Choosing the Right Siding for Your Home

 

Thinking of replacing the siding on your house, but uncertain what material to use? Here’s the pros and cons to consider.  

 

Vinyl- Vinyl siding is cheap and durable and most commonly chosen for those reasons. It resists hail and denting but can warp in intense heat. Vinyl needs replaced about every twenty years.  

 

Brick- Durable and classic, brick is still a beautiful choice for a home. Installation can be expensive, depending on how much square footage you have to cover. But brick is sturdy and will last about the lifetime of the home.  

 

Aluminum- Also cheap and durable, aluminum siding is similar to vinyl with a few key differences. It dents more than vinyl but can be repainted and doesn’t warp. With proper care it can last over thirty years.  

 

Wood—Wood siding offers endless creativity and natural beauty, especially as it is unique to each house. But wood also requires a lot of maintenance. Every two years it will need scraped, sanded and repainted. Traditional siding looks classic and beautiful. With proper care, wood siding can last over a hundred years.  

 

Stone veneer- Similar to brick, stone veneer is perfect for a luxury home. While extremely durable, it can be very expensive, both in materials and to install.  

 

Stucco- Made of cement, sand, lime and water, this is solid and seamless. Stucco exteriors are a great insulator and as such is most commonly chosen in areas of extreme heat. Can last up to fifty years.  

 

Hardie Board- A cement fiber board that combines the durability of a stucco and the look of shingles or siding.  

 

Should You Hire Someone? While it’s possible to do it yourself, it might not be worth the hassle if you’ve never done it before. Siding is finnicky, and any mistakes will be noticeable and/or costly. It won’t matter how nice the siding product you’ve chosen will be, if it’s incorrectly installed, it will look cheap and could leak and cause costly repairs. Plus, with a professional contractor, you’re siding product will retain its warranty if anything happens.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

 

Is home ownership easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Here are some common problems that come up with water heaters.

 

“My water is rusty.” If the water only turns rusty when you are running hot water, your water heater may be rusting inside the tank. If your water is rusty whether you are running hot or cold water, the problem is likely in galvanized pipes that are rusting. Commonly the tank itself hasn’t begun rusting, but the anode rod is going bad and will sacrifice itself before corroding through the tank. You can have a professional replace the anode, screwed into the top of the tank. But for a temporary solution to rusty hot water, you can clean out your water heater. Drain some of the water, add hydrogen peroxide to the tank and allow the water and peroxide to sit. Then flush the water heater until the water runs clear. The peroxide chemically reacts with the rust to loosen the corrosion and allow it to be rinsed out, prolonging the life of your water heater. But I recommend allowing a licensed plumber to do this for you. Feel free to contact me for a recommendation.

 

“My water heater is making weird noises.” If your water heater is starting to sound like a scary monster in your basement, a la Home Alone, you may rightly begin side-eyeing it. As water heats up the sediment on the bottom is hardened after a long time of heating and reheating. It’s this hard sediment layer expanding from reheating that makes a noise. This may mean leaks are soon to follow as the sediment leads to more brittle metal.  

 

“There’s no visible leak, but it’s damp around the water heater.” First, double check your fittings and connections. Are they damp or do they show signs of a possible leak? Make sure the pressure overflow pipe isn’t leaking as well. But if those are all dry, it means the water heater is leaking. The leak may be so small as to avoid obvious detection. As the metal heats and expands, it can create tiny holes in brittle metal that are only open when it’s expanded from heat. As it cools, the holes will close.  

 

“My water heater just looks old, when should I replace it?” Water heaters older than ten years should be watched closely (or you should start saving for the replacement, if your tank is in a place where it won’t cause any damage). You can determine the age of your water heater by looking at the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. The first letter indicates the month (A-Jan, B-Feb, C-Mar, D-April, E-May, F-June, H-July, I-August, J-September, K-October, L-November, M- December). The next two digits represent the year. If in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website.

 

Feel free to reach out if you have any other concerns with your water heater that weren’t mentioned above. I’d love to help!

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

How to Pick the Right Flooring

 

Go to any flooring store and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with options for your home. What might be worse is having a specific idea of what you want and finding it might be the wrong fit for the area of your home you’d like to put it in. Read on for a rundown of the types of flooring and where they are best suited in your home.   

