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Steps for Maintaining Your Historic Home

by The Hat Team

Historic homes are beautiful, and to keep them that way, it’s important to take steps to maintain their old-world charm.  Here are steps you can take to keep your old home properly protected and preserved:

KEEP UP WITH REGULAR MAINTENANCE - Routine maintenance like cleaning and painting (especially the exterior) are vital to minimizing issues that might mean costly repairs. It’s a good idea to develop a maintenance schedule and follow it as best you can.

LIMIT CHANGES - When repairs must be made, try to keep original details intact. For example, if some trim needs to replaced due to rot or infestation, only replace the parts that are damaged. This will save wood and money and help preserve the historic fabric of the house.  If you do have to replace something completely, take photos prior to removing anything so that it can be duplicated to retain the character of the home.

KEEP HISTORIC WINDOWS - If you have early twentieth century (or earlier) windows, you are going to want to keep them. They were made to be repaired, not replaced.  It is possible to make old windows more energy efficient.  Save Big Bucks by Restoring Your Old Windows & Making Them Energy Efficient

TAKE SPECIAL CARE WITH MASONRY -  While brick and masonry are long-lasting components, they will need maintenance and eventually, repairs.  Educate yourself about proper ways to care for and repair them.  Restoration Guide: Masonry and Brick Exteriors

EMBRACE THE QUIRKS - You don’t have to “fix” everything. You can repair and stabilize structural damage while keeping elements that show how your home has aged over the generations.

KEEP HISTORIC INTERIOR FEATURES - While you will surely want to update some aspects of your home, try to hang on to the charming features that make it unique. Things like transoms, paneled doors, moldings and such are features that make your home special.

KEEP PLASTER WALLS - Plaster is a remarkable material that is superior to modern day drywall.  In recent years, preservation contractors have discovered the Benefits of Preserving Plaster Walls. Damaged plaster walls can be repaired, and if necessary, only replace the damaged portions.

CHERISH THOSE OLD HARDWOOD FLOORS - Retaining the old floors in a historic house requires special care.  Be careful not to over-sand them, destroying the antique character in the process. Old floors were hand-planed, and hand-sanding is the best way to maintain their character.  Taking Care of Your Wood Floors

The most important step you can take to maintain your historic home is to educate yourself. Lots of information can be found online and there are Old House Specialists that can help you! Also be sure to check out these regulations for historic homes in Montgomery AL: Historic Designation and the Architectural Review Process

If you are interested in purchasing a historic home in Montgomery, AL let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with your search.  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

How to Declutter in a Snap!

by The Hat Team

A cluttered house can be overwhelming.  You might be frozen in fear of decluttering because you just don’t even know where to start.  When you’ve worked all week and you finally have some free time, the last thing you want to do is clean up the house. But trust me, once you declutter, you will be able to enjoy your free time more in an organized and tidy home.

Decluttering doesn’t have to be a massive, time-consuming project.  There are small projects you can do in 30 minutes or less.  Pick one or two projects a week and in no time clutter will be a thing of the past!

- Edit one bookcase - If you have collected a lot of books over the years and you have them spread throughout the house, sorting through them all at once may not be practical.  So, start with something more doable - one bookcase.  Have an empty box or shopping bag handy and fill it with books you no longer want or need.  When you’re done, immediately put the box/bag of books in your car and plan to drop them off to donate.  Here are questions to ask yourself while doing this:

  • Have you read the book?  If not, be honest with yourself - do you think you are likely to ever read it?
  • Did you enjoy the book?  If it isn’t a favorite, pass it on.
  • Will you reread it, refer to it or lend it out?  Nope?  Let it go.

