How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Moving out of your apartment can be bittersweet. You pack up all of your things, begin moving furniture, start taking down wall art– and, find yourself face to face with that golf ball-sized hole in the wall you accidentally made one night, then covered with art.

After living in an apartment for at least a year, there’s bound to be some small damage here and there. While some wear and tear is normal and should be built into your lease, fixing minor damage before moving out will ensure you get your full security deposit back. Plus, you’ll stay on good terms with your landlord, who you may need for references down the road.

To make sure you leave your apartment in good condition before moving out, take a look at these normal damage issues and their fixes:

Small holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by nails that were used to hang the frames. Patching small holes left by nails, tacks and screws is simple and will leave the walls looking great again.

You’ll need some spackling paste, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Squeeze a small glob of the spackle into each hole, then use the putty knife to spread and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle is dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the area, especially around the edges, to leave a smooth, flat wall.

In a real pinch, you can use some materials around the apartment to fill the hole. Plain white toothpaste or baking soda mixed with white glue can also work to fill nail holes, but aren’t recommended unless you absolutely have no time to get the right materials.

Large holes

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Mending large holes in drywall isn’t as easy as some of the other fixes, but it will most likely cost you less than if you were to let your landlord handle it and deduct it from your deposit .

Pick up a mesh repair patch at the hardware store to use with your spackle. Then, cut the patch so that it fits over the hole and the surrounding wall. Cover the patch with spackle, and after it dries, sand down the edges so they blend into the wall completely.

Scuff marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is and make more work for whoever has to clean thee apartment.

Since I seem to make an inordinate amount of scuffs on the walls of my apartments, I typically don’t try to tackle them all– just really noticeable and large ones. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time.

Broken blinds

Another common damage issue I’m guilty of is bending or even breaking some of my window blinds. Before moving out, dust your windows and blinds, and make sure none are bent or cracked. If bent, do your best to straighten them out as much as possible. If you can’t straighten them, or if one of the blinds is broken, start by looking at the bottom – there’s often a spare slat in any set of blinds. If not, look for blinds of the same size and color at your hardware store. Replace the broken slat with the new one, and your landlord won’t ever know the difference!

Carpet stains

If you’re a red-wine drinker living in a carpeted apartment, you probably know a thing or two about removing carpet stains. Tackling stains before they get a chance to set will help your carpet look better overall, but before moving out, peruse the carpet for any stains you might have missed.  Try using baking soda or carpet cleaner first. If that’s not strong enough to remove the stains, consider renting a carpet cleaner from your hardware or grocery store. They’re easy to use, and your carpets will be unrecognizably clean when you’re done.

Fix damage to the carpet

Now that you’ve fixed the stains on the carpet, is it still intact? If there are damaged patches, or if it’s started to come loose around the edges, or any other damage, you’ll want to get it fixed. Even if you have to hire someone, it’s likely going to be cheaper than having your landlord take it out of your deposit.

Scratches on hardwood

Renters love apartments with hardwood floors because they’re much easier to clean than carpet, but they do have one common problem: Hardwood is easy to scratch. There are a couple of quick fixes for the shallower scrapes, though. Many people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut along the scrape until the scratch blends into the rest of the floor. This method works well, just not on deep scratches and darker woods.

For deeper scratches, look for a wood-colored marker or pencil at the hardware store. These products are specifically made for filling in and disguising the scrapes.

Replace light bulbs

If any light bulbs burned out in places that you can easily access, now is the time to take care of them. If there are some that are difficult to reach, such as in high up or complicated fixtures, you might need help or for your landlord to handle them. Even so, replacing any easily accessible ones that burned out will give your landlord less to repair and take out of your deposit.

General dirtiness

Deep cleaning your apartment is recommended to ensure you get your full deposit back, and to give your landlord less of a headache when he or she is trying to ready the unit for the next renter.

Give everything a good wiping, sweeping and dusting, but spend extra time in the kitchen and bathroom. The refrigerator, microwave, oven and stove should all be thoroughly cleaned, along with the toilet, shower, tub and sink.

Take pictures

This isn’t a repair but is crucial to getting more of your deposit back. Take pictures of the current state of everything in the apartment that you couldn’t fix yourself. Having this documentation helps as later defense, in case your landlord takes too much out of the security deposit. Having pictures will work much better than your word against theirs in case things end up in front of small claims court.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Lackluster listings abound — learn to cut through the clutter and spot the keepers.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Related:

Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.

