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Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 38

Inquiring Minds Want to Know - How Long Will Our House Last?

by The Hat Team

What is the life span of a house?  Some houses may survive for hundreds of years, but the individual components that make them up may not.  Parts of the house made of concrete or brick may last a long time, but other things such as appliances may only last ten years or so, regardless of how expensive they were to purchase. 

As seen in the graphic, Components of a House made with hardy materials such as wood or stone flooring can last 100 years or more.  Other durables that can last a lifetime included natural stone or tile countertops, fiberglass, wood or fire-rated steel exterior doors, copper wiring and most types of insulation.

A study by the National Association of Home Builders warns that life expectancies of homes will vary and the life span of an individual house’s component will depend greatly on the quality of installation, level of maintenance, weather and climate conditions and intensity of use.

Many homeowners will swap out house components or appliances before necessary due to changing styles and preferences or improvements in newer products.  Eligibility for tax credits or rebates and newer models that are more energy efficient and less costly to use may entice homeowners to replace items before the end of their useful life.

Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors know how important it is for clients to find a quality home that will last.  Call them at 334-834-1500 and let them help you find your dream home today!

Photo Credit: imjur.com

Spruce Up Your Outdoor Spaces with Concrete Stamping

by The Hat Team

A plain slab of poured concrete for a patio may be common, but it is boring.  However, recently, there has been a newly gained respect for using concrete as a decorating element in floors. counters and other applications.  Landscapers are taking this age-old material and giving it a new look using a Stamping Process to create patios that look like natural slate or fieldstone at a fraction of the price these high-end materials would generally call for.

Stamped concrete has been around for a long time, but older methods used molds that were more like cookie cutters.  New methods use natural sources which create a more realistic finished product.  There have also been advances in the various coloring methods that are available. The prevailing one is a dry, powdered form, called a Dry Shake Floor Hardener, which also serves to firm up the poured concrete prior to stamping.  After applying the hardener, a release agent is applied which allows the latex molds to be pulled up without sticking to the concrete.  These agents come in an antique finish that when stamped into the joints and crevices of the concrete, create a realistic, three-dimensional appearance.  Once the concrete has hardened, a sealer is used to not only protect the porous concrete from possible staining, but also to enhance the color of the finished patio.  In wet areas, such as pool decks, an anti-slip ingredient can be added for safety.

There are so many patterns and colors available for stamped concrete that you can be creative and have fun designing your patio. Not only will it make outdoor entertaining more fun for you, but it is a home improvement that will give you a return on your investment when you sell. Here are five budget friendly stamped concrete ideas:

- Don’t be square!  Take advantage of the fact that concrete can be poured in any shape.  You can use stamped concrete in small spaces, but why not jazz it up?  Incorporate curves or go from a square to a half-circle.  You can even shape the concrete to flow with the landscaping.

- Add a border. If stamping all the square footage of your concrete is too expensive, then consider just stamping the border.  A patterned border frames the concrete, giving it a finished look.  Borders are an inexpensive way to embellish plain concrete.

- Keep color simple. Coloring your concrete with multiple colors can greatly add to the cost of the project. You can save a lot of money by using one color.  It will still be prettier and make a greater impact than a plain, gray slab.

- Saw cut and texture. A concrete contractor will be able to tell you if it’s feasible to cut a pattern and then use a texture skin for pattern.  Your contractor can create grooves in the concrete and then a texture skin can be applied to give a 3-dimensional look.

- Expand the area you’re stamping.  Extend unique, fun patterns beyond the patio onto the driveway, walkways and steps.  Get more for your money by stamping in multiple places to create a holistic look rather than just splurging on one single area.

If you are making home improvements to sell your home, contact Sandra Nickel at 334-834-1500. She and her Hat Team of Professionals can help you decide what improvements will get the best return on your investment!

Photo Credit: remodelingexpense.com

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

Defeat Debt and Become a Homeowner in 2018!

by The Hat Team

As a real estate agent, I love helping people purchase their first home.  However, there are two major challenges that I see time and time again with first time home buyers:

  1. They often carry too much debt.
  2. They don’t have enough cash for a down payment.

These two issues are strongly related in that people need to reduce debts that inhibit them from saving money.

We all know that we shouldn’t spend more than we earn, but falling into the debt trap is easy to do.  You see a pair of boots that you must have and you think, I will use my credit card now and pay for them with my next paycheck.  It sounds reasonable at the time, but next thing you know you’ve done something like that often enough that there is a beastly credit card balance hanging over your head.

