Sandra McCarty

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9 Ways To Get Your Home Ready For Winter

Posted On: November 19th, 2018 3:38AM

 Winterize your home

 

Winter is on its way and that could mean freezing temps, wind, snow, ice and heavy jackets.

To prepare your home and your household for the colder months ahead here are some things which will help you be more prepared for whatever old man winter has in store. Please keep personal safety in mind when checking items off this list, and connect with a trusted professional or contractor for help with anything you are unable to do yourself.

1. Safety first - Did you know that three in five home fire deaths are the result of fires in homes without smoke alarms, or with no working smoke alarms? Oftentimes, this is due to intentional device deactivation. Instead of getting frustrated at your beeping alarm, make sure the batteries are working now or install new alarms where needed. You should have a smoke alarm on every floor of your house, and in every bedroom.

2.Stay warm -. Is your furnace in working order? You don’t want to find out the answer to that question when the temperature really drops. A maintenance appointment from a certified technician should cost about $80-$100 and will ensure that everything is functioning and that your furnace will be operating efficiently. The tech should also measure to see if there’s any carbon-monoxide leakage from your furnace.

3.Stop the leaks. Drafty doors and windows are not only a huge annoyance, they’re costly. Why pay all that money to just let the heat escape? You can find problem areas by running your hands close to windows and trying to feel a breeze. Weather stripping is a good way to help seal warm air in and cold air out of your home. Available in almost any hardware store, weather stripping installs quickly around windows and doors and can help prevent air leaks.  You can also use a door sweep to get rid of a draft at an exterior door.

Before winter arrives, check the following parts of your home for leaks or drafts windows, Doors, Vents and fans, Plumbing areas, Air conditioners, Mail chutes, Electrical and gas lines


4. Clean your gutters - Clear gutters help drain water away from your roof and your house. If they're clogged however, especially in colder months, they're more apt to freeze, causing additional blockages. Blocked gutters can allow melting ice and snow to seep into your roof, or flood your home's foundation, causing damage. If it's safe to do so, take some time before winter hits and clear out your gutters, or work with a trusted roofing professional or contractor to have your gutters cleaned.


5. Evaluate your roof to prevent ice dams - While a roofing professional is cleaning the gutters, see if he or she can evaluate your roof for ice dams too. In cold weather, heat escaping your home can melt and refreeze ice and snow on your roof, leading to ice dams. These block off drains, and let water and ice continually build up on your roof – and possibly under it – weakening your roof and putting your home at risk.

To help prevent ice dams:

  • Insulate your attic - Your attic should have plenty of insulation to prevent too much heat transfer from your living areas to the attic. Check parts of the attic that may not be well insulated, like chimney systems, Light fixtures, pipes and vents.
  • Ventilate your attic - If your attic wasn’t built with a ventilation system, contact a trusted professional or contractor about ventilating your attic before winter. Proper ventilation allows cold air into the attic, while the insulation seals heat in your living areas. This can help prevent warm air from melting ice on the roof, leading to possible damage.

6. Buy a roof rake to keep snow from building up - According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS), an average roof can handle up to four feet of fresh snow before it’s stressed. However, as snow packs down from multiple storms, could cause a roof collapse! If you expect a lot of snow this winter, invest in a roof rake. It can help you easily clear snow off your roof and protect your home during those blizzard months.


7. Prune trees around the house - If there are long tree branches hanging near your house, your roof, or your gutters, prune them before it gets too cold. Branches broken from heavy snow and ice can cause all kinds of damage to your home. A few hours with the pruner now could save you thousands of dollars in damages later this winter.


8. Stock up on basics - You know what happens when the news calls for bad weather; stores flood with people, all buying milk, bread, batteries, flashlights, and duct tape by the truck load. How do you avoid this mess? Stock up on basic supplies before winter and stay cozy in your home. Strong winds, blizzards, ice, and snow can cause blackouts and power outages, which can wreak havoc on your home in the winter. To prepare, keep supplies on hand.


9. Protect pipes from freezing - A burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage! Thankfully, you can do something to help protect your pipes from freezing in bitter cold weather.

Don't turn the heat down too much when you’re out of the house. You may not be there to enjoy it, but your pipes need the heat to prevent freezing. Let faucets drip during serious cold snaps to provide relief for your pipes.

 

Give your home a once over for any exposed or vulnerable piping and wrap them with insulation. Hardware stores usually carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves for pipes, which are easy to install.

Caulk up cracks or holes in your walls to keep cold air away from pipes. This might not be practical for the average homeowner, so speak to a trusted contractor. If your pipes do freeze, and water stops flowing from faucets, call a plumber immediately.

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Home Inspections: What to Expect

Posted On: August 29th, 2018 3:45PM

So you made an offer, it was accepted, and now your next task is to have the home inspected prior to closing. Oftentimes, agents make your offer contingent on a clean home inspection. This contingency allows you to renegotiate the price you paid for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away. Your agent can advise you on the best course of action once the report is filed.


