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Surprising Fire Hazards and How to Prevent Them

by The Hat Team


It is estimated by The National Fire Protection Association that over 47,000 home fires reported to fire departments are caused by some kind of electrical failure as a trigger to ignition.  But there are some other unusual ways that fires can start that we should all be aware of.

Dishwashers
While you may be aware that overheating dryers or ovens can cause fires, you might think dishwashers are safe because they have water. And water puts out fires…right? Wrong!  Dishwasher fires can be caused by liquids coming into contact with the machine’s wires.  Serious damage can occur when fires are ignited in dishwashers.  According to a 25 year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, any appliance that powers a motor, heating element, or both always has a higher risk for fire - and dishwashers are a common example.  He advises that they never be turned on when going to sleep or leaving the home. Tips to Prevent Dishwasher Fires

Jars and Other Glass Objects
According to survivalists, one of the best ways to start a fire is to use a piece of glass to refract sunlight onto dry wood.  Without proper care, that same scientific process can happen on your own kitchen table.  In 2015 a fire broke out in a southwest London home because of sun rays reflecting through an empty Nutella jar, the Associated Press reported.  While it may seem to be a freakish way for a fire to start, the fire brigade’s investigative unit confirmed that the glass jar was to blame.  The chances of this happening in your home are slim, but it is important to remember to never store flammable liquids like gasoline, cleaning fluids, paint thinners and even cooking oils in glass jars that you intend to leave out in the sunlight.  Metal cans for commercial-use flammable liquids and plastic containers for things such as cooking oils are safer options.

Rodents
Small rodents like squirrels and rats like to burrow into your attic insulation in cold weather and chew anything they can get their teeth on, including rubber covered electrical lines.  Unfortunately, if electrical wires become exposed due to their protective insulation being compromised, there is a likelihood of igniting a flame.  The key to preventing this from happening is to keep the critters out to begin with.  Before winter season, make sure all vents are covered, holes are patched and cracks are sealed. 4 Ways to Protect Your Wiring from Rodent Damage

Laptops
If you have ever had your laptop computer in your, well, lap for an extended period of time, you know that they get hot.  Because of this, it is a bad idea to leave one sitting on a flammable surface such as bedding, furniture or carpet.  But the real culprit behind laptop fires is the lithium in the batteries.  A poorly made battery can overheat and burst into flames.  Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that were recalled because they were catching on fire? It was the lithium batteries that were the problem.  Any device powered by lithium ion batteries should be shut off when not in use and stored away from any flammable items.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: metrofamilymagazine.com


Congratulations!  You’ve just moved into your new house!  It’s exciting, but it’s also a huge transition.  It takes time to make a new house feel like home. Here is a guide to help you get started:

  1. Be active.  If you have moved to a new area where you don’t know anyone, you may be tempted to isolate yourself.  After all, you have unpacking to do and maybe a new job to start. But try to resist that temptation.  Staying socially, physically and communally active triggers significant feelings that create the sense of home.  Make sure you take time to exercise; join a community such as a church, the school PTA or a book club and shop locally to get to know your surroundings.
     
  2. Surround yourself with living things.  A move can be difficult, especially if you are grieving the place you left.  It’s not uncommon for people to become depressed after moving to a new home.  Combat those feelings by cultivating relationships with living things. Start a garden, spend time with your children and pets or volunteer in the community.  Volunteer Opportunities in Montgomery
     
  3. Comfort yourself with colors.  Decorate with a palette of colors that lift your mood.  Choose colors that promote calm, happy feelings.  For example, earth tones create a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere that evokes feelings stability, reassurance and ease, while light pastel colors stimulate feelings of peacefulness, calm and cleanliness. 14 Calming Paint Colors
     
  4. Surround yourself with the familiar. Even before you are completely settled into your home, placing familiar items such as family pictures and heirlooms in your new space can make it feel more like you.  Some other ways to make you feel at home: cook favorite meals, burn candles with favorite scents and/or play your favorite music.
     
