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Best Home Improvements for the Money

by Joe Klarman

Upgrading your home can be tricky. Some home improvements are expensive not just in terms of cost, but whether you will recoup your investment. Here are a few home improvements that improve your home and be a great investment.

Landscape Makeover

Landscaping is an inexpensive way to increase your home's value. Adding a new walkway or planting some colorful flowers is simple and easy. It shows your community that you take pride in your home, and makes it stand out. You can find plants for free just by checking the classifieds; many of your neighbors are trying to get rid of plants without throwing them away. Another easy way to dramatically improve the appearance of your yard is to keep it edged. Clean lines always look great,

Add Insulation

30 percent of the warm air your furnace produces escapes because of subpar insulation in your attic. This is an easy project that should not take longer than a weekend. Insulation is inexpensive, and it is easy to add to your attic. While you are at it add caulking around doors and windows. This will immediately save you money and upgrade your home's energy efficiency.

Upgrade Your Plumbing

Appraisers take a home's plumbing very seriously when assessing a home's value. If your old iron pipes are rusting consider replacing them. In the past, this was a messy undertaking; walls torn down and dust flying throughout a house. Current replacement piping is now made from PEX which is basically plastic tubing. This tubing is reliable and easily installed without a great deal of mess.

No one will invest in a property that has less than desirable plumbing. Many new homeowner's nightmares involve expensive work being done on their new homes plumbing. The cost of upgrading your home's plumbing is less than you think. This is a great investment.

Redecorate Your Bathroom

New fixtures and a paint job will instantly turn a drab bathroom into a stylish room. Details like a new mirror or adding crown molding will stylishly update the look of your bathroom without costing an arm and a leg. Light fixtures are an easy update that can transform the look of your bathroom.

Kitchen Improvements

The smartest investment in your home is to redecorate your kitchen. Home buyers always gravitate to the kitchen first when viewing a house for sale. Besides new appliances concentrate on the flow of your kitchen. Make sure the stove is close to the sink and that there is room to move easily around the room. Spend money on the layout of your kitchen; it is the best investment you can make in your home.

Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal

by Joe Klarman

Poor curb appeal deters potential buyers and reduces the asking price of your property. Though many of the changes are merely cosmetic, they catch a buyer's eye and adds to the perceived value of your home. Try these five simple upgrades and you'll see not only an increase in the number of people who want to see the property, but an increase in what they are willing to pay.

  1. Make The Home Stand Out: There are two things that people notice when they pull up to the curb in front of your house: the mailbox and the house numbers. If your mailbox is freestanding on the side of the road, the elements dull the paint and make it look old after only a couple of years. A new mailbox costs less than $100, and takes less than an hour to install. New house numbers allow people to more easily identify the home, and gives it a modern appearance.
  2. Add Some Life: Plants add a sense of comfort and style to the exterior of the home, and make it feel liveable. You don't have to spend a fortune to add plants and increase the home's curb appeal. Window boxes are ideal for colorful flower displays, while the front stoop is a great place to add some medium sized potted plants.
  3. Pay Attention To The Door: As the gateway to the home, the door serves as the focal point for the front of the house. Over time the door gets scratched and the paint chips, leaving it looking less than ideal. Spruce up the front door with a coat of paint or a refinish, and complete the job by making the door glass shine.
  4. Give The Exterior A Facelift: Though painting the entire exterior of your home would be expensive, it generally costs less than $100 to update the trim and shutters. A fresh coat of paint makes these exterior accents pop, so even a home that's decades old looks like new.
  5. Don't Discount A Trim: Don't let a poorly maintained lawn undermine all of your other efforts to upgrade the home's curb appeal. High grass and unkempt trees give a home a rundown appearance, often making it look abandoned. This step is especially important if you plan to live in another location while you wait for the home to sell. You'll need to trim bushes and trees so nothing touches the home's exterior, while you keep the grass around two inches high.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you can't afford a poor impression when you try to sell your home. A little bit of effort goes a long way when you want to increase your home's curb appeal, but the returns you get are worth thousands of dollars.

7 Tips To Prepare Your Home For Market


5 Green Upgrades for Your Home

by Joe Klarman

You can save money on energy with these five green upgrades for your home. The upgrades increase the value of your home and make it more marketable when you are ready to sell it.

Start by taking an inventory of your home to see how and where you can save energy. Evaluate the cost of new appliances, repairs and replacements that may be necessary. You may be able to make minor seasonal repairs yourself.

1. Doors and windows

Replace old doors and windows that allow air to leak in or out of your home. Wood window frames are now considered better than aluminum frames. Windows should fit tight with a good seal.

Windows can be opened in nice weather to allow air to circulate but you do not want cold air in the house when you are trying to heat it. Storm windows may be necessary on the side of your house that gets strong wind gusts, rain and snow.

Doors that are old and do not hang properly can allow cold air, rain and dirt to seep into the house. This makes your heating and air circulation system work harder. Doors need to be replaced and/or sealed with weather stripping if you live in an area that gets rain, wind and snow.

