn Down Your Garden, Plants And Flower Beds

Unless you have a garden full of robust, cold-loving plants, it’s likely that you will see most of them die off as we move from autumn into winter. Spend some time turning down your gardens and other areas. This can help to move nutrients into the soil where they’ll be ready to nourish new plants in the spring.

Check Your Furnace And Heating Ducts

If you haven’t used it in a few months, now is the time to fire up the furnace and check the home’s heating system. The last thing you want is to discover that your home isn’t heating on the first cold night!

Consider Giving The Roof And Gutters A Quick Inspection

Last but not least, don’t forget to check your roof for any damage or areas that might be prone to leaking. You will also want to check the gutters to ensure they are clear of debris. Keep in mind that this does involve climbing up a ladder and physically inspecting these areas. If you’re not good with heights or don’t own the proper equipment, don’t sweat it. Give a professional roofing team a call and have them handle the inspection instead.

The better your home is prepared for winter, the less likely you are to have a nasty surprise waiting for you in the spring. If you would rather upgrade or check out a newer home than try to winterize yours, contact your local real mortgage professional to get started.

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Kids Stay Focused

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Children Stay FocusedIf you’re a parent of school-aged children, you’ve likely been concerned with their study habits at some point. Sitting down in front of the television or at the dinner table to crack open the books is going to be less efficient than doing so in a quieter, more productive work space. Let’s explore how to create a study space that will help keep your children focused and on task.

Ask The Kids What They Need To Be Productive

Before you get to work on creating a new studying space, it’s a good idea to have a chat with those will be using it most. Ask the children what kind of surroundings they feel would help to keep them productive. Younger kids may only need a small desk area but would appreciate more space in the room. Conversely, older children who are in high school are likely to need a lot of desk space for laptops, textbooks, and other studying materials. Starting the project out by asking what they need ensures that they get what they need out of the space.

Brighten Up The Room

Focus on how the room is lit. A dark room isn’t likely to be a positive studying environment. If possible, natural light sources should be used as much as possible. Studies indicate that sunlight is better at keeping individuals alert and focused than fluorescent or other types of home lighting. Also, consider adding some plants which can help to keep oxygen levels a bit higher in the room.

Note that you’ll want to avoid making the room so bright that it’s distracting. Plus, the sun can cause quite a bit of glare depending on how much outdoor exposure the room has. If there’s already a lot of natural light, consider a set of curtains that can reduce or block out any glare to allow for a more comfortable learning environment.

Eliminate Any And All Distractions

Distractions – especially those which are useful for procrastinating – are the bane of any productive space. There should be no television, no video games and no other distracting elements in the study area. The only furnishings should be those used for studying.

A study room is an excellent addition to any home with school-aged children. If you’re in the market for a new home – study spaces included – contact your local mortgage professional today.

Investing in a Fixer-Upper: What You Need to Know

Thinking About Buying a 'Fixer Upper'? Here's What You Need to KnowWith all of the home renovation and fixer-upper shows on television, the idea of completely renovating and re-doing an old home can seem like an enticing premise. Unfortunately, investing in the wrong fixer-upper can mean an awful lot of expenditure without the added financial rewards. Whether you’re considering investing down the road or you’re ready to dive in, here are a few things to consider first.

How Much Do You Want To Spend?

It’s easy to be swept away by possibility. But before making an offer you’ll need to sit down and determine exactly what you’re willing to invest into upgrades for your fixer-upper. By deciding what you would want to renovate, what the cost of materials and labor would be and how this figures into the market price of the home, you’ll be able to determine if the price you’re offering will be worth it.

Are Major Repairs Required?

It’s one thing to consider a nice paint job and new tiling in the kitchen. But if there are serious problems with the home, it can create huge financial issues to put money into it. Because foundational issues or water damage throughout the home can be expensive items to repair and will take time and resources, fixing these issues may cost more than the money you’ll make. If you’re uncertain about what you’re getting into, it may be a wise decision to bypass the investment all together.

Are You Willing To Work?

Most home fixer-uppers that people buy can be financially lucrative because the buyer is interested in doing a lot of the work themselves. However, if you’re thinking of hiring people to do the work for you, this can end up costing a lot more money and eating any profits the renovations might have created. It’s also important to realize that renovations can go over budget. Instead of being idealistic about a fixer-upper, be certain it’s what you really want so that you’re not stuck with a home you don’t want to invest your efforts into.

The idea of digging in and getting your hands dirty with purchasing a fixer-upper may be endearing, but if you’re not truly prepared for the responsibilities it can be a drain on your time and finances.

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades To Increase Value

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You SellIt’s likely that your house is your biggest asset, so when it comes time to sell it you’ll want to do everything you can to maximize your profit. Good news: The value of your home isn’t solely determined by the market. There are several ways you can increase its value by making upgrades before listing.