 

Hardwood—Hardwood is the most popular choice these days, with nearly endless options, and a classic choice that is nearly always in style. In high traffic areas such as kitchens or entry’s it’s best to go with a durable hardwood such as oak. But if you’re looking at covering something like the bedrooms, you could consider a cheaper, softer alternative such as pine. Whatever you chose, you will need to be mindful of dents and scratches and expect to refinish the floors every ten years or so to keep them looking fresh.  

 

Carpet—Classic and comfortable, carpet is still a great inexpensive choice for places like bedrooms where comfort is valued over everything. Just whatever you do, don’t put carpet in the bathroom (this was a trend back in the day!).  

 

Concrete—Concrete can actually be a great option for homes, especially in high traffic wet areas such as laundry rooms, entries, basements, or large rooms off a pool area. Glazed concrete has a beautiful, rich sheen and can be installed with tile scores to resemble large tile or left as a solid, unbroken piece. It’s a modern, relatively inexpensive, and long-lasting choice.  

 

Laminate—These days laminate is not the roll of yellowing vinyl you remember from your grandmother’s kitchen. This solid, cheap workhorse, has been reborn. Laminate now comes in wood-like and tile options and can be a cheap, nice looking alternative to wood, especially in high traffic or water prone areas such as bathrooms and mudrooms.  

 

Tile—Another versatile option for your floors. Tile comes in a wide range of options, from economical choices like ceramic to luxury options like granite, and everything in between. Tile is easy to clean and maintain and provides a durable, long lasting floor. It can potentially be a DIY project, but if you have any doubt or a large project it’s best to hire an experience professional.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Outdoor Lighting for Everyone

 

Well planned outdoor lighting can give any house an upgrade, as well as making it safer and a more relaxing space. But it can be one of the costliest parts of your landscaping. Outdoor lighting doesn’t have to break your budget. Here is how to plan outdoor lighting for any price range.

 

What is Your Goal? What do you want to accentuate? Do you have any safety concerns to address first? Do you need light for security or ambiance? Understanding what you need will help you make a responsible plan and prevent you from overspending once you are at the store or with the landscaper and electrician.

 

Solar Powered or Wired? Look at your existing infrastructure. Would you need to install all solar powered lights? Do you need to bury wires? Or is there an existing outlet near where you need lights? Do you have the budget to hire an electrician to put in an outlet or wire your lights into your home? Is it cheaper to install exclusively solar or wireless? Answering these questions will give you a good idea of how much your project will cost or where you can trim expenses.

 

DIY or Hire A Professional? If you have a simple setup and know your needs, doing it yourself can be a cheap alternative. Floodlights start at about $10 per piece, deck lights can be had for around $10 a strand. Wireless and solar start around $20-30, depending on the size and wattage of the light you need. Basic single stick solar lights are sold in packs for $20-$60. If a decorative light effect is what you are after, those options begin at $80 a piece. If you have a large area to light, a complex concept, are working with a mature landscape, or are unsure of what you need, it can be a good idea to at least speak with a professional and find a way to work in your budget.

 

Don’t forget you can complete a plan in phases. Maybe right now you simply need a security light on your back deck and some solar lights leading to the front door, but you know later on you would like a complete lighting overhaul. Figuring out your goals now can help you budget and save for the eventual lighting you would like to install.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Healthy Gutters, Healthy Home

 

Gutters are the teeth of the house. When they start to go, everything else does to. (Or is it the feet?) Whatever the terrible analogy, healthy gutters are key to keeping your home healthy. They are designed to keep your home free from water damage. When they start to fail, the leaks can damage the fascia board, siding and, quickly, the foundation itself. Here’s what to look for to diagnose a vulnerable gutter system.  

 

Paint is peeling and/or there are signs of rust beginning. Gutter paint is designed to withstand moisture, but not continuous moisture or standing water. When the paint begins to peel or you notice red spots on the paint, it’s a sign the water isn’t flowing away naturally and something is wrong.  

 

Water marks below your gutters. Look at the grass and flower beds after a heavy rain and see if there are any marks in the earth or flattened grass or plants from where water poured directly over/through the gutter rather than being siphoned away appropriately into a downspout. Seeing signs of water where it shouldn’t be, is another indication of a failing gutter system.  