2. Seal cracks and leaks

Use caulk to seal all cracks in the base of your house where it meets the ground. This happens occasionally. Seal cracks in basements or garages. You may find cracks around doors and windows that can be easily sealed with commercial sealant found at home improvement stores.

Check your cooling and heating system ducts. Tape any leaks or replace the ductwork if necessary. You can be loosing hot or cooled air through leaking ducts. Consider replacing your HVAC system if it is old and not working well.

Do not seal off vents to rooms you don't want to heat or cool. That only makes the HVAC system work harder. A ceiling fan may circulate warm or cool air at a lower cost than your HVAC blower.

Install a programmable thermostat to control temperature in your home 24/7.

3. Update appliances

Energy Star appliances are the most efficient in saving energy and utility costs. This government program rates water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and lighting fixtures based on their cost per electrical unit.

Modern on-demand electric hot water heaters may cost more but they on do not have a tank that must be kept at a constant temperature to supply hot water. New conventional gas and electric hot water heaters are now more energy-efficient.

4. Update lighting

LED (light emitting diode) lighting saves energy. LED fixtures can save up to 85 percent on lighting cost. LEDs can be used indoors and out. Change to LED lighting and energy-saving spiral bulbs gradually as you replace bulbs and fixtures. A 5-watt LED light can replace a 40-watt bulb. LEDs lights can last up to 25,000 hours in contrast to the average incandescent bulb with a 1,200-hour lifespan.

Pendant lights, task and area lighting are more economical than overhead lights in the average room. The light is focused where it's needed.

5. Insulate

Attic areas under roofs can be insulated with the material that holds in warmed or cooled air. This keeps air from leaking out through the roof. Insulating material can also be used in walls and basements.

Other energy-saving upgrades can include solar panels, energy recovery ventilator and geothermal systems where they are available. These upgrades are more costly but they save money over time and increase the value of any home.

Top DIY Mistakes made by homeowners

by Joe Klarman

Many homeowners want to fix up their homes before putting them on the market for sale. They become involved in do-it-yourself projects and find they don't have the time or the skills required to complete the job.

There are several projects that homeowners can do by themselves but building extra rooms and installing flooring and appliances should be left to professionals. Electrical wiring and plumbing are other jobs that should be completed by licensed professionals.

A few of the mistakes DIY homeowners make include:

  • Not obtaining necessary permits for remodels and additions
  • Not budgeting correctly
  • Ignoring building codes
  • Not properly preparing walls and other areas for painting
  • Using the wrong tools or skimping on tools and materials
  • Installing flooring incorrectly
  • Planning beyond skill level

DIY home improvements may be more costly than you thought. It's important to shop and budget correctly before starting a project. You may find a professional service will work for the same price.

Painting and wallpaper

It's easy to paint interior rooms if you have the right type of paint, rollers, brushers, pans, drop cloths and masking tape. If you enjoy painting, this is a good project. Don't forget to paint closets and other recessed areas as well. Painting ceilings requires patience and the right equipment

People often become frustrated with the preparation and detailing. Furniture should be moved out of the room. Moldings should be removed at the floor and ceiling or covered with masking tape. Carpeting should be moved back from the walls and covered with a drop cloth.

Having enough paint for the project is also important. An inferior paint job with runs and drips will not help sell a house.

Walls must be cleaned and prepared for painting. A primer coat may be needed if you are painting a light color over a dark color. It is never a good idea to paint over wallpaper. The wallpaper should be removed first.

You can hang wallpaper on prepared walls with the old paper removed. Placing new paper over old paper is a common mistake of many DIY homeowners.

Flooring and counters

Installing new carpet over old carpet is another major mistake. There are dirt and air pockets between the two layers and the new carpet will not stay tight. Old carpeting and padding should be removed and the surface cleaned before the new floor covering is installed. Professional installers have the power stretchers necessary to fit new carpeting.

Square carpet or laminate tiles can be installed by homeowners who want to take the time to lay them out correctly and work with the messy glues. You can also install stone and porcelain tiles if you know how to use the grout and caulking materials. Many DIY installations leave ugly globs of caulk and grout. The tiles may not be installed evenly.

Carpet and tile not correctly installed can cause hazards and lower the value of your home. Professional installation is required for a finished look.

Plumbing and wiring

Good plumbing installation is very important. You may be able to replace a sink using the existing connections, but new lines should be installed by plumbers with the right tools. This is necessary to comply with codes when adding or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen.

Electrical mistakes can be dangerous. A new room or an older home should be wired with switch plates and outlets installed by an electrician. Your home has to pass inspection and meet wiring codes. A faulty DIY wiring job will be discovered with a home inspection.

Home improvements that look well planned and finished will help sell your home.

