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Last-Minute Halloween Decorations

By Virtual Results

Last-Minute Halloween DecorationsThe big day is here! Halloween is one of those holidays that some people – especially kids – look forward to all year. Handing out candy to trick-or-treaters or inviting people over for a party is one of the pleasures of the season. But if you waited until the last minute to decorate your house for Halloween, don’t worry. There are quite a few quick and easy things you can do to make your home look spooktacular! These are our favorites.

Trash-bag spider

If you have a black plastic trash bag or two handy, then you have everything you need to make a spider. All you have to do is fill one bag with leaves or paper. Then cut long strips from the other for the legs and tape them on. Place it wherever you like! This is a perfect decoration for outdoors.

Paper bats

Another easy last-minute Halloween decoration you can make is bats. Just grab some black construction paper and draw flying bats on the pieces. Cut them out and attach them to the walls or the ceiling. If you have fishing line or even thread, you can also attach them to the bats and hang them from the ceiling so they look like they’re flying.

Floating witch hats

While you’ve got the black construction paper out, you can also make floating witch hats. Simply cut and tape the hats together and then hang them from the ceiling with fishing line or thread. These also look great hanging on your front porch.

Wine bottle mummies

Make your bar look a tad creepier by crafting a few wine bottle mummies. All you need to do is wrap the bottle with white ribbon or even masking tape and then stick on a pair of googly eyes.

Door mummy

Continuing with the mummy theme, you can turn your front door into a giant mummy, too! Just take some white party streamers and wrap your door in them. Tape on some scary-looking eyes to complete the look.

Pumpkin cooler

Another great idea for your bar will also keep your drinks cold. Simply take a pumpkin and carve out the inside. Then fill it with ice and bottles of your favorite beverage. It’s both practical and adorable!

Toilet paper pumpkins

If you have some orange or yellow scrap fabric laying around, then try making toilet paper pumpkins. This is one craft that couldn’t be easier. Simply wrap a roll of toilet paper in the fabric. Add a stick to the top and you’re done!

Pumpkin balloons

Another easy way to make pumpkin decorations is with balloons. Blow up orange balloons either with air or with helium if you have it. Then cut out eyes, noses, and mouths from black construction paper and tape them on. You can also draw them on with a black marker.

Tomato cage ghosts

Finally, don’t forget to add a spooky Halloween element to your yard, too. If you have tomato cages left over from your summer garden, you can turn them into ghosts. Turn each cage upside down and put a white pillow case over the top. Add eyes and a mouth with a black marker or paint. You can even make them glow by adding string lights inside. Your guests will love them!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Common Halloween Home Insurance Claims

By Virtual Results

Common Halloween Home Insurance ClaimsHalloween is the scariest time of the year, and not just for those adorable trick-or-treaters. In fact, there are more home insurance claims on Halloween than on any other day of the year. As a homeowner, you need to know what kinds of claims are common on this holiday so you know what to avoid. Let’s take a closer look.

Fires from candles

It just doesn’t feel like Halloween unless you have a jack o’ lantern glowing with the flames from a candle. But those candles can wreak havoc on your home. It doesn’t take much for a candle to get knocked over, which can set everything around it ablaze. If you are going to use real candles as part of your decor, then keep an eye on them. And don’t forget to blow them out when the night is over. Better yet, use battery-operated candles instead. They look just the real thing and eliminate the hazards of a real flame.

Fires from decorations

Lighting is the key to making your Halloween display look extra spooky. Many homeowners like to create elaborate displays outdoors for people to enjoy on Halloween. One very popular type of decoration is inflatables. These are plugged into an extension cord to inflate them and light them up. Unfortunately, extension cords can be a major source of accidental fires. If you’re using an extension cord outside for your Halloween decorations, then make sure you are using those that are made to be outside. If you use an interior extension cord, it can overheat and cause a fire.

Vandalism

It’s not too surprising that home insurance claims for vandalism spike on Halloween. It is, after all, a holiday that celebrates mischief. Some of the more common vandalism claims on Halloween are caused by eggs thrown at houses, rocks thrown through windows, or toilet paper tossed into trees. Unfortunately, even more extreme vandalism can occur on Halloween that could displace you from your home. You can help to avoid this situation by keeping your home secure on Halloween. This includes keeping lights on both inside and outside and locking your doors and windows. If you’re not home, use a timer to turn the lights on and off.

