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4 Easy-Peasy Must-Do’s for Homeowners in December

by The Schnoor Team

 

Quick-and-easy tasks that’ll brighten up your interior.

December.

The year’s coming to an end. Time to do four small tasks for a bright (and money-saving) new year.

#1 Clean Light Bulbs and Fixtures   

Two great reasons to clean your light bulbs: You want as much light in your house as you can get as the days grow shorter, and, you’ll save money.

Dirty bulbs apparently shed 30% less light than clean ones, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wipe bulbs with a cloth dampened by a mix of 1 oz. dish soap, ¼ cup white vinegar, and 3 cups of water. Get to it December 1 so you’re ready for the curtain fall on the shortest day of this year: Thursday, December 21.

#2 Evaluate Homeowner's Insurance

The holidays. You love them, but they do seem to eat up more cash than other times of year. Sure, you can scrounge around for change under your couch cushions, but that’s not going to offset much.

Why not get a home insurance checkup? Call your agent to go over the type of coverage you have, how much you really need, and how you can lower your premiums before your next monthly installment.

#3 Pack a Home Emergency Kit

The last thing you want during the holidays is for an emergency to chill your family’s cheer. Prepare for power outages and weather-related emergencies with an easy-to-find emergency kit.

Some items to include are bottled water, a hand-crank radio, a flashlight, batteries, a portable charger for your phone, warm blankets, and of course, a first-aid kit to patch up any boo-boos. Singing carols ‘round the flashlight may not be ideal, but it’ll beat trying to celebrate in the dark.

#4 Buy Holiday Lights (After December 25)   

It’s tough to think about next Christmas when you’re still stuffed from a holiday dinner with all the trimmings. But think you must if you want to save on next year’s holiday. From December 26 through year’s end, big-box stores try to clear the shelves of all that glitters.


5 Suck-It-Up Questions to Ask Before Spurning a Low-Ball Offer

by The Schnoor Team

 

Do you need a reality check, or is the buyer out of line? Here’s how to tell.

You’ve invested a great deal in this house. So when the time comes to put it on the market, you expect potential buyers to recognize its true value. But sometimes, you get an offer that’s so far below your asking price it feels like someone pitched a baseball straight at your stomach.

Should you simply walk away from such a number? Or does it make sense to pause and weigh your options? Here are some points to consider before you decide:

#1 Is It Really Low-Ball, or Just Lower Than You Wanted?

Some agents define a low-ball offer as 25% or more below list. In areas where there’s a shortage of available homes, that figure may drop to 20%.

“What defines low-ball varies from market to market and even submarket to submarket, but certainly from price range to price range,” says Steve McLinden of Bankrate.com. In other words, it’s likely that an offer of $80,000 on a $100,000 home will be more quickly dismissed than a $1.6 million offer on a $2 million home, he says.

#2 Should You Immediately Reject a Low-Ball Bid?

Although your feelings may be hurt, giving in to the drama monster won’t get your house sold. “When the low-ball offer comes in it can be upsetting, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Bill Gassett of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass. “The fact that someone wants to buy your home is a good thing and you should deal with every offer — unless it’s just completely ridiculous.”

What constitutes a “ridiculous” offer? Anything significantly less than 25% below your list price should probably trigger warning bells. However, it pays to rely on your agent’s expertise to help you decide on the right response.

Countering, rather than ignoring, a low offer is often the smartest strategy. A low-ball offer “shows buyers you’re willing to work with them,” says Eric Snyder of Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton, Fla. After all, he reasons, “it’s not about where buyers start, it’s where they end up.”

And you’ll never have a chance of getting to that final number if you allow your emotions to cloud your judgment.


#3 Is Your Price Too High?

Sometimes when a seller receives one — or more — low-ball bids, it may be because the asking price for the home is out of step with the market.

Before you set a price, your agent will provide you with comps – for-sale listings of similar properties in the area —  along with a pricing recommendation. Your best bet is pricing that reflects the comps. If you decide to “test” a higher price, you might have to tweak your price to invite more reasonable offers, which is just going to delay the sale.

#4 What Do You Really Need?

There may be factors involved in selling your home that are more important to you than price. Perhaps you need to sell quickly because you’re buying another home. Maybe an all-cash deal would make your life a lot easier. There are a number of potential deal sweeteners that a potential buyer could provide that may make a low offer more appealing. These include:

  • A preferred closing date
  • A solid mortgage pre-approval letter from the buyer (not just a pre-qualification)
  • A larger down payment
  • Fewer inspection contingencies

#5 Will You Look Too Desperate?

Don’t worry about how your willingness to entertain a low-ball offer is perceived. What matters most is the result, says McLinden.

“Some sellers get so wrapped up in righteous indignation following an ‘insulting’ offer that they tell their agent to refuse all further communication from the offender,” he says. And while that may soothe your wounded ego, it won’t help sell your house.

6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

by The Schnoor Team

 

Like telling your lights to turn on and off when you’re miles away.