Source: zillow.com

Wants vs. Needs: Which Apartment Amenities are Essential

When you begin apartment hunting, a wish list starts to form in your head. Comprised of all the things you think you want and what you really need, this list can get long, but what do you actually have to have versus what you can do without?

Think about it like this, you want a big kitchen, but you need two bedrooms. You want in-apartment laundry hookups, but you need easy access to public transportation for work. Getting all the wants and needs on your wish list while staying within your budget sometimes presents a challenge.

In fact, 74 percent of renters typically make a sacrifice in amenities in order to rent what they can actually afford. Deciding what to knock off your wish list can be tough. Everything can feel like a “need” when most items are simply “wants.” Here’s a little help deciphering between the two.

Let’s start with the wants

Think of these wishlist items as things it would be great to have, but aren’t a must for you to function.

Aesthetics

These are items that help to create the look you want in your new place. Things like hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances all fit into this category. They’d be great to have, but you could always upgrade later.

Technology

As something we all use every day, having an updated apartment with features like USB charging outlets or app-controlled door locks or thermostats may have made it to your wish list. These are great wants and something you can ask a landlord to consider adding after you’ve signed a lease if they’re not there from the start.

However, access to technology – like internet and cable – is a need.

Outdoor space

Often a popular “want” on the wish list, finding an apartment with either a balcony, shared green space, garden area or rooftop access adds space and luxury to your home, but how often will you really use it?

Appliances

Of course, you’ll need a refrigerator, stove and oven. But other appliances might be more of a want.

If there’s not a washer/dryer in your unit, or hookups to add you own, is there a laundry room in the building? It’s a little less convenient, but not necessarily a deal breaker. Same can be said for central air. A window unit will work just fine.

Services

Looking at these as bonus items for your wish list can help you cross them off if your perfect place is lacking in amenities like a fitness center, pool, concierge or even a shuttle to public transportation.

Now onto the needs

Needs vary from person to person, but there are standard items most people require in their home.

Location

Sure, you may want to live in a specific area of town because you like the vibe and what’s close by. However, you need to live in a certain neighborhood in order to get to work easily or be in the right school district.

Parking

You’ve got to put that car somewhere. While you need a spot, try being flexible on whether it’s a covered spot, one in a garage or out in the open.

Pet-friendly

There’s no way you’re getting rid of Fido. So, if you have a pet, you’ll need to find pet-friendly apartments to bring your animals with you.

We all make compromises when on the hunt for our next home, but knowing what you really need in your new place versus what you’d like to have can make the search easier and less stressful.

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10 Ways to Save on Your Apartment Heating Bill

Cooler weather means sweater weather, hot drinks and shorter days. It also means you’ll have to turn on your heater. But staying cozy doesn’t always mean high apartment heating bills. On average, an American home spends around $112.59 on their energy bill every month.

Whether you’re looking to save some money or even just help the environment, there are small changes around your apartment you can do to lower your heat bill.

And none of them include wrap yourself in a blanket so you don’t turn into an ice cube, we promise.

Keep on reading to find out how you can stay warm this winter and not end up broke.

1. Seal up those windows and doors

window seals apartment heatingwindow seals apartment heating

If you live in a charming old home or apartment with older windows, you’d be surprised at how much heat escapes through your windows and doors. Heat gain and loss through those unsealed spots account for up to 30 percent of heating and cooling energy use.

Consult with your landlord before moving forward as they may offer to do it or replace the windows. Once you get the go-ahead, you can seal up those spots and leaks around your rental with weather stripping and clay rope caulking to winterize the apartment. Double-check that the window itself closes all the way.

You can also pick up a window insulation kit or magnetic window insulation that are easy to install to insulate the area. It’s a quick weekend project that will pay off in the long run.

2. Purchase a smart thermostat

smart thermostatsmart thermostat

It’s hard to remember when and what temperature it should remain on to save on heating costs during the winter. The solution? A smart thermostat. You can take it with you when you move out or have your landlord reimburse you upon purchase.

During winter, you’ll want to keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and then 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. So you don’t forget, set your thermostat to remember when to switch off as it learns your daily patterns.

3. Add beautiful rugs to your living spaces

apartment rugs apartment heatingapartment rugs apartment heating

Sure, blankets and chunky socks are great to stay warm, but have you thought about rugs? A beautiful area rug can enhance your living spaces with patterns and vibrant colors and bring it all together. But it can also work like insulation and keep your feet warm.

In older units, especially those with hardwood floors, a large rug in the living room can help keep the heat in place and insulate the area, so there are no leaks. Smaller rugs in the bathroom or by your bed will make the space even cozier and help protect the area further.

