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Solar Panels…Worth the Money?!

You’ve heard the pitch, “Save thousands of dollars by going solar!”. But is that true for you and how can you get through the hype and determine the truth.

Below are a couple of things to consider when considering going solar:

What are you currently paying for your electricity?Image result for free image of home with solar panels

This is probably going to be the most important factor that you will be considering since your goal from installing solar is to lower the cost of powering your home. If you look at your current electric bill, you’ll see that your bill is based on the number of kilowatt-hour (kWh) you use. Costs per kWh can vary greatly based on where you live. Make sure when determining your savings you are using your actual cost per kWh and not calculating your savings based on a generalized article or ‘worksheet’ you’ve found online. Obviously those homeowners with the highest electricity rates will most likely save the most by switching to solar power.

What will a switch to a Solar Panel System Cost to Install?

When considering the solar company you will use for this major investment, going with the lowest bid just because it’s the least out of pocket, may cost you far more in the long run. You must consider both your short term and long term gains when choosing equipment and the company that will design and install your system. Take your time. Meet with multiple companies and don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about them, their installation team, their warranties, etc.  With all the research and details available online, prepare for your meetings with the companies by creating a list of specific questions you need answers to in order to choose. Take notes. Get all your questions answered. If they are trying to rush through your appointment, rush them out your door!

Don’t be afraid to ask about any incentives or discounts they may currently be offering BUT don’t get pushed into making an immediate decision “or else lose today’s special price”. That’s probably the first company you should cross off your list.  note: Odds are pretty high that if you called them the next week and told them you would like to hire them but at the discounted price, they will say yes.

Speaking of incentives….check in your city, county and state to see if there are any energy incentives and rebates available. These can sometimes reduce your net cost by 50% or more. The federal government offers a 30% solar tax credit (search online for details and ask your tax professional for how you personally could benefit). Hard to believe but true…some utility companies even offer rebates to their customers to encourage their switch to solar power. Check your utility company’s website for details.

Only you can determine if the switch to solar offers you enough benefit to outweigh the initial costs. As in any big decision, due diligence is the key!

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Can I Stop Paying Rent due to Covid-19?

This question seems to be coming up quite a bit today during the uncertainties of the Covid-19 Pandemic and jobs being on hold for many people causing financial hardship like most people have never experienced. Many people have asked that if their landlord has been given a break from paying their mortgage can they then take a break from paying their rent?

Keep in mind that regardless of what might be happening with your landlord, you are still bound by the terms of your lease. You should review your lease and see if there are any provisions in there for extenuating circumstances. You can also contact your landlord and see if they’re able to allow you any relief from your regular payments. BUT if you don’t do that and you just stop making your payments without an agreement, you may open yourself up to legal ramifications and eviction.

Some things to think about before you consider this unfair. Because your landlord’s mortgage is on an income producing property, there’s a good chance that, even though you think he can, he may be eligible for a forbearance agreement. Also, keep in mind a forbearance agreement doesn’t mean he is not still going to be responsible for the payments in the future.  Also, you are living there and if something breaks down, will you still expect him to go to the expense of doing repairs? Plus, he still has to pay insurance and taxes.

Again, your best option if you need a break, is to contact your landlord and ask if there’s something you and he can work out. Then, either way, abide by his response.

If he’s not able to help you out, consider contacting your city or county and see if they’re offering residents rent assistance. Another source is to contact your church and see what kind of programs they might be offering. Many have set up relief programs assisting their members through these challenging times.

 

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Quarantine Projects? Try These Budget Friendly Kitchen Updates!

The open design of most contemporary and recently renovated homes, places the  Kitchen as the centerpiece of the layout.  It’s important to note that the Kitchen is one of the rooms of most importance to potential buyers. Do you want your kitchen to radiate a contemporary and upgraded appearance that will be remembered, without the hassle of draining your bank account?