Theft

Along with vandalism, theft is another common home insurance claim during the Halloween season. A large percentage of these thefts occur at home. Thieves will steal things such as decorations, bikes, scooters, and even cars. Criminals may also attempt to break into your home to steal your belongings. As mentioned above, the best way to prevent this type of claim is to make it look like you are home and active – even if you aren’t.

Injury

Finally, you don’t want your home to be the scene of an accident. Unfortunately, that can happen all too often on Halloween. To protect yourself and your guests, take the necessary steps to keep your home free from things that might cause an accident. Provide plenty of light so that those wearing costumes can clearly see. Keep walkways free from debris. And keep dogs and other pets away from guests. Even if your dog has a calm disposition, it can act out because of all the activity of the season.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Save on Your Electric Bills

By Virtual Results

Save on Your Electric BillsWe’re all feeling the crunch of inflation. As colder weather approaches, you may be worrying about how to keep up with your home energy costs – particularly electricity. With longer nights and colder temperatures, electricity bills can skyrocket during these fall and winter months. Fortunately, there are ways you can curb your electricity bills so they don’t take such a big bite out of your bank account. Follow these tips to help you realize savings on your electricity bills now and during every season.

Check into energy audits

Did you know that many utility companies offer home energy audits to their customers – for free? These audits help you determine where you can save money on your utility costs. Contact your utility company to see if they offer this program in your area. If not, you can also perform one of your own.

Keep the fridge stocked

Here’s something you may not know – keeping your fridge and freezer full will help you save on your energy costs. The food inside your fridge and freezer can provide insulation. That means your fridge does not need to run as often to stay cool. So stock up!

Use those ceiling fans

Ceiling fans aren’t just great for keeping you cool. They can actually help you be more efficient. By using your ceiling fans, you can keep the air circulating in your home. When you do, your air conditioner and heater don’t have to work as hard to keep things at a comfortable temperature.

Use power strips

This may also surprise you – did you know that appliances that are plugged in but turned off still consume electricity? These so-called phantom loads are caused by TVs, computers, kitchen appliances, and stereos, among others. To curb the costs of these phantom loads, plug these appliances into a power strip. When those appliances are not in use, turn off the power strip, although be careful with appliances like furnaces as this could damage them, although you can also use a service like furnace replacement in Arlington, TX in case you need a new one.

Keep your HVAC maintained

One of the best ways to keep your energy costs in check is to have your HVAC system serviced every year by a professional ac service and furnace service that provides furnace replacement in Mentor. This ensures that your system is running efficiently. An added bonus is that it also helps to keep the air in your home cleaner. While you’re at it, make sure you change your HVAC filters regularly. Furthermore, you may upgrade your home insulation installation to improve your home’s overall energy-efficiency.

Switch to LEDs

If you haven’t gotten on the LED bandwagon, then now is the time to do it. LED light bulbs are far more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs – up to 90 percent, in fact. If you’re concerned about the upfront cost of switching, then start with the bulbs you use the most. Change the others as you are able.

Turn down your hot water heater

Another big drain on energy in your home is heating your water. To see savings on your energy bill, turn the temperature down on your hot water heater. Aim to keep it between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For added savings, put an insulation jacket on your hot water heater and insulate the first six feet of pipe that extends from it. You’ll be glad you did!

If you have more questions on how you can save on your electric bills, then you may consult a residential electric professional.

What to Look for in a Neighborhood

By Virtual Results

What to Look for in a NeighborhoodA lot goes into buying a home. Not only are you looking for a home that meets all your needs, but you’ll also be looking for a neighborhood that does the same. These are big decisions, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. While you may already know what you’re looking for in a home, have you thought about what you want in a neighborhood? If you’re still determining what kind of neighborhood you’d like to move to, then here are the questions you should ask yourself.

Is it a safe neighborhood?