- Clear the kitchen counter - The poor kitchen counter.  It’s a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff: school notices, hair ties, shopping bags, receipts, etc.  Don’t worry! You can  Get Rid of Kitchen Counter Clutter! You just have to start somewhere.  Recycle unneeded papers and put away items that belong elsewhere.  If you need a drop-spot on the counter (because face it…you’re probably going to put more stuff there tomorrow), make it a clearly defined zone to prevent clutter sprawl in the future.  A cute bowl for pocket change or a decorative tray or basket for mail will look nice and keep things neat and orderly.

- Make space under the kitchen sink - If you haven’t looked under your kitchen sink in a while, you might be surprised to discover that it has become a storehouse for random cleaning products, plastic bags and miscellaneous tools.  Pull it ALL out!  Give the cabinet a good cleaning.  Then only replace the items that you actually use, that are full and in good condition.  Recycle empty containers, and move items that belong somewhere else to their appropriate spots.

- Create a calm oasis on your bedside table - How can you rest peacefully when a cluttered nightstand is the last thing you see before closing your eyes to go to sleep?  And chances are you start your day feeling discombobulated because the disorganized mess is also the first thing you see in the morning.  Clear away the toppling pile of books, scribbled notes and old water glasses.  Wipe off the dust - it’s time for a fresh start.  Replace only your current reading, a journal and pen and perhaps a meaningful photo in a frame or small vase of flowers.

- Go through your wardrobe one drawer at a time - Trying to tackle your whole wardrobe at one time will feel like a staggering task.  Instead, set a timer for 30 minutes and start with a single drawer.  Keep working your way through your clothes one drawer at a time until the timer goes off.  Eliminate items you know you won’t wear anymore.  If they are in good condition, pack them up to donate. 

- Simplify the linen closet -  If your linen closet is a jumble of towels and sheets that you’ve been accumulating for years, it’s time to purge some of the old ones.  Take 30 minutes to sort out your household linens, pulling your least favorite (or most frayed) sets to have picked up by a local charity. Find charity organizations who pick up donations here: Donation Town

- Clear your desktop - It’s next to impossible to concentrate when you’re trying to work at a desk with a mountain of “stuff” on it.  Set a timer for 30 minutes and have a desk clutter-blasting session.  Sort and file important papers, shred and recycle unneeded documents, test the pens in you pen cup (hint: throw out the ones that don’t work), and clear out the drawers.  Work tasks will be much more pleasant with a neat and tidy desk

If you are decluttering to prepare for listing your home for sale, let experienced Realtor Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you in understanding how to stage your house to sell!  Call them at 334-834-1500 today!

Photo Credit: organizedmom.net

Curb Appeal on a Budget

by The Hat Team

When selling a home, curb appeal is one of the most important factors in attracting buyers.  Your yard and the front of your home are the first thing they will see, and while nobody should judge a book by its cover, many people do. The appearance of the outside of the home can determine if a potential buyer will even be willing to look at the inside.  So, attractive curb appeal is vital to getting your home sold.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get great curb appeal.  There are many small, inexpensive home improvements that can be done to create a look that will impress!

  • Give a fresh coat of paint to the front door, trim or shutters.

Nothing will brighten up your home’s façade like a bright, fresh coat of paint!Costing only about $30 a gallon you can get a lot of bang for your buck.Choose a bold hue that will stand out, while still complementing the overall color of your home.

28 Inviting Colors to Paint a Front Door

  • Add some creative new house numbers.

Installing some new house numbers will not only look good, it will also make it easy to find! Be creative and utilize materials that will match the finish of your exterior light fixtures.Make sure the numbers stand out!

  • Change exterior lighting.

If your light fixtures are looking shabby, it’s time to replace them. Consider the design of your home and look for fixtures that add both function and style. Save yourself some time by using fixtures that have the same mounting system as the ones you will be removing.

  • Replace your mailbox.

Whether your mailbox is by the road or attached to your house, it can either add to or take away from your curb appeal depending on how it looks. You can find a new mailbox for as little as $20.This quick project will go a long way toward improving the look of your home.Just make sure you are following city/county/HOA regulations when installing it.

  • Install flower boxes.