Here are some quick upgrading tips that will allow your outdated kitchen to show off some modern flare:

Upgrade the lighting. A simple task like this will brighten the entire room, while diminishing the old fixtures that look like rusty antiques. Scattered track lighting is the Image result for small kitchen recessed lighting ideasbest approach, and adding dimmers will provide even more lighting options. If you have a little bigger budget or are handy yourself, recessed lighting is always a plus because it automatically creates the sense of higher ceilings and an expanded space. Put on dimmers for an added bonus that buyers love!

Upgrade the cabinets, without replacing them. If new lighting displays more nicks and stains than you knew existed, sand the cabinets and paint a glossy finish over them. Or paint them white. To add a unique feature, replace a few cabinet doors with glass doors that allow you to show off your fancy dishware. If the finish is in good shape, you can create a whole new look by changing up the hardware. Check current magazines and online articles to see what kind of hardware their decorating articles are highlighting.

Upgrade the seating arrangements. If your kitchen includes a breakfast nook,  upgrade the light fixture or the window treatments. Add a rug, in order to separate it from the rest of the kitchen. Purchase new breakfast bar stools or add pendant lighting over the bar. If your large kitchen displays wasted space, add an island! This doesn’t have to be expensive. There are so many portable islands on the market that are quite affordable.

Upgrade the sink. A dirty, scratched up sink doesn’t allow a potential buyer to imagine a clean environment. Polish up the existing sink, purchase a new faucet for the sink. You might even consider adding a garbage disposal or a water filtration system.

Upgrade the countertops. Decorative laminate is available for a reasonable price, and the décor looks much like the expensive options, such as granite. Laminate also lasts forever and is easy to clean, which a potential buyer should appreciate. If your area has many competing homes with granite check on prices on a basic bullnose style at a wholesale granite business. This eliminates the middle man costs of buying from a big box or design store.

If you’re really adventurous, try shopping at stores like “Restore” which benefits Habitat for Humanity. This is a great place to find that new cabinet hardware, portable island, light fixtures or even some new cabinets or cabinet faces.

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Cabin Fever Family Project?!

Going out of your mind dealing with day in day out being at home cabin fever? Well, now could be that perfect time to head out to your garage and delve into creating the organized, maximally usable garage you’ve been imagining each time you squeeze past the bikes and bins and boxes that never got put away when you moved in.  It can also make a huge difference if you’re selling for potential buyers to realize they have an organized space immediately that can accommodate not only their car but also the oodles of storage needs they haven’t been able to utilize before. This is also a great project to include the entire family…young to old…there’s a task that can accommodate all ages. Make it a fun time with music playing, snack time and a great time to talk about all that’s going on.

So, though organizing the garage may seem like a daunting task,  it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just like any other large or small organizing project, break the process up into segments. Start by going through your garage and figuring out what you are keeping, what you are giving away, and what you are throwing out. Get rid of anything you really don’t need. Then organize by separating things into groups. The pruning shears should not be mixed in with the tennis rackets and the soccer balls. Categorize these groups by how you use them and how often you use them. For example, keep all your gardening items in one spot and your sports equipment in another.

Here are some suggested categories that seem pretty universal:

    * Gardening Equipment

    * Sporting Goods

    * Tools

    * Seasonal Items

So now that you have everything separated, how can you maximize your space while again, leaving room for your car(s)? Here are a few tips:

  • Floor to Ceiling Wall shelving or portable shelves will maximize all the available space that does not impede parking your car. If you have a standard size garage, you might See the source imagewant to park your cars in the garage with their doors open to determine how deep your shelves can accommodate without being a challenge.
  • Hang gardening tools on racks and hooks. Again, considering space, perhaps have your shelves start at 5-6 ft off the floor so you have space below for your hanging items.
  • Image result for free images of garage interiorsTo create a more finished look consider tiling or epoxy painting your floor!
  • Pegboards are always a great option for tools. Make them even more effective by outlining the shapes of the tools on the pegboard so everything goes back and fits in their own spaces.
  • If you have room for cabinets, they’re a great way to create a cleaner and clearer appearance. This also can add storage for oversized pantry items that won’t fit in your Kitchen pantry.
  • Locking cabinets placed high will help keep dangerous items out of the reach of little hands!
  • Use labeled or color coded bins on your shelves to create more organization. If you can’t afford to add shelves, purchase stackable bins that can be piled on top of each other.
  • If you have a high garage ceiling, consider lofting shelves or hanging bikes, skis, snowboards, etc. from the ceiling. There are great hooks available to Image result for free images of garage interiorsaccommodate all these items.See the source image
  • If you have the height and funds to add a stand up or crawl height attic to your garage, this is a great space to store seasonal items or items you only use once in a great while.