One of the most important considerations you should evaluate when looking for a neighborhood is its safety. This is particularly true if you have young children. You want them to grow up in a safe environment. You can research a neighborhood’s safety by checking the crime statistics in the area. We also recommend driving or walking around the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a feel for how safe and secure it is.

Is it easy to get from one place to another?

Another thing you should consider when looking at a neighborhood is how easy it is to get from one place to another. Is the neighborhood close to the main streets and highways? Will you have easy access to public transportation with bus or train stations nearby? Is there a local airport? In addition, think about whether you’ll be able to walk or bike to nearby amenities, such as parks, restaurants, grocery stores, and local attractions.

Is it safe for bikes?

Speaking of bikes, is the neighborhood safe for bicyclists? Do the local roads include bike lanes? Are there places to park and lock up bikes near popular destinations? Do local public transit options allow you to take a bike aboard? When you visit, do you see other residents riding their bikes in the neighborhood?

Is there noise?

Nobody wants to live near noise, whether it’s street noise or noisy neighbors. Living in a peaceful environment and getting a good night’s sleep are important to most buyers. So, if possible, visit the home a different times of the day to see what kind of ambient noise you may be dealing with. Check to see how close the property is to busy streets as well as commercial districts. Also, take into consideration how close the house is to the neighbors. The closer you are, the more likely sounds from the neighbors might annoy you.

What amenities are nearby?

You should also check out what kinds of amenities are close to the home that you may enjoy. Look for parks, cultural attractions, nature preserves, restaurants, and conveniences such as grocery stores, banks, and gas stations. Having these amenities close by may be more important to you than you realize.

How connected is the community?

Finally, you should also look for signs that residents are actively engaged with the community. Are people out walking their dogs? Do they utilize public spaces? Are there frequent community events such as live music or even fundraisers? Moving to a neighborhood where residents are actively engaged in the community can be a real asset and even influence the value of your home.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Cleaning Your Gutters

By Virtual Results

Cleaning Your GuttersIs cleaning your gutters on your to-do list this weekend? Fall is an important time to tackle this as dead leaves and other debris accumulate in your gutters and downspouts. Keeping gutters clear of debris helps to prevent the damage that can occur to your home and landscaping from water runoff. While you can certainly hire someone to clean your gutters, it’s also a task you can complete yourself. If you’re ready to clean your gutters, then here’s what you need to know to do it right the first time.

Dress appropriately

You should wear the proper gear when you’re cleaning your gutters. Wear a long-sleeved shirt as well as work pants. Remember – you’re probably going to get dirty. And some of the things you remove from your gutters could harm sensitive skin. So use a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Use a sturdy ladder

When you clean your gutters, you’re going to need a sturdy and extendable ladder. Make sure to place the ladder on an even service. If possible, have another person nearby who can help to stabilize the ladder. Practice ladder safety by never climbing above the second-to-last rung or extending your reach. If you feel uncomfortable on a ladder, then you should consider having a professional do the job.

Cleaning the gutters

Try to time your cleaning so that it is a few days after it rains. This allows debris to dry out, making it easier to remove. Start by removing debris near the downspout, then work toward the opposite end. You can put the debris you remove in a bucket or lay a tarp on the ground beneath you to catch the debris. Use your hands or a gutter scoop to remove compacted debris. Once all the debris has been removed, flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose. Start at the far end and work toward the downspout. Avoid spraying under the roof shingles. This will remove any remaining debris. It will also alert you to any cracks or leaks in the gutters.

Check downspouts

If the water isn’t flushing quickly out of your downspouts, then they may be clogged. Try to dislodge the clog by spraying directly down the spout at full pressure. If this does not work, then feed the hose into the downspout from the ground and try again. If this also fails to work, then try using a plumber’s snake to release the clog.