So, now you’re in debt.  You have regrets, but no use doing the “should have, would have, could have” dance.  Now it’s time to move forward and take the steps needed to reduce your debt.  Here is a list of things to do to change the way you manage your money.  Follow these steps and before you know it you will be on your way to saving for a down payment on your first home!

  1. Stop adding to your debt. The first step to getting out of debt is to stop adding to your outstanding balances. To remove temptation, carry only one credit card with you…and make sure it is the one with the lowest limit so that it is impossible to get into serious trouble with it.  Leave any other credit cards in a safe place at home to keep yourself from going on an impulsive shopping spree. 
  2. Take an inventory of your spending habits. This may not be a fun activity, but it is helpful to see how you are spending.  Create a list of where your money goes each month including rent, utilities, car payments, food, credit cards etc. Once you have done this, split the list into two categories: bills you must pay every month and debts you need to pay off.  The second list then can be organized in order of urgency, either based on outstanding balance or highest interest rate.  Now you will have a clear picture of your debt situation. Financial Inventory
  3. Eliminate the largest debts first. Make a minimum payment for each of your credit card bills, but then make an extra payment on the bill that is at the top of your list. Do this monthly until that bill is paid in full.  Now take the money you were using for that bill and start applying it to the second item on your list.  Continue this until all of them are paid off. 
  4. Cutting expenses and making the payment.  If you are already in debt, how are you going to find money for an extra payment?  Well, some sacrifices will have to be made.  Cutting back on extras like trips to Starbucks, entertainment and eating out can free up cash that can go toward that extra payment each month.  Cutting Monthly Expenses
  5. Prepare for the Unexpected. Sometimes life is a struggle and unexpected challenges such as car repairs or medical expenses will pop up from time to time.  As you cut expenses and start to save money, set up an emergency savings account just for these occasions.  That way you will be prepared and won’t have to use a credit card and add to your debt.
  6. Lower your interest rates. Give your credit card company a call to see if they will lower your interest rate. If they say no, shop around for a card with a lower rate and transfer your debt (be careful of transfer fees to make sure the transfer benefits you). You can also seek out a consolidation loan from your bank. They will pay off your debt and you can pay them back at a lower interest rate. How to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rate
  7. Stick to it!  As you see your debt decrease and see your cash increase, don’t fall back into old spending habits. As you have more money available, put it right into your savings and soon you will have the money you need for a down payment on your first home!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Finding-Your-Dream-Home

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

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Mortgage-Tips-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

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

Décor Trends to Say Goodbye to in 2018

by The Hat Team

The new year is around the corner and with it will come new home décor trends.  If you are thinking of redecorating in 2018, here are some styles that are not so trendy anymore:

  • Open shelving - Open shelving appeals to minimalists because there is nowhere to hide clutter, but they aren’t the most practical of designs. Unless you have perfectly matching items, it might just end up looking like a bunch of random “stuff” piled on shelves.
  • Painted brick - Natural brick painted white has been popular, but before you pull out your paintbrushes, stop and think about whether it will still be popular in a few years. Natural brick is classic and provides a warm, cozy ambiance. Once you paint it white, it’s almost impossible to make it look natural again.
  • Open floor plans - Everybody is knocking down walls!  Nobody seems to want walls or doors between rooms anymore.  Living spaces that are entirely open have been all the rage for a while now.  But sometimes having separate rooms makes more sense.  Thanks to technology, more people are working from home and need a private space.  Don’t be surprised if walls make a big comeback!
  • Barn doors - This farmhouse inspired home décor trend is still very popular, but like any very popular trend, its time is sure to run its course.  If you must add a barn door in your home, just don’t add one to every room.  Otherwise, you might find yourself replacing them all in a few years.
  • Granite countertops - For a long time a kitchen hasn’t even been worth looking at if it didn’t come with granite countertops.  But the truth is there are a lot of other attractive options that are more durable, less expensive and not in every kitchen you see.  Make your kitchen stand out with something different, like quartz, butcher block, concrete or marble
  • Shiplap - If you watch any home renovation shows, chances are you have heard of shiplap…and chances are you have added it to your home.  But like wood paneling of the 70s, shiplap is going to run its course in popularity.  And when that happens, you’re going to have to figure out how to get rid of it.  So, do yourself a favor if you haven’t added it already, and don’t.