Your home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it.

Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a dreamy beach, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legit concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot. Ugh.

You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best (OK, way better) thing, and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how.

#1 Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while sipping a mojito in Fiji.

You can Google your options, but one affordable example is the Lutron Caséta Wireless system (about $80 for the device and $55 per switch). You replace your current wall switches with these wireless ones and “talk” to your lights from afar.

#2 Fake a Netflix Binge

Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window.

Put the little FakeTV gizmo where it can project light onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby.

The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor, so it can switch on when it gets dark.

#3 Change Up Your Shades Remotely

Leave your window shades down while you’re gone and you might as well put out a “Gone Fishin’” sign.

Check out wireless options to throw some shade on the go. Several companies have systems — including Hunter Douglas PowerView, Pella Insynctive, and Lutron Serena — that allow shades to go up and down at your command for about $300 to $500 a window.


#4 Make Some Noise

Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home — they’re a bit tetchy that way. So one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise app, like Sleep And Noise Sounds that can play on a homebound phone, tablet, or computer. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window.

#5 Make Them Ring And Run

“Burglars will often ring your doorbell, and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door,” says Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office in New York. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell ($180 for the basic model).

If someone pushes the doorbell, you can talk to them through an app on your phone. Whether it’s your nosey neighbor or a sketchy stranger, you can say, “I’m in the basement” while you’re really on the slopes. They’ll never know. And even if they don’t believe you, they know they’re being watched (insert devilish laugh here).

#6 Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • If there’s snow, have a neighbor walk up and down the path to your door, shovel a passage up to the garage door and drive in and out of the driveway. If it’s hot out, ask them to keep your plants looking fresh with regular waterings. And don’t forget to bring them a nice gift from your getaway.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

8 Popular Tips That Cost Homeowners More in the Long Run

by The Schnoor Team

Like using lemons in your disposal (don’t do it!).

You’re always on the lookout for smart ideas and hacks to manage your home (and save money!) — whether that means listening to the wisdom of your parents who’ve owned a home longer than you’ve been alive, or scouring every corner of the internet for savvy tips.

But just because a tip has been pinned, shared, and Instagrammed thousands of times doesn’t make it smart. Here are eight tips (myths, really) that most people believe are good advice, but instead will cost you cash you don’t need to spend:

Myth #1: Lemons Are Great for Cleaning Garbage Disposals

What it could cost you: A plumber’s visit (and maybe a new disposal)

Proceed with caution when it comes to this well-circulated DIY fix. Citric acid is a natural deodorizer, but plumbing experts say it can corrode the metal in your disposal. That tough lemon peel can also damage the grinding components and clog your pipes. Next thing you know you’re Googling reviews for plumbers.

The better way: Turn on the disposal and, while running cold water, dump in two or more trays of ice cubes. Despite the clamor, this will safely dislodge buildup on the walls and the impellers, which grind up the food. 

Myth #2: Use Duct Tape to Seal Ductwork

What it could cost you: Pricier energy bills

Despite its name, don’t rely on duct tape to seal leaks in your HVAC’s ductwork. Testing by the U.S. Department of Energy found it deteriorates over just a few years (hot air from the HVAC system degrades the glue), letting conditioned air escape without doing its job.

The better way: Use duct mastic (a gooey substance kind of like caulk that dries after applied) to seal metal and flexible ductwork, and use it along with a layer of fiberglass mesh for gaps larger than 1/16 of an inch wide. Use gloves with metal ducts because the edges can be sharp, and mastic is messy stuff.

Myth #3: Bleach Will Banish Mold

What it could cost you: A threat to your health, plus hundreds of $ (even thousands)

Although bleach can kill mold on non-porous surfaces, it isn’t effective on absorbent or porous materials — you know, the places it loves to lurk, like grout, caulk, drywall, insulation, and carpet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, it just bleaches it so you can’t see it. And diluted bleach can feed future mold growth (yikes!) because only the water will be absorbed, which mold just loves.

The better way: Use a commercial anti-fungal product to take out mold at its roots. And only tackle mold removal yourself if the area is less than 10 square feet and you use protective gear, such as a respirator and chemical-resistant gloves. Otherwise, call in a mold remediation specialist who’ll know how to remove it without spreading it’s yucky (and potentially harmful) spores.

Myth #4: Change Your HVAC Filter Every Month

What it could cost you: Around $100 a year

Although the air filter should be changed regularly to keep your home’s HVAC system operating efficiently, this piece of advice is more of a convenient general rule that could cause you to throw away perfectly good filters (and money!).

“The harsh truth is that it’s easier to say, ‘Do it every month’ and know that means people might do it every three or four months,” says homeowner advocate Tina Gleisner of Home Tips for Women.

The better way: The Department of Energy recommends checking, but not necessarily changing, your air filter every month. Change it if it looks dirty, replacing it at least once every three months.