  5. Unpack. This may seem obvious, but it’s not unusual for people to still have boxes cluttering the house months after moving in.  Take your belongings out of the boxes right away and begin decorating and arranging furniture. The sooner you do this, the sooner this once strange place will feel like home! The Best Way to Unpack After Moving

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

Cleaning Your Home After Selling

by The Hat Team

SOLD!  What a relief!  Your house is sold and soon you will be moving out.  Pride in ownership means that you will likely want to leave your house in good shape for its new owners. In some states, the Real Estate Purchase Contract may stipulate that the home is to be “swept clean”, meaning the seller should at least sweep the floors and leave walls and ceilings bare.  But the language can often be vague.  Here is a list of cleaning tips for home sellers to help you leave the house reasonably clean and to create a feeling of goodwill toward your buyer:

Cleaning the Interior of the Home Before Moving Out:

  • Remove all personal property.
  • Vacuum the floors.
  • Clean kitchen appliances including the inside of the refrigerator and over.  Wipe down the counters.
  • Scrub sinks and tubs.
  • Wipe down interior cabinets and shelves.
  • Wash tile/vinyl/wood flooring.

Cleaning the Garage Prior to Closing:

  • Remove personal belongings.
  • Throw away trash.
  • Properly dispose of toxic chemicals.
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Stack items pertaining to the home such as paint cans, roofing materials or extra flooring.  Check to make sure the buyer wants the extra materials first.

Basically, you want to leave the home in the condition that you would like to find your new home.  Your buyers will appreciate it!  What Are House Cleaning Expectations When a Seller Moves

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: tm-cleaning.com

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!

Home Improvements that Don’t Increase the Value of Your Home

by The Hat Team

Preparing to sell your home can be a stressful process.  Often you will find yourself making improvements just for the sake of the sale.  While some of these enhancements may boost the look of your property and make it easier to sell your home, you will be surprised to discover that they do not increase the value of your home.  In fact, some improvements might actually detract from it.  Here is a list of 6 “home improvements” that do not increase the value of your home:

EXTENSIVE PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPING

Landscaping choices are a personal preference.If you are going to invest in elaborate landscaping, you should do it for your own enjoyment, because no matter how grand your yard is, it’s not going to bring you big bucks upon resale.

NEW ROOF, GUTTERS, SPRINKLERS OR HVAC

There are certainly buyers in the market who will be looking for homes that have newer features, but they won’t pay more for them.Replacing things that are broken or past their life expectancy is considered and not something buyers expect to pay for.

SWIMMING POOL AND/OR PERSONAL SPA

While water-related improvements can provide a lot of fun and entertainment for your family, the cost of installing a pool or spa never finds its way back to you. In fact, some buyers will ask that you take the spa with you or won’t purchase a house with a swimming pool.Installing a pool or spa should only be done for your own pleasure.

MAKING DATED IMPROVMENTS

If you think you might be selling your house, you need to be careful about making improvements that are not in style. For example, you might love white appliances and countertops in your kitchen, but because these are not currently trendy, potential buyers are not likely to feel the same way.

PAINTING YOUR HOUSE

Painting may be the single most cost-effective improvement you can make before selling your home, but it won’t return any bang for your buck unless you do the painting yourself. Fresh paint on the exterior or interior of your home absolutely makes the home more saleable, but an appraiser will not give you a credit boost for it.

SOLAR PANELS

The people selling you those solar panels will tell you that they will improve the value of your home and add to your bottom line profit, but it’s not true. You get zero approved value for solar panel installation.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs.  Call them at 334-834-1500 today!