1. Make It Profitable

Not surprisingly, the number one way you can increase the value of your home is to add an income suite within the property. If your home has potential to earn buyers’ money, it will inevitably be more valuable than a property that doesn’t have any potential cash flow for the owner. Whether it’s a basement suite or a floor that’s been made into a separate “home”, income units are a huge bonus for buyers.

2. Kitchen Is Key

Kitchens are often the first area to become dated or worn out within a home, and they’re the most important part of the house when it comes to valuation. Make sure that your cabinets and countertops are updated before selling. Modernize the design with neutral fixtures that are current yet adaptable to many tastes. Having a fresh kitchen shows both function and fashion to buyers. After all, no one wants to see rusty old appliances and dingy lights when walking into the focal point of a home.

3. Beautify The Bathrooms

Besides the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important aspect of a home when it comes to valuation. Having multiple bathrooms within a home automatically increases its value significantly. Ensuring that your bathrooms are leak-free, look meticulously clean, and have a modern design is a fantastic way to make sure that buyers will be impressed during an open house.

Bonus tip: if installing a new toilet, consider purchasing one that is eco-friendly with dual-flush options. As people become more and more environmentally conscious, fixtures such as these will cater to a broad spectrum of lifestyle values.

If you’re ready to prepare your home for sale and are looking for more ways in which you can maximize its market value, contact us today.

Energy-Saving Tips To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Reduce Your Home's Carbon Footprint With These Energy-Saving TipsDo you believe that humans are changing the climate? As of today, the debate over carbon dioxide and climate change continues to rage. But regardless of your political standpoint, there’s always a case for reducing electricity use. Because who doesn’t like saving money, right?

Let’s explore a few ways that you can save energy while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

Leverage The Power Of Automation

The technology behind home automation is improving at an amazing rate. Thermostats from companies like Nest make home heating and cooling simple. They learn from your use to automatically set temperatures up and down as needed. Going to be home late from work? No problem — you can use your smartphone to ensure your heat doesn’t come on until later.

Wash Cold, Hang Dry

You might not be aware of this, but cold water washing makes sense. Most washing machines and detergents are just as efficient with cold water as hot. So it makes sense to switch to washing in cold, especially if you have a newer washing machine.

To cut back even more, hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. The technology behind clothes dryers hasn’t improved much over time. They still rely on warm air, forced ventilation and spinning around. All of which use a lot of energy.

Note: if you have to use your dryer, add a clean, dry towel to each load. Adding a towel will help your clothes to dry faster, thus saving you both time and money.

Modernize Your Home Lighting

Have you made the switch to power-efficient LED light bulbs yet? This one change can save an immense amount of electricity depending on the size of your home. And you can take things a step further by automating your home lighting as well. Systems from companies like Philips allow you to turn lights up, down and off as needed. You can also control these from your smartphone.

Kill Off The Vampires

Finally, watch for appliances and accessories that draw power when they’re not in use. ‘Electricity vampires’ like smartphone chargers, laptops and televisions can draw power 24/7. It’s a bit of a pain to have to unplug everything all the time. Instead, consider having these appliances plugged in to power bars. When you’re finished using them, you can switch the power bar off and go on with your day.

The above are just a few ways that you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint. If you’re interested in upgrading to a power-smart home, talk to your trusted mortgage professional to get started today.

Fixer Upper 101: Understanding the Balance Between Purchase & Renovation Costs

Thinking about a 'Fixer Upper'? Understanding the Balance Between Purchase and Reno CostsFixer uppers can come with huge price benefits and opportunity, as well as problems. Make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into before you purchase a home that needs significant restoration.

Carefully Calculate

Do the math very carefully before jumping in. Add up the expected renovation costs based on a thorough evaluation of the property. As some of the expected costs will lie within a grey area, it’s important that you base your estimation on the higher end of the price range. Be sure to account for all materials and labor.

Once you’ve calculated the expected renovation costs, subtract this number from the home’s projected post-renovation market value. It’s important that you base this projection on comparable listings in the same neighborhood. Consult a real estate professional for valuable assistance with this step.

To be conservative, deduct at least another 10 percent for any unforeseen costs, mistakes, or issues that arise. That final number should be the highest offer you make on the property.

Work With The Right Team

When looking for a fixer upper that is a sound investment, make sure that you have a solid team of professionals to work with. Choose a real estate agent who is familiar with the area and type of property that you are interested in. Make sure that all laborers you hire are not only competent to deal with the problems that you’ll face during renovations, but who won’t cut corners. Aesthetically appealing housing doesn’t always pass inspections. It’s important to make sure that the property is fit for sale or it may never close at your asking price.

Aesthetic Problems Are The Best Problems

If you’ve managed to find a home that’s in great condition but is visually unappealing, you may have found yourself an excellent fixer upper. Ugly carpet, old appliances, and tacky wallpaper are easy fixes that won’t eat up much of your budget or time.

Asbestos, leaky water lines, a cracked foundation, or a rotted frame are examples of more significant issues that will require the help of a professional. Be wary when investing in a property that has one or several of these problems. They are the kind of issues that snowball into larger costs and a longer timeline for repairs.

