Need to Move DOWN(stairs) to a Single-Story Home?

A two story home may simply no longer meet your needs!

And yes, there are equally as many upsides to choosing a two-story home.   A two-story home seems to “hide the mess” that just naturally occurs with a young family. Having an upstairs sometimes can separate the youthful noise-level or energetic game-room activities from refuge seeking adults in the lower level. Also a two-story affords more basic privacy, especially if there is an office area downstairs or master suite. There are many reasons that choosing a two-story home is right at the right time!

There are many reasons why a two-story home may no longer meet the needs of the occupants.

  • changes in your health or health of others

  • fear of falling down stairs

  • lack of mobility

  • addition or loss of family members

  • changes in marital status

  • changes in income or financial status

  • desire to economize on heating and air-conditioning

  • difficulty maintaining  either/both inside or/and outside

Are you experiencing any of these changes that might make you rethink moving to a one-story house?

Stairs can pose problems for older adults,  temporarily disabled family members, or even our aging pets. Laundry rooms whether up or down can be an added burden to the one responsible for gathering dirty or disbursing cleaned and folded items. A simple mishap or unplanned surgery can suddenly catapult a person into a immobile situation for a indeterminate period of time. A one story home might serve you better than turning your dining room into a recovery room!

Obviously here in Texas we love our pets. They hold a special place in the hearts of many, and of course, pets are not “disposables” to be carelessly tossed aside. Therefore, sometimes it is necessary to adjust our living situation to accommodate them as they age.

One of the more commonly expressed reasons  by “younger people” for needing a single-story home,  is that the aging parent may be joining their living situation. Even a split-level with only a very few steps up or down, to a person with ambulatory issues or to their assistant or caregiver, can seem like an insurmountable “mountain” to climb. And when traversing that “mountain” several times a day, it can be exhausting and stressful to both the one being cared for and the caregiver.

Nothing is more frustrating that thinking you will do a quick cleaning of the downstairs only to discover that all your cleaning supplies and or the vacuum, are upstairs. (invariably!) Supplies always seem to be down when you are upstairs, and always up when you are needing them downstairs! (But maybe that is just me!)  That never seemed to be a problem when  young and spry, abounding with energy, and in optimal health! However, when the superhero phase of our life is passed, heading up the stairs for a sponge or bottle of this or that  can be a “chore” in and of itself!

 

Most newer two-stories have a minimum of dual climate control. The more modern home can be made comfortable by regulating the temperature and only cooling or heating as it is needed within specific areas; however that is not necessarily the case in older non-updated homes. Many of them only have one heating/cooling unit and no way to manage the inside targeted  areas except by closing off doors (or hanging a sheet or quilt). In the winter, the heat rises and while everyone upstairs may be overly heated, the ones downstairs may claim they’re “freezing”! Likewise, the summer is similar. People downstairs are cold and those upstairs claim they can “hardly breathe”! Temperature variance in a two-story home is often a deal breaker and a stress maker. It can add a lot of frustration  for folks perhaps trying to manage a budget.

It is always better to prepare for future needs while there are less pressing circumstances. There is nothing worse than that sick feeling that you are now in a panic to find, close and renovate a home to meet your physical or financial needs.

If you want to investigate a single-story possibility, let’s start the process sooner rather than later.

And, if you feel this has been helpful to you or has at the very minimum caused you to stop and consider either your own circumstances or perhaps the living arrangements of a parent or other loved one, then I would love to meet and chat with you.

I will show you  all the possibilities and options, search for you and present available properties for your consideration. I will help you with lenders, title companies, surveyors, appraisers and inspectors if we need them. I am here to work for you if you want to buy and/or sell in order to make this change.

My goal is to assist you with an easy (hopefully stress-free) transition. After all this is what I am trained to do!

