5 HOME IMPROVEMENTS TO BOOST YOUR CHANCES OF SELLING

To increase the odds of a quick, well-priced sale, make the effort to get your home viewer ready.  It is important when selling a home you do a few minor improvements that can be extremely persuasive when it comes to appealing to buyers.  Buyers need to envision the homes as his or hers, not yours.  You want to try to make your home look less like you and more like a new house.  Doing the simple and inexpensive things can speed the sale of your home and ensure a fair selling price.

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1.  DO A THOROUGH CLEANING:  It should go without saying, dust bunnies and dirty windows are going to be turnoffs to most buyers.  They are looking to buy a “new” house, so any signs lack of upkeep will be viewed negative.  It’s worth hiring a service to clean carpeting and remove stains from upholstery.

2.  UPDATE THE BATH:  If your toilet seat is worn, stained or dated, put in a new one (the cost is about $30 and the job takes less than 10 minutes).  Replace the shower curtain and liner.  Re-caulk around the tub, when this job is done right it will score lots of points with prospective buyers.

3.  IMPROVE THE LIGHT:  Everyone loves light, so make sure draperies are open and replace missing or dim light bulbs.  If your compact fluorescent lights have dimmed over time, replace them.  When showing the home turn on all lights and open all windows, even in the middle of the day.

4.  CLEAR OUT CLUTTER:  Get serious about throwing out or donating stuff you don’t need.  Closets, and cabinets should have space and not be packed full.  Remove unnecessary and unused furniture from rooms to help make rooms look larger.  You are getting ready to move so start packing all of the knickknacks and personal items.

5.  PAINT OVER RISKY COLOR CHOICES:  If your bedroom is purple or your living room is orange, cover it up with a nice light beige.  Even if your house is already painted in neutral colors, consider repainting rooms where the walls and ceilings are stained or faded.  Nothing makes rooms look new like a fresh coat of paint and it’s one of the most affordable ways to update your space.

A FEW EXAMPLES OF DE-CLUTTERING, RE-ARRANGING, CLEANING, PAINTING, AND LIGHT…..

All of these examples are from homes using the same furniture they already had.

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before after 6Contact the Cross Group for help on getting your home ready to sell….

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15 STORAGE IDEAS UNDER THE STAIRS

In our homes we are always looking for extra space.  Consider using the area under your stairs to fill a need you might have in your home.  Below are 15 stair storage ideas to inspire you to find the best fit for your home.

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1.  HOME OFFICE

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2.  PLAY HOUSE

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3. WINE CELLAR

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4.  SHOE STORAGE

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5.  DOG KENNEL

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6.  LIBRARY

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7.  READING NOOK

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8.  COMPUTER CENTER

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9.  DRAWERS

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10.  HANGING SHELVES

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11.  TOY ROOM

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12.  DOG HOUSE

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13.  DAY BED

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14.  KIDS ACTIVITY CENTER

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15.  DISPLAY CASE

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What is under your stairs?

Provided by:

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com

THE PINTEREST FRAUD

So I love Pinterest….BUT

I’m pretty sure it is responsible for many marriages ending in divorce….

and mine might be next!

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What kind of people can actually “DO IT YOURSELF ?”  Is it really DIY ?

If my husband comes home from work again and I say to him “look what I found on Pinterest today”, I might have to look for a new place to live.  I have to say I have found many clever crafts on Pinterest and I have made some amazing meals that my family loves.  The problem is my percentage of good to bad is really low, and getting lower.  I have two really bad Pinterest finds and the second one might make my husband divorce me.

It started small.  I went grocery shopping and made purchased the food to put together a month of crock pot meals.  I worked all day and made the meals just like I found on Pinterest and it was totally awesome.  I won’t have to cook late at night, I will come home in the afternoon and the house will smell wonderful.  Everything was wonderful until we sat down to eat them and they were all really bad, so bad I had to make a second dinner for the family.  I have learned that my family is obviously very picky about the food we should stick to the food we are used to.

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Then I decided to get crafty.  When remodeling my daughters bedroom she wanted something different and cool so obviously we went on Pinterest for ideas.  We saw several ideas that we loved and we decided on an EASY project.  Well, it looked like an easy project.  Half way through the project I found out the truth…. it was not a DIY project at all.  What kind of person can “Do It Yourself ?”   I thought we would get some old wood pallets paint them white and stack them to make an elevated bed and L-shaped coach.  In my head it looks really cool and super easy.  What it didn’t say on the website was:

  1. Not all pallets are the same size and shape   What?  How was I supposed to know that?
  2. You have to sand the pallets before you paint them.  That was not a step I planned in my head.
  3. You have to use a paint sprayer to get the paint inside the holes of the pallet.

