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Make Your Home More Energy Efficient With These 5 Tips

homeefficiencyWhere green energy is concerned, there are a variety of ways to increase home efficiency. From small tweaks to big purchases, you can minimize the amount of power you use in your home and therefore save a bundle on your electricity and water costs. Here are five simple projects that can make your home more energy efficient.

Upgrade the Plumbing

Your bathroom is one of the most wasteful rooms in your home. Using standard fixtures and toilets promote significant overuse of water, which is bad for both the environment and your bottom line. To remedy this, switch them out for low-flow toilets and water-saving faucets and shower heads. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to repair any leaks that may be present. This can also help to save on wasted water, damages and mold removal Bergen county residents would otherwise have to pay a lot of money for.

Check Your Attic’s Insulation

It’s easy to overlook your attic, but it’s worth sinking some money and time into, especially if it’s unfinished. Having it insulated properly will allow your home to hold in heat during the winter and will keep it out during the summer months. Cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulation’s are some of the most common choices, and when they’re used properly, they can all prove to be cost-effective and efficient ways to make your home a more comfortable place to live. That translates to fewer bothersome temperature changes, less tampering with the thermostat and significantly smaller heating and cooling bills.

Replace Your Windows

It’s not always practical to replace all of your home’s windows, but if it’s something you’ve been meaning to do anyway, go to EnergyStar.gov to find the most efficient ones. Plus, the federal government may give you a tax rebate for installing energy efficient windows. This is a good project to do if you’re seeking a New Jersey vinyl siding estimate, since windows will be easier to replace at the same time as your siding. If you don’t quite need to replace your windows, then consider applying weather stripping around them or caulking around their outer edges to keep the heat and cold out. Furthermore, remember to leave your windows closed in extreme temperatures unless absolutely necessary.

Plant Trees

Few homeowners realize that a bit of landscaping can actually improve their home’s energy efficiency. Adding a row of bushy trees or tall hedges along the southern and western sides of your house will provide much-needed shade from the hot summer sun. They will also help to shield your home against the bitterly cold winds of winter while their bare branches allow the sun’s rays to heat your home naturally. If you’ve already taken other steps to improve your home’s energy efficiency, then this won’t do much, but it’s hard to complain about having more trees. You can also consult a qualified electrician like ACE Electricians to review and optimize your wiring and lighting locations.

Change Out Your Bulbs

Although incandescent bulbs are cheaper at face value and provide a bit more light, they’re very expensive to operate and don’t last long. By some estimates, you could save hundreds of dollars on your electric bills each year just by changing all of the light bulbs in your home to compact fluorescent.

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Real Estate

Smaller Houses for Smaller Dreams

smallhouseOne of Joe Biden’s personal goals was to keep the American dream alive in today’s economy. With more Americans experiencing higher mortgages, tighter budgets, and the dollar rapidly losing value, it is only a matter of time before Americans will have to trade in their large homes for small huts.

Designer homes with comfortable floor plans are being made for homes as small as 65 square feet. Many of these new homes would be defined as mobile homes, however, they appear more like small mountain cabins. The most famous of these designs is Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin, which measured 125 square feet in total, but featured all of the amenities and comforts a home should have.

These new tiny homes have much appeal due to their lower taxes and utility costs. Plus, very little daily housework is needed to keep the home efficient and clean. Bigger houses look very similar and waste much of a family’s disposable income to maintain. With a smaller house and smaller bills, this money can be saved for more important things. Most of the items could be bought online for the home as well. Many small home owners will opt to buy windows online, for example. New Jersey vinyl siding estimate show an increase in pricing for larger homes, and many smaller styles will use smaller amounts of the siding to save money.

While the tiny house movement is rapidly gaining in popularity, larger homes and buildings will still remain. Traditional land marks, such as the White House, can certainly appreciate the movement, but will not downsize. With the green movement also going strong in the United States, we will surely begin to see a brighter future overall, even with larger buildings and homes still existing.

Another option is to rent a deluxe micro-apartment in a crowded city such as Boston. These smaller apartments are usually purchased as temporary housing and can be quite costly, these micro-apartments often are rented by the same people who later buy larger than needed homes in America’s suburbs.