4. Double check your current furniture layout

floor ventfloor vent

If you moved quickly, you probably didn’t pay attention to all the vents on the floor and along the walls. Go around your apartment and double-check that none of the furniture, including couches, side tables, beds and credenzas aren’t blocking any of the vents.

This will help your apartment heating unit work a little less as the room will get warmer, faster. This is a great time, too, to reevaluate your winter bedding to keep even warmer.

5. Turn down your water heater

water heaterwater heater

How high is your water heater right now? Yes, that contraption inside your utility closet. Check the temperature of your water heater and lower it by 10 degrees. If you need help figuring it out, ask your landlord to help you change it.

Turning it down to about 110 degrees will save you money month over month on your heating bill, and you’ll still stay warm while in the shower.

6. Keep the humidity high

humidifier apartment heatinghumidifier apartment heating

Every winter, it’s almost like someone sucked all humidity out of your apartment, and your skin starts to dry up. Dry air can affect both you and your plants around the home. Pick up a humidifier for your bedroom and the living room as higher humidity helps keep the apartment feeling warm. It’s a win-win for your skin and your heating bill.

7. Close doors to unused rooms

closing doorclosing door

Your apartment heating unit will attempt to warm up every nook and cranny in your home. But why is the laundry room getting warm if you’re not there? As soon as the temperature shifts outside, get in the habit of closing doors for unused rooms.

Close the doors to the bathroom, the closets, the guest room and the laundry room to allow the heating unit to concentrate on heating your living spaces and the bedroom. If possible, close the vents in there. It’s a simple trick that’s often overlooked but works like a charm.

8. Warm up (carefully!) with a small space heater

space heater apartment heatingspace heater apartment heating

First, a disclaimer. Space heaters can be hazardous if not used correctly. Before purchasing one, check with your landlord to make sure they allow them. The leading factor that puts you in danger is leaving them too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing or mattresses, according to the NFPA.

Never leave your small heater unattended, don’t plug it into an extension cord, make sure that it’s kept a safe distance away from flammables and only use them in walled-in rooms like your bedroom and turn it off before going to sleep.

9. Consider thermal curtains for your windows

curtainscurtains

Energy-efficient thermal curtains can quickly help heat up your apartment as they have layers that act as insulation and keep heat in and cold out. In some instances, according to Energy.gov, heat loss can be reduced by 40 percent or more with thermal curtains, that’s about 20 percent in energy savings. In the summer, they’ll keep your apartment cool as well.

These curtains are available as a set of two panels for one window, hovering around $30-$40 each.

10. Use your ceiling fan

apartment heatingapartment heating

You would think a fan would be counterproductive in keeping your space warm, but that’s actually far from the truth. The better the circulation and airflow, the more energy-efficient your home will be.

Having your fan spinning clockwise on the lowest setting will trap heat inside to keep rooms in your apartment warmer, making a world of difference!

Let’s winterize your apartment

Every single of these tips will help reduce your apartment heating bill over the next few cold months and keep your wallet happy. If a window or a patio door isn’t closing correctly, have the landlord fix it as soon as possible.

Start small and then increase measures as you see results month over month. Those pennies will add up. You’ll stay cozy through the winter and have some fun money once the weather warms up.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Working With a Design-Build Team to Create Your Dream Home

What do the experts say you need to do and know for a smooth build out?

Building your dream home from scratch is a daunting task, especially if you’ve never worked with an architect, builder, and design team before.

To make the project a little easier to wrap your head around, here’s some advice from construction professionals.

Do your research

The building process isn’t short, so make sure you are happy with your team — you’re stuck with them for a long time.

This requires doing a little homework.

To start the building process right, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Conduct extensive online research to make sure you’re using a reputable builder
  • Get referrals from friends and family
  • Look at examples of the builder’s current work

Nikki James, studio manager at Ashton Woods, a builder and design studio constructing homes in the South and Southwest, recommends visiting a builder’s model homes and those under construction.

It’s fine to even be a little sneaky, says Jesse Fowler, president of Southern California-based Tellus Design + Build. Pop in at a construction site unannounced to see what the job site looks like. Workers not wearing hard hats or lots of garbage on the ground are red flags.

Ask questions (and more questions)

You need to understand the parameters of what the builder is doing for you, advises Roger Kane of Kane Built Homes in Massachusetts. And you get that information by asking questions. Make sure the builder can execute what you want, because not all builders can accommodate custom designs.