Check for damages and make repairs

As you clean the gutters, check for damages. This could include cracks or leaks in the gutters or downspouts or sagging gutters. These leaks could lead to water damage that may require professional water damage restoration. Fortunately, many gutter repairs are easy to complete. If your gutters are sagging or don’t slope properly, detach them from the hangers and adjust. Seal leaks or cracks with gutter sealant following the instructions on the label. If you want to take it a step further, you may finally take on a roof replacement project which will not only increase your home’s resale value but also boost your curb appeal. You may also consider pressure-washing the outside of the gutters to remove dirt and mildew. Then touch up the paint, if needed.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Autumn Curb Appeal for Home Sellers

By Virtual Results

Autumn Curb Appeal for Home SellersCozy season is in full swing! Fall is such a magical time of the year, making it an excellent season to sell your home. This is especially true if you have trees changing color in your landscape, making it all the more attractive. But just because Mother Nature is lending a helping hand with your curb appeal doesn’t mean you can’t chip in, too. If you’re preparing to sell your home this fall, then here are our favorite tips for amping up your curb appeal.

Stay on top of maintenance

Just because the leaves are beautiful colors doesn’t mean you should let them pile up in your yard. To make your home attractive to buyers, you need to stay on top of maintenance. This means keeping the lawn mowed, raking up leaves, cutting back dead plants, and patching up the grass where needed.

Add fall plants and flowers

Every garden center in America is chock full of gorgeous fall plants and flowers. Take advantage of this bounty by bringing a few home for your front yard. You can plant them in your flower beds or display them in attractive containers. Create a beautiful focal point around your front door by grouping colorful mums and other fall flowers around it. You can also add a seasonal wreath as well as a few pumpkins or gourds to add to its appeal.

Clean the exterior

During the summer, your home’s exterior is less noticeable behind the trees and shrubs. But once these plants go dormant, your house is on full display. You can ask the advice of a tree service regarding tree trimming and other tree services. You can also make it look great by power-washing the exterior and cleaning the windows. Touch up chipped paint and paint the front door an eye-catching color. You may even repair your vinyl siding or install a new one. Also, consider power-washing your sidewalks and driveways. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!

Check the gutters

Homebuyers will be checking out every square inch of your home – including the gutters. While nobody likes to drag out the ladder and clean the gutters, it’s an essential task that must be completed. Clean out all the dead leaves and debris that have accumulated in the gutters and downspouts.

Decorate simply

We understand the impulse to go all out with seasonal decorations this time of year – especially for Halloween. But you should keep that impulse in check if you’re selling your home. Opt for seasonal decorations like pumpkins and mums instead of scary decorations like monsters and ghosts. And remember – less is more when you’re decorating your home for sale.

Replenish mulch

After you’ve cleaned up your garden beds, then add a new layer of mulch to them. This will make them look clean, tidy, and fresh. It will also prepare garden beds for the coming winter.

Don’t forget the lights

Finally, don’t forget to light up your home’s exterior. Since it now gets dark much earlier, many of your potential buyers may be seeing your home after the sun sets. Ensure they can still get a good look at home by washing lighting fixtures. Consider swapping out your porch light for a new one and adding simple solar lights to your yard for added appeal.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Maximizing the Profit on Your Home Sale

By Virtual Results

Maximizing the Profit on Your Home Sale

Are you worried you may have missed your chance to make a killing on your home sale? While the market has been shifting as a result of rising mortgage rates and home prices, it’s still a seller’s market. If you’re selling your home, then you’re still in a good position for a favorable outcome. However, there are things you can do to ensure you get the most profit possible from your home sale. Let’s take a closer look.

Know the comps

If you’re selling your home, then it’s essential to know what’s happening in the market in your neighborhood. This means researching comparable sales that have happened in your location in the last few months. Look for homes that are the same size as yours with similar amenities. You should then use that information to help you determine the listing price for your home. If you list for more than local comps, then buyers will most likely be turned off. Conversely, if you list for less, then buyers may be worried there is something wrong with the home. Pricing it just right is the key. You should lean on your real estate agent for expert advice on how to price your home appropriately.

Be strategic about your listing price

In addition to knowing the comps, you should also be strategic in pricing your home for sale. For example, if research shows that you should price your home for $400,000, consider pricing it for just under that amount – say, $399,999. It will make the home seem less expensive and will show up in more buyer searches.