If you want to add some color to your home exterior, there is no better way to do it than with flowers!Try adding some inexpensive flower boxes to your front porch railings or under your windows.You can even DIY them in an afternoon! Choose flowers with colors that will complement your home.

15 Planter Boxes You'll Want to DIY Right Now

Are you ready to list your house for sale this spring? Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors can answer any questions you may have about preparing your home to sell.  Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Lowes.com

March is here and chances are the winter doldrums are getting to you.  Now is a good time to start tackling some home maintenance tasks that will remind you that spring is right around the corner!

Clean Your Gutters

Once the last frost of winter has passed, it is important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and, if necessary, repaired.  Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause wood trim in the eaves to rot and that can leave and opening for all kinds of critters to invade your house.  If you’re not sure what to look for, you can have a Home Inspector come and look for you.

Another benefit to cleaning out your gutters and downspouts early in the season is that it can help to prevent damage from spring rains. If they are installed and cleaned properly, they will divert water away from the house and keep it from collecting around your foundation.

Prep Your Yard

Your lawn may be looking sad as the winter months have taken their toll, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Giving your lawn a little attention toward the end of winter will make for a lush, green lawn this spring and summer.

The first step is to aerate your soil.  When soil is compacted, it is too hard for water, air and roots to penetrate.  That makes it hard on grass.  You can rent a core aerator from a local equipment rental store. A half day’s rental generally costs about $40.  This machine, which resembles a large rotary tiller, uses steel tubes to take plugs of soil from the lawn and deposit them on the ground.  You can reduce compaction by aerating once a year and this will increase the vitality of your lawn.

The second step is to mow the old grass low.  If you have cool-season grass such as bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass, you can skip this part.  But if you have warm-season grass such as Bermuda, buffalo grass centipede, St. Augustine or Zoysia, you will want to mow that old, brown grass low at the end of winter to remove the accumulation of thatch, an accumulation of dead stems and leaves.  If you leave the thatch, it will prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots and will encourage disease.  Cut Bermuda lawns to ½ inch and leave the clippings in place to decompose.  Mow other types to 1 inch.  If you use a regular mower, bag the clippings; then compost or discard them.  Mowing low allows more sun to reach and warm the soil which helps the grass to green up.

The final step is to stop weeds.  As the temperatures rise and reach 70 degrees, the seeds of lawn weeds begin to sprout.  Late winter is a good time to stop them by applying a pre-emergence lawn weed preventer.  When used properly, it creates a barrier atop the soil to keep weeds from sprouting.  Make sure not to aerate after using the weed preventer or you will break the barrier.  Do not use this type of product if you are planting new grass though, because it will keep grass seeds from coming up as well.

Once you have your lawn ready, then you can start thinking about selecting plants and flowers for your home garden!

Caulk Windows and Doors

Winter can be hard on your home.  Now is the time to inspect the caulking around your windows and doors and to repair any damage left behind by old man winter. Check around your windows, doors, and corner trim to prevent water infiltration and avoid costly repairs.

Using high-quality siliconized acrylic latex caulk that is rated for exterior use will cut down on the amount of caulking you will have to do.  It has good adhesion and flexibility, cleans up easily with water, and is paintable as well.  Make sure you know what you are doing and avoid common mistakes in caulking.

If you’re thinking about selling your home, spring home maintenance is a step toward making your house more alluring to potential buyers.  The professionals on Sandra Nickel's Hat Team can help you get your house on the market and sold today!  Contact them at 334-834-1500.

Photo Credit: fullhartinsurance.com

Make Cleaning a Breeze with These “Quick Cleaning” Tips

by The Hat Team

Putting your house on the market can be stressful in many ways.  Not only are you preparing to move yourself, you also need to keep your home looking as perfect as possible for potential buyers.  Here are some quick fix tricks to help you get your house in order and ready to show:

  1. Cleaning the Microwave - No matter how dirty your microwave is, you can have it clean and shining in less than five minutes with this trick!  Slice a lemon in two.  Put it in a cup and add some cinnamon.  Place the cup in the microwave and “cook” on low power for 10 minutes.  Wipe the inside of the microwave clean with a damp cloth.  The cinnamon makes it smell nice.
     