I went from throwing some paint on some pallets and stacking them against the wall to needing my husband to cut, sand, and paint the pallets…… see how the divorce scenario came to play?  It is still an awesome idea….. just not the DIY project I thought it was.  (I will have to share pictures when it is done, only half way finished at this point)

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P.S.  I know several people who have made the crock pot meals and they loved them….I also know that many projects are actually DIY, but some should be labeled Do IT With A Team Of Experts.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR PINTEREST SUCCESS AND DISASTER STORIES OR PICTURES

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WHY HOME SALES DROPPED IN MARCH…..

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If you’ve been following housing market news this year, you may have been surprised by the latest home sales numbers to come out this week.  Sales of existing homes stalled at 4.92 million, dropping 0.6% in March from February.

With the recent market recovery of 2013 and the anticipation of a hot spring real estate market, many people are wondering what is going on?

THE PROBLEM IS LACK OF HOMES.   There’s plenty of demand from buyers, but just not enough to choose from on the market.   Most areas are experiencing multiple bids, and many buyers are waiting daily for new homes to come up for sale.

Some sellers are also being affected as well.   Sellers are seeing how difficult it is to find a home right now and they are not confident that if they sell their home they will be able to find a new one to move into.

Despite the decline in March sales from February, home sales were still 10.3% higher than the same month a year ago, marking the 21st consecutive month of year-over-year increases. That’s good news, and a good indicator of how the market is trending in the big picture.

Demand is still strong, according to the National Association of Realtors, which reported buyer traffic is 25% above a year ago. But the drop in available homes has put upward pressure on prices. And some buyers are getting frustrated and priced out.

SELLERS:  If you didn’t have enough equity to sell your home last year, you may be able to sell now.  Talk to a Realtor today and take advantage of the recent up turn in pricing and the current surplus of buyers.  Find out if you have enough equity in your home to make the move you have been waiting for.

BUYERS:  It is very important to have a Realtor send you homes daily as they come on the market.  If you are looking to buy a home right now you will have to be fast and be prepared for the current conditions.  Your local Realtor will help you navigate today’s market.

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com

SAVE ENERGY AND SAVE UP TO $600 A YEAR

During peak months, my energy bill is so high!  I am looking for some easy ways to cut my energy costs and thought I would share some findings…….

TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER AT NIGHT (Save up to $105 a year)

Why?   Turning your computer off at night could save you up to a third of its energy costs, depending on your use and power management settings. Save even more by plugging your computer, monitor, and printer into one power strip and turning the strip off when you go to bed.

Is it okay to frequently shut down my computer? The U.S. Department of Energy assures that switching a computer on and off multiple times does not negatively affect its life because advances in technology, typically computers are replacement before equipment failure occurs. In fact, giving your computer a rest can be good for it. Certain software updates require computers to shut down, and the fan is more likely to wear out on a machine that run constantly. Good to know: Some computers have settings that can automatically turn a computer on or off at certain times of day. You are most likely to find these options in the Control Panel folder on a computer running Windows® or in System Preferences on a Mac®. Check your owner’s manual for more specific information.
  • Shut your computer down during the day when you will not use it for the next two hours.
  • Unplug the computer or switch off its power strip after it powers down.
  • Turn off your monitor too for greater savings.

WEATHERSTRIP WINDOWS AND DOORS (Save up to $50 year)

Why?    The edges of doors and windows are often not sealed well, allowing cold air to seep into your home or air conditioning to escape. Windows and doors can be responsible for up to 25% of heat loss in a typical home and 33% of summer heat gain. Weatherstripping your windows and doors will help reduce this leakage.

Step-by-step: Do it yourself:Using affordable supplies from a local home improvement retailer, you may be able to seal your windows and doors yourself. You can usually complete the work within a day, making this an easy weekend project.
  • Doors
    1. Reduce air leakage at the bottom of exterior doors. For a no-cost solution, use rolled-up towels. Or:
    2. Install sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors. Available at most hardware and home supply stores, sweeps are generally plastic or metal strips that you apply to the bottom of the door.
    3. Install low-cost compressible foam. This creates a tight seal around the door. Don’t forget to seal doors into unheated areas of your home, such as the garage.
  • Windows
    1. Seal windows. Rope caulk and compressible foam are very inexpensive. Or,
    2. Install weatherstripping. The cost for this is slightly higher, but still reasonable. Plus, this is a more permanent solution.

SEAL AIR LEAKS (Save up to $100 a year)

Why?    Air leaks can be a large source of air loss in your home. This raises your heating and cooling costs and can make your home less comfortable.

