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Is Your Home Indoor Air More Polluted than the Air Outdoors?

Is Your Home Indoor Air More Polluted than the Air Outdoors?

In the past couple of decades, the U.S. and many other countries have done an admirable job of reducing outdoor air pollution from many mostly industrial and vehicle emissions. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of particulate matter in outdoor air that people shouldn’t be breathing if they’re concerned about their health.

The concentration of many harmful outdoor particulates is greatly reduced in the open outdoor air, so concentrations are often well below harmful levels. What many homeowners may not be aware of is the fact that those particulates are infiltrating their homes and often they are concentrated at higher levels than outdoors due to recirculation of indoor air via heating and cooling equipment. In other words, these particulates get into the home through in-and-out traffic, but they are somewhat trapped due to the tight nature of new construction.

What Particulates are Being Created Indoors?

What’s entering from outdoors is just part of the pollution indoors, as there are many indoor activities that also create less than desirable particulates:

  • Cooking

  • Building materials and furnishings

  • Tobacco products

  • Burning candles

  • Household maintenance and cleaning products

  • Hobby activities

  • Infiltration of pollutants from the attic

With people spending more time in their homes than in the past, the combination of infiltrated particulates and those created by activities in the home can make the indoor environment more of a problem than outdoors.

How Can Concentrations Indoors Be Reduced?

The simple answer to removing indoor particulate pollutants is to filter them out of the air. The complication of that answer comes from the many solutions available and their relative effectiveness versus their cost.

  • Portable electronic air cleaners – Some homeowners buy several small-space electronic air cleaners for placement around the home.

  • Higher efficiency pleated media filters – There are pleated media filters that are sized to take the place of the low efficiency fiberglass mesh filters in many systems. These pleated media filters can do a much better job.

  • Multi-stage filter systems – These combine two or more filters of different types in series. The lowest efficiency filter is first, catching the largest of particles, usually those that are visible to the naked eye. The second and subsequent filters each have increased efficiency.

  • Electrostatic air filters – These filters build a small electrical charge as the air passes through them just from the air movement. This negative charge attracts many tiny invisible particles, trapping them in the filter.

  • Electronic air filters – These are powered air filters that put a high charge on a series of plates, looking something like the fins in a radiator. This charge grabs many tiny particulates.

Which is best for a home can revolve around concerns about air quality and cost. Homeowners should carefully research the solutions for their home to come to the most effective filtration at an affordable cost. Consulting home air quality experts can give you specific solutions to your home air quality challenges.

Top Dollar Bathroom Remodeling

Top Dollar Bathroom Remodeling

In a previous article, we looked at kitchen remodeling. Now we would like to discuss kitchen remodeling. I looked at pictures of an older home the other day. There were many areas of this home that had not received any updating for ages. When I came to pictures of one of the bathroom, I saw that all the bathroom tile was done in pink, and from the looks of the other fixtures in the bathroom, it was obvious that this bathroom had not received any updating since the 1940’s. I wanted to give these people some credit, maybe they had purposely installed a retro look. But all I could do was laugh. My grandmother had the same look in her bathroom.

Now I like vintage looks, but the last thing you want in your home is for your guests to think you have no taste whatsoever. A bathroom that was done in the 80’s is still about 40 years old, and you probably have grandchildren in their teens. Isn’t it time to catch up a little?

I always preface an article like this by saying that if you have no plans on selling your home in the next five years, you still owe it to yourselves to update, but if you do have plans to sell then it is imperative that you make the right choices—this is what we call Top Dollar Rehabbing.

Buyers these days are smart, really smart, and they know where to look on line to find designer websites, plus they can walk through displays in Home Depot or Lowes and find displays done in the right color, style and materials. They will not pay top dollar unless they are getting a look that will impress their friends and relatives who come to visit.

Before we discuss some key elements in a bathroom rehab, let me clarify that the term “Top Dollar” does not really refer to price, it has to do with the cohesiveness and stylishness of the looks that you choose. According to Angie’s List, an average bathroom remodel costs a little on the plus side of $10k, but the range can be from around $3k to $23k, and some people can take extravagance to the limit, and spend a lot more than that. If you work with a professional in making decisions, they can help you to prioritize on your spend if you are working with a budget.