Ready to invest in a great fixer upper and tackle it as your next investment? Move forward with the help of your trusted mortgage professional today. Benchmark Mortgage

Remodeling 101: How to Create a Proper Budget for Any Renovation

Remodeling 101: How to Create a Proper Budget for Any Renovation, Large or SmallWhether you’re readying to put your home on the market or you haven’t updated your space in a while and want to modernize, approaching renovations can be a struggle. With so many things to fix up, both large and small, it can seem overwhelming to prioritize, set the money aside and get to work. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to begin with budget, here are some tips for how to properly prioritize so you can maximize your renovation expenditures.

Determine What Is Most Important

Whether it’s the tile floor in your bathroom or the outdated kitchen sink, if the need for an upgrade in a certain part of your home has been staring you in the face for a while, you’ll want to begin there. By determining your first priority and the no-frills cost assessment of completing it, you can arrive at the cost of what renovating the item will mean. Once you’re in the ballpark, you can then move on to any additional features or accessories that may perk up your basic renovation.

Add A Little Extra To The Budget

The downside of any budget is that unexpected costs will always come along with it, and they can entirely break the bank and your original projections. Instead of hoping for the best, add some extra money to the outline of total expenses for your renovation so you can be prepared for some of the hiccups that will come along. This will ensure that you have the financial wherewithal to complete the renovation and won’t be disappointed in the final outcome for your finances.

Consider Where You Can Cutback

Whether you’ve been dreaming of a new living room set for a while or replacing the flooring in the kitchen, you can update the area of your choice while still economizing in other ways. For example, if you’re going for modern eclectic in your living room, you may want to splurge on an updated couch, but you may be able to save by purchasing a retro coffee table online or a unique side chair that’s secondhand to go along with it. This may provide a unique upgrade, without all the expense of in-store purchases.

It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to revamping your house, but it’s important to start with what you really can’t live without and move outward from there. If you’re curious about home renovations and how they can improve the market value of your home, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional for refinancing options that will work for your situation.

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Three Immediate Upgrades To Make In Your Historic Home

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make ImmediatelyWhile some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. These older homes can sometimes be a much better investment than a brand new home. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home.

The Electrical Panel

Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home.

Re-Plumbing the Pipes

A quick plumbing inspection will tell you if the home has copper, steel or other materials used with piping. The best material is copper because it is resistant to leaking, corrosion and rusting. Steel pipes generally should be replaced with copper as soon as possible. Other materials, such as cast iron, may be acceptable to keep in place. However, sections may need to be replaced if the pipes are more than 50 years old.

Firestops in the Structure

The good news about the structure of older homes is that they are generally better built than newer homes. However, most lack the critical feature of a firestop. A firestop essentially can minimize how fire travels through a home. Adding firestops to an older home can improve safety for the home’s occupants in the event of a fire and can minimize fire damage.

It is understandable that you will likely want to retain the historic character and charm of your older home. These may have been the features that you fell in love with when you bought it. However, you also want to ensure that the home has modern features that will make it comfortable and safe for you and your family to live in.

 

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Factors That Determine Your Home’s Resale Value

What Factors Determine Your Home's Resale Value? Let's Take a LookThere are several factors that will help you determine the value of your home when you want to sell it. Location, condition, layout, upgrades, and events relating to your home are all important when selling your home.

It’s All About Location

Anyone in real estate will tell you location, location, location is the first thing to consider when buying real estate. If your home is on a busy street, it’s going to be harder to sell unless someone is looking for that exact location.

If a buyer is looking to have a business inside the home, then having more exposure could be important. However, for a family, the most sought after location is in a cul-de-sac or dead-end street where traffic is kept to a minimum.

Your Home’s Condition Is Important

The home you are selling must be in excellent condition to ensure you get top dollar. Buyers are primarily looking for a home that is in move-in condition. If it needs painting, new flooring, a new roof, or new plumbing, it isn’t as desirable as a home that doesn’t need any work. Newer homes typically are in better condition than older homes, unless they have been well-maintained.

Your Home’s Layout

Is your floor plan functional? Most buyers prefer homes with open floor plans and ample kitchens, living areas, and bathrooms. Closets are also important as everyone needs storage space. The number of bedrooms a home has can also be important. Two bedrooms aren’t as popular or functional as three or four bedrooms. It’s also nice to have a flex room that can be a study, exercise room, or a formal dining room if need be. If a smaller home is well-designed, it can be easier to resale than a larger home.

Upgrades And Renovations

If you have an older home, but have upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, then your home will be easier to sell. Updated appliances can also be a big plus when selling a home.

Natural Disasters And Other Events

If your home has been flooded, been through a fire, or damaged from wind or a storm, then that may cause the value to be less. If a buyer happens to talk to a neighbor who tells them a negative story, that may spook a buyer and cause them to look elsewhere.