While America’s typical actions may not always be beneficial for our aspirations, the tiny house movement remains on the rise. This contradicts our country’s devotion to excess and materialism. The suburban landscape will not change overnight, but theories on radical minimalism are still being developed. As of last year, America’s homes still gained nearly 40% more space, despite the rapidly declining birthrate. In addition to less children, more homes are likely to own more dogs and own a four or more bedroom home. Maintenance is still extremely expensive for homes of this size.

The movement may seem practical and have many supporters, but many Americans still feel that a tiny home is impractical and too extreme of a solution. Newer dwellings will reflect on the economy and a healthy balance will be created. Some speculate a rise in small Cape Cod-style homes that are only slightly smaller than what the average person has now. While the smaller home movement may be downsizing the American dream, many Americans will still dream of their large home in the suburb.

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Home Improvement Real Estate

Simple Design Changes to Make When Showing Your Home For Sale

Selling your home can be a very stressful time full of emotions as well as things to do. We are here to help reduce some of that stress with simple design improvements that you can make to your home so that it will be more appealing to buyers and can even improve the value of your listing. Some of the changes you make do not even have to be permanent changes, so if you are buying a new home and plan on furnishing it, why not use those new designs to elevate the look and feel of your current home? Any other improvements you plan on making should be ones that you will get back by increasing the sale value of your house. One of the most important things to do when showing your home is to remove the personal accents from it as much as possible so that the potential buyers can “see” themselves in the home.  Here are some improvements you can make to the design of your home that will allow you to increase the asking price of your home, or at the very list turn potential buyers into bidders:

home for sale

Get rid of the Clutter: Cleaning your home before its shown goes without saying, and if you are planning on moving, the de-cluttering is probably happening already. However, we mean to go a step beyond that and simplify the look and design of your home altogether. Remove big bulky furniture pieces, extra rugs, and any personal pieces in your home. The cost of storage with be made up in the sale of your home when the buyers come in and see a simplified idea of what the room will be once they put their own furniture in it.

Paint Makeover: Paint can be the least expensive path to making a really big difference in the rooms of your house. One of the biggest turn offs for home buyers is paint that is too bright or does not match with their style. Therefore, repainting a room with a neutral color will have an excellent impact.

First Impressions Count: The first impression is always a very important one, so making sure that the front of your house is appealing will start your home showing out right. Even though you cannot take new landscaping with you, it is definitely something that will add to the value of your home and you will get it back when the home is sold.

Backyard Spruce Up: The front yard makes the first impression, often times during a showing; the back yard makes the last impression, so they are both important. Updating and beautifying your backyard is a good step to take. You do not always have to completely makeover the entire backyard, but definitely clean it up, do not leave “a project”, and just show new buyers the potential.

Upgrade Furniture: The difference that a change in furniture can make for a room can be the deciding factor for the new home shoppers. Change the mood of the room with a new style like painted cottage furniture. When a room is filled with older furniture, it might make it harder for them to picture how nice the room can look. The furniture you buy can either be included into the purchase price of the home or take it with you to your new home. Changing the furniture or a few things in a room can change a problem room that might potentially cause a purchase to fail into a positive feature.

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Home Improvement Real Estate

Ready to Sell a Home on Your Own?

Real estate is tricky.  That is why you often need an expert to guide you through the ins and outs of buying and selling a home.  But for those of us brave enough to sell our own home, it can be done.  It isn’t necessarily easy, but there are some basic tips that can help get you started.  To help you make a plan.  One of the most important questions you will ask is what do you want to do to the property before selling it.