  2. Dusting That Lasts - The secret here is to wipe your furniture down with a little bit of cooking oil on a paper towel. This will do two things.  The first is that it will make your furniture shine nicely.  The second is that it adds an anti-static layer which repels dust.  You will need to dust again eventually, but not for a much longer time.
     
  3. Getting Kids’ Artwork Off the Wall for Good - Finding that your creative child has used a wall for artwork with a pen or permanent marker is the worst! The good news is that the stain can be removed.  Try squeezing toothpaste (not the gel kind) onto a damp cloth.  Rub the toothpaste over the stain and watch it disappear. Here are some other ways to get marker off walls.
     
  4. Keeping Window Tracks Clean - If you’re showing your house on a nice day, you’re going to want to have your windows open.  But if you do that, you want to make sure that the window tracks are super clean.  The easiest way to make sure they are, is to sprinkle the area with baking powder and then add vinegar.  Don’t worry when it starts to bubble; it’s supposed to do that!  Leave it for 15 minutes.  Then wipe it clean with a paper towel and done!
     
  5. Shiny Bathtubs -  You won’t believe how easy it is to clean your bathtubs this way!  First, warm (don’t boil) some vinegar in the microwave.  Mix it with equal parts soap solutions in a spray bottle.  Spray all over the bath.  Leave it for about 30 minutes.  Come back and wipe clean.  The shine you get will amaze you! Don't forget to keep that toilet bowl clean and shiny as well!
     
  6. Keeping Animal Fur off Blankets - Do you have pets that shed?  If so, you know the struggle of keeping your house fur free.  Vacuuming regularly helps, but doesn’t keep the fur off things such as blankets and throws.  Believe it or not, there is a way to do that. Wash them once in white vinegar and you will discover that the fur never sticks to them afterward!

Hopefully these brilliant, time-saving tips will help you keep your house ready to show!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Home-selling-For-the-Holidays

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/De-Stressing-for-the-Holidays-Tips-for-a-Peaceful-Holiday-Season

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Energy-and-Money-Savers-for-Winter

Autumn Home Maintenance

by The Hat Team

Autumn is a season of change.  Leaves change color and fall from the trees, days get shorter and temperatures get cooler.  Yes, it’s really coming—we promise!  It’s also a good time to take care of home maintenance projects to prepare your home for colder weather.  Follow these autumn home maintenance tips and your house will be nice and cozy this winter:

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. This should be done regularly to keep them clear of debris. You won’t have to do it as often if you install gutter guards.
  • Check the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks for any holes or rotting.  Fill holes using caulk or replace wood if necessary.
  • Give your roof a thorough inspection.  Look for shingles that are curling, buckling or cracking and replace them.  If there appears to be a great amount of damage or if your roof is just worn out from age, it’s time to replace the whole thing.  Hire a licensed professional if you’re not sure.  Make sure to also check for leaks around skylights, pipes and chimneys. 
  • Hire a service to inspect and clean your wood burning fireplace and chimney and to make any necessary repairs to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Cooler temperatures and lower humidity make autumn a good time to paint the exterior of your home.
  • Filters for your furnace and heating system should be cleaned and replaced.  Have a licensed heating contractor come out to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace.  Regular maintenance will keep it running proficiently and save you money on your heating bills.
  • Check doors and windows for leaks and drafts both inside and out.  Fill in cracks with caulking or install weather stripping.
  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and put fresh batteries in them.  These are potentially life-saving devices and it is vital to take good care of them.

Check these tasks off your list now and you will be able to enjoy a warm and comfy winter!

