Date Archives: March 2020

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March
26

Improving your credit can take time, often many months. But there are some things you can do to raise your credit score quickly, even if only by a few points.



Pay Bills on Time
Payment history is the most important factor in FICO scores, accounting for up to 35 percent of a credit score. Paying your bills on time—regardless of whether it's a credit card bill or a utility bill—can significantly improve your score.

Late payments stay on a credit report for seven years. The longer ago they happened, the less they affect credit scores. If a bill goes unpaid long enough, the debt can be sold to a collections agency and will get reported to credit bureaus.

Maintain Low Balances
Keeping a low balance lowers your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of credit you're using. Also called credit usage, it is the second most important factor in credit scores and accounts for 30 percent of a score.

Your credit usage is calculated by dividing the total of your balances by your total credit limits. For example, $3,740 in credit card debt divided by $16,000 in a total credit card limit equals 23 percent usage.

Paying off the balances in full each month should keep the credit utilization rate low, which should preferably be at no more than 30 percent on any one card or in total.

Increase Your Credit Limit
Another part of credit usage is how much your credit limit is. Increasing your limit in small increments by getting a new credit card can lower your credit utilization rate by giving you more money to use. You could also ask your current credit card provider to increase your credit limit. However, using that higher credit card limit could increase your credit usage, so you may want to use it rarely and pay it off in full each month.

Keep Credit Card Accounts Open
Age of credit history has a 15 percent impact on a credit score. Creditors and lenders like to see an average account age of more than five years. Keep your older accounts open to get over the five-year average. While this isn't a quick step to improving your credit score, it's worth keeping in mind for the long-term health of your credit. If you want to see faster results, start by paying your bills on time, using less of your available credit and ask for a credit limit increase.

March
19

There is no higher priority to our entire Century 21 American Homes Family than the safety of our employees, agents, clients and their families.

We are following the CDC on the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In additional to federal and local government guidelines and recommendations we have also taken the following measures:

  • Rescheduling certain events including our Heart of American Homes annual community fundraiser
  • Suspending in person sales meetings, training, and company gatherings for 30 days in all offices. As an alternative virtual options will be used for meetings and trainings.
  • Encouraging employees to exercise caution and take all appropriate health and safety measures, in coordination with their managers
  • Suspending Open Houses until further notice. The risk to our agents, homeowners and buyers is just too great at this time. As an alternative, we are will make technology available to host virtual open houses where possible.

Our Markets remain very active and the home buying and home selling process will look different but can still happen during the coronavirus crisis.

Century 21 American Homes is prepared to assist buyers and sellers overcome obstacles they may face to close on these properties during the current national emergency.

March
16

You may think you have all the bases covered when it comes to fire safety at home, but have you considered your clothes dryer?



Clothes dryers are responsible for nearly 15,000 house fires each year, and according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of dryer fires is a build-up of lint in the system. While you may be vigilant about cleaning your dryer's lint trap, it's also critical to take care of your dryer's vent system as well. Here's how to do it in 10 steps, courtesy of Erie Insurance:

1. Buy a dryer cleaning kit. You can typically purchase a dryer cleaning kit from a home improvement store for under $50. The price will go up depending on the quality of the kit's materials and the length of the cleaning rods. If you have the proper attachments, a household vacuum may work, too.

2. Unplug the dryer. When working on any appliance, be sure to unplug it first for maximum safety. Either unplug your dryer or shut it off via the electrical panel before starting the cleaning process.

3. Pull the dryer away from the wall. You will need plenty of room to access the dryer vent, so pull the dryer as far away from the wall as the hose will allow. 

4. Detach the dryer vent hose. Remove any clamps or screws attaching the hose to the wall or dryer. This could be difficult depending on the length of the hose and where it leads.

5. Clean the moisture sensors. Wipe down the sensors inside your dryer with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. Do this each time you clean the dryer vent or when cycles become inefficient.

6. Clean the hose. Use a vacuum to suction lint from both ends of the hose. Then, use the brush from your cleaning kit to clear out any trapped lint. Keep a wire hanger nearby to snake out debris if necessary. Just be careful to not damage the hose in the process.