Assuming that you are considering a floor to ceiling remodel, here are the primary considerations for a top dollar bathroom look.

  1. Paint—As we discuss throughout the “Top Dollar Rehabbing” series of articles, plan on working with a three-color paint palette. The primary wall color is a light grey, very neutral. To that, you will add white trim around windows, doors, baseboards, etc. And you can also choose an accent color. Most popular for accents at present are “greyed out” sort of dusty colors such as sage, dusty blue, dusty rose, and lavender. Accents are used in minimal amounts. Stay away from warm colors, they make people think of the 80’s and 90’s.

  2. Flooring—Hardwood floors are very popular right now, in neutral brown, but they can be damaged by water, so ceramic tile in white or grey, or possibly a white and grey marbled look. You can also use waterproof flooring, and there are some that resemble hardwood.

  3. Tub Surround—Mosaic tile in white or grey, and possibly incorporating a white, grey and black mosaic accent strip would be a preferred choice.

  4. Lighting—Recessed lighting (canister lights) are a popular choice throughout the house, but lighting above the vanity needs to be done with a stainless steel or brushed nickel plate, and medium sized bulbs. Avoid the old Hollywood lighting look, and don’t use gold or bronze in the fixtures. Make sure the bathroom is well lit and do the same with other work areas throughout the house.

  5. Vanities and Countertops—White shaker cabinets with brushed nickel fittings are the popular style of cabinets, and countertops should be granite or a similar material. One place to go a little wild is the bathroom sink. There is something about a funky sink that people seem to just love. It makes your tasteful, toned-down features come alive. Spend the extra few hundred dollars to get a rather wild sink and your guests will love it and comment on it. Note that of all the costs in a remodel, the Vanity, Countertop sink, and faucet will comprise almost 25% of the budget, it is okay to make the decision to put a substantial amount of your budget there.

Much of the remodeling I have been involved with has been as a rehabber investor. I can tell you from my experience that it is possible to get a professional grade look for much less if you will plan and look around a bit. And working with a professional can help you in making wise decisions. I do have a specific suggestion for bathrooms. I am willing to splurge a little on faucets and the toilet because these can leak and cause extensive damage.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the key areas in selling a home, but they are also important for the comfort of your family. After all, they don’t call it the “rest room” for nothing!

Sources: https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-much-does-bathroom-remodel-cost.htm

Top 4 Home Safety Concerns You Should be Aware of

Top 4 Home Safety Concerns You Should be Aware of

Over at HUD.gov, there is a lot of information about safety in the home. Most of it falls into four categories of concern, and they are responsible for the bulk of injuries and deaths in the home. Home accidents injure a person every 4 seconds and result in death of someone every 16 minutes. Here is an overview of the top concerns in each of the four categories.


Innovation is a hallmark of American ingenuity, and new products pop up every day, most of them quite helpful. These products keep us and our home clean, repair finishes, polish surfaces, clean dishes, floors, and windows. They help us to keep our homes running efficiently. However, they can have chemical or other ingredients that are poisonous us as well.

Products as varied in nature as medicines, cleaning solutions, hair products, and repair materials can contain ingredients harmful to humans. Read all labels carefully, as you want to understand not only how to use them safely, but also how to store them safely. Keep all products out of the reach of children or in areas they cannot access.

The kitchen is an area prone to hazards, as there are food products as well as non-food products stored and used in that area. They should be stored separately so as not to be confused. Containers should always be closed tightly as well.

Fires and Burns

Smoke detectors are a must in every home, and they should be installed in multiple areas and rooms, especially where people sleep. Every family should have and understand an escape plan if a smoke detector sounds a warning. Every now and then have some refresher training or a drill.

Keep combustible materials away from heaters, stoves, fireplaces, and radiators. Repair or replace worn or frayed electrical wires, plugs, or sockets. If you see evidence of overheating, such as dark brown spots on electrical outlets, call an electrician.

Use careful cooking techniques to avoid flash fires, water and hot grease mishaps, and flash points for certain oils or other ingredients.