Home Inspection Sandra McCarty Real Esate Professional


How to Choose an Inspector

Here Your agent will most likely have a short list of inspectors that they have worked with in the past that they can recommend to you. HGTV recommends that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

 

1. Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection and if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.

 

2. Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report, the better in most cases.

References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients who you can call to ask about their experiences.

 

3. Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Membership in one of these organizations often means that continued training and education are provided.

 

4. Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

 

Ask your inspector if it’s okay for you to tag along during the inspection, that way they can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed. Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof or crawling around in the attic and on the floors. The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, the fireplace and chimney, the foundation, and so much more!

 

The Bottom Line is work with a professional who you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase.

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10 Mistakes Home Sellers Should Avoid

Posted On: June 30th, 2018 7:08PM

Selling your home is time-consuming and emotionally challenging. Strangers will come into your home and poke around in your closets and cabinets. They will criticize your home and then offer you less money than you think your home is worth. Selling a home is a complex, emotional transaction and it is easy for home owners to make lots of mistakes, but with a little know-how, many of these pitfalls can be avoided altogether. Below is a list of mistakes to avoid when selling your home.  

Mistake No.1: Getting Emotionally Involved

Once you decide to sell your home, it can be helpful to start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and a home seller, rather than as the home's owner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you'll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property that you've undoubtedly created many memories in.

Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. Remember that you are selling not just a piece of property but also an image, a dream and a lifestyle. Extra effort of staging and perhaps some minor remodeling will help to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price, but they'll also help you create that emotional distance because the home will look less familiar.

Mistake No.2: Not Hiring an Agent

Trying to sell your home on your own, especially if you haven't done it before, is ill advised. A good agent will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home, will market it with the help of hundreds of agents through the Multi Listing Service that will result in a quick sale. An agent can also help take some of the high emotion out of the process by interacting directly with potential buyers, so you don't have to and have qualified buyers who will most likely make an offer on the house.  

An agent will also have more experience negotiating home sales than you do, helping you get more money than you could on your own. Further, if any problems crop up during the process—and they commonly do - an experienced professional will be there to handle them for you. Finally, agents are familiar with all the paperwork and pitfalls involved in real estate transactions and can help make sure the process goes smoothly.

Mistake No.3: Setting an Unrealistic Price

Whether you're working with an agent or going it alone, setting the right asking price is key. Remember the comparable market analysis you did when you bought a home to figure out a fair offering price? Buyers will do this for your home, too, so as a seller you should be one step ahead of the game. Absent a housing bubble; overpriced homes do not sell. Don't worry too much about setting a price that's on the low side because, in theory, this will generate multiple offers and bid the price up to the home's true market value. In fact, underpricing your home a bit can be a strategy to generate extra interest in your listing.

 

Mistake No.4: Expecting To Get Your Asking Price

Any smart buyer will negotiate, and if you want to complete the sale, you'll have to play the game. Most people want to list their homes at a price that will attract buyers while still leaving some breathing room for negotiations. This will allow the buyer to feel like he or she is getting a good value and allow you to get the amount of money you need from the sale. Of course, whether you end up with more or less than your asking price will likely depend on whether you're in a buyer's market or a seller's market and on how well you have staged your home.

 

Mistake No.5: Selling in Winter (When You Have the Option Not To)

Winter, especially around the holidays, is typically a slow time of year for home sales. People are busy with social engagements, and the cold weather makes it more appealing just to stay home. Because fewer buyers are likely to be looking, it may take longer to sell your home, and you may not get as much money. However, you can take some consolation in knowing that while there may not be as many active buyers, there also won't be as many competing sellers.

Mistake No.6: Skimping on Listing Photos

So many buyers look for homes online these days, and so many of those homes have photos that you'll be doing yourself a real disservice if you don't offer photos as well. At the same time, there are so many poor photos of homes for sale that if you do a good job, it will set your listing apart and help generate extra interest. Good photos should be crisp and clear, should taken during the day when there is plenty of natural light available, and should showcase your home's best assets. Consider using a wide-angle lens if possible - this will allow you to give potential buyers a better idea of what entire rooms look like.

 

Mistake No.7: Not Being Properly Insured

With the above-average number of people who will be on your property, you want to make sure you are insured in case someone has an accident on the premises and tries to sue you for damages. You also want to make sure that there are not any obvious hazards at the property or that you take steps to mitigate them (keeping the children of potential buyers away from your pool and getting your dogs out of the house during showings, for example). 

 

Mistake No.8: Trying to Hide Significant Problems

Any problem with the property will be uncovered during the buyer's inspection, so there's no use hiding it. Either fix the problem ahead of time, price the property below market value to account for the problem, or list the property at a normal price but offer the buyer a credit to fix the problem. Realize that if you don't fix the problem in advance, you may turn away a fair number of buyers who want a turnkey home. Having your home inspected before listing it is a good idea if you want to avoid costly surprises once the home is under contract.