One of the first things you should do before meeting with your team for the first time is to identify what you don’t know, and then eliminate that doubt.

If this is your first time building, there are probably going to be a lot of things you don’t know, and that’s fine, Fowler says. There are no dumb questions.

Here are a few starter questions:

  • What exactly are you paying for?
  • Do you need full architecture/design/build services, or do you just want a blueprint?
  • How much time should you allow?

Know what you want

“Design inspiration can come from anywhere,” says James. She asks her clients to bring in plenty of pictures, scraps of fabric, or anything that speaks to their aesthetic.

The first thing to do, Fowler says, is to figure out the look and feel that a customer likes, and weed out what they don’t like.

It’s also important to know your limitations, though. James warns that you must make the structural selections for your floor plan before picking design elements so you know what you can and can’t have. For example, if you want a freestanding tub, you will first need to know if you have the right plumbing for it.

An architect wants to know how you’re going to use your home, advises Kim Nigro, the architect at Chicago-based Studio Nigro Architecture. Tell your architect what you don’t like about your current home, and what your day-to-day needs are.

This can be as simple as letting them know you shop at Costco a lot, so you want a big pantry, James says.

The details matter

You probably never thought about what kind of grout you want between your tiles. But these are the kinds of decisions you will be making.

Ashton Woods gives its customers a checklist for details like this, and there are a lot of specific items on it, from what kind of edge you want on your counters to how many outlets and phone jacks you’ll need.

This sounds overwhelming, but Kane’s advice is to just take it room by room. Start out with the basics. Determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, then go inside each room and think about what should be in it.

“Make a list,” he says. “’We want hardwood flooring; we need his-and-her closets.’ Make your own little notebook and just address every room. That’s a great way to start.“

Know your budget

The harsh reality is that you can’t buy something you can’t afford. So, do your math and be upfront about your budget.

“Not communicating a clear budget to a designer is a mistake,” Fowler advises. “Designers need something tangible. If you let them go wild, 99 times out of 100 they are going to do something you can’t afford.”

There are good reasons not to pinch too many pennies, though.

As the saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” You probably shouldn’t go with the cheapest guy out there, Fowler suggests. A lot of builders, he says, cut corners by doing things illegally.

Don’t get roped into a mess like that. Saving a few bucks now might end up costing you more later.

James recommends doing things exactly the way you want them from the beginning, because remodeling later will cost you more money and more stress.

“We see a lot of buyers getting nervous about spending too much. As people get closer [to finishing], they wish they had spent that extra money,” she reports.

Spending more for quality products is another big consideration. Kane uses sustainable products for the exterior of his houses that last “pretty much a family’s life in a home — 30 to 40 years.”

That’s good for the environment and your wallet, because regular maintenance like repainting the outside of a house can cost $15,000.

Be decisive

The biggest mistake Kane, a veteran homebuilder, has seen homeowners make is being wishy-washy with their decisions.

Once a home is under construction, it’s important to have made all your major design selections.

“Paint color’s not a big deal,” Kane says. “But you should have things like all your tile and granite picked out.”

Why? Because at this point in the process, your selections could be backordered, and waiting on them is costly to the builder and to you.

If you do tend to change your mind a lot, make sure you pick a builder with a good warranty program.

Communication is key

One core piece of advice from construction professionals: Keep the lines of communication open. The biggest mistake you can make, says Fowler, is leaving gray areas in your building and design plan.

“I’ve heard horror stories, and most are because one party’s expectations were different from the other’s,” Nigro states. “The more developed drawings can be, the fewer assumptions the contractor will have to make.”

And it’s not only important for you to communicate to your design team. The members of your team need to be on the same page with each other as well.

“They need to really create a collaborative team,” Nigro says. “There are a lot of decisions to be made.”

Fowler recommends getting the whole team together to meet each other and start working collaboratively from the start. Most times, he says, architects, designers, and builders who work in a community have met and done projects with each other before.

Consider the trends

More homes across the country are being built “healthy” or “green.” These are homes built with non-toxic, natural products and materials.

Nigro says she used to recommend healthy building to her clients, and now people are coming to her asking for it.

Another trend sweeping the nation is “mother-in-law suites” or homes that accommodate multi-generational families.

Over the past five years, a lot of Nigro’s clients have started looking down the road to when older relatives might move in with them, or maybe their adult children will move back home after college.

This could mean a separate apartment over a garage, or maybe a guest bedroom on the main floor.