Water heater temperatures should not be set higher than 120 degrees, and you should always check the temperature of water before bathing.

Drowning, Choking, Strangulation, and Suffocation

Young children should not be left alone near any puddle or container of water, even if the water is only an inch or so deep. Use child-proof fencing around swimming pools and hot tubs. Any small item or toy that can be swallowed should be considered too dangerous to allow access to a child.

Any window blinds or draperies that have cords should not have them looped. Let them hang straight, as loops are a strangulation risk.

Falls and Other Injuries

Leaving items around on floors, such as dog toys or shoes creates a tripping hazard. People of advanced age are at increased risk of serious injury from tripping over them.

Ladders of all types create a risk of injury from falls. Use them properly, level, and with proper angles to support to avoid them tipping. Keep areas of the home well lit, particularly if they are in stairways.

Wear eye protection when using power tools, especially grinders or drills. Maintain proper clearance when using power mowers and other bladed tools.

The most important consideration for home safety is to always think about it. In every activity, from cleaning to remodeling or just having fun, always have safety in mind.



Seven Outdoor Kitchen Design Considerations

Seven Outdoor Kitchen Design Considerations

Spring and Fall are ideal times to consider the construction of an outdoor kitchen, dining, and entertainment area. We all love to entertain outdoors when the weather is right. Now that people are staying at home more, it is a great time to design that perfect outdoor kitchen and dining area for your next gathering.

Before the first nail is driven, board is cut, or stone is laid, consider these 7 design considerations to make your area not only entertaining but safe and long-lasting as well.

Design Consideration #1 – Start with Accurate Measurements

The quickest way to blow the budget on a new outdoor kitchen area is to mismeasure the basic layout and major component areas. Having equipment arrive that does not fit or having to call a stone cutter to reconfigure your purchased stone tops can be financially damaging, not to mention a royal pain.

Design Consideration #2 – Vent Properly

If you plan on building a roof or top over the area, especially the cooking appliance(s), be sure to plan for and install some type of chimney, hood, or venting to take the smoke from that awesome barbecue out and away from those enjoying the space.

Design Consideration #3 – Protect Wood Surfaces

If you are building on a deck or constructing a wooden base for your outdoor kitchen area, be sure to install cooking equipment with proper clearances and possibly protective shields to keep the heat from damaging the wood or worse starting a fire.

Design Consideration #4 – Build in Sufficient Counter & Prep Space

There is always a lot of excitement about outdoor grills and other cooking equipment and all the great things you can cook. Sometimes the counter, preparation, and service spaces are short-changed in the design phase. One side of the cooking equipment is great for prep, while the other side is where the food goes when it is done. Then you may need even more space for guest preparation or self-serving.

Design Consideration #5 – Prepare for Utilities Service and Safety

There will be electricity, gas, and water lines involved, and having them tucked away is aesthetically pleasing, but you should plan for ease of access and service because stuff happens. Also, make these utility lines and piping safe from accidental damage from people using the space.

Design Consideration #6 – Outdoor Rated Appliances

Staying on a budget is important but using appliances that are not safety and performance rated for outdoor use will end up costing more over time, as they will need replacement sooner. Also, some components may deteriorate or rust if exposed to the weather when not designed for it.

Design Consideration #7 – Appliance Placement

Placement of appliances, particularly when it comes to different operating temperatures, can cause damage to them, and can also reduce their performance. Placing a gas cooking appliance right next to an outdoor refrigerator can lower its ability to cool down and can over time reduce its lifespan due to higher operating pressures.

All considered, take the time necessary to carefully plan your outdoor kitchen, dining, and entertainment area for enjoyment, durability, and safety.




Best Outdoor Home Projects for Small Spaces

Best Outdoor Home Projects for Small Spaces

Not everyone lives in a large home, or one that has yard space. Modern living includes a large number of people living in condos or townhomes, where outdoor areas are community areas except for patios or decks included with each individual unit. It would be unfair not to address home improvement for these areas, as many people choose this as their home location. In this article, we will address maximizing the outdoor living experience with these limited areas.