  1. As is?   Pretty early on in the process you are going to have to decide if you are selling the home as is or if you are going to make any improvements to the property.  If you are going to sell the home with any existing and known problems, you are obligated to inform the prospective buyer about them.
  2. Making improvements to the exterior.  If you decide to make improvements on the property, there are a few that will help you make a return on the investment and some that won’t help you at all.
    • Curb appeal.  Curb appeal is very important.  Not only does it provide the prospective buyer with something nice to look at, it can actually draw in buyers that my have otherwise passed on looking at the property.  No matter how nice the inside of the home is, the exterior is always what makes the first impression.
    • What to focus on.  You want a welcoming front entry with plenty of light and appealing colors.  You don’t want it cluttered and cramped.  You also want the exterior of the actual structure to look nice.  A fresh coat isn’t very expensive, but new siding is an investment that will pay for itself.
    • Landscaping.  You want the yard to be trim and neat, but most people aren’t going to want so much landscaping that might take up too much time and money.  Of course, depending on the level of property, this could be a positive or negative.  Bottom line, you want the landscaping to be neat and trim and easy to care for.
    • A deck is fairly inexpensive and can bring an even return on investment, but unless you are planning to stay in the property, stay away from installing a swimming pool.  This should be left up to whoever moves into the home.  The prospect of caring and insuring a pool will scare away many buyers and doesn’t add much to the overall value of the home.
    • Interior improvements.  When it comes to the inside of the home, a fresh coat of paint and new carpet can do wonders to the look and feel of the home.  They are both relatively inexpensive and give the prospective buyers a feeling of being new and not necessarily a previously lived in home.  Stay away from bold and odd color choices because prospective buyers will just look at it as more work to do if they don’t appreciate the same sorts of color schemes as you.
    • Don’t price yourself out of the market.  Know what properties similar to the one you are selling are going for.  In other words, don’t try to sell your home for much more than what a similar home would sell for in your neighborhood.  Just because it has improvements that you appreciate, doesn’t mean that buyers will value it in the same way.  Just because you loved the gourmet kitchen that you installed, doesn’t mean that buyers are willing to pay $50,000 more for something that is cheaper down the block and maybe doesn’t seem necessary to them.  The same goes for the bathroom.  If you are living in a moderate, middle-class neighborhood, a luxurious spa treatment bathroom might not bring the same sort of value that it would somewhere else.  The bathroom and kitchen are places that are very easy to get in over your head and way over budget in.

The bottom line when selling your own home is to know the local rules and regulations and to know your market.  It is also important to have a plan and to know what your limitations are.  It is also important to keep on budget and know what you want to accomplish.  Are you trying to get a nice payday on the home or are you just trying to get out of the property in order to move?  It will make a difference in how aggressive you end up pricing the property.  In the end, you could always call in some help and reinforcements from an expert if you get tired of trying to sell the property on your own.  Just stick to your plan on what you want to accomplish before you sell the property.

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Real Estate

The Quick Guide to Dumbwaiters and Property Value

Dumbwaiters are a great way to reduce the effort of hauling cargo up and down the stairs at home. Prestige hotels and specialty restaurants have been using dumbwaiters for generations, and even luxury homes adopted the trend decades ago – now any home can have a dumbwaiter thanks to the innovations of the mobility supplies industry.

The prices can range from a couple hundred dollars if you have your own installation resources and a viable spot for the unit, to several thousand dollars if the dumbwaiter shaft requires extensive structural modification. With an investment so important to well being and convenience, you may be feeling a lot of pressure to ensure the investment pays back.

Will a dumbwaiter increase the value of your home? Not on paper, but it will attract a good variety of qualified buyers. People with disabilities and people with young families appreciate dumbwaiters as an asset – a feature that will grow with the family. This quick guide will explain which homes benefit the most from the installation of a dumbwaiter so you can decide how much to invest in your own.

Using a Dumbwaiter to Complement Your Best Home Features

Sometimes a dumbwaiter is practically a necessity for any family. A dumbwaiter will come in handy if you have a ground level garage but a first floor fireplace, property owners will not look forward to carrying the fuel or firewood up the staircase every day. A ground floor laundry room makes life harder for anyone who feels uncomfortable carrying large view-obstructing bundles up and down the stairs, and a dumbwaiter is a great child-safe alternative to a laundry chute.

In both of those cases, the dumbwaiter helps to accentuate existing home features – making them accessible to anyone. A second storey fireplace, upstairs dining room, or basement laundry room might not appeal to buyers unless they are easy to use and a dumbwaiter can fulfill that purpose.

