Donna Coakley McGowan's Blog
1. Electrical workSo you've got a few faulty outlets in the new home you bought. It doesn't seem worth calling in an electrician just for those few minor issues. However, due to the dangers and complications that can arise from electric work, it's a good idea to hold off and call in the experts. Aside from shocking yourself (which can be deadly), you could also create fire hazards or damage circuitry, resulting in much higher repair costs than you initially had. Another benefit of calling in an electrician, other than having the project done correctly, is that they will be able to diagnose your home circuitry to let you know what other problems might arise in the foreseeable future. So, when it comes to power issues, always call in the pros.
2. Hazardous materialsMany people will tell you not to worry about asbestos or lead paint unless you have children. However, these are both dangerous materials than can create several chronic health problems in adults as well. If you're concerned for the safety of yourself and your family, call in contractors who will remove the lead or asbestos. What can go wrong if you try to do it yourself? Lead chips and dust will fly through the air when attempting to remove lead paint. Breathing in these fumes is dangerous initially and down the road when the dust settles into the corners of your home. Asbestos, especially in blown-in insulation can be particularly dangerous. Aside from ensuring your safety, a contractor will also be able to assess the situation and determine whether your hazardous materials need to be removed or can just be "repaired" or covered up. Simple repair jobs on asbestos or lead-containing objects can save you some serious time and money.
3. Roofing and sidingThere's a reason even building contractors bring in third party companies to install roofs and siding. These are both labor-intensive and time-intensive jobs that require specialized skills and tools that only dedicated companies can accomplish correctly. Roofing and siding are both dangerous jobs that carry the risk of falling off of roofs and ladders, as well as injuring your back lifting heavy shingles. The pros have the tools and experience to avoid these injuries. When you hire the professionals to do your roofing or siding, you can rest assured that the job is done correctly and will last much longer than if you made it a DIY project as well.
Safety CheckBefore you ride your bike, it's good to perform a basic safety check in your driveway before leaving your home. You'll want to check:
- tires, to see if they're properly inflated, have enough tread, and don't have any cracks
- brakes, to see if both the front and rear brakes work properly and that they're touching the rims when pressed
- chain and shifters, to make sure the chain is lubricated and that the shifters are functioning correctly
Cleaning and lubricationCleaning your bicycle regularly isn't just a matter of aesthetics. A clean bike is a safe bike and the process of cleaning helps you discover any potential issues with the bicycle. On a monthly basis, clean the frame and rims of your bike with a cloth. Look for any cracks in the frame, loose bolts or screws on any of the mechanisms. Cleaning and lubricating the chain of your bike will significantly increase its lifespan and will prevent your chain from malfunctioning when you're out on a ride. First, turn your bike upside down so that it is balanced on the sea and handlebars. Wipe off the grime that has built up on the chain with a rag. If necessary, use a degreaser and a small brush to scrub any remaining residue from between the links, then wipe down the chain once more. Apply a drop of chain lubricant to each chain link while you rotate the pedals. While you have the lubricant out, also be sure to apply a small amount to the brake levers an derailleurs (the part that moves the chain onto the different sized sprockets to change gears). Also lubricate the brake cables and gear cables to make sure they can move freely and do not freeze up.
Repairs and replacementSometimes, in spite of proper care and maintenance you're going to beed to make some repairs to your bicycle. The most common fixes you'll need to make are changing flat tires and replacing worn brake pads, and chain issues like a skipping link. Depending on your bicycle, you can often find tutorials online that will help you find the tools you need to make these repairs from home. Otherwise, you could always give business to your local bike shop.
ConditionHomebuyers don't want to walk into what could be their new house and discover months of expensive repairs and upgrades waiting for them. Especially for busy, young professionals there is great appeal in a home that is move-in ready. If your home needs some work, it will knock off some digits from your asking price.
LocationWe would all love to say that having a home near the ocean or the mountains is our top priority. But, let's face it--having a place that is close to your work and that is in a good school district will probably take precedence over our daydreams. Location factors that add value to your home could include close proximity to schools, shopping, highways, and other amenities. However, if your home is far away from them or is in a neighborhood that appears run-down or dangerous you will find the value of your home decreasing. An easy way to get a ballpark figure for your home value is to look up the value of other comparable homes in your neighborhood.
AgeAge is just a really expensive number. For some, buying an old home is a dream they've always had. Old homes have character and offer challenges when it comes to DIY repairs and renovations. For others, an old home means more headaches and more expensive utilities if it's drafty or outdated.