Often the improvements are required by homeowners’ CC and R agreements to be temporary, and not to extend beyond the homeowner’s personal unit area. I used to live in a condominium, on the garden level, where I had a large patio to work with, but units above had small decks. I had a wonderful neighbor who loved having a deck and wanted to make it into a cozy but comfortable living space. She wanted shade, outdoor furniture, barbecue capabilities, storage, and a garden. She also liked feeding the birds. Her name was Ann, so let us discuss how she implemented the “Ann Plan.”

  1. Shade—Ann was able to install a retractable awning that lowered the temperature by at least 10 to 15 degrees when employed. It was great, she had a crank model, but they also come with electric motors. Before she got that, she had a shade umbrella. Both provided her a cooler place to settle and watch the stream and nature during the summer, and would be good choices for anyone living in areas with limited outdoor space.

  2. Outdoor Furniture—There are so many types of outdoor furniture that can fold out to be chairs, lounges, etc. There are tables and benches that are attached to balcony and deck railings, and fold away when not in use. Ann had a special bench made that provided service for #2, #3, and #4 in this list, and was amazingly comfortable. The bench had a storage cabinet underneath, and a portable barbecue, tools, propane, even utensils could easily be pulled out and set up so that all the cooking could be done with items that were kept in the bench. It also was the place to store a watering can for her garden. She hired a cabinet maker who was quite creative to help design and then build this piece of furniture.

  3. Barbecue—Barbecue grills come in all sizes and configurations, some of which are small and portable. If you like to barbecue, you should not be deprived of the opportunity. Sometimes configuring a small area is more challenging than a large area, so do not neglect the opportunity to work with a professional who may have ideas and connections to things that you never dreamed even existed.

  4. Storage—As mentioned in the Ann Plan above, a simple but clever way to provide for items that were used on the deck, but hard to store inside, was devised. Furniture can be made to be storage as well, cabinets come in all different sizes and shapes, and can be created to be used overhead or under feet, or somewhere in between.

  5. Garden—A garden can be created in almost any size space. Ann introduced me to something called a Tower Garden, it has a large reservoir of water at the bottom, extends upward about 4 to 5 feet, allows planting of 18 different plants, and can be used to grow flowers, vegetables, or both. I have one to this day, it uses no soil, and there is a pump with a “shower cap” that distributes water automatically to feed the plants with water and liquid fertilizer. And it’s set on a timer, so all I need to do on a daily basis is rotate it ¼ turn so that all the plants end up with an even share of sunlight over time. It requires only 3’ by 3’ of space, and it grows healthy veggies like crazy! The Chicago International Airport has some of these and they grow herbs for restaurants in the airport. Commercially available planters are also available, and custom planters can be created for your outdoor area. Once again, you should not be deprived of your desire to garden simply by limited space.

  6. Feed the Birds—We all know that bird feeders come in a variety of sizes and configurations for different species of birds. It is another way to feel like you are contributing to nature.

Most likely, at least something we have mentioned above has caused a tingle inside. If you will treat your outdoors like your indoors, you will find many ways to make that part of your home as comfortable and appealing as your living room. So let’s dust off our outdoor cookbooks and take another look at that patio or deck, let your creative juices flow and let’s decide what we can do to make the next outdoor season one to remember.

Top Dollar Kitchen Remodeling

Top Dollar Kitchen Remodeling

It is commonly known that if you are selling a home, nine times out of ten, the property will be sold in the kitchen. This is the place to make the house really stand out. If you plan to sell your property at any point in the future, or if you intend to do some entertaining in a home that will impress your guests, the kitchen needs to look current, be highly functional, and have a few little bells and whistles that attract “ooh’s and aah’s” from people.

When it comes to selling, a Top Dollar remodel is not necessarily the most expensive, but it needs to fit what most buyers are looking for. Buyers today are SMART, and they know how to go online and look at designer websites, and to go through Lowe’s or Home Depot and look at their finished displays for what is new and stylish. It is almost a template, and in this article we’d like to share the colors, styles, and materials that sell for top dollar. Our disclaimer is that if you are just doing it for yourself, you can choose whatever you personally like, but if you want to impress others, you will need to make the right choices.