 

Gutters are sagging. Anytime your gutters are sagging it indicates sitting water or a clogged gutter pulling the gutter away from the house. It might be something as simple as a pile of leaves weighing it down, but you anytime you see this is an indication you need to keep a closer eye on the gutters.  

 

Cracks in the gutter or downspoutCracks occur most frequently during the winter, from sitting water melting and refreezing.  

 

In order to prevent problems, you should clean out your gutters every spring and fall at the least. But checking your gutters before a big rainstorm will make sure that there are no accidental leaks or damage that goes unnoticed.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Hidden Costs of Home Buying

 

Buying a house can feel a bit like a game of whack-a-mole—hit one thing down and another pops up. Here are four costs you might not anticipate in the home buying process.

 

1. The Inspection: It’s easy to remember the inspection is a hurdle to buying a home, but we often forget it’s also a financial hurdle. An inspection can cost a few hundred dollars, and doesn’t guarantee the house will pass inspection, so keep that in mind and be prepared.

2. Bringing cash to the table: Closing costs are expected, but what isn’t anticipated is how much extra cash you might need to bring to the closing table. Some lenders require you to pay a year’s taxes and mortgage upfront. And if the seller paid any expenses, you’ll be required to pay back a pro-rated amount.

3. The move: Whether you plan to move yourself or hire someone, moving can carry loads of additional costs. If hiring movers, make sure you get quotes from a few companies and ask for referrals from friends.

4. Immediate costs: It’s important to budget for the immediate costs of home ownership like changing locks, utility fees, as well as the unanticipated expenses in the first year of owning your home.

 

Set aside some savings now and you won’t have to rely on your credit card through these unanticipated expenses. The same does not apply to your next game of whack-a-mole.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Winter To-Do’s for a Year-Round Tidy Home

Winter is not for yard work, it’s for hibernation, buttery holiday treats, and long Netflix binges. But keep these to-do’s in mind when it comes to home maintenance in the winter season and it will pay-off all year long.

Outdoors:

  1. Bring out the snow blower and make sure it’s in good working order, with gas and oil
  2. Stock up on supplies before the winter storms. Salt, shovels, and de-icers sell out quick during an impeding storm
  3. Check for ice dams—ice that accumulates along the eaves of your roof and can cause damage to shingles, gutters and siding. Removing them with a roof rake will keep you from potentially harming your roof

Indoors:

  1. Check and change filters in your heating systems
  2. Bring in firewood as needed, but store it outside long-term to reduce the risk of bugs
  3. Check your boiler levels
  4. If you have a generator, make sure it’s in good running order and has fuel
  5. Prepare in advance. Before the storms hit is the time to make sure you have supplies for a big storm. Water, supplies, food, and first aid should all be arranged before the big rush

Home Maintenance Tips for the Fall

When the nights get chilly and the pumpkin spice latte is back, that can only mean one thing. It’s time to do fall home maintenance. Take a weekend and use it as an excuse for donuts. You’ll rest assured all winter.

  1. Seal your windows. A lot of energy is lost around windows and doors. Did you know you can get a free energy assessment from Duke Energy? If you’re not up for scheduling that service, you could alternatively seal any air leaks that you notice, or seal up old windows for the season.
  2. Repair caulking. Cracked caulking can be repaired fairly easily by scraping out the old caulk with a blade and installing a new strip of caulk.
  3. Check you weather-stripping. Inspect the inside of door frames for damaged weather stripping. Weather stripping can come with an adhesive backing and costs merely a few dollars. But replacing damaged weather stripping could save tens of dollars each month so it’s worthwhile to check into this.
  4. Vacuum upholstered furniture and drapes. It’s one of those things we can all remember our mothers and grandmothers doing, but never seem to remember it’s up to us. Try to vacuum these pieces the next time you pull out the vacuum since it’s that time of year.
  5. Window washing. When you’re doing the drapes, it’s a great time to get the interior sides of your windows. Feel free to reach out to me if you need the name of a good window cleaning professional who can also address the exterior of your windows.
  6. Spot clean carpets and furniture. Fall is a great time to do a yearly spot clean any stains on carpets or furniture. Remember to do a test spot clean on the corner first before cleaning a stain that is in the center of a piece.

