With the New Year just beginning, it's time to think about resolutions to improve your life. Many people give up bad habits related to their health or finances while others start something new, such as taking a college class or changing jobs.
One of the most important improvements you can make this year involves your home. Make 2020 the year when you make key home improvements, such as these, that'll make it more valuable and appealing:
Foundation and Roof
Start with the basic essentials of your home. Check the foundation for cracks, settling or movement, and have those problems expertly assessed. Do the same for your roof to ensure adequate protection from the elements and to prevent interior damage from leaks due to excessive rain, snow or ice. Keeping these two areas secure will help to ensure your home remains sturdy for years to come.
To increase efficiency and save money on utility bills, schedule inspection and maintenance service calls for your home's utilities. Typically, these include the HVAC system, plumbing and electricity. If those systems are operating effectively but your utility costs remain high, it may be a good idea to add more insulation to your attic or behind the walls for extra protection in keeping your house warm during the colder months. Update your electric panel or wiring if needed to avoid possible shocks or fire in case of a short circuit or lightning strike. Repair plumbing drips and leaks and ensure drainage is working as it should, so water leaks or backups don't cause problems.
If your walls and floors are in generally good condition, consider giving your rooms a fresh coat of paint. New colors will brighten your home, and it's a fairly basic and inexpensive way to change the look of various areas. Add coordinating accents like throw pillows or area rugs, and your house can be automatically updated with a clean, attractive look.
When the weather permits, give your lawn a makeover in time for the spring growing season. Lay down fresh mulch to replace the old and trim dead branches from trees and shrubs. Replace dead plants with new ones, and consider adding patio pavers to enhance the outdoor look of your property.
With minimal cost and effort, you can keep these home improvement resolutions in the year ahead. Benefits include a sense of pride in achieving your goals, as well as daily enjoyment of your renovated living space and lawn!
This was originally published on RISMedia's Housecall.
In October, home prices rose 3.3 percent year-over-year, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic/Case-Shiller Indices, bringing them a milestone 15 percent-plus higher than their last peak, in July 2006.
The complete data for the 20 markets measured by S&P:
Las Vegas, Nev.
Los Angeles, Calif.
New York, N.Y.
San Diego, Calif.
San Francisco, Calif.
"With October's 3.3 percent increase in the national composite index, home prices are currently more than 15 percent above the pre-financial crisis peak reached July 2006," Craig J. Lazzara, of the S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. "As was the case last month, after a long period of decelerating price increases, the national, 10-city and 20-city composites all rose at a modestly faster rate in October compared to September. This stability was broad-based, reflecting data in 12 of 20 cities.
However, "it is, of course, still too soon to say whether this marks an end to the deceleration or is merely a pause in the longer-term trend," cautioned Lazzara.
Heading into 2020, appreciation could temper, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, if builders expand inventory options.
"Demand remains strong and supply is lacking," says Yun. "Moreover, faster price appreciation in warmer Southern states reflect the ongoing migratory trend of people moving out of expensive regions of the country to more affordable parts. In 2020, more home-building activity and consequent growth in supply should tame down home price gains. That's a healthy development for potential homebuyers. Southern cities should once again do better than most other markets."
At the local scale, home prices varied.
"Price trends varied across cities depending in part on affordability constraints and population growth pressures," Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, says. "High-cost markets, where the lack of affordable housing remains a critical issue, had the largest deceleration in price growth from one year ago, with prices declining in San Francisco on an annual basis for the third month in a row. Of the cities in the composite index, Phoenix and Tampa top the list of annual appreciation, reflecting rising demand from strong population growth in Arizona and Florida."
After an exhaustive search, you've finally found and closed on your new home and are ready to move in! While your mind might be all about painting, decorating and buying furniture, don't overlook the important practical steps that should be taken upon arrival.
Consider this helpful move-in guideline from Lowe's to make sure you're safe and sound in your new home...then you can focus on being stylish, too!
1. Change the locks. You can't be sure that the keys to your new home are the only ones in existence, so play it safe and change the locks. Now is a good time to consider home automation with smart locks and keyless entry, too.
2. Reprogram the garage door opener. This is another important safety step for your new home. Most remotes have a reset button, but contact the manufacturer if you're unsure about how to go about it.
3. Know how to shut off the water. This is essential for any new homeowner to know in case of a water emergency. Find the main water shutoff, as well as all outside water spigots. Ask the previous homeowner if you can't find them.
4. Find the main circuit breaker. Make sure you understand how it's labeled, and which switch turns off what. If you're moving into a new construction home, identify the circuits and make your own labels.
5. Test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure there's one smoke detector in every room. Carbon monoxide detectors are needed on each floor. Also, place a fire extinguisher on every level—and learn how to use it.
6. Know what to do if you're locked out. Find a good hiding spot for a spare key, or make friends with a neighbor who can hold onto a spare set.
7. Get to know your HVAC system so that you're comfortable controlling your heating and cooling systems. This will be essential to keeping your energy bills in check. You may also want to install a smart thermostat.
8. Check out your lightbulbs. Look both inside and out and see if you need to make the switch to energy efficient lightbulbs.
9. Replace all toilet seats. It's always a good idea to go with a fresh start in the bathroom!
10. Create an emergency exit plan. Investigate your new home thoroughly and come up with an exit plan for all members of your family in the event of an emergency. Make this your No. 1 priority so you can sleep soundly on your very first night.
Having a pest problem in your home, although irritating, happens more often than you may think. Likely, every homeowner will experience battling pests at some point.
Although you've probably heard of people having rat and roach infestations, people often forget about termites because their effects aren't as visible. Termites are small insects that eat through and live in wood. If you reside in an area where termites are common, it's important you know what to look for:
Despite their small size, termites are actually pretty noisy creatures. In fact, one of the most notable signs that you have termites is the sound they produce, often described as a loud banging. You may be wondering how something so small can make that kind of noise. It's because the worker termites are very loud eaters. If you start hearing this sound, then you may need to call an exterminator.
You Think You Have Ants
At first glance, a termite looks very similar to an ant. Small in size and large in numbers, it's easy to mistake them for ants. However, there's one distinct feature that termites have that ants do not: their color. Termites are often white, which makes them look somewhat transparent. Ants, on the other hand, are either red, brown or black. There's no such thing as a white ant, so if you see an ant that looks transparent, call a termite expert immediately.
Doors and Windows Aren't as Easy to Open
You may be thinking that since termites tend to eat through door and window frames that these areas would be loose and more easy to open; however, this usually is not the case. As termites chew their way through the wood, they leave behind moisture, which causes the wood to become warped. When wood starts to warp, it can make opening your windows and doors more difficult than usual. There are plenty of termite solutions for this, but be sure to act quickly to avoid further restoration costs.
The last notable sign that you have termites are finding their droppings. Also known as frass, termite droppings will surround the area they're inhabiting. Frass is usually black in color and the pellets are tiny. The frass they push out of their tunnels may resemble a mound of black pepper.
If left untreated, termites can cause devastating damage to your home. Make sure to take precautions in preventing them, and call an exterminator should the need arise!
This was originally published on RISMedia's Housecall.