No matter how much or how little you can do, any form of organization will help you feel refreshed and far less stressed!

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Selling and Buying amidst the Covid-19 Crisis

At this crazy time when the Covid-19 Virus has interfered with our daily lives, here are a few tips if you are currently selling or buying a home about how to remain safe and still accomplish your goal.

Seller:  It would be best to cancel any Open Houses you have scheduled but that does not mean you can’t continue to offer showings of your home on a person to person basis if you use some pro-active precautions to make you and your guest safe. Wiping down all your surfaces before and after any showings. The CDC has offered the following list of things to sanitize. It’s a great list as it forces you to think about items you might not even consider since your daily life tends to be repetitive and not abnormal. Perhaps, if you haven’t already done so, create a video walk through that you can share with prospective buyers who are too skittish to walk through your home in person.

  • Light switches
  • Doorknobs (on the inside and outside and also the locks on the doors)
  • House keys and car keys
  • Cellphone and landline
  • Earbuds, headphones, and AirPods
  • Refrigerator handle
  • Oven knobs
  • Small kitchen appliances
  • Drawer pulls
  • Sink knobs
  • Bathtub knobs
  • Toilet flusher
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush
  • Makeup and brushes
  • Any bottles of hair care or skin care
  • Desk
  • Computer screen
  • Computer mouse or laptop touchpad
  • Computer keyboard
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • TV remote
  • Car door handles
  • Steering wheel of your car
  • Dashboard of your car (including the radio and air vents)
  • Gear shift of your car
  • Rearview mirror of your car

Buyers: Make sure and have all pre-qualification documents on hand to share with prospective sellers. Do not just puruse homes if you aren’t serious enough to get pre-qualifed before shopping. Wear protective gloves and shoe covers during home viewings and try to avoid touching household items and surfaces while you walk through the home. Ask the seller of the home you’re interested in seeing  if they have or can provide a video walk through of their home.

If you are a serious seller or buyer, you can continue to market or search for your home. Be smart and conscientious. And be flexible to new government guidelines and requirements. Lower interest rates are creating a strong opportunity for sellers and buyers. And remember, like every other crisis, this too will pass.

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Pre-Spring Prep Provides Perfect Spring Curb Appeal!

In springtime, while it’s easy to excuse yourself from yard work because of constant rainfalls or annoying allergies, you really should prepare your yard for the season, and for the one to follow, summer. If you wait too long, it could take longer for your grass to appear lush and weed-free, for your gardens to redevelop and for your fruit trees to produce.

And this is never more true than when you’re trying to sell. Now is the time to make your home—and its surroundings—look its best.

Here are steps to keep in mind:

  • Remove anything in your yard that doesn’t belong. That means raking dead, crumbled leaves that reappeared from under melted snow, picking up twigs and branches that snapped off of nearby trees, and disposing of any litter that blew into your yard from unknown sources.
  • De-thatch your lawn by using a rake to get rid of the layer of dead grass that has taken residency over your lawn. This is vital for your grass to receive the natural nutrients needed to grow. Also, if you use fertilizer or weed killer, it will not reach the lawn unless you remove this layer of thatch.
  • Lay a slow-release fertilizer on your lawn. This type of fertilizer will slowly release nutrients in your yard that will not cause the grass to grow before it’s ready. This way, even if Mother Nature decides to cover us with an April snowfall, your lawn will still be slowly working its way toward a green June.
  • Dig your lawn mower out of the shed or the corner of the garage and test it. Check for wear on the spark plugs, sharpen the blade, change the oil if needed, clean out old grass clippings and fill up the gas. If the mower is in need of repair, you have plenty of time to fix it. If not, it’ll be all ready for the first cut.
  • Scale back trees and bushes by trimming back limbs that are damaged or have grown beyond the rest. This will make room for the tree to grow faster and healthier. Keep branches out of your walkway and patio/porch area. Evenly trim bushes to look neatly manicured.
  • Now is the time to plant new foliage in the yard. Spring rain creates soft soil that makes digging as simple as ever. Plant new rose bushes, berry bushes or fruit trees now so that they have time to begin their spring growth.
  • While you should wait to plant and decorate with new perennials, you should pick them out now. Research the types of perennials available, find out which will grow in the sunlight and type of soil available in your yard, and plan your layout

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A GREEN ROOF? REALLY?! REALLY!!

There are so many ways to make your home greener these days. You can install eco-friendly flooring, counters and appliances. You can repurpose old furniture instead of throwing it out to take up more space in a landfill. You can plant a garden that boasts water conservation.

Now even your roof can be green, both literally and figuratively. Green roofs, also known as “vegetated roof covers” and “living roofs,” are literally roofs made of thin layers of plants installed on top of conventional roofs and not just for those high rise flat rooftops.Image result for image of a "green"  roof

There are two types of green roofs, an extensive green roof and an intensive green roof.

Extensive green roofs are the thinner with only two to six inches of a growing medium, less expensive and lighter. They are low maintenance and are generally covered with low growing, horizontally spreading root plants with maximum heights of 16 to 24 inches.

Intensive green roofs look more like a lush natural roof garden with two to four feet of soil. They use a variety of plants and the maintenance is more involved. They are the more colorful and visually stimulating of the two types of green roofing. They can even incorporate features such as fountains.

Each roof contains a waterproofing layer, a drainage layer, a growing medium (like soil, peat and soil) and vegetation of some sort. The plants chosen for the green roof should be tolerant of extreme weather conditions and resistant to bugs and diseases. Succulents, mosses and grasses are typically the best choices and come in a variety of colors.

As with all home improvement projects, there are considerations you’ll need to make before you install a green roof. You need to consider the climate you live in and well as the rainfall patterns of your area. You need to find out the strength and support of your current roof to make sure it can hold up the addition of a green roof. If it’s not structurally sound enough, you’ll have to reinforce it. The size and slope of your roof needs to be considered. Flat roofs are probably best, but green roofs can be installed on sloping roofs too.

What are your personal aesthetic preferences? These will play a part in the design of your green roof, and so will the architectural style of your home. Budget is another consideration to be made, and it’s an important one. Like all projects, research first, then decide on a budget before you get started with any physical work.

This is not a DIY project or one that just any roofer can complete. DO YOUR RESEARCH to find companies that have a history of success installing green roofs. Something as important is this out of the ordinary product requires a contractor who knows all the ins and outs of such a project.

Not only do green roofs add visual interest to your home, but they can help reduce those pesky heating and cooling bills that show up like clockwork every month. In the summer, the green roof stays cooler than a traditional roof so less energy is used on air-conditioning. Similarly, in the winter the insulation of the green roof can help cut down those heating costs! Green roofs can also help improve water quality, extend the life of your traditional roof, help get more oxygen into the air!

Green roofs are stylish and unique while simultaneously helping the environment. What could be better?

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Highlight and Enhance!

It’s great to set up your home’s areas with dynamic focal points but there are definite ways to do it right and for sure how to do it wrong and lose the value of what you’re trying to do. Here are a few tips on using your eyes as your gauge for

It’s great to set up your home’s areas with dynamic focal points but there are definite ways to do it right and absolutely ways to do it wrong thus losing the value of what you’re trying to do. Here are a few tips on using your eyes as your gauge for creating impressive spaces.