So, if you’re going to be redecorating in the new year, you may want to avoid these trends…unless of course you still like them. Because at the end of the day, your home should be decorated in a way that makes YOU happy!

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

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

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Tips-for-De-cluttering-Your-Bathroom

Creating Traditions in Your New Home

by The Hat Team

If this is your first holiday season in your new home, it is a perfect time to start some new traditions!  When you move, you don’t leave everything behind.  You bring your belongings and your memories and yes, your family rituals.  But a fresh start in an unfamiliar house is just the inspiration you need to begin unique traditions that will make this house truly feel like home.

Check out these fun ideas for creating new traditions:

  • Take and annual family photo. Choose a theme or a pose that you can recreate every year.  Label the photos with the date and create a photo book or framed collage with them.  It will be so much fun for your family to see how everyone changes through the years. Creative Family Photo Ideas
  • Incorporate a cultural tradition.  No matter what holiday you celebrate, you will find a cultural tradition to go with it.  Make it a family activity to research your heritage and make new discoveries about how your ancestors celebrated. Multicultural Holiday Celebrations
     
  • Gratitude. Sometimes we take all that we have for granted. A wonderful way to experience the holiday spirit is to express gratitude.  This can be a fun and meaningful activity for the whole family.  Go outdoors and find a branch to use to hold your “leaves of gratitude”. Cut leaves out of colorful paper and each day have family members write something they are grateful for on a leaf. Then hang the leaves on the “tree” to create a beautiful reminder of all that is right with your world!  Gratitude Tree

If you are still in search of the perfect house to make your new home, contact Sandra Nickel and the Hat Team for all your real estate needs!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/The-Top-Features-to-Look-for-When-Buying-a-House

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Mortgage-Tips-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Making-Your-Home-Safe-for-Children

Energy and Money Savers for Winter

by The Hat Team

With energy costs on the rise, it is essential for a homeowner to stay on top of all they can in order reduce their heating and utility bills during the cold Winter months. Here are some things consumers can do on their own at little or no cost to keep money in their pockets every month.

  • Check windows and doors for drafts. Seal spaces with caulk or weather stripping.
  • Look at all of the utility-entry places around the outside of your home, and fill around pipes with insulation or cement, if practical.
  • Close the foundation/crawlspace vents as soon as temps get colder than 40°. This helps protect water pipes from freezing as well.
  • Go into the attic and inspect your insulation, or consider adding insulation if you haven’t taken that step. This can cut your energy costs and pay for itself in a few years.
  • Check ductwork for places where it may have come apart and repair—this job may be better for a service person to undertake.
  • The sun can be used to help keep the house warm by simply keeping curtains on the south side of your home open during the day.
  • Hanging thicker panels or thermal curtains can help insulate around windows as well.  If you don’t want to change curtains, easy-to-install cellular shades allow light to shine through while insulating your windows. 
  • Plastic sheeting is inexpensive and easy to install on drafty windows or unused patio doors, and just as easy to remove when Spring arrives. Kits are available at hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Have your furnace serviced before it’s time to use it, and replace your filters once a month.
  • Close the damper in the fireplace when you're not using it.
  • Install a programmable thermostat--if heating with a heat pump, make sure the thermostat is the type specifically for heat pumps.  Program the thermostat for the lowest temperature setting that your family is comfortable while at home, preferably in the 60° range. Turning it down 10°-15° at night and using an extra blanket will calculate to big savings on your energy use and costs.
  • Using a humidifier is not only healthier, it can cut down on heating costs. The more moisture there is in the air, the warmer you feel.
  • If you use ceiling fans, make sure they’re turning clockwise on low speed to pull up cool air, and circulate the warm air that collects near the ceiling.
  • Thinking about changing your home’s heat source? Do it before the cold weather sets in.  Check out the many different products available to help you make this decision.

The Department of Energy states that simply turning down the thermostat is the number one money-saver. For every degree it’s lowered, consumers save approximately 3% on heating costs.  Lowering the temperature may mean wearing a sweater and socks inside, but the money you can save outweighs the bulky clothes. 

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/blog/Energy-Conservation-Tips-For-Your-Home-This-Winter

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/blog/Autumn-Home-Maintenance

 

Photo credit:Pure Green Lawn and Tree Professionals 

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

Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 38

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