Understand your potential buyers

When you sell your home, you need to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. What is it about your home that is so attractive? Is your home spacious or does it have great views? Do you have plenty of space to entertain or a spare room to use as a home office? Maybe your home is all on one floor, making it perfect for those who want to age in place. Know what buyers in your area may be looking for so you know what amenities of your home to highlight. Don’t forget to include area amenities, such as proximity to public transportation or being located in a highly-rated school district. These are all things you should emphasize when marketing your home for sale.

Declutter and depersonalize

Finally, we can’t emphasize this point enough. You must declutter and depersonalize your home before you list it. This means going through all the closets, cabinets, drawers, and storage spaces. If you need to, then pack up items and store them in a rented self storage unit during your sale. Once you’ve decluttered, you need to clean your home from top to bottom. Buyers will look in every corner of your home, so no shortcuts. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. And don’t forget to remove all personal items from your home. This includes family photos, travel souvenirs, and even sports team memorabilia. You want buyers to be able to imagine themselves in the home, which will be tough to do if your home is personalized to your tastes.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What to Know About Fixer-Uppers

By Virtual Results

What to Know About Fixer-Uppers

Although changes are happening in the housing market, buyers are still facing stiff competition. For some, this can mean being more open to a house that could use some work. “Fixer-uppers” have become popular options, especially with the number of television programs that show run-down homes being transformed into beautiful palaces. But buying a fixer-upper presents unique challenges, and you shouldn’t go into a deal without knowing what you might encounter. If you’re considering buying a home that could use some work, then this is what you should know.

Know the types of fixer-uppers

There are different types of fixer-uppers and they can present entirely different sets of challenges to buyers. One type of fixer-upper is an ugly house. The name is pretty self-explanatory. These are homes that are unattractive, have peeling paint, have yards that have gone wild, or have unusual smells. Most ugly houses are just in need of a cosmetic refresh. On the other hand, some fixer-uppers are actual wrecks. These are homes that need significant repairs, such as a new foundation, new plumbing, or a new roof.

Understand the costs of a fixer-upper

Knowing the type of fixer-upper you’re considering will help you understand the costs you may encounter as a buyer. Ugly houses will have fewer expensive repairs. Most of the costs will be associated with updating the interiors and landscaping. You may also encounter properties that will require you to hire a concrete foundation contractor to conduct foundation repairs. Homes that are wrecks, however, will most likely require repairs that will be very expensive. Some may have problems that can’t be solved, such as pervasive mold. Neglected homes may also have rodent problems which might require the services of a rodent exterminator. Similarly, you may discover other types of pests like bed bugs and you may have to look into bed bug pest control services. When you buy a home needing these sorts of repairs, costs could run into the tens of thousands of dollars, or even much more.

Research the loans available for fixer-uppers

If you’re buying a home that needs extensive repairs, then you’ll be happy to know that there are certain types of loans for homes like these. You may qualify for a renovation loan, for example. Or you can research a 203(k) loan, which is backed by the Federal Housing Authority. 203(k) loans often have lower interest rates and are available to those with lower credit scores. But there are lending limits and you must meet the qualifications.

Estimate your repair costs

No matter what type of fixer-upper you want to buy, you need to estimate your repair costs before making an offer on the home. You don’t want to finish the deal only to discover that you’ll need far more money for repairs than you anticipated. Research the costs of renovations in your area and talk to friends and family who may have recently had similar repairs done. Give yourself some wiggle room because there are always unexpected costs that arise.

Negotiate the purchase price

Finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate the purchase price of a fixer-upper. If you’re able to offer all cash, then you could get a significant discount. Talk to the seller about the time and costs you expect for repairs and ask for a break on the price to accommodate those costs. And if you need to live elsewhere while the repairs are happening, don’t forget to factor in those costs.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Negotiating Tips for First-Time Buyers

By Virtual Results

Negotiating Tips for First-Time BuyersBuyers have faced stiff competition for the last couple of years in the housing market. There has been a huge demand for homes, but not enough homes on the market to meet that demand. As a first-time buyer, this can be an intimidating market to jump into. But the good news is that the market has begun to cool. There are more opportunities for buyers and more room for first-time buyers to enter the market. Buyers are even finding that they have more opportunities to negotiate than they have recently. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, then this is what you need to know about negotiating your home purchase.