7. Reattach the hose. Put the hose back in its place and reattach any clamps or screws. Slide the dryer back against the wall.

8. Clean the exterior vent. Now that the hose is clear, head outside to take care of your home's exterior vent. Remove the vent cover and clean any excess lint to make sure the vent pipe has no obstructions.

9. Run the dryer. Turn the power back on and run the machine empty for 20 minutes, using the air-dry setting. Check for air and lint blowing out of the exterior vent. Then, turn off the dryer and put the cover back on once the vent is clear.

10. Consider a pro. Don't hesitate to call a professional if something doesn't look right or you feel the job is more than you can handle. A pro can help uncover underlying problems and will know if it's time for a new dryer altogether.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

March
12

Gauging a potential fixer-upper is a complicated undertaking that requires experience, knowledge and good judgment to know the difference between a serious fault and a cosmetic flaw.



There are many different things that you should look at and consider when buying a fixer-upper; however, there will likely be several obvious problems that you don't need to worry about too much:

Ugly Paint and Siding
Even the most hideous paint or siding can be removed. Most fixer-uppers have exterior issues, so buyers expect to redo a lot of the outside of the house in the months or years after the purchase. As long as the wood supporting the walls, windows and roof is in good shape, the external aesthetics can be easily modified to suit your tastes.

Damaged Doors
Dented, dirty and well-worn doors can certainly be an eyesore, but they're also relatively easy to replace. Replacing aging wooden doors with modern material gives the new homeowners a chance to inspect and reinforce the entire molding. It's also a good opportunity to replace locks on all doors and windows with a fresh set.

Broken Windows
Even a few panes of broken glass can impact the overall aesthetic of a home. Fortunately, it's also one of the easiest problems to address when improving a fixer-upper. Talk to comprehensive window professionals to develop tailored solutions that are both economical and effective. There's nothing wrong with simply replacing old windows with something new, but you can also modify the entire molding to fit a new style or size.

Deck and Patio Problems
For some homeowners, a solid wrap-around deck is the standout feature of their entire property; however, a rotting or flimsy structure haunting the backyard isn't what most people have in mind. No matter how bad the deck or patio, these problems aren't necessarily a big deal for most fixer-upper situations. They're relatively easy to demolish in a worst-case scenario and can often be simply modified to fit your tastes.

There are many things that should be of concern when buying a fixer-upper, but there are also plenty of details that buyers can put on the back burner so as not to get overwhelmed. When it comes to fundamental priorities, don't forget to inspect the roof, foundation and plumbing system before finalizing the deal.

