Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.

 

 

How To Protect Your Home Investment

Housing prices are slowly becoming a bright spot in the economy with historically low interest rates continuing across the nation.  No one knows, however, where real estate prices will head in the future.  For many individuals, their homes will continue to be their largest asset and a major contributor to building net worth.  Like all investments, you should develop strategies to manage your home prudently.  Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” to consider:

Don’t stretch to purchase the largest home you can.  The reason homes have contributed significantly to the net worth of many people is that owners retain any price appreciation on their entire properties, even though they only put down ten or twenty per cent of the purchase price.  This fact has caused many people to strain their budgets and purchase the largest home they can afford, hoping the increase in the value will more than offset the sacrifices made along the way.

Before embarking on such a strategy, be aware of all the risks.  If home prices start to fall, you could end up owing more than the house is worth.  If your budget is strained to the limit, you might not have money left over to contribute to a retirement account or college savings plan.  It may be better to purchase a home you can comfortably afford.

Do take into account all of your monthly home payments, not just the mortgage.  Include homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance, utilities, garbage collection, cable television, unexpected repairs, taxes and any other obligations.

Don’t take equity out of your home in the form of a home-equity loan or a higher mortgage balance without careful consideration.  While lower interest rates have allowed many homeowners to reduce their monthly mortgage payments, many have also opted to take equity out of their homes and stretch mortgage payments over longer periods.  One of the main advantages of home ownership is that it is a forced savings plan, with part of every mortgage payment going toward equity.  Resist the urge to take the equity and spend it on something else.

Do investigate refinancing when interest rates go down.  If the rate on your mortgage is more than one per cent higher than current interest rates, the cost of refinancing may be worth it.

Do make sure you have adequate insurance.  Your homeowners insurance policy should be sufficient to completely rebuild and refurnish your home in the event of a disaster.  Check with local contractors for the cost-per-square-foot to rebuild in your area.  Check the limits of your policy every year and increase them if needed.  You will probably want a guaranteed replacement clause, which pays for the entire cost of rebuilding your home.

Do inventory everything in your home.  Include everything in your home, systematically working your way around each room  Keep receipts for larger items with the inventory.  This will help substantiate a claim if your home and its contents are every destroyed.

Bottom line: On a long-term basis, a home is a good investment.  By properly managing it, you can make it even better.

Easy Steps for Removing That Musty Smell from Your Home

Because many of our Palos Verdes homes are on a hillside, lower stories are often below the grade and often there is mold growing in the rooms of the lower level.  This musty smell is repugnant to prospective buyers.  A few years ago, I learned from a home inspector that mold prefers natural materials on which to grow.  First, check inside the downstairs closets to see if there is mold on old leather jackets, boots, purses, shoes and remove them from the premises.  Next, visit your local Home Depot or Lowes and purchase bags containing a desiccant and hang them in the closets.  You will see shortly the amount of moisture there is in those spaces.  These bags will need to be replaced every month or so.  Open windows to get fresh air circulating throughout the lower level.  To add a very pleasant and not overwhelming scent, I recommend infusers that can be purchased at most department stores.  The plug-in varieties of deodorizers are obnoxiously strong and I would not recommend your using them.