A general guideline before actually putting together a budget is, that if you plan on selling the property within the next five years, then you should plan on spending about what you anticipate getting back from the remodel when you sell the property, but if you plan to own the property for longer than five years, your objective should be to create something that you and your family with gain the value back in usage and comfort.

Most of the remodeling I’ve been involved with is as an investor, and our costs to get a well done impressive remodel can run from about $12k to $20k, averaging at about $15k to $16k, but my numbers are based on us getting contractors’ discounts for purchased materials, plus our labor. Home Advisor publishes says you can do kitchen remodels for between $4k and $50k but publishes their national averages between $12,567 and $34,962. And it is possible to spend a great deal more if you are using luxury appliances, lights, and highly customized cabinets, flooring, and countertops. Just to give you an example, common ceramic floor tile sizes are 12 X 12 or 18 X 18, but we got taken by a contractor who used 18 X 24, an unusual rectangular size, and it cost almost 4 times as much as the same quality in a standard size. So, if you want to spend $134k on your kitchen, you can, but it is not necessary, even in a more luxurious home.

If you would like to do a floor to ceiling remodel and are planning to sell your home in the next 5 years, let’s cover some important considerations for the remodel.

Flooring—Popular Floorings would be wood laminate or ceramic tile. If you have young children, consider waterproof flooring that looks like wood laminate. Colors for wood flooring would be neutral brown (not reddish or yellowish), and there is a wood flooring that looks like driftwood, brown with faded greys that looks like it has been aged by water or sunlight. For ceramic tile, use white or grey, it can have marbling in grey or black, or even flecks of gold. No warm tones, cool neutrals only.

Cabinets/Counter-tops—White Shaker Cabinets, Brushed Nickel Fittings, granite or similar material counter-tops in white, grey, black combinations, with possibly a little warm tone bits of color mixed in.

Sinks—Stainless steel sink, brushed nickel faucet

Lighting—Recessed lighting (canisters), with LED work area lights, such as track lights. Low profile lighting, and don’t block the view with a heavy or dark light fixture or ceiling fan.

Appliances—Stainless or Black, not white

Backsplash—Mosaic tiles in white, grey and black combinations.

Painting Scheme—Tricolor, light grey wall color throughout the home, lots of white trim (baseboards, around windows, doors, white 6 panel doors), and an accent color. Accent colors for moderate square footage—sage, dusty blue, dusty rose, lavender, these colors should all have a muted greyed-out appearance. For large square footage—Gunmetal Grey, Dark Blue, Forest Green, Burgundy, Plum. Accents should truly be accents—a small amount goes a long way.

Space, Etc.—Open space is the intended feel. If you can have a person fixing dinner in the kitchen and having a conversation at normal voice level with someone in the living room or dining area, that is what is preferred. Removing walls or parts of walls as long as they are not load-bearing is worth consideration. A bar in the kitchen for food prep or eating is great, it also makes it possible for children to do homework and ask questions of parents in the kitchen. And one further detail, if you are planning to sell, you cannot afford to offend potential buyers, it is better to be too neutral rather than to choose a color that a potential buyer would not like, even if it happens to be your favorite color.

I have one more suggestion, if you are looking to sell a property, and it has to do with accenting your look. Finding something that is a classic look or item or using something original in the property can create a more homey atmosphere in the property. Exposing some outside brick or incorporating an original fireplace and hearth into the design can be wonderful, even if they don’t fit with the template described above. People love things that add character, even if it seems a little weird or unusual. Nobody is crazy about oatmeal all by itself, but add apples, bananas, raisins, or brown sugar and cinnamon and it’s a breakfast favorite.

Resources: https://www.hgtv.com/design/remodel/kitchen-remodel/what-is-average-cost-remodel-kitchen

Pre-Inspect Your Home for a Higher Selling Price

Pre-Inspect Your Home for a Higher Selling Price

If you are listing your home for sale, do you remember a previous home negotiation process, or have you ever been in one? Typically, the buyer and seller have come to a preliminary agreement on the selling price based on all contract contingencies being met. One of those contingencies involves the home inspection and the report of defects.