If you’re having a hard time getting going, here’s a list of donuts you can get first: chocolate glazed, Boston cream, cinnamon sugar, toasted coconut, jelly, cake, sprinkles. Donuts and fall chores go together like pumpkin spice and lattes.

Four Steps to Get Ready to Buy

Buying a home in Charlotte’s real estate market can sometimes feel like watching the news footage on Black Friday sales. Homes are selling within hours and everyone else seems to know to run for the TV in the back, while you’re still trying to get through the door. Having a trusted voice to cut through the noise is the first thing you need, but here’s what else you need to know so you’re ready to buy in Charlotte.

  1. Save: We all know to save for a down payment. What you don’t know is that lenders are also looking for a prospective borrower who has several months’ mortgage payments saved up. A prospective borrower who is only looking for loans that will allow them to put as little down as possible, sometimes 3%, not the typical 20%, is not going to be as competitive as someone with a down payment and savings. Lenders will give a borrower a little wiggle room if they have a lot of savings, but not much for annual earnings or credit score.
  2. Check your credit score: The higher your credit score, the lower your down payment and/or monthly mortgage payments could be. Tips for improving your credit score? Hack away at credit card debt, don’t apply for any new lines of credit for a few months prior to your home purchase, and avoid closing out any accounts. Wait to make any large purchases like furniture, TVs, etc. until after the closing date of your home.
  3. Get pre-approved: Sellers are getting multiple offers nowadays, and this is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. Get pre-approved, not simply pre-qualified. This means your loan officer will collect financial information, run a full credit report, and give you a clear price range based off a mortgage amount that won’t overextend you on a monthly basis.
  4. But before you buy:. You need to prepare to move on from your current situation. Do you need to sell a home before you can purchase your next property? If you need to sell your home first, you’ll need to get your property ready for the sale. Like yesterday. A real estate agent will help you through this process—see here for how to pick an agent that is the best fit for your situation. If you don’t currently own, is your lease term up in a few months? If so, how much time do you need to find a home? If you’re renting, does your lease convert to a month-to-month term at the end of the lease? If so, how much notice do you need to give your landlord or property manager?

Regardless of the situation, be prepared so you’re not left outside while everyone else manages to grab the good stuff.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Three Phases of Selling Your Home

Like phases of the moon, the process of selling a home can be dark and mysterious, so I’ve broken down the process into three steps below.

  1. Pre-Listing: Putting your home on the market is like getting your property ready for a big party. You don’t want people to come to the house before its ready. Some easy steps.
    1. Declutter. Pack up all items you don’t think you’ll need until after you moving into your new home. Most buyers have difficult time seeing potential in a property when they’re shopping for a home, so it’s important to make your home “move-in ready.”
    2. Paint. As simple as it seems, walls in neutral colors, or bright white, prevent potential buyers from getting distracted when looking at a house they might want to buy.
    3. Maintenance. Schedule a maintenance visit with your HVAC specialist for the air conditioning and hot water heater.
    4. Maid. Hire a service to do a deep clean of your property. Don’t forget to have the windows cleaned inside and out. Potential buyers won’t be able to tell if your windows are clean, but they will definitely be able to spot windows that aren’t.
  2. On the Market: This phase begins with pricing the property right. I can prepare a competitive market analysis for you that takes a lot of factors into account, including: location, heated square footage, amenities nearby, condition, local market conditions, etc. Once showings begin you’ll want to leave your home while showings are being conducted. This is usually the most inconvenient part of the selling process. Request that you receive a certain amount of notice prior to the showing appointment so that you have enough time to get the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and all the clothes into the washing machine.
  3. Contracts & Closing: If you’ve done everything possible to make your property stand out from others who are also trying to sell their homes, you can expect to receive an offer. I’ll present you with the offer(s) and help you negotiate with the buyer’s agent. Deals most frequently fall apart during the appraisal and inspections phase of the transaction. I can help you get over both hurdles. You’ll receive a draft of the settlement statement a few days prior to the closing date that itemizes every debit and credit in the transaction. The house is still yours until the deed records at the register of deeds in the county courthouse.

If you’ve made it to key day, it’s time to celebrate!

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers