The ABCs of Multifamily Cash Flow

You hear the term all the time. After all, it’s an essential concept for apartment investors because it not only reflects the viability of your…

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10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money

Homeownership is one of the most time-tested ways to build wealth in the U.S. It can help you build wealth thanks to home appreciation — but this isn’t always guaranteed (just ask anyone who bought a home right before 2008).  Another way to build wealth through homeownership is by upgrading your home, thereby increasing its value.

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How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

How to Know if That Fixer-Upper Is a Money Pit

So, you’ve finally found your dream house. Sure, it may need a little work — okay, a lot of work — but you’re confident it will all be worth it in the end. That is, until your home renovation projects start to go down the toilet (or worse, the toilet starts falling through the floor). Here’s how to know if the home you are considering could be a great investment, or just a great way to empty your wallet. Is A Fixer-Upper the Right Choice For You? The right fixer-upper can be a great investment and a lot of fun. The rise of seemingly simple, yet stylish home renovation television shows has made many homeowners eager to transform rough diamonds into neighborhood jewels. Couple this with the improved job market and an upswing in home values, and you have a tidal wave of homeowners willing to invest in fixer-upper dwellings. In 2018, homeowners reported an average of $7,560 or more on major home improvements, up 17% over the previous year. But that doesn’t mean that these projects always go as planned — not everything gets wrapped up as quickly and neatly as it does on television. The same Home Advisor study shows an average of $416 on emergency spending. What many homeowners believe to be a simple “fixer-upper” can quickly turn into a “money pit,” transforming a dream project into an expensive nightmare. Denise Krogman is a general contractor, designer and co-owner with her husband Rob, at RDK Design and Build, LLC. Krogman knows that whether you’re looking to buy a fixer-upper in the near future or remodel your current home, it’s worth paying attention to what separates a fixer-upper from an endless money pit. The right fixer-upper can be a great investment and a lot of fun. But with every remodel there will be the unplanned, unforeseen incidentals that arise. If it needs more than a little ‘fixing up,’ you could find yourself in the midst of a complete remodel or a total scrap. Fixer-Uppers vs. Money Pits The first step to understanding what makes a home a fixer-upper is defining the term. Generally speaking, a fixer-upper is a house that doesn’t have serious problems and can be quickly and inexpensively refreshed, says Thomas Baker, building technology editor at This Old House. Homeowners who have a big budget, a high level of DIY skills, and plenty of free time may reasonably see any house in deplorable condition as a “fixer-upper.” However, even these skilled, experienced homeowners who are initially excited about a big project may fail to properly plan for a remodel. Without thorough research and planning, many homeowners are likely to exceed their spending limit and wind up with a money pit. Baker separates remodel-ready homeowners into two personas: the visionary and the accountant. A visionary homeowner is someone who is emotionally invested in their property and can tolerate higher expenditures in order to execute their ‘vision.’ He or she isn’t worried about the resale value. An accountant weighs each cost of improvement against the likelihood of getting a return on investment at the time of sale. Ideally, homeowners should strike a balance between these two extremes, taking care not to risk their financial futures with unsustainable expenditures on improvements, but also acting as a steward, putting something back into the house so that future generations can enjoy what it has to offer. A professional home builder, general contractor, or home inspector can help a homeowner assess the condition of the home before breaking ground and help keep a project in line once it’s begun. Having that person come aboard your planning process is a great step to take. But what should they, and you, be looking for when it comes to fixer-upper warning signs? Looking to get started with your dream home project? Check out our guide to the financial documentation and other paperwork you’ll need to begin the home loan process. Fixer-Upper Red Flags If you are committed to buying a home with a few imperfections, how do you know when those imperfections go from fixable to serious deal-breakers? When purchasing a fixer-upper, a homeowner should always look beyond the surface, says Sarah Boardman-Miller, an interior designer and construction consultant. It’s important to distinguish between a home with a lot of “cosmetic” needs, as opposed to those that need major (think structural) overhauls. Depending on the ‘fix-up’ budget, one can look past a dated or poorly laid out kitchen or bath. I like a house that has not been touched. It might be dated and original everything, but these are usually good houses. Do your homework. Was the previous owner there for 40 years? Is it clean? Well-kept? When most people watch the shows, so much of the process is cosmetic … from new cabinets, to counter tops, lighting and tile. Often homes are simply outdated, are decorated in poor taste, or just in need of a little TLC. Cosmetic fixes can be quick and cost-effective, and completely change the look of the house. That being said, homeowners should stay on the lookout for any red flags. Both Krogman and Boardman-Miller say foundational issues, roofing repairs or replacement, and electrical or plumbing problems may require “gutting,” which can send a home remodeling project into an expensive tailspin. Krogman adds that her team is careful about homes that need footprint changes, such as the removal or addition of walls or entire rooms. It’s best if the changes are minor. To avoid any surprises, it’s important to invest in a thorough home inspection, says Krogman. Always request an inspection from a highly reputable company. It’s worth the extra expense. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and get documentation. When was the roof last replaced? Have there been any electrical or plumbing fixes? If there was any previous remodeling done, was it done by a reputable general contractor? And look for cracks in the foundation, sinking sidewalks, water spots or damages in the drywall. Those fixes or changes are rarely minor and can become quite costly. Frank Lesh, an experienced home inspector who works for the certifying agency American Society of Home Inspectors, has two potential problems he wants homeowners to check for within their possible fixer-upper. First, he says, examine the exterior. Take a look at the big picture. If it’s sitting in a valley, the home may be at risk for water problems. Then I look at the general maintenance of the house exterior. Not whether there’s new paint, or flowers, but if the gutters and downspouts are in good condition and directed away from the house and if the roof is in reasonable shape. Next, inspect for insects. Termites and carpenter ants can gnaw away at the bones of a home. It takes an expert insect inspection to discover the extent of the damage, to check behind finished walls and ceilings and to see if bugs are in the walls and subfloors. A house is made of wood, and that’s what they eat. A good pest inspector can hear them or use infrared to see if they’re giving off heat behind the walls. Manage Your Remodeling Expectations One of the biggest dilemmas homeowners face when dealing with a fixer-upper is managing their expectations. Even when a home remodel is expertly planned, problems may still arise, Boardman-Miller says. It is all about expectations and the ability to roll with what is happening. You have to focus on what needs to be done and cut out the extras that you may have been planning. Be realistic and stay on budget. If you do your homework, you could end up with a fair amount of equity in the finished house and get what you really want. Baker says one of the most important things homeowners can do to avoid these costly issues is research, first into the home purchase process, then into contractors, home designers, and home improvement costs. Find a contractor/carpenter who loves to work on houses and whom you can trust to make good decisions on your behalf. Without trust, these projects can become a nightmare. Take your time. Watch home TV shows, read magazines, talk to contractors, and go to the web to become an expert on the topic . When homeowners embark on a home renovation the risks are great, but the rewards are even sweeter when everything is well planned and executed, Krogman says. One man’s junk is always another’s treasure, so not only can you benefit financially, but you can give back by creating a beautiful home for your own family, or for someone else. CHECKLIST: Tricks for Separating Fixer-Uppers from the Money Pits Get a thorough home inspection Determine whether improvements are structural or cosmetic Do your research on what you’d specifically like done Talk to your contractor/designer and get a plan in writing Financially prepare for unforeseen issues Manage your expectations and stay on budget How do you know a home’s true value? Get a fast, no-obligation home estimate using our free tool. Getting From ‘Before’ to ‘After’ Without Going Broke At the end of a well-planned remodeling project, you can end up with the home features you want for a lower cost than the amount of equity you gained. It’s also possible that a lack of insight into your process and potential costs could leave you with an underwater (and maybe even unfinished) home, so it’s essential to make sure you know the facts before you swing a single hammer. But don’t let those potential pitfalls scare you away from a great opportunity for a smart investment. Just make sure you follow the checklist above and do the necessary homework to give yourself the best chance to come out ahead of the game. Have you done your research and know of a great home you can benefit from investing in? If you are ready to explore buying your own fixer-upper, take the first step and get pre-approved online or contact a PennyMac Loan Officer today to discuss your options. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent those of PennyMac Loan Services, LLC and its employees. The inclusion of links to third party sites is not intended to assign importance to those sites or to the information contained therein, nor is it intended to endorse, recommend, or favor any views expressed, or commercial products or services offered on these third party sites, or the vendors sponsoring the sites.

This Stunning Modern House Was Built With Fire Safety in Mind

Built with fire resistant building materials like steel, glass and concreted, this $5M home in Marin County, Calif. is a perfect example of what’s likely to become the new standard for million dollar homes throughout California. More

The post This Stunning Modern House Was Built With Fire Safety in Mind appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.