Why are trends an important factor to consider? It could help you sell your home in the future.

Have fun

“It’s important for us to personalize your home and make it yours and something that you’re proud of,” James remarks.

If this means having a full basketball court right on the main floor next to the dining room, like one of Nigro’s customers wanted, then that’s what you should have!

Custom features can range from practical to fantastical: Fowler has had clients ask for water pipes over their nightstand so they wouldn’t have to get up for water in the middle of the night; “living walls” (walls with plants or grass growing right on them); hidden cameras; and even an unexplained hole in the closet floor.

Hey, it’s your dream house, after all.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.

Related:

Originally published October 21, 2016.

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Source: zillow.com

6 Tech Tools for New Homeowners

While you were searching for your perfect home you probably made a list of must-haves: natural light, hardwood floors, a huge yard, etc.. but now that you’ve found the right space, it’s time to start thinking about the culture of your perfect home. How do you want to feel when you’re home and how do you curate that feeling? With this shortlist of apps and gadgets, we can help you find ways to be more efficient, sustainable, and engaged with your new community from the get-go.

Nextdoor App

It’s easy to be disconnected from your neighborhood in this tech world, but Nextdoor cuts through the awkward get-to-know-you stage so you can get neighborly help right now. It’s a Friday night in your new area and you have no idea where the best restaurants are, but people on Nextdoor do! Hop onto the private social network for people in your neighborhood, and ask anything! What handymen have your neighbors worked with? Where can you take your dog for a run? What teachers are the best in the area? This app gives you a space to ask questions, get recommendations, and offer help. Best of all, everyone within your network is verified before they can participate.

Smart Locks

On the days that you find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door, a smart lock is a breath of relief. Even if you’re not prone to forgetting your keys, a smart lock adds convenience and security to your home. They make it easier for your kids to get inside after school, help guests feel at home with temporary access codes, or ease the grocery haul with touch-less access.

If you’re not quite sure whether your new neighborhood is safe for deliveries, some smart locks allow you to set up a temporary code for a delivery person. However you use it, a smart lock keeps the wrong people out while making it easier to let the right people in.

Note: Since a smart lock gives your phone the ability to open your front door, it’s important to keep apps updated and choose secure passwords for anything on your phone. That said, your digital key is in no greater danger than anything else you keep on your phone.

Mesh Wi-fi

Wi-fi dead spots are something we’ve all had our fill of, but you don’t have to take that frustration with you to your new home. When you opt for a mesh network, instead of one central point emitting a Wi-fi signal that gets weaker with distance, you get a network of “nodes” that act as a net to transmit an even connection throughout the house. That means no more strategizing where to put the TV so the router can reach it.

Not only are these systems easy to set up, but they are “self-healing” which means if a node goes down, the system automatically reroutes to the most efficient way to transfer data. For users, that means connection hiccups are hardly noticeable.

Homie App

You might be settled in your new home, but don’t close the door on the Homie app just yet. Yes, Homie helps you easily list, search, and buy new properties, but it also helps you keep an eye on the real estate market in your new area. Look for investment properties or track the value of your home and how much neighbors list their homes for. By paying close attention, you’ll gain a sense of your property value and know if there’s a good time to cash in your equity and upgrade to a new home.

JouleBug

Make sustainable living into a game and get involved in your community with the JouleBug app. JouleBug awards you points every time you make a sustainable choice. Get rewarded for remembering your reusable bags, using compost, recycling, biking, or carpooling. Up the ante and take part in community challenges and get to know neighbors while you help keep the earth healthy.

JouleBug not only teaches you how to live more sustainably, it inspires lifestyle changes that make your funds more sustainable as well.

Smart Thermostat

Maybe you took our advice, bought a fixer-upper, and are saving for renovations—or maybe you’re just waiting for your savings to recover. Whatever the case, a smart thermostat helps you cut costs in one of the most overlooked areas: energy consumption.

Schedule your days with your smart thermostat and guarantee that the room is exactly the temperature you want while you’re in it, while saving energy when you’re not. Set it to automatically adjust to an energy-conscious temperature while everyone is out, then warm to a comfortable temperature before they return. If done right, you won’t notice the change—except on your energy bill.

Start on the Right Foot

A new home is a fresh start. Now is the time to create a vision of the culture you want to live in and take the steps to get there. Even though we know things can’t buy happiness, these apps and smart tech offer convenience and give you the freedom to live consciously.

About the Author

Rosemary is a freelance writer with a passion for people, places, and alliteration. When she’s not writing, you can find her crafting the perfect playlist or volunteering in her community.