Photo Credit: centrestaged.com

Outdoor Living Spaces 101

by The Hat Team

During the summer, many people spend time outdoors to savor the warm weather.  Unfortunately, there are some not-so-pleasant aspects of spending time outside this time of year as well.  Bugs, rain and hot, humid days can make you want to stay indoors.  The following tips will help make the time you spend outside more comfortable:

  1. BUGS.  Yuck.  Whether you are hosting an alfresco dinner party or just simply trying to relax with a good book on your deck, nothing will send you running back inside faster than nasty, annoying bugs.  If mosquitoes are a problem in your area, dealing with them is imperative if you want to be able to enjoy the outdoors.  Screening in a porch is an ideal way to be able to feel like you are outside without all the awful bug bites.  Other ways to keep insects away:
  • Do not keep any standing water on your property.  Even a single forgotten flowerpot full of rainwater can become a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Make water features running rather than standing, or treat them with Mosquito Dunks
  • Install ceiling fans on porches - flies and mosquitoes do not like moving air.
     
  1. USE OUTDOOR FABRICS IN EXPOSED AREAS.  If your porch is covered, you may be able to get away with using more delicate furniture and cushions not specifically made for outdoor use.  But if your seating area is exposed to the elements, you will want to invest in fabrics and furniture made for outside use.  They will likely be more expensive, but they won’t fade in the sun, will resist stains and are water resistant.  The cushions are stuffed with material that sheds water easily so that they won’t stay waterlogged if they get wet.
     
  2. UTILIZE A STORAGE BENCH.  While outdoor cushions are designed to stand up to repeated soakings, they will still be wet for a while directly after a rainstorm.  You can avoid having to sit on damp cushions by keeping them in a covered storage bench when you know there is a chance of rain.  If they won’t fit in a storage bench, lean your larger cushions against the wall of the house.  Do the same with any lightweight folding chairs.
     
  3. MASK SOUNDS WITH RUNNING WATER.  If noise is an issue that prevents you from indulging in a peaceful outdoor experience, try using a water feature to drown out the distraction.  Water is a great way to gently camouflage sounds from close neighbors.  Try installing a fountain near your seating area for a more tranquil atmosphere.
     
  4. MUSIC. If the water feature doesn’t appeal to you, soft music playing in the background can be just as effective at masking sounds.  With wireless speakers, you don’t even need an outlet to play your music.
     
  5. SHADE.  Even when you are craving the warmth of the sun, sitting outside without any shade on a hot, sunny day will send you running for the AC before too long.  There are a lot of options for adding shade to your yard. Try freestanding umbrellas, a cloth overhang, lattices, a shade tree or a pergola.
     
  6. PUT TOGETHER AN OUTDOOR DINING KIT.  Dining alfresco will be easier if you have a kit ready and waiting.  Put your frequently used outdoor items in a basket or on a big tray with handles so you can just grab it and go.  Here are some things to include:
  • Unbreakable wineglasses and plates
  • A carafe for water, wine or tea
  • Big napkins
  • Candles and matches or a lighter
  • A wicker or mesh dome-shaped cover to keep flies off the food
  • Unbreakable outdoor serving pieces
  • A bottle opener
  1. HAVE BLANKETS FOR CHILLY EVENINGS. Keep some blankets nearby.  Old wool camp-style blankets, lightweight kantha quilts, or fringed throws work well.  Your guests will thank you on chilly evenings in the garden!
     
  2. HAVE ADEQUATE NIGHTTIME LIGHTING.  Your outdoor space will really come alive at night with Outdoor Lighting. Try placing lighting under a bench seat for subtle illumination, make a ring of lanterns on the grass around your dining table or hang strings of lights overhead.  Landscape lighting will add to the ambiance as well.

If you’re looking for a home with a beautiful space for outdoor enjoyment, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors help you find the right home for you and your family!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: durhamhill.com

Whether moving for a job or just relocating for personal reasons, you still must decide what to do with your current home.  Should you rent it out?  Or sell it?  There are many circumstances to consider before making that decision.  How long do you have before you move?  What is the housing market doing in your area?  And do you have someone you can trust to manage your property?