 

Mistake No.9: Not Preparing Your Home for Sale

Sellers who do not clean and stage their homes are throwing money down the drain. If you can't afford to hire a professional, that's OK - there are many things you can do on your own. Failing to do these things will not only reduce your sale price but may also prevent you from getting a sale at all. For example, if you haven't attended to minor issues like a broken doorknob, a potential buyer may wonder whether the house has larger, costlier issues that haven't been addressed. Have a friend or agent with a fresh pair of eyes point out areas of your home that need work. Because of your familiarity with the home; you may have become immune to its trouble spots. Decluttering, cleaning thoroughly, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls and getting rid of any odors will also help you make a good impression on buyers.

 

Mistake No.10: Not Accommodating Potential Buyers

If someone wants to view your house, you need to accommodate this person, even if it is inconvenient for you. You have to clean and declutter the house before every single visit. A buyer won't know and won't care if your house was clean last week if it isn't clean when he or she views it. It's a lot of work, but stay focused on the prize, the prize of selling your house for the highest possible price in the shortest possible time.

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Buy Now Since Interest Rates Will Continue To Rise

Posted On: May 31st, 2018 5:49PM

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have climbed from 3.95% in the first week of January up to 4.61% last week, which marks a 7-year high according to Freddie Mac. The current pace of acceleration has been fueled by many factors.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's Chief Economist, had this to say:

"Healthy consumer spending and higher commodity prices spooked bond markets and led to higher mortgage rates over the past week. Not only are buyers facing higher borrowing costs, gas prices are currently at four-year highs just as we enter the important peak home sales season."

 


But what do gas prices have to do with interest rates?

Investopedia explains the relationship like this:

          "The price of oil and inflation are often seen as being connected in a cause-and-effect relationship. As oil prices move up or down, inflation follows in the same direction.”

You may have noticed that filling your gas tank has become substantially more expensive in recent months. The average national gas price has climbed nearly $0.50 from the beginning of the year, leading to the highest price for Memorial Day weekend since 2014.

As rates go up, your purchasing power goes down, but don't worry; rates are still well below the averages we have seen over the last four decades.

      "Freddie Mac said this year’s higher rates have not yet caused much of a ripple in the strong demand levels for buying a home seen in most markets, but inflationary pressures and the prospect of rates approaching 5 percent could begin to hit the psyche of some prospective buyers."

Buying sooner rather than later will help lock in a lower rate than waiting, as the experts believe rates will continue to climb. Even a small increase in interest rates can have a big impact on your monthly housing cost.


Bottom Line

If you are planning on buying a home this year, keep an eye on gas prices the next time you are at the pump. If you start to feel a big jump in price, know that rates are probably on their way up, too.

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5 Tips To Improve Your Credit Score to Secure a Mortgage

Posted On: March 30th, 2018 12:14AM

Sandra McCarty Homesmart CrossIsland

1. Improve your credit score with error disputes
A 2013 Federal Trade Commission study found that 5% of credit reports contain errors that can erroneously ding your score. So if you spot any, start by sending a dispute letter to the bureau, providing as much documentation as possible, per FTC guidelines. You'll also need to contact the organization that provided the bad intel, such as a bank or medical provider, and ask it to update the info with the bureau. This may take a while, and you may need documentation to make your case. But once the bad info is removed, you should see a bump in your score.

2. Erase one-time mistakes

So you've made a late payment or two—who hasn't? Call the company that registered the late payment and ask that it be removed from your record. If you had an oopsy and missed just a payment or two, most companies will indeed tell their reporting division to remove this from your credit report. Granted, this won't work if you have a history of late payments, but for accidents and small errors, it's an easy way to improve your credit score

3. Increase your limits

One no-brainer way to increase your credit score is to simply pay off your debt. Not an option right now?  Here's a cool loophole: Ask your credit card companies to increase your credit limit instead. This improves your debt-to-credit ratio, which compares how much you owe to how much you can borrow.

Having $1,000 of credit card debt is bad if you have a limit of $1,500. It isn't nearly as bad if your limit is $5,000. The simple math: Although you owe the same amount, you're using a much smaller percentage of your available credit, which shines well on your borrowing practices.

4. Pay on time
If you're often late with payments, now's the time to change. You have the power to improve your credit score yourself. Commit to always paying your bills on time; consider signing up for automatic payments so it's guaranteed to get done.

5. Give yourself time
Unfortunately, negative items (such as those habitually late or nonexistent payments) can stay on your report for up to seven years. The good news? Changing your habits makes a big difference in the “payment history" segment of your report, which accounts for 35% of your score. That's why it's essential to start early so that you're sitting pretty once you're shopping for homes.

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