Step-by-step:
  1. Purchase caulk and/or polyurethane foam appropriate for the surfaces you plan to seal. Check the label for its best uses and whether it is appropriate for indoor or outdoor use. Some caulks are specially designed for small leaks along the edges of walls. Foams are more appropriate for larger gaps and holes.
  2. Find leaks. To find leaks, try to follow drafts of air to their source on the wall, floor, ceiling, and around ductwork. Watching how the smoke of a smoke pen or burning incense flows is one way to check for leaks and drafts.
  3. Check where different materials meet. Look where brick meets wood siding, between the foundation and walls, between the chimney and siding, where gas and electricity lines exit your house, and where there are any penetrations through the floor from unheated crawlspaces and basements.
  4. Seal any cracks you find. Use the right sealant for each leak.

USE DIMMERS (Save up to $35 a year)

Why?   A standard light switch gives you two lighting options – full brightness or none at all.  Dimmers give you more control over the level of light in a room, which opens up stylistic possibilities and saves electricity.  By using only as much light as you need, you can save up to 40% on your lighting bill while extending the life of your bulbs.standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

Even a small reduction makes a difference. The human eye can barely tell the difference between full and 90% brightness, but setting a dimmer at this level can still save you 10% on the room’s lighting costs.

USE MOTION DETECTORS OUTDOORS (Save up to $35 a year)

Why?      Though you’re rarely awake to see them, outdoor lamps left on all night can consume more electricity than most of your other light fixtures. However, motion sensors can reduce their energy use by 80% without compromising security or style.

How it works: Motion sensors turn lights on when they detect movement in their vicinity. After a certain amount of time elapses, the lights switch off. You can adjust the time delay.
  • Lights with motion sensors can also contain photocells, which sense sunlight and switch on your lights only when it’s dark outside. ENERGY STAR® fixtures with photocells are available.
  • You can buy new lights that include motion sensors or retrofit your current lights with their own sensors. Either purchase should include installation instructions. The installation itself should take about 30 minutes.
  • If you are using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), be sure to look for a motion sensor that is compatible with these types of bulbs.

TURN OFF LIGHTS WHEN NOT NEEDED (Save up to $45 a year)

Why?    An average home’s lighting bill can account for 15% of electricity costs. Turning lights off when you’re not in the room is a simple way for you to make a dent in your utility bill.

How it works:
  • You save energy whenever you turn off a light, unless you plan to turn it on again immediately. Light bulbs use a little bit of extra energy to “start up” — for a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), only a few seconds of operating power.
  • Turn off incandescent bulbs every time they are not needed.
  • Turning a CFL on and off many times per day can reduce its operating life. If you turn your CFLs on and off very often, you may need to replace them sooner. Generally, it is cost effective to turn off a CFL when you won’t need it for 15 minutes or more.
  • Make it a habit to turn lights off each time you leave a room.
  • Before you go to sleep, walk through your home and shut off any forgotten lights.
  • Encourage other family members to turn off their lights, as well. This is a great way for young children to do their part in saving energy.

USE AND SWITCH OFF POWER STRIPS (Save up to $85 a year)

Why?    Many computers, televisions, and other devices draw power even when they are turned off. Since plugs to these devices can be tough to remove from the outlet and reconnect, use a power strip. With a flip of the switch, you can easily cut off power to multiple devices at once, saving time, energy, and money.

What to look for:
  • Surge protection strips with their own circuit breakers or surge protectors. Protect connected devices in the event of a short-circuit or power surge.
  • Programmable strips with timers. Power down connected appliances according to a schedule you set.
  • Smart” strips that link electronics together. Shutting down one “master” device, such as a computer, automatically turns off peripheral devices, like speakers or printers, on the same strip.
  • Remote controls. Turn off hard-to-reach power strips with the push of a button as you leave the room.
  • More spacing between sockets. This ensures that the strip can fit multiple large power adaptors. This is an especially important feature if you are buying a power strip for a home office.
The energy that some electronics draw while they are off is called a “phantom load.” Products that waste electricity this way are often called “vampire devices.” Which of my electronics are likely to be vampire devices?

  • Televisions
  • Digital video recorders (DVRs)
  • Computers
  • Entertainment systems
  • Video game systems
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • DVD players
  • Coffee-makers
  • Microwaves
  • Cell phone and battery chargers
  • Any device with a remote control or LED indicator light

ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT BEFORE LEAVING HOME (Save up to $20 a year)

Why?    Setting your thermostat for energy savings can decrease your cooling and heating bills significantly.

  • Set your “home occupied” temperature. When you are awake and at home, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat no higher than 68°F for heating and no lower than 78°F for cooling.
  • Set your “away from home” temperature. When you are away from home, set the thermostat to an energy-saving level. Setting the temperature at least 10°F higher in the summer and 10°F lower in the winter is a good rule of thumb.
  • Go the extra mile: To save even more energy, set your thermostat at least 10°F lower in the winter or 4°F higher in the summer when you’re asleep.