Don’t know reliable people to contact?  Just give us a call because we do!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Electrical-Safety-Hazards-Tips-to-Prevent-Them

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Decorating-Ideas-for-Your-Pho-Fireplace

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Reasons-Why-Buying-an-Older-Home-May-Be-a-Good-Idea

Electrical Safety Hazards - Tips to Prevent Them

by The Hat Team

Electricity is a beautiful thing.  It provides warmth in the winter and cools you off during hot summer months. It gives you light in the dark and makes chores like washing/drying clothes and doing dishes so much easier.  You take it for granted because you’ve always had it and you certainly can’t even imagine what life would be like without it.  Because it is such a normal part of your life, you probably don’t stop to think about how dangerous it can be.  It is important to be educated about possible electrical problems in your home so that you will know how to deal with them before they happen.

  1. Do you know how old your home is?  Often older homes don’t have the capacity for electricity that current technology uses.  If you have never had an electrical safety inspection by a professional, now is the time to do so.  If your home’s electrical wiring has not been updated to safely handle all the current that your family uses, it is crucial to have it done .
  2. Is your electrical panel hot to the touch?  It shouldn’t be.  Check the brand of your panel. Several brands are outdated or faulty and should be replaced.  A faulty electrical panel can lead to a fire.  That is not something anyone should risk.
  3. Outlets should not be hot either.  If you feel an electrical outlet and it is warm or hot, it means there could be a problem.  There are dangerous issues indicated by a warm/hot outlet. Whether it’s too much demand on the outlet, faulty or melting wiring, or other precarious situations, you don’t want to ignore it.
  4. Keep plugged in appliances away from water.  This seems obvious, right?  But sometimes limited space forces us to use electrical appliances near sinks or bathtubs.  Whether you are blow-drying your hair at your bathroom vanity or your kitchen only has one plug for your toaster and it’s right by the sink, be extra careful.  If a plugged-in appliance gets wet, don’t unplug it. Go to your electrical panel and unplug the power source for the outlet you’re using.  Then you can unplug it.
  5. Make sure you are using the correct wattage light bulbs.  Using a higher wattage than can safely be accommodated by a lamp or light fixture may overload its wiring, which is a fire hazard.  It’s ok to use a light bulb with wattage equal to or less than that called for on the lamp’s socket.  If you want brighter light, look for a lamp that uses a higher wattage bulb.
  6. Use an experienced, licensed electrician to handle your home’s electrical repairs and/or replacements.  Professional electricians are well-trained and have years of on-the-job experience before being granted a license.  They will know current codes and regulations and can safely navigate any problems they might come across.

It’s easy to prevent electrical hazards if you are informed and educated about what to be aware of.  So, don’t take electricity or your family’s safety for granted!

 

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Organizing-Your-Home-Made-Simple

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Tips-for-Remodeling-Your-Home-and-Where-to-Start

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Things-to-Accomplish-Soon-After-Moving-Into-Your-New-Home

Sprucing Up for Spring

by The Hat Team

It is that time of the year again, spring has sprung. As you begin thinking about spring cleaning, don’t forget to include the homes exterior in your plans. Whether you are selling your property or plan on calling it home for awhile, every house could use a boost in curb appeal. Curb appeal creates the first impression of your home. If selling your home, curb appeal reflects how well the property is cared for and intrigues buyers to take a look inside. Curb appeal is also a way to showcase your personality and create welcoming scenery for your guests. Spring is the perfect time to spruce up your home’s exterior. The following tips will help you attain enchanting curb appeal.

Start With A Checklist

The first step to enhancing curb appeal is to determine what needs improvement. Take a walk around the outside of your home pretending that you are a potential buyer and take note of things that could possibly impair your first impression. Be sure to consider all factors from possible missing shingles on the roof to rotten wood around windows or doors.