March
7

(BPT) - Whether you're looking to sell your home soon or you just want to boost your investment, improving your home's curb appeal is the best way to increase its value. Another upside of working on your property? The enjoyment and sense of pride after you complete each project. Here are seven ways you can make your home look great that also increase your property's value. 1. Conquer the yardwork
Regular lawn maintenance makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of your property. And the beauty of this approach - in addition to the beauty it will bring to your yard - is that it's relatively inexpensive. If you're looking for a low-maintenance backyard, consider integrating synthetic turf with pavers to create a stylish space that requires minimal upkeep. Whether you tackle the yardwork yourself or you need to hire some help, a tidy and well-kept yard says a lot about a home - and homebuyers notice. 2. Improve your landscaping
For problem areas, you may want to consult a landscape professional. Increasing the variety of plant life can enhance your yard a great deal, while adding to your own enjoyment. Consider a raised garden, planter boxes or vertical gardens, if you live in an urban area or if your yard has a small footprint. However, before landscaping, a professional can also help you make the best choices for your particular yard and climate. Planting trees strategically adds shade, making your yard more livable and cooling your home during the summer. Trees offer shelter from winter winds and improve drainage in wet areas. However, if you have a tree that is ill or too close to your home, removing it can protect your home and increase its value. Consulting a licensed arborist is wise if you have questions about trees on your property. 3. Consider hardscaping features
Creating interest - and usable outdoor spaces - with hardscaping can transform the appearance of your property dramatically. "Hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping - like a paver patio, retaining wall or gazebo," says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. "Hardscaping also includes boulders, edging, pathways or walls. Hardscaping can be designed in your preferred style, from traditional to modern. You can also consider water features like waterfalls, fountains or ponds." Outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular for elevated outdoor entertaining, while less ambitious but highly sought-after projects include fireplaces or fire pits surrounded by seating. Before breaking ground on a hardscape project, homeowners can get a feel for what their space will look like through Belgard's design resources. Belgard Design Studio takes a simple sketch with some dimensions and photos and turns it, using design software, into 3D animations and virtual reality experiences to give you a sense of the finished product in your backyard. 4. Improve the exterior
A simple coat of paint can improve a home's appearance quickly. For homes with siding, repaint wood trim, then clean siding and windows to give your house a refresh. Masonry veneers are a great way to update the look of your home to boost curb appeal. Making necessary repairs also gives the impression of a house that's well cared for, which is what homebuyers want to see. 5. Replace doors
Doors endure lots of wear and tear, but also provide the first impression of your home. Replace worn outer and inner doors to enhance the security, energy efficiency and appearance of your house. Garage doors also affect the impression your home makes from the curb, so if you can update them, do it. If not, at least give them a thorough cleaning. 6. Refresh your porch
If your home doesn't have a front porch, consider adding one, as most new homes offer porches. If your porch needs some TLC, this can also impact its value greatly. New paint, safety railings, installing a swing or screening the porch in - anything that enhances the space and makes your home look more welcoming is a plus. Check porches in your neighborhood for ideas or head to Pinterest for more inspiration. 7. Enhance the lighting
Improving outdoor lighting helps make your home look well cared for and improves your security. Using LED lights and motion sensors is an energy-efficient strategy that will impress potential homebuyers while making your home safer. In addition, string lights and built-in lighting - including paver lights, column lights and other landscape lighting - also make your outdoor living spaces cozy and inviting for your family as well as prospective buyers. Improving your home's market value and making it a pleasure to come home to every night is achievable, one project at a time. Prioritize what your home needs most and you'll start seeing the impact of your efforts right away. For more ideas to enhance your outdoor living space, visit Belgard.com/CurbAppeal
March
2

If you've decided to place your home on the market, you likely want it to sell as quickly as possible. Partially, this is for your own convenience. More importantly, though, the longer that a house sits on the market, the lower its final price tends to be. Therefore, before you list your home, you need to be sure it's ready to attract as much attention as possible.

One great way to do this is by making strategic renovations to various areas around your home. You want to be sure you're making the most of your remodeling budget to ensure it results in the biggest payoff. To help you come out ahead, here are three renovations that can help you sell your home faster:

Kitchen

A dated kitchen is one of the biggest turnoffs for potential homebuyers. A kitchen that's been renovated using quality materials often draws people in and causes them to overlook other potential flaws. Therefore, a kitchen renovation can be a great investment to make before you sell your home.

Quality finishes in the kitchen are crucial, as many buyers at all price points are looking for granite countertops (or something similar) and tile backsplashes. The cabinets should also be of decent quality and a neutral color that appeals to a wide range of people.

Roof

Since a roof is rarely seen except when you're coming and going, it might not seem like the best place to spend your renovation dollars; however, if you can state on your home's listing that the roof was recently replaced, you may gain more interest, potentially helping you to sell your home more quickly.

Be sure that the roofers you choose do a good job of sealing the roof cap and any protrusions, as you certainly don't want the next homeowners to be left with a leaky roof. Also, make sure that the color of the shingles matches the character of the home so buyers aren't turned off the moment they approach your house.

Bathroom

Moving back inside, a bathroom renovation is a great way to maximize the effectiveness of your remodeling budget. After all, no one wants to feel like they're living in someone else's grime.

A bathroom is one area where you can have a little fun with the renovation, adding unique features such as a tile tub surround or a designer light fixture that'll help your home stand out from others in your area. Again, quality installation is important here, as you don't want to put the future homeowners at risk of a major water leak.

Renovations can go a long way toward helping your home sell more quickly. Remember, it's important that you are disciplined in how you spend money on remodeling to be absolutely sure that you don't end up spending more than you get out of your home when you sell it.

By Brooke Chaplan
This was originally published on RISMedia's Housecall.

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