1  Hang Artwork at Eye Level

If your ceiling is high, you might be tempted to hang paintings high up. Art galleries hang IMG_4253their artwork at eye level, and that’s what you should do, too.  The average human eye level is about 57 inches. So your paintings should be 57-60 inches above the floor.  If you are hanging multiple pieces, keep the center of the arrangement at eye level. If you are hanging the artwork above a piece of furniture, leave 5-9 inches between the artwork and furniture.

2  Hang  Mirrors

Many people underestimate the value of mirrors. Mirrors reflect light and make the room brighter. Some designers recommend hanging at least one mirror in each room. When you vvvhang your mirrors, think of what they’ll reflect. You want it to reflect a great scene. That could be a chandelier or your room’s focal point.  Hang the mirrors on walls perpendicular to the windows and not across them. You don’t want to reflect the light back outside.

3  Follow The Rule of Thirds

cactus-cactus-plant-contemporary-1005058The rule of thirds is a familiar concept in photography. When grouping showpieces, antiques, candles, or other objects, create harmony by arranging them in odd numbers. Objects that are arranged in odd numbers are more memorable and appealing. For an even better look, group objects that have different heights or shapes yet still have a similar property.

4  Find The Room’s Focal Point

The focal point is where everyone’s eyes fall as soon as they walk into the room. Some focal points are built-in, like a fireplace or a large window. If a room doesn’t have one, you can create your own.  You can get a large piece of furniture and make fthat your focal point. Or you could paint one wall a different color and decorate it with artwork and shelves.  Everything else in the room should complement the focal point and be secondary to it. Having too many attention-grabbing items in the room can create unwanted visual noise.

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INSPECTIONS – Private v Municipal

A municipal/city inspection may be required by the city or municipality of the home you’re selling/buying, where as a private home inspection is optional and it is up to the buyer and/or often their upcoming mortgage company whether they want or need to have one done.

The seller typically pays for a city or municipal inspection. A private home inspection is usually the buyer’s expense.

Both inspections may cover items like CO-2 detectors and smoke alarms but may differ greatly in other ways. The municipal inspector may check on permits history, zoning and possible parking issues, but typically do not include an inspection of the roof, electrical panels, plumbing systems, furnaces, water heaters, structural issues, termites etc. A private home inspection will typically cover all those items and more.

Both types of inspections benefit the buyer. It’s wise for a buyer to have a regular home inspection regardless of whether the city or municipality requires one of their own. Overall, the private home inspection will generally cover more items, be more through and is generally considered the most important.

Note: If you’re selling your home As Is, you are declaring you have no intention of making any repairs or further updates to your home. That does not mean however, that if you’re a buyer you shouldn’t be diligent and have an inspection done before you find yourself with a nightmare home of repairs vs your dream home of happy ever after!

NOTE: The state of WI has recently made it illegal for cities/municipalities to require a city inspection prior to selling your home.

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Oh the Drama & Warmth a Ceiling Can Bring!!

Something that is a part of every home from the tiniest to those found in mega-mansions are ceilings. If you want to change, enhance or upgrade your home, one way to do it is by adding dimension, depth, lighting and/or wood to your ceilings.Image result for free images of residential ceilings

You can take an ordinary room and turn it into a showpiece that people will be inspired by and talk about when they leave.  Depending on the style of your home, you might choose wood to add a rustic ambiance.

Image result for free images of residential ceilings

Image result for free images of residential ceilings

Want something more elegant? Try coffered ceilings. Enhance them and your room even more by adding recessed lighting within the wood panels.Image result for free images of residential ceilings

Image result for free images of residential ceilings

Custom lighting can add drama and an eclectic look to any room.

Image result for free images of residential ceilings

Kitchen ceilings made out of tin or with defined insets with lighting can create that dream gathering place where your guests will feel like they’ve stepped into a French villa or the pages of Architectural Digest.

Image result for free images of residential ceilingsSee the source image