Landscaping

If your home does not receive routine yard maintenance, a through clean up can make all the difference. Start by removing debris, giving the grass a fresh cut, eliminating weeds, and trimming over grown bushes or trees. Keep in mind that bushes should never exceed the height of window sills or extrude growth beyond the threshold of sidewalks. Use a pressure washer to clean the exterior of the house, making sure to leave all windows sparkling. Replace any rotten wood and touch up chipped paint.

The Front Door

Establishing a welcoming entry can really improve the first impression of a visitor or potential buyer. Make sure the pathway and porch leading to the front door is well lit. Use decorative porch fixtures that compliment the color of the house and other hardware. Lining walkways with solar powered garden lights gives the yard a vivid glow after dark. Make the front door a focal point by repainting it a warm, inviting shade that contrasts from the siding and shutters. Use a classic shade of red or go bold and try yellow. 

 

Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Expert Sandra Nickel.   

Spring Maintenance Check List for Your Home

by The Hat Team

Spring cleaning has likely already become underway in your household.  What you may not have given much thought however is spring maintenance for your home.   There are several things that folks generally check around their homes before the winter months but there are also a few things you need to check in the early spring months.  Below is a spring maintenance check list for your home.   
 

  1.  Springtime means it is time to start mowing your lawn again.  If your lawn mower has been outside all winter due to lack of storage space you may need to do a bit of maintenance on it before you get it going.  Sharpening the blade is always a good idea before a new season so that you get a nice clean cut on the grass.  It’s also a good idea to check the oil on your lawn mower before beginning to use it for the warm season.   

  1. Spring is a great time to check your house for worn paint areas such as your shutters.  If you find worn or chipped paint on your house what better time to fix that than in the typically perfect weather of spring.   

  1. Be sure to check your crawl space vents for any debris that may have accumulated there over the winter months.  Also you want to keep your eye out for any animals such as snakes or rodents that may have made their home in your crawl space over the last few months.  Get rid of anything that doesn’t belong and repair anything that may be broken such as the vent covers.   

  1. Get your flower beds and any garden areas ready for spring by cleaning out any debris that may have accumulated and trimming back any old growth.  It is also a good time to add mulch to your flower beds and fertilizer to your garden.  
     

The above list of spring maintenance ideas is just a start in the right direction.  There is certainly much more that you need to do in and around your house before the summer time approaches.  Once you get started with these, you will likely find and think of more things that need to be done.   

 

Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Expert Sandra Nickel.   

Organizing Your Home Made Simple

by The Hat Team

It is almost time for the seasons to change once again as we move from winter slowly into spring.  As the seasons change many people find that they like to get things around their home organized to make the transition seem smoother.  Organizing your home can be made simple with a few of the following tips. 

  1. One way to organize your home is to get rid of “junk drawers” throughout the house. Many times folks tend to throw things they don’t know what to do with into a drawer that soon becomes a drawer full of junk. While these drawers DO keep the junk out of the eye of those that come to visit, you just never know when someone may open one of them looking for utensils or other useful items and you may be embarrassed by them.  Simple fix…..throw out the junk once and for all and have no more junk drawers in your home!
  2. Another great and simple way to organize your home   is to organize and de-clutter your pantry.  Typically there are items in your pantry that you haven’t used in years and they end up just sitting there taking up space.  This is very true for old canned food items that tend to have a shelf life of forever.   Once you get this simple organizing of your pantry complete, be sure not to let it get messy again by throwing away things you don’t use periodically. 
  3. Yet another simple way to organize your home  is to use all of your closet space for things you will actually use instead of just getting things out of the way.   If you have a lot of games for example why not make a game closet just for the purpose of storing all of your family games.  This type of closet will make it more likely that your family may have a game night once a week because you will know exactly where to go to find the games. 
  4. Keeping all of the books in the house in one spot is another great organization tip.  If you have various bookshelves in your home, you can utilize them for other purposes and keep one for only books.  Organize each shelf for books from each family member if you have a lot of books.  

Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Expert Sandra Nickel.   

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