This is not a “sky is falling” situation. Usually, there is no major defect discovered in an inspection that was not in the property condition disclosure. However, there will in most cases be a few to many smaller issues that are noted by the inspector in the report. After all, they are hired to find problems, so for them to feel that they have earned their fee, they find problems.

So, there is this report, and it lists things like:

  • Ground slope toward the foundation, which is a problem.

  • Cracks or leaks around window and door seals; and these will be listed multiple times depending on the area of the home or the room by room reporting.

  • Damaged window and door screens.

  • Scratched or otherwise marred baseplates.

  • Cracked tiles on countertops.

  • Scrapes or scars in hardwood flooring.

  • Cracked windowpanes.

  • Damaged or missing door seals.

  • Dried deck wood, needing oiling or treatment.

When it comes to the little things, especially if the homeowner is one to defer maintenance for cost or other reasons, they can mount up fast and make the home inspection report look more like a casualty list than a report.

The Buyer(s) get the report first, and they see no major item, but a laundry list of things they are going to have to fix or pay to correct right after they move into their “new” home. So, the Seller(s) get a demand document wanting the repairs made before closing, but more likely a cash concession at closing to take care of the Buyers’ expense in correcting the problems. This becomes a negotiation that can go back and forth a bit, and it almost always costs the Seller(s) some money.

A better approach is to pre-inspect the home before you list it to find all these easily recognizable problems if you just look for them. You can pay your own inspector to find them, or you can find them on your own. The key is to fix as many as possible so that they disappear off that future home inspector’s radar.

One approach that some homeowners use is to pre-inspect and pay for affordable corrections and include that in their property condition disclosure. They can outline the items that they have hired professionals to repair, and there is no need to divulge how much they spent. Shopping carefully, it is almost a certainty that they will spend less to correct a list of small problems than they are going to end up giving to the Buyer(s) in a negotiation.

There is also a psychological advantage for the Sellers, as not even mentioning but fixing the small items will mean the Buyers will be presented with a nice clean inspection report. They will feel better about their purchase and be less inclined to nitpick.

No sources, just my real estate brokerage experience.

How to Finance Home Improvements Using HUD

How to Finance Home Improvements Using HUD

As the government guarantees a massive number of home mortgages, equity loans, and home improvement loans, the Department of Housing and Urban Development can be a good source of information about home improvement projects and how to finance them. The information here is summarizing HUD.gov website sources.

Why protect a home through continual improvements?

The home is where Americans spend a huge amount of their time. Maintaining the home in top condition yields dividends in comfort and usefulness. Keeping the home maintained can also avoid costly repairs.

Another benefit of maintaining a home’s condition and appearance is in value appreciation over time. Well-kept homes tend to increase the quality and appearance of neighborhoods. This tends to result in overall neighborhood higher appreciation over time, resulting in a higher value when ready to sell.

The DIY Approach

Doing It Yourself home improvements are possible, but only if the homeowner has experience and the skills necessary for carpentry, electrical, and plumbing projects. Homeowners without the skills should use professionals. If taking the DIY approach, the other consideration is in materials purchases. There should not be excessive emphasis on cost-cutting on materials. The quality of materials is not always a cost issue either. Careful shopping can locate materials suitable for the job with long life expectation and good looks.

If Hiring Contractors

Hiring contracting professionals is the approach used by most homeowners, and it is a great way to improve a home with a quality job and value appreciation over time. There are some cautions when seeking out contractors or a general contractor for home improvements.

Generally, smaller projects or those involving only one trade, such as electrical work, require only the hire of a single professional. However, for room additions or major work with multiple trades involved, it is often best to hire a general contractor to hire and supervise the trades involved.

Competitive Bids: A licensed and experienced general contractor with references you check is a great way to get your major improvement project done on time and within budget. It is fine to get competitive bids, but you should be certain that the same job specifications and materials quality are being bid by all. It is easy to be low bidder if using lower quality materials.

Lien Releases: You should be sure that the contract for work specifies that payments on larger jobs are only made with lien releases from all subcontractors involved. The lien release should be presented at the time the check for payment changes hands.