Looking at Outside Factors that Affect Dumbwaiter Demand

Examine your neighborhood and look for trends. Consult a real estate agent if necessary. If you live in or near a retirement community, you might find that a dumbwaiter will actively increase home value by making it more disability-friendly.

Check out the recent home sales in your area. Have any homes with accessibility modifications sold nearby? Are there ample sources of public transportation, and quick access to medical resources in your part of town? Your area may already attract families or retirees, which might increase the demand of homes with conveniences such as a dumbwaiter or elevator.

Does your home seem like a good candidate? Find more information – try AmeriGlide online resources, including product prices and installation specifications. This will help you determine the cost of installation and ownership, so you can determine what kind of dumbwaiter would provide the best return on investment. Ameri Glide also has stair lifts and walk-in tubs if you want to provide complete accessibility.

Multi-generational homes are growing more common. More and more people are choosing to live alone or with family instead of moving into a retirement facility. Breakthroughs in adaptive technology have improved the ability of people with mobility-restricting disabilities to live alone. These factors alone point toward the utility and investment value of a dumbwaiter installation.

The bottom line is this: if you or your family needs it now, go for it. There is a demand for accessible housing but the most important indicator of value is how much value it provides right now.

About Author

Natalie S. is an online freelance writer that contributes your work to countless health and medical related websites and blogs. She is a self-proclaimed health nut that loves sharing her knowledge to readers maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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Home Improvement

Design Trends For Your Yard

backyardWinter is the time to start planning how to make your outdoor living space more enjoyable and functional. Here are a few ideas for incorporating the top trends into your yard.

Increase the Functionality

Yards are moving away from the sculpted and sterile arranged planting approach to a much more viable and functional design. The urban homestead movement has people growing their own vegetables, herbs and fruit and even adding chickens and bees to their garden design. Raised beds and container gardens make growing vegetables easier than ever. These edible gardens can become a community project where other gardeners join the fun and provide fresh produce to local food banks.

Sustainable Design

Water availability will continue to be a concern for homeowners, especially those experiencing drought. Homeowners are tired of the tyranny of the mower and are realizing the effort and cost involved in maintaining an immaculate swath of lawn. Gardeners want to get away from all the pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and untold amounts of water they apply to their yards. Moving to more sustainable practices of utilizing beautiful water-wise plants, drip irrigation systems and organic fertilizers creates low maintenance garden spots that are much more environmentally friendly.

Usable Hardscapes

Homeowners want greater functionality from the architectural features in their yards and are leaving behind those big but useless projects. Creating smaller, more durable elements using higher quality materials is the trend during these times of economic uncertainty. Decks, patios, arbors and water features that are low maintenance but eye catching in their simplistic beauty will provide enjoyment for years to come as well as add value to a home. Homeowners looking for contractors can search gazebo construction New Jersey.

Water Features

We love the sound of water as it drips, bubbles or playfully splashes about. Adding a water element to your yard creates a tranquil, enjoyable setting for everyone. There are water features to fit every budget, from small table top urns to full-scale yard ponds complete with waterfall. Large ponds can also attract wildlife and provide a spot for raising koi.

Outdoor Living

Thanks to the technology of modern fabrics, it’s easier than ever to create outdoor living zones. Gone are the days of worrying about excess sun and rain on the chair cushions. Outdoor furniture is more durable, so you can create more permanent living areas. This reduces the need for constantly setting up and taking down seating areas. Comfort and ease of use are the operative themes today.

Entertaining

One of the major trends in yard design is incorporating a built-in grilling station. Everyone loves to barbecue so why not increase the functionality of the cooking zone as well as make it an integral part of the hardscape of the yard? Outdoor ovens, large grills, storage and lighting make preparing meals outside less of a chore. Functional yet beautiful design and materials makes working in the area more enjoyable too. Bergen County contracting firms can help you design the perfect cooking spot.