Of course, the biggest motivator in your decision is which option will be most financially profitable.   If you have a lot of equity in your house and can sell it, you’ll walk away with some cash to put toward your new home.  If the house is paid off, you’ll walk away with A LOT of cash.  However, if your equity is built up and you have low mortgage payments (or no mortgage payment), you could bring in a substantial monthly income by renting the house for more than your monthly payments.  You do have to consider the costs involved with renting the house out.  If you’re relocating to another town, you will likely have to hire a Property Manager to collect rent and take care of issues that come up.  You might also have to pay to advertise the home.

There are going to be risks involved either way.  If you put the house up for sale, you run the risk of not selling it quickly and possibly ending up with two mortgage payments or a house payment and rent payment on a new place. But, renting out your house could be a bigger risk. There’s a chance you will rent it to people who you think will be good tenants, but wind up paying the rent late or not at all.  There is also the risk that renters will not take care of the house and lower its value.

Another issue to consider is that housing markets can greatly fluctuate from year to year. You must question whether your neighborhood is in the kind of shape to support a quick sale.  If other homes haven’t been selling, for example, you might not get as much for your house as you might if you could wait a year or two and rent it out in the meantime.  On the other hand, if the housing market is hot in your neighborhood, it might just be the best time to take advantage of it and sell to get the best price possible.

Finally, you have to think about whether you can afford a new mortgage while you still own the first house.  Per Kiplinger, lenders count about 75 percent of the income you receive from renters when figuring out if they’ll give you a new loan, but that’s only if you have a signed lease and your salary is sufficient to cover the rest of the mortgage requirement.  Selling your house will make it much easier for you to qualify for a new loan.

The bottom line is that, after doing your research, you can decide whether selling or renting is the best and most financially sound choice for you.

If you’re thinking about selling your home let experienced Realtor Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you in getting your home listed and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: hawaiilife.com

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

How to Make the Most Out of Small Spaces

by The Hat Team

The tiny house craze is alive and well, and while you may not be looking for a Tiny Home you might be looking to downsize and simplify.  There are Big Benefits of Living in a Small House. First, it costs less money…which frees up funds for other things you enjoy like travel and hobbies.  And the peace of mind that comes with living within your means is priceless.  Also, with less space, there is less to clean.  And less cleaning means more time for fun and relaxation.  But sometimes it can be challenging to fit everything you need (and want) into a home with limited square footage.  Don’t despair!  Not only can you make it all fit, you can do it with style and create a comfortable, cozy home that suits all your needs.  Here are some clever ideas for making the most of small spaces:

  • Make everything seem bigger by painting walls in light colors. 
  • Use small scale furniture rather than large, overstuffed pieces that will overwhelm the room.
  • Use mirrors to create the illusion of more space.  One mirror will make an impression, but two facing each other will make a bigger impact by amplifying the semblance of added area and light.
  • If you’re thinking of doing any renovations, consider adding a bay window. Not only will it maximize square footage, but it will provide the added bonus of flooding the house with natural light.
  • Keep things simple.  Clean lines make things feel streamlined and give the impression of openness.
  • Take advantage of high ceilings by going vertical with cabinetry.  Not only will it draw the eyes up and away from the limited counter space, but it will also provide maximum storage.
  • Continue thinking up and not out by utilizing tall bookshelves.
  • Use furniture pieces that serve more than one purpose.
  • Got stairs?  Don’t let the area underneath them go to waste.  There are great options for creating extra storage that will be functional and look great too.
  • If you’re going to hang curtains, hand them as high as you can to make the ceilings seem higher and extend the rods about 4 inches on either side to make windows seem wider and to allow more light in when they are open.

Downsizing and simplifying will make you realize that less really is more, but it doesn’t mean you must sacrifice style and comfort!

If you’ve been thinking about simplifying your life by downsizing, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you in finding the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500.

Photo Credit: countryliving.com

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