Source: homie.com

5 Ways You’ll Spend Money on Your New Construction Home After Closing

Save some room in your budget for expenses after move-in.

By the time you get the keys to your new construction home, you might feel stretched thin in the finance department. From earnest money and design center upgrades, to closing costs and moving expenses, buying a brand-new home is never cheap.

As you take a look at the costs on the horizon, it’s wise to look a little past your closing date. There are a few post-closing costs that are unique to brand-new homes and some that are familiar to all new homeowners.

Set aside a little money for these expenses now, and it’ll be smooth sailing once the “sold” sign is out front.

Appliances

Unless you’ve negotiated a washer and dryer into the price of the home with your builder, your new laundry room will likely be a big empty space when you move in — no washer and dryer to be found.

Many builders don’t include a refrigerator either, opting instead to let homeowners choose a style that suits their needs.

Here’s a tip to ease your wallet woes: Start shopping appliance sales once you know your approximate close date. Many appliance stores will let you purchase ahead of time to take advantage of a good price, then delay your delivery until you move in.

Utilities

If you’re upgrading to a larger home, your utilities will likely increase, especially heating and cooling. And if you’re moving to a new city or a location with a different utility company, you may have to pay a deposit to start service.

If you’re interested in services like cable, satellite TV, or Internet, you may have to install some equipment that would already be installed if you were buying a pre-owned home.

Window coverings

Look at all those big, beautiful windows in your new home! And then notice that they’re bare — no blinds or curtains in sight.

Most new homes do not come with window coverings, and they’re definitely something you’ll want to quickly look into when you move in. There are better ways to introduce yourselves to the neighborhood than through wide-open windows — or bedsheets pinned up for privacy.

Furniture

There’s nothing more exciting than picking up some great new furnishings and decor for a brand-new space. You may have pieces that worked well in your old space but don’t fit your new home’s layout.

Or maybe you have a new guestroom to furnish, a deck that is begging for patio furniture, or beautiful hardwood floors that need area rugs. Set aside some money now so you can start decorating right after move-in day.

Landscaping

Did you know that some builders only landscape the front yard, leaving the backyard unfinished and unfenced? And, if your new neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, the rules may require you to finish your yard within a certain time period.

That means you foot the bill for landscaping your new home’s yard, and whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, it’s still an expense you shouldn’t overlook.

Setting foot in your brand-new, just-finished home is an exhilarating experience, and something you won’t soon forget. With just a little planning and saving in advance, you can spend more time making your new house a home, and less time stressing over how you’re going to pay for it all.

If you’re home shopping, check out our Home Buyers Guide for valuable tips and resources.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

New Construction: 10 Stages of Building a Custom House

In this article:

If you can’t find your dream home on the market or if you want to create a home that’s uniquely yours, you might consider building a house. Buyers who decided to build new homes were more likely to say that selecting the floor plan, having everything in the home be brand-new and customizing their home features were among their top reasons.* Before deciding if new construction is for you, you’ll want to learn about the different types of new-home construction and familiarize yourself with the process, from the initial land search all the way to selecting finishing touches. 

Typically, when someone says they’re planning to build their own home, they are referring to a fully custom build where they have a say in almost everything (short of items restricted by local laws and zoning regulations). But, in the realm of new construction, there are three different approaches buyers can take: 

Spec homes. With a spec home (short for speculative home), a home builder designs and constructs a single-family home without having one individual buyer in mind. Instead, they plan on selling the house to a buyer once it’s finished. Depending on how early in the process you are able to go under contract, you may be able to select some of the home’s final touches, like flooring, kitchen appliances and paint color. Sometimes these homes are listed for sale as “pre-construction.” 

Tract homes. With a tract home, a developer purchases a parcel of land and divides it into individual lots. Then, a home builder constructs all of the homes in that planned community. Tract homes can be condominiums, townhomes or single-family homes. Most homes in the community will look similar, and shared amenities are common. Similar to spec homes, you may be able to select some finishes in advance, depending on the timeline. 

Fully custom homes. With a fully custom home, you typically find the land on your own then hire a builder to build your dream home. You have total control over the floor plan, layout and finishes, but the process requires a lot of decision-making, attention to detail and disciplined budgeting — custom homes can be expensive. 

Since custom homes are the most complex new construction option out there, we’ll spend most of this article explaining the process.

Check your financing options

Once you’ve decided that building a custom home is the right choice for you, the next step is figuring out how you’ll pay for it — and a traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage isn’t an option for custom home construction, at least not at first. 