Myth #5: Buy a Rinse Aid for Spot-Free Dishes

What it could cost you: Dollars instead of cents

Most dishwashers now come with a built-in dispenser for commercial rinse aids, plus a free sample to get you started. So now you’re hooked (spot-free glasses every time!), and it has become a regular item on your shopping list, even if it does cost almost $4 for 8 ounces.

The better way: If you’ve never tried, run your dishwasher without a rinse aid. If your water is soft, your dishwasher may deliver spot-free sparkle without any extra help. But if you’re still seeing spots, just fill the rinse-aid dispenser with plain white vinegar (less than a 50 cents for 8 ounces).

Money Tip: Rinse aid does help dishes dry faster, which stops those annoying wet drips from top rack to bottom when you unload. But instead of spending money, unload the bottom rack first while letting the top rack air dry.

Myth #6: Home Improvement is Always a Good Investment

What it could cost you: Thousands of dollars in disappointment

Dreaming of diving into your own pool or adding a second bath to put an end to those morning squabbles? That’s the beauty of owning your own home, you can renovate to make all your dreams come true. And you’ll get money back on most any improvement you do, but don’t expect it for all improvements. FYI: A new bath returns 52% of its cost.

The better way: First off, your own happiness matters, so by all means, follow your remodeling bliss if you’re financially able. But if payback is important, do some research and talk to a REALTOR® who knows what buyers are seeking in your market. The Remodeling Impact Report from The National Association of REALTORS® (the sponsor of HouseLogic) is a fantastic resource to get the scoop on what projects will boost your equity the most. For example, it points out that small projects such as an insulation upgrade, refinishing floors, and even seeding your lawn will recoup almost all, and in some cases more than, your original investment.

 

Myth #7: Put Dryer Sheets in Air Vents for a Sweet Smell

What it could cost you: Higher energy bills and a potential fire hazard

Social media PSA: Thousands of pins and shares do not mean a remedy is smart or safe. If you follow this popular hack, you’ll block the flow of air in your vents, making your HVAC system work harder and increasing your energy costs. The blockage even can pose a fire risk when the furnace is pumping out hot air. 

The better way: If fragrant air is what you’re after, there are no shortage of options available that won’t burn your house down. Give each room — or each day — a signature scent with all-natural scented candles, sprays, oils, and aromatherapy devices. If you’re seeking a scent to mask an offensive odor, however, it’s important to find and remove the source. Some stinky suspects — like mold, mildew, sewage, and gas leaks — can carry health risks.

Myth #8: Product Warranties Will Save on Repair Costs

What it could cost you: $50 to $100 or more

The last time you bought a major appliance or even a hand mixer, you were probably offered a warranty or service plan. While marketed to cover repair costs, these contracts typically cost more than you would ever spend to fix an item. And keep in mind that most manufacturers offer at least a 90-day warranty anyway.

The better way: Maintain the appliance as recommended by the manufacturer, and smartly stash the dollars you would spend on a warranty in a repair fund instead. Also, buy with a major credit card, such as AmEx or Visa. Many credit card companies extend product warranties (for free!) up to a year or so. Might be worth checking to see if yours does. 


12 Reasons to List Your Home During the Holidays!

by The Schnoor Team

 

Have you ever thought about selling your home during the holidays? What’s your immediate reaction to that?

I think the average person probably thinks that it’s not worth listing their home during the holidays. After all, who could really be moving to Albuquerque, NM when they have to worry about turkey, gifts, and new years?

Since it’s holiday season, I thought I’d take this myth on with a list of 12 reasons that it’s actually a good time to list your Albuquerque home for sale during
the holidays.

12. January is the most popular month for employees to begin new jobs. Since transfers can’t wait until spring to buy, you need to be on the market during the Holidays to capture that market.

11. Some people must buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.

10. Buyers have more time to look for a home during the holidays than they do during a working week.

9. Buyers are more emotional during the Holidays, so they are more likely to pay your price.

8. Homes show better when decorated for the Holidays. Plus you can cook more cookies to make you home smell better.

7. Since the supply of listings will dramatically increase in January, there will be less demand for your particular home! Less demand means less money for you. List now and make more.

6. Serious buyers have fewer homes to choose from during the Holidays and less competition means more money for you.

5. People who look for homes during the Holidays are more serious buyers.

4. There are options for you to sell your home and still remain in your home until after the Holidays.

3. One of the highest percentages of the ‘listing sold’ to ‘listing taken’ occurs during this time of year.

2. Throughout the holiday season, buyers will understand if you restrict showings during your personal family events.

1. When you sell during the winter you have an opportunity to buy during the spring, when more homes are on the market. This means you sell for more and buy for less, and this is one of the few times that this is likely.

BONUS

Moving during the Holidays is easier on your children. School starts in January and they can make new friends right away as opposed to moving in the summer when they have to wait a few months.

You will be surprised at what your home is worth in this market!
The Schnoor Team will help you find your Albuquerque home’s approximate current market value. This CMA (Current Market Analysis) is absolutely free, there is no obligation, it is all via E-mail and it’s just a click away.

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