FeaturesCurb appeal is important, but once your prospective buyers are inside you'll have to keep them around with great, convenient household features. Lots of storage space, updated kitchens with new appliances, finished basements, or a beautiful backyard with a view can all add thousands to a home value.
SizeSquare-footage is important to many homebuyers. In spite of the current trends around minimalism and being eco-friendly, the numbers show that Americans are buying increasingly larger homes and vehicles.
MarketYou've probably heard the terms "buyer's market" and "seller's market" thrown around in conversations about real estate. They are essentially descriptions of the supply and demand of homes. Many buyers with few homes means you're in a seller's market, whereas a surplus of vacant homes and few prospective buyers means it's a buyer's market. This is closely tied to location, different cities and suburbs experience different rates of growth and decline depending on the local economy.
Carefully document your incomeWhen you sit down with a lender and hand them your proof if income, you want to make it as obvious as possible that you're earning money in a reliable and predictable way. Lenders will want to see multiple documents that can help paint a better picture of your income and finances, including:
- Bank statements
- Schedule C tax forms
- Profit and loss tax forms
- Completed tax returns
- Credit score (they will run a credit check)
Separate your business and personal financesIf you own your own business, you likely have business banking accounts you use for expenses and invoices. But freelancers and contract workers often simplify things by just using their personal checking and savings accounts for income. To make things clear for lenders, you should put your income and business expenses into a separate business account. Not only will this make it easier for lenders to quantify your income, but they can also use this information to see that your expenses are for helping your business rather than personal spending.
Timing is everythingThere are a number of factors that go into choosing the right time to apply for a mortgage. Being self-employed only complicates the matter since your income might not be as steady as your average wage worker. You'll want to commit to a mortgage at a time when you've had at least two consecutive years of good, reliable income. You'll need to prove this with the aforementioned documents (bank statements, tax forms, etc.). Part of this planning could be to avoid large business expenses in the two years leading up to your mortgage application. This isn't always possible, of course, but it could be enough to boost your apparent income to get you approved for a better loan.
Seek specialized lendersSome lenders are aware that there is a large portion of the country made up of self-employed workers and small business owners. They go out of their way to work with people who are self-employed so they can give them fair deals on their mortgages. To find specialized lenders, you'll have to do some research online, but it could make all the difference when it comes to getting approved for the loan you're looking for.
Many of us work long hours all week so that we can afford the luxuries of a nice home. Unfortunately, keeping your home clean and updated requires even more time that you don’t have.
The good news is that there are a growing number of ways to make your home less high maintenance. Things like automation, decluttering techniques, and cleaning hacks have made it easier than ever for us to take care of our homes while still having time to enjoy them.
Tony Stark’s skyrise in Iron Man, the Jetson family’s house, and Nathan’s lab in Ex Machina all have one thing in common: robots that help make our home lives easier. What was once reserved for sci-fi, however, is beginning to be introduced at affordable prices in the real world.
There are many different types of home automation devices available on today’s market. One of the simplest time-saving devices is Amazon’s dash button. You can buy a button for several different household items. You keep the buttons in your cabinet or pantry and when you run out of, say, laundry detergent you can simply press the button and Amazon will automatically order and ship more.
For something more advanced, home assistants are gaining in popularity. Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home, and others are currently gaining traction. They typically look like a normal small speaker. But with them you can order items online, set alarms and reminders for things like cleaning or car maintenance, control your lights and thermostat, and more.
You’ve probably seen the Roomba before--the small robot that vacuums your house for you by learning the floor layout. If you haven’t, now’s the time to look into them. The market is diversifying and the technology is improving, making them even more helpful to have around the house.
Robots aren’t just for the indoors. You can now purchase a robot that mows your lawn for you. It learns the parameters of your yard, how to avoid obstacles, and soon it’s cutting the grass while you sit back in a lounge chair.
While we’re on the topic of your home’s exterior, let’s discuss some ways to make the outside of your home low maintenance. Gutter guards and leaf filters are a great way to make sure your gutters don’t get clogged, protecting your gutters and in turn your foundation.
When it comes to roofing, there are now several alternatives that will outshine and outlast traditional shingles. Metal roofs are growing in popularity as they now come in several aesthetically appealing forms.
The best cleaning hacks are the ones that save you time and reduce the number of times you have to clean something. For the shower doors in your bathroom, cleaning them with Rain-X glass cleaner (built for car windshields) will keep them clear and shining longer.
Dusting a home takes a lot of time. Most people see dusting as an inevitable weekly task. However, there is a way to reduce the dust that gets kicked up in your home. The amount of dust that builds up on the surfaces of your home is largely due to air conditions. An air purifier and a humidifier can both help to reduce that amount of dust in your home.