Permits and Certificates of Occupancy: You do not want to get years down the road and trying to sell your home only to find out that your improvement was not permitted. Be sure that all appropriate permits are in place and that there is a Certificate of Occupancy at the end of the job.

The Title I Property Improvement Loan Program

Once you have the plan in place, and unless you have the cash to fund the improvement, it is time to arrange financing. Of course, you can use credit cards in some cases, but the interest is quite high. There are also commercial HELOC, Home Equity Line of Credit, products offered by banks, as well as straight home equity loans.

However, if none of those options are available or something else is preferred, the HUD Title I Property Improvement Loan is popular, especially for larger projects. You can get one of these loans at a local bank, as the FHA guarantees the loan with the lender. This lowers their risk profile and helps to qualify more people. Advantages of the Title I Loan include:

  • There are no area limitations for these loans; they are available everywhere.

  • For loans under $7,500, there are often no security requirements and no cosigners are necessary.

  • Your mortgage or deed of trust are not involved.

  • To obtain the loan, you need only:

    • Own the property or have a long-term lease.

    • Meet credit requirements of the lender.

    • Sign a note agreeing to repayment terms.

  • The loan can cover related expenses including:

    • Appraisal fees

    • Inspection fees

    • Building permit fees

    • Title company costs

    • Engineering and architectural costs

  • Usually the lender can approve locally, and the money can be available in days.

The Title I Loan has a maximum of $25,000 for a single-family home and a term limit of 20 years. Manufactured homes classed as real property can also get a loan with a term limit of 15 years.

To find an FHA-approved lender in your area, call HUD’s Customer Service Center toll-free: (800) 767-7468 (TTY: (800) 877-8339) for a list of lenders in your state.



Autumn Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Home in Top Condition

Autumn Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Home in Top Condition

With Fall in full swing, there are some home maintenance activities that may be worth some consideration. They can save money and avoid damage to the home. With people spending more time than ever before in their homes, it is worth some time, effort, and maybe some money to do some fall maintenance at home.

Exterior Maintenance

Roof: Fall, when the weather is mild is a good time to inspect or have a professional inspect your roof for damaged shingles or broken tiles. Also inspect flashings around roof penetrations, as they are the most likely places for moisture infiltration, very damaging to the roof underlayment and attic spaces. Check for curling or cracking shingles as well.

Exterior Plumbing: With winter on the horizon, it is time to inspect exterior water piping and spigots for adequate freeze protection. Pipe insulation could be deteriorated. Drain exterior water pipes that are not necessary for use during the winter or that can be turned back on only when needed. Check coverings over hose connections and valves at the walls.

For pipes that are exposed and used year-round, consider the installation of heating tape. If there is already heating tape, check to make sure it is working. If it is temperature controlled, as most are, check when the temp gets below freezing.

Window and Door Seals

The changes in outdoor temperature from the previous winter into spring and summer can result in cracking or shrinkage of window and door weather stripping. Check all windows and exterior door stripping for cracks or damage and repair before winter to save money on utilities due to loss of warm air during the winter.

Landscaping and Garden

Fall is a great time to mulch or move your perennials. It is also time to remove dead annual plants. Trim dead tree branches before they have the possibility of falling due to snow or ice accumulation during the winter.

Fall is also a good time to aerate the lawn. It is a good time to fertilize and seed as well.

HVAC System Maintenance

This is the perfect time to have your heating and cooling system checked and preventive maintenance performed. Most professional service companies offer maintenance agreements that include spring and fall preventive maintenance and inspections. This can prevent breakdowns in the hottest and coldest weather. They also usually provide a nice discount for any necessary service calls for maintenance agreement customers, as well as priority when weather is at its worst.

Pest Inspection

Fall is when you want to inspect for pests. When this first cool weather begins, pests will seek out warm places such as attics and basements. Worse, they do not stay in those areas, as they begin to explore and inhabit the rest of the home. A professional pest inspection is often the best approach, as it may point out infestations, but also locate problem areas like cracks or damage that allow pest to get into the home.

Check Your Safety Sensors

Before you begin to use your heating system, especially if it is gas heating, check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors. These are critical, as they can save your family’s lives. Consider professionally installed systems that can be checked and controlled with a computer or smartphone.