Unless you can pay for the entire build with cash, you’ll likely be looking for a construction loan, which is also sometimes called a self-build loan or a construction mortgage. Getting a construction loan is often more difficult than getting a traditional mortgage, as you’re borrowing money for a concept and not a physical house. You’ll need to provide your lender with a timetable, budget, floor plans, materials needed and extensive details to be considered. Other things to know about construction loans:

  • They have variable rates that are often higher than typical mortgage rates.
  • A 20%-25% down payment is usually required.
  • The loan can include the land you’re purchasing or it can cover only the construction costs if you already own the land. 
  • There’s an opportunity to refinance into a traditional fixed-rate mortgage once construction is complete.

Locate the right lot

If you don’t already own the land you plan to build on, you’ll need to shop around for the right lot. A real estate agent can help you identify lots for sale in your area. 

As you narrow down lots you like, you’ll want to loop in your architect and builder to make sure the lot you select fits the needs of your home’s floor plan and design. They should be able to help you check zoning laws and restrictions and identify any attributes of the lot that might make it more expensive to build on — for example, a steeply graded lot may require more engineering, or a lot in a remote area may necessitate a septic tank.

Plan and design the home

Figuring out the size, layout and style of your home is a big task, and it can happen before or after the lot is selected, depending on your individual plans. When you’re building a custom home, the sky’s the limit, although you will need to keep in mind your budget and any limitations of your lot. And, if you don’t plan on living in the home forever, consider how design decisions will affect the home’s future resale value. 

The professionals on your team will be able to help you home in on the right style and layout, but it doesn’t hurt to get a feel for what you might want in advance. Drive around your area and identify homes you like. Look for interior design inspiration online or research the latest smart home features to see if you think they’re worth the added cost. 

Here are a few important design decisions that need to be made early on:

Number of bedrooms and bathrooms. How many people will be living in the house? Is your family growing, or are you downsizing? What about houseguests?

Single story vs. two story or more. Are there mobility issues that should be accommodated? Would a one-story home be easier for those with limited mobility living there? 

Outdoor space. How important is outdoor space and how much should you have? The bigger the yard, the more maintenance involved. 

Open concept or individual rooms. How open you want your house to be depends on your taste and lifestyle. Individual rooms give a more classic feel, while open concept homes are more modern. 

Home style. What aesthetic do you want your house’s exterior to have? Tudor, Cape Cod, craftsman, colonial?

Interior design. Are you partial to modern design, a more traditional look or something in between? If you plan on using the same furnishings you have now, will they match the look of the new home? 

Additional features. Think through other features that need to be decided on early in the process, like smart home compatibility, eco-friendly materials or solar panels. 

Future resale value. If you think you’ll sell the home at some point in the future, consider the home’s possible resale value. For example, if you add a pool or an upscale kitchen, will your home be priced too high for the neighborhood?

Hire professionals

Building a home isn’t an easy task, and it’s rare to take on the entire project yourself. So, you’ll need to have several different professionals by your side to ensure your home is structurally sound, follows local code and suits your needs.

Home builder

Hiring the right builder can make or break your custom home experience. Choose someone who is not only a licensed general contractor but also has a portfolio of custom homes and success stories in recent years. 

To find your builder, you can ask for a referral from friends and family, search online, or ask your real estate agent for recommendations. A good builder will help with:

  • Budget
  • Zoning laws, including acquiring permits
  • Infrastructure needs, like utilities and sewer

Architect

In most places, in order to even apply for permits, you’ll need architectural plans. Discuss the following details with your architect before they create your blueprints:

  • Square footage
  • Stories
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Layout
  • Functionality

Interior designer

You may also want to hire an interior designer who can help with the finishes once the framing and structural elements are in place. From flooring to bath tiles to fixtures, there are many design choices that need to be made, and it can get overwhelming for the average home buyer. If you do plan on making all the interior design choices on your own, don’t wait until installation time. Start researching finishes and fixtures early so you can set your budget.

Other professionals

In addition to these key players, there are other professionals involved in the custom-home-building process. Many of these people are hired by your home builder or general contractor:

  • Land clearing crew
  • Surveyor
  • Structural engineer
  • Inspector (from the city)
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians

Understand the process of building a house

After the designs and blueprints have been finalized and your permits have been approved, that’s when construction starts and your home begins to take shape, generally following these steps: 

1. Land prep
The first step in the construction process is getting the land ready. This includes clearing the area, digging trenches and making sure utilities are installed. 