REDUCE HEAT LOSS FROM YOUR FIREPLACE (Save up to $15 a year)

Why?   A standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

  • Seal the top. Install a removable chimney cap or a permanent one if you do not plan to use the fireplace.
  • Keep the damper closed. The damper should be closed tightly whenever you are not using the fireplace.
  • Seal the front. Install a glass door to control the draft when you have a fire.
  • Go the extra mile: A professionally installed fireplace insert is the best option. Fireplace inserts can be cost-effective depending on the age and nature of your fireplace.

OPEN YOUR SHADES ON WINTER DAYS (Save up to $5 a year)

Why?   Taking advantage of winter sunlight can help make a dent in your heating costs. Open blinds during the day to provide natural lighting and capture free heat.

  • When you let the sun in, remember to lower the thermostat by a few degrees. These two steps combined are what save money and energy.
  • South-facing windows have the most potential for heat gain. Keep the drapes up and windows clear in order to let in the most light.
  • The sun is most intense from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so make sure windows are uncovered during these hours. Close window coverings at night to insulate windows.

CHECK YOUR AIR FILTERS EVERY MONTH (Save up to $30 a year)

Why?   Heating and cooling consume the most energy in the average home — up to 50% of total home energy use. Dirty air filters make your furnace, central air conditioner, or room air conditioner work harder to circulate air. By cleaning or replacing your filters monthly, you can improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

WASH CLOTHES WITH COLD WATER (Save up to $20 a year)

Why?   Washing your clothes uses a sizable amount of energy, especially if you use warm or hot water. About 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is used to heat the water. Unless your clothes have oily stains, washing with cold or warm water will clean your clothes just as effectively.

SHAVE A MINUTE OFF SHOWER TIME (Save up to $60 a year)

Why?    The average American spends about 8 minutes taking a shower roughly once a day.  Reducing average shower time by 1 minute can result in a 13% decrease in shower water use, which reduces the money you spend on water heating. 

  1. Time yourself and others. See how long you and your fellow household members take to shower and compare your shower times to the national average. Use a water-proof timer in the shower or a kitchen timer out of the shower.
  2. Set a goal for showering a bit faster.
  3. Added benefits: In addition to saving money on energy, you’ll also save on water costs.

FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS (PART 3)

I thought it might be time for some more kitchen and household tips.  See the previous tips at PART 1 and PART 2.

REHEAT PIZZA:  Use a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, heat on med-low until warm.  This keeps the crust crispy and not soggy like a microwave.

CHEESE:  Store open chunks of cheese in aluminum foil to keep it staying fresh longer and not mold.

GREASE:  Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef.  It will help pull the grease away from the meat when cooking.

GARLIC:  Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic, and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.

BANANAS:  Take your bananas apart at home to store them.  Leaving them connected at the stem makes them ripen faster.  Also keep them away from other items as they will ripen other food as well.

MEASURING CUP:  Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water.  Remove the hot water but don’t dry the measuring cup.  Add ingredient (such as peanut butter) and it will come out easily.

PEPPERS:  Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.  Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

STATIC CLING:  A small safety-pin to the seam of your slip, skirt, or slacks will eliminate static cling.

ANTS WITHOUT POISON:  Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants.  They eat it, take it home, and can’t digest it.  It takes a week or so, but you won’t have to worry about your children or pets.

LEG SHAVING:  Use hair conditioner to shave your legs.  It is cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth.

FOGGY WINDSHIELD:  Use a chalkboard eraser and rub it on a foggy window.  Works better than a cloth.

MOSQUITOES:  Try putting a dryer sheet in your pocket to help keep the mosquitoes away.

THE GREAT DEBATE

If ever a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is it for me…..  I am sure I could just post this picture and it would start a wide-spread debate, but of course I have to give my two cents along with it…..

A few months back my daughter stayed with us while her husband was in boot camp and I had this debate with her….

On two different occasions I sat down to find side A and quickly changed it to side B.  The third time I sat down to the side A roll I thought it was time to have the discussion.  “Now that you have a home of your own you have to know the correct way to put on a roll of TP….I can’t believe I never taught you the correct way!…….. don’t you know better?……”  She of course had no idea what I was talking about.

Her take was “You are out of toilet paper, you put on a new roll….Period!”

Having three children (4 if you count my husband…love you Honey!)  It is always a good thing just to have the roll on the wall and not sitting on the counter next to the toilet so I shouldn’t be picky about which way it rolls.  9 times out of 10 I can go into the bathroom to find only 1 square on the roll or an empty roll on the wall and a half used roll sitting on the counter.  How many times did the family pick up the roll from the counter to use it and put it back on the counter instead of putting it on the wall?  Really?

I think I like side B because it reminds me of when I was a little girl and my family would stay in a hotel.  I remember how the end of the toilet paper was always folded into a point and looked so fancy.  Although I don’t fold my toilet paper into a point, I do always make sure it is pointed the “Right Way”…… B

SO ARE YOU AN A OR B ?