These are all easy and inexpensive things to do in the fall season to improve and protect the home. They not only can save money, but they also help to maintain the condition of the home and the safety of the occupants.

Best Expanding-Your-Outdoors Home Remodeling Projects

Best Expanding-Your-Outdoors Home Remodeling Projects

Most people do not have the necessary budget to buy a new home to create additional living space, or to take a vacation every time they want a change in outdoor scenery. Many these people could arrange some improvements to the outside living area for their home, since these improvements can be large or small, and all different price ranges.

Using outside space to create a more comfortable living in your own home, can be a healthy improvement to your lifestyle as well, whether it gets you moving walking around, planting a garden, or throwing a frisbee to the dog. Let us explore 5 different categories of improvement that can be made. And keep in mind that often interior designers have a good feel for outdoor improvements, so you can take your improvements to the next level by working with a professional.

  1. Seating Space and Shade—Simply being able to go outside and sit in comfort can improve your whole outlook on life. Installing awnings, umbrellas and patio furniture are relatively modest improvements that can reap big benefits. Whether these things are installed on an already existing front porch or back patio, or you set up on the lawn, you can have an hour or more of get-away time with a cool summer drink, and watch birds or the rest of the world pass by.

  2. Patios/Decks and Accessories—It seems like there is only one way to get an apron on most dads, and that is an outdoor barbecue. Summer months are a great time to have an outdoor gathering place that also happens to be a kind of a kitchen and dining room. Patios and decks can be large or small, barbecues can be portable or installed, and are great for summer months, but the usage season can be expanded by adding a gas outdoor heater, or even a chimaera or fire pit, which provides both heat and atmosphere. And decks have been found to be one item that produces a high return on investment when it comes time to sell your property.

  3. Gardens—There is an old Beatles song with the lyrics, “Sitting in an English Garden, waiting for the sun.” It makes me tingle inside to be able to do something like that. (By the way, you might want to know that I live on a stream, and can actually fish from my patio, so all this about enjoying the space outdoors is something that I feel deeply and passionately about.) A garden can take many forms, it can be a place to go and meditate, or to work out your frustrations by planting or weeding, or harvesting, it can provide herbs or vegetables and fruits for your table, beautiful smelling flowers that also cheer up your whole yard. They can be large or small, I have a Tower Garden that uses no dirt, sits on the patio, and takes up only about 3 feet by 3 feet of space, and gives me extras of some of my veggies and herbs to give away.

  4. Gazebos/Storage Sheds/Outbuildings—Whether you need more space for storage, or a place to go and feel regal, like in a gazebo, you can improve your outdoor surroundings by the addition of an outbuilding. An interesting outbuilding idea would be a greenhouse and that could allow you to have a year-round garden. You will be surprised at how large or small some of these outside buildings and shelters can be, and how broad the price range can be as well. Do not assume you cannot afford something until you have checked into it. And how would it be to grow your own hothouse tomatoes or tangerines in Minnesota in the middle of the winter.

  5. Ponds/Fountains—Both of these water features are popular, and can be purchased ready to install, or created as a custom feature. Sounds of running water are amazingly soothing, and if you want to be really popular with neighborhood children, put in a little pond and add some koi (Japanese goldfish, really they are carp, but really pretty carp).

  6. Pools/Hot tubs—I just realized we are adding another category of water feature, but whether above ground, or in-ground, pools create activity in your yard that is hard to beat. And if the pool idea is too aggressive, hot tubs are amazing for “getting out the kinks” from the day.

There are so many more we have not had an opportunity to cover. I know someone with a little putting green. Other ideas would be horseshoes, a dog run, tennis court, dance area with a mirror ball, jungle gym or swing set, playhouse, and anything else that you and your family can benefit from. And I almost forgot to mention this, outdoor lighting is the spice that makes all the rest of these items even more attractive and useful. Beyond that, just make sure your improvements are something that you and your family will use. Oh, and while you are at it, you’d better pick out your favorite cooling summer beverage—mine would be peach or strawberry lemonade in the summer and a steaming cup of hot chocolate by the chimaera in the spring or fall. Cheers!