The market is changing

First of all, buyers should be aware that the market is beginning to change. Mortgage rates have risen and home prices continue to make gains. This has dampened the frenzy that has characterized the market during the pandemic. Home sales are down, making it easier for buyers to negotiate.

You can make an offer below the asking price

Just a few months ago, it was not uncommon for a seller to receive multiple offers above the asking price. But as the market changes, more sellers may be willing to make deals. As a first-time homebuyer, pay attention to how long a home has been on the market. You should also look for homes that have reduced their asking prices. These are both good indications that you may be successful in submitting an offer below the asking price. Work with your agent to determine a price that makes sense for your local market.

Insist on a home inspection

One tactic that serious buyers were using to make a winning offer was to waive the home inspection contingency. Fortunately, the market has shifted enough in recent months that buyers can once again feel comfortable insisting on a home inspection as part of the deal. If you waive the inspection, then you could potentially be on the hook for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars of needed repairs on a home. It is in your best interest to insist on a home inspection, and in this market, you’re more likely to receive it.

Don’t rule out other contingencies

Contingencies are certain conditions that must be met for a home sale to go through. As we said above, many buyers over the last two years have waived important contingencies in their desperation to buy a home. In addition to not waiving the home inspection contingency, you can also ask to include an appraisal contingency. When you buy a home with a loan, the lender will perform an appraisal to determine the value of the property. But what happens if the appraisal comes in lower than the price you have offered the seller? If you have an appraisal contingency, you’ll be able to walk out of the deal or renegotiate the selling price with no penalties.

Consider closing costs

Finally, as a first-time buyer, you can consider asking the seller to contribute to the closing costs of the home. Closing costs are typically anywhere from three to seven percent of the home price. Many motivated sellers will be willing to pay for some or even all of the closing costs, so it’s worth asking.

Compliments of Virtual Results

When Should You Start Your Home Search?

By Virtual Results

When Should You Start Your Home Search?Have you been dreaming about buying a home of your own? Becoming a homeowner is still very much part of the American Dream. But if you’re doing it for the first time – or even the fifth – then you may have many questions about the process. One of the most common questions we get is when you should begin searching for a home. Let’s dive in and find out!

Six months is a good guideline

If you’re serious about buying a home soon, then there’s no reason to postpone your search. Finding just the right home can take time, especially in a market where buyers still outnumber the homes available for sale. As a general guideline, we recommend beginning at least six months before you want to move. And honestly, you can start looking for homes a year before you’d like to resettle.

Starting early helps you discover what you want

One important reason to begin your home search as soon as possible is that it will help you understand what you want. By casually searching homes online, you will get a feeling for the current market. You’ll see what kinds of homes are available and what the prices are like. You can also begin researching different neighbors so that you know where you’d like to focus your search. We always recommend making a list of things you need to have in a home as well as those things you’d like to have. By beginning your search early, you’ll be better able to compose that list. This will be invaluable once you become serious about house hunting.

Know what you can afford

Here’s a helpful tip – have a good idea of what you’re able to afford before you begin your search. You can use an online calculator to quickly discover how much house you can afford. This is going to make your search much easier. It will also save you headaches and stress down the line. Nobody should purchase a home they can’t reasonably afford. So knowing your budget from the beginning can help you avoid getting your heart set on a home that’s out of reach.

Continue saving

Another excellent reason to begin your home search early is that it can provide an incentive to save as much money as possible. The more you have saved for a down payment, the better position you’ll be in. You’ll have more choices when it comes to home loans. Your offer will be more appealing to a seller with a larger down payment. You’ll also qualify for better terms on your loan. Having more money saved will open more possibilities in your search.

Attend open houses

We also advise that you begin attending open houses early in your search. Nothing beats seeing a home in person. Being able to walk through homes will give you a better sense of what works for you and what doesn’t. It also allows you to explore new neighborhoods and check out the competition.

The bottom line

Ultimately, it’s never too early to begin your home search. The earlier you start, the more prepared you will be when it’s time to hit the gas on your house hunt. If you’re ready to begin your home search, then contact us today!

Compliments of Virtual Results