2. Footings and foundation
Your foundation will be made of poured concrete reinforced with steel rods. Depending on the part of the country you’re building in and the design of your home, you may have a slab foundation, crawl space or a full basement. No matter what kind of foundation is poured, it will be sprayed with a waterproofing material and inspected by the city before framing begins. 

3. Framing
In the framing step, the bones of the home start to take shape. Framing includes the floor joists, subfloors, studs that form the walls and roof trusses. During this step, the crew will wrap the house to protect it from moisture. If construction is taking place during a rainy time of year, your builder may also install windows, roof shingles and siding during this step. 

4. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC
Once the home is “dried in,” subcontractors will start installing the home’s major systems, including plumbing pipes, electrical wiring and heating and cooling ducts. Each of these steps requires signoff from a local inspector. 

5. Insulation
Your home’s insulation needs will vary by climate, but in general, insulation will be applied to exterior walls, basements, crawl spaces and attics. Fiberglass, cellulose and foam insulation are all options. 

6. Drywall
Drywall panels are hung with screws, taped and mudded, and a spray texture is applied. Then the new walls are primed with paint.  

7. Interior finishes
In this step, most of the home’s interior features will be added. This includes doors, baseboards, casings, window sills, stair balusters, kitchen counters and cabinets, bathtubs, vanities, and hard-surfaced flooring. Interior painting and hardwood installation are sometimes done during this step, but they may be done later if there is risk of damage due to continuing construction. 

8. Exterior finishes
Driveways, walkways, patios and final grading to direct water away from home will all be completed. Landscaping and exterior decorating happen during this step too. 

9. Fixture installation
With the house close to completion, toilets, faucets, light switches, heat register covers, the hot water heater, the electrical panel and the HVAC systems are all installed. Many of these items require another round of inspection. Another task that happens in this step is the installation of glass fixtures like mirrors and shower doors. 

10. Flooring installation
Carpet and hardwood flooring are added in this late stage. Make sure to check with your builder on the status of your hardwood finishing process so you don’t accidentally damage them. 

11. Final inspection
Once construction is complete, a final inspection will be conducted by a local building official. Upon passing, you’ll receive a certificate of occupancy, which gives you the green light to move in. 

12. Final walkthrough
Before you move in, you’ll want to do a final walkthrough with your builder to identify punch list items that need to be repaired for the job to be considered complete. Common punch list items include electrical defects like nonfunctioning outlets, damage to drywall and paint, or missing fixtures.

Skip construction and buy renovated

Building a custom home is a complicated process, and it can take well over a year depending on your location, lot complications, house size, laws and the permit-approval process. Another option is to buy a home that has already been renovated — you get a fresh and updated feel without having to do the work yourself.

Shop Zillow-owned homes

Buyers of Zillow-owned homes can be confident that the homes they buy have been professionally renovated by local contractors. With Zillow-owned homes, you can avoid the stress of a custom build and make yourself at home.

*Zillow New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019

Source: zillow.com

Ashlee Holmes Malleo Shares a Glimpse at the D̩cor in Her New Jersey Home РBravo

Ashlee Holmes Malleo is back in the Garden State! The makeup artist, who is the daughter of The Real Housewives of New Jersey alum Jacqueline Laurita, recently shared the news that she and her son are returning to the East Coast after relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada last year to be closer to her family. Now, the RHONJ daughter is giving us a preview of what we can expect her home decor style to look like. 

In the February 28 Instagram post, in which Ashlee first announced she and her 4-year-old son, Cameron Hendrix Malleo, would be moving back to live with Cameron’s dad, Pete Malleo, she shared a preview of the family’s new space. 

“Here’s a sneak peek at our new chapter,” Ashlee wrote, showing a totally empty room with light gray walls, cool-toned hardwood floors, and plenty of recessed lighting. It’s certainly the perfect blank canvas for whatever Ashlee has planned. 

In a March 12 update, Ashlee shared a photo of a new piece she’s added to her home decor collection. 

“Rug appreciation post. (It’s a thing.)” Ashlee wrote, noting that the gorgeous rug she dedicated the post to is from a company called Rugs Done Right.  “I’m so in love. I can’t wait to share when the room starts coming together.” 

In addition to sharing home style updates, Ashlee recently provided her followers with some news about her relationship with Pete. After previously separating in 2020, she announced they had “unseparated” in February. 

Want more RHONJ? New episodes air every Wednesday at 9/8c or catch up on the Bravo app.

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