Image Credit: ooh_food

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Real Estate

Will Smaller Apartments Attract Middle Class City Dwellers?

small apartmentsThe cost of living in large cities has always been greater than in more rural areas. As the demand for life in the city continues to increase, space, especially in places like Manhattan, is at a premium. This means one pays more for less, sometimes a lot more for a lot less. There is also a new trend that seems to be cropping up within the New York real estate developing mindset as more and more so-called “micro apartments” are being created.

Smaller does not necessarily mean cheaper as you will see incredibly ornate decorative concrete curbing New Jersey in front of a very modestly sized apartment. These apartments run just as much as many luxury apartments, but are a fraction of the size. Many wonder if those who can afford such rents will actually want to and/or tolerate living in spaces that are sometimes no bigger than 400 square feet, but still costs thousands of dollars a month to rent.

Chelsea apartments are quite costly, but it is also a very nice and attractive area to live in. It seems as though it will be places like this where these smaller apartments are going to be located. Points are definitely scored for these apartments if location is important to the apartment-dweller.

The interesting thing about these apartments, what makes developers think that there is a market for such a type of housing, is that they make incredibly efficient use of all available space which means they do not feel nearly as small as they actually are. Space is often sorely mis- or underutilized.

A few such developments already exist with tenants happily filling up units and paying the rents. Many people from Manhattan are already used to living in smaller places than people from the rest of the nation. An even smaller, but more efficiently designed, apartment is not nearly as much of a life change as it might be for those from elsewhere. Many who live in these apartments note that they feel more privacy and do not feel cramped or unable to “live” within the smaller space allotted to them.

Whether or not this development of micro-apartments will be a success or not is yet to be seen. However, it is not outlandish to think that city dwellers who wish to live in certain, more exclusive areas, would be willing to sacrifice a bit of space, even if means paying the same amount of rent as a large unit.

When smartly designed, micro does not have to be synonymous with cramped. Many apartments, condos and even houses make incredibly inefficient use of the space made available to them. When building a micro-apartment, one does not have the luxury of wasting space, which means more thought is put into design, perhaps creating a better living environment, even with smaller amount of space to work with.

Image Credit: kenny_lex

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Home Improvement

Buying a Home: Red Flags to Avoid

home buyingEven though home prices are still attractive doesn’t mean the home is worth the purchase. The buyers are still in favor in this market, but consumers still need to pay attention to a home before agreeing to make a purchase. These red flags can occur at any time.

DIY Additions

If it’s obvious that a home has had an addition installed into it, then it will always be a problem. This can include an addition that doesn’t match the rest of the house of if the seller decided to order vinyl windows that do not look natural. Ask the seller if the work had a permit or not; a red flag is having a different tax record from what that homeowner claims.

Decks

Ask who built the deck if there is one. Many homeowners are unable to build a deck safely while ensuring that it meets the code and doesn’t damage a home. Freestanding decks are nearly impossible to fix and typically require rebuilding to be able to handle its weight.

Structure

There are also red flags with the structural settling if there are any doors or windows that cannot open or close the right way. Be aware of any concrete cracks as well because having to fix a home’s foundation is a rather costly problem to deal with.

Pest Damage

A professional will need to check for insect damage as it can require the walls torn open. However, the structure is at risk if termites have eaten the studs.

Water Damage

The water should not drain into the basement, and signs of a drainage problem are prominent when there are water stains in the basement. An inspector can tell how damaged the home is. It is important to know if the house was ever flooded since it is costly to fix the foundation when the water damages it.

Bad Electrical Work

If a home has inferior electrical work, it is most likely unable to handle modern appliances. It is also expensive to replace aluminum or knob and tube wiring as well.

Mold

It is expensive to seek mold removal Bergen County, and it’s especially difficult to remove asbestos. The homeowner needs to provide proof that his home has no more mold in it.

Once these red flags have been covered, you can resume asking the standard questions you always have. For example, it is always a good idea to ensure that the finances all seem to add up. If the appraisal value is much less than what you said you would pay for the house. If it is not possible to come up with a solution, consider moving on to another home because the amount for the loan will be much less, meaning you would have to pay some money out of pocket. Having an appraisal value can affect perception of the house worth, so you can also consider getting a second opinion as well.

Image Credit: Alan Cleaver