What's Involved in a Closing

by Joe Klarman

So after months of searching, you’ve finally found your dream home! Congratulations! However, it’s not over just yet – don’t expect to be able to just write a check and call it a day. There are still a lot of things to do before you can close on your dream home. The following are the steps that are involved with closing on a new house:

  • The offer – The first step is obviously to make an offer to the seller. Once you’ve decided on a house, it’s best if you move as quickly as possible. You don’t want another buyer to beat you to the punch. There’s no guarantee that the seller will accept your offer, but it’s usually a good rule of thumb to offer around 8 to 10 percent below what the seller is asking for. This will provide you with a little bit of negotiation room. Just don’t go over what you budgeted for, no matter how much you love the house!
  • The deposit – When you make an offer, you should provide a deposit of around 1 percent of the purchase price. The seller’s lawyer or real estate agent will hold that money until it is closed. If your offer isn’t accepted, the deposit will be returned. If it is, the deposit will go towards your down payment.
  • Meet the contingencies – The contract will typically have a number of contingencies that you will have to meet before you can close. These often include obtaining an acceptable house inspection as well as securing your financing. You’ll usually have 10 to 14 days from the time you accept the contract to get an inspection and 30 days to secure financing.
  • Get a home inspection – You’ll want a professional inspector to take a look at the mechanical and structural condition of the house. You don’t want to buy a house that might have a bunch of expensive issues, after all.
  • Signing the contract – The contract is a legally binding obligation to purchase the property as long as the contingencies are met. It contains the final selling price, the date of closing, the property's description, the possession date and any other contingencies that are applicable.
  • The settlement sheet – This document is required by the Department of Housing and Urban development and includes all the financial information concerning the purchase of the house. A copy of the settlement sheet must be given to both the buyer and the seller.
  • The closing documents – Once the contract and settlement sheet have been drawn up and signed, you’ll still need to complete some paperwork. This includes a title search, the title insurance and an application for your homeowner’s insurance, which is required for obtaining your mortgage.
  • Closing costs – Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay a number of closing costs, which include the appraisal fee, a loan origination fee, a inspection fee, a credit report fee, your mortgage broker's fee, the cost of your title insurance, taxes and the document preparation fee.​
  • The settlement – The settlement is the final step of the closing process. It describes how much you owe on the property after the down payment as well as the transfer of the title on the date agreed upon.

These are the steps that you’ll have to take in order to close on your dream home. Remember, you’ll also have to make some practical arrangements, such as setting up your utility service and making your first mortgage payment. Once all of this is done, you’ll finally be able to move into your new home!


The Importance of Staing Your Home

by Joe Klarman

When selling a home, one thing that can't be stressed enough is the importance of staging. You may think staging your home really isn't all that important; however, it can make the difference between selling your home quickly and having it linger on the market. Here are some advantages of staging you may not have thought about before, but are nonetheless important.

Provides a Good First Impression

Your home's first impression is important, as potential buyers are likely to form an opinion of it right away. If your home is clean and uncluttered, chances are others will think it has been well cared for, making it more likely they will be interested in it.

Makes rooms appear larger

One thing that will turn people off is the feeling that your rooms are not as big as they should be. Even if you have large rooms, it may not appear that you do if you have too much furniture or other belongings. Too much stuff makes your rooms appear crowded, and might not allow traffic to flow in and out of them smoothly. Staging rooms makes them appear larger, and provides a light and airy feeling that naturally attracts people to them.

Helps homes sell faster

Those who stage their homes tend to sell quicker than those who do not. According to Restyle Staging, homes that are not staged tend to stay on the market up to four times longer than those that are not staged. This is a problem because the longer your home is on the market, the less likely you are to obtain a good price for it. Staging also helps your home look better in pictures, which is important because most buyers narrow down their search by viewing photographs online. If your home doesn't photograph well, chances are that people won't even ask to see it in the first place.

Maximizing Closet Space

Your rooms aren't the only thing that requires staging, as your closets do as well. Fox News recommends having between 20 and 30 percent open space inside all your closets, as this will help them appear more spacious. Closets ( and storage space in general) is one thing that is non-negotiable for many people, which is why you should make the extra effort to ensure your closets are properly staged.

Enhances your Home's Potential

People are unlikely to envision what your home could look like, but instead are apt to see it the way it appears. This is one reason why professional staging is advantageous, because it allows you to maximize your home's potential, thereby changing the way others view it. If you have some unique architectural features to show off or want to emphasize how versatile certain areas are, professional staging can help you accomplish this with ease.

Draws and Keeps Attention

Not only can professional staging emphasize your home's unique features, but it may also pique their interest and entice them to see more. Carefully placed artwork can draw the eye toward the top of your stairs or a nook underneath them and encourage people to take a second look. Likewise, some fluffy pillows along a window seat or an afghan draped across a porch swing can also make people want to view more.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to consider staging your home. In the long run, your efforts will pay off by allowing you to sell your home sooner and for more money than you imagined possible.

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7




Contact Information

Russell Jones Real Estate
536 Broadway East
Seattle WA 98102
Office: (206)323-0800
Direct: (206)683-5639
Fax: (206)323-9275