When Things Go South…

Perfect Stress Free Transactions…LOL

Everyone hopes to simply “sign” a contract to purchase or sell and just wait out the time and experience an event free closing. In a real estate transaction,whether you are the buyer or the seller, the possibilities of something going wrong are endless. But take heart, most of the time everything is “fixable” given enough time and “rolling up sleeves” on the part of everyone involved. This is where a good agent is of the utmost importance. Your agent will be the driving force to push through these little (and sometimes gargantuan) snafus and snags. Your agent will be the “coordinator” pushing, pulling (and possibly dragging) outside parties to sign missing papers, track down out of area persons, find missing information, diplomatically approach and smooth ruffled feathers of uncooperative parties and this is just the tip of the iceberg! The value of a knowledgeable, balanced and seasoned agent cannot be underestimated! Another absolutely essential quality of a great agent is the ability to maintain open communication with not only the lender, the title company, the different inspectors, but also the agent on the “other side” of the transaction. If either agent is confrontational, openly aggressive, and measures their own self worth by being a bully and a know-it-all they will hinder, stall or possibly stop your transaction. Team-work makes the dream work! Yes, the other agent represents the best interest of the other side of the transaction, but a hostile agent on either side can actually make the entire small snafu become mountains and minor difficulties become impossibilities. Each agent should be able to negotiate and present aspects of negotiation to their client and to the other agent. Communication is key!

Drama Queens Not Welcome!

Closing very difficult deals where the other agent is easy to communicate with and where the opposing representing agent realized we were all working to a common end makes for smoother endings. Good cooperating agents are willing to go  over and above their job and will do what needs to be done! There is not greater show of teamwork than when a problem arises, when the agent on the other side says “I am on it” and takes the bull by the horns. Time is of the essence in any real estate transaction and a good realtor on both sides, is also of the essence! There are enough issues to overcome without dealing with a drama queen! Empathy and cooperation is welcome, but there is no place for self-serving dramatics!

What could possibly go wrong?

The world of buying or selling is not always joyful. Bad things can happen. Some examples of what can go wrong, are encroachment, missing signatures on documents, arguing multiple heirs, last minute lender issues, bad inspections and negotiated repairs, changes in marital status, appraisals come in low, and the list is ongoing. Most things are fixable if approached with a positive outlook. Your agent needs to reassure all parties that this is just a hurdle we are figuring out how to get over. Once again, TEAM-WORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK!

And if it totally falls apart?

Well, it CAN happen! However, there is always plan B. Nothing happens by accident. You have to believe that there is a better deal, a better buyer, a better seller, but hopefully not a better agent. Your agent should literally jump on finding you a new contract. Hopefully, you have seen the value of your agent through all the bumps and potholes you recently encountered and can trust your agent to find you a new if not better contract.

After all, we all want the same end result – deal DONE!

And That’s WHY We Have Home Inspections!

I have clients who want to save money by not having an inspection. They prefer not to see the long term possible outcomes. As someone who has awakened to a fire in my child’s bedroom from faulty wiring, I am more than aware of what can happen.  Nothing is worth the $300 or so “savings” that may be procured by by-passing an inspection. Homeowners may find that repairs needed as soon as they move in require a much larger investment than the cost of the by-passed inspection.

Inspectors are trained to find that which is not visible to the layman’s eye. Below are some examples of  really crazy stuff inspectors have found while performing routine inspections. The potential for huge expenses and even bodily harm was present. However some are so crazy, even the untrained eye may have noticed these.

Part Auto Part Sink Drain?

Yep! That is aluminum foil!

Water Sprinkler System?

Watch Your Step Upstairs.. Could be a Little Soft!

Capped guttering Kind of Defeats the Purpose?!?

Chimney leak provides the start of a really great game?

The new Rodent Condo didn’t work all that well…

Even if a client has to do their own repairs after inspection, before closing on the purchase of a home it is always a good idea to have one.

Don’t be deceived on a new home either. I know of new construction that even after it passed code was found to be grossly in error by a real estate inspector. A home in a new subdivision had to have the roof completely removed and rebuilt. One example is that sometimes drains are not actually connected and inspectors have uncovered it.

Play it Safe – Just have an inspection!

Beat the Blues – Electric Bill Blues That Is!

Electric Bill Blues? Here are some ways to avoid huge bills!

With just a few simple adjustments, you can enjoy big savings on your annual utility spending.

While everyone wants to save on their energy bill — perhaps you don’t have the time for a home energy audit, or time to simply figure this out, or maybe there simply isn’t room in the budget to purchase that energy-saving appliance you want.

All is not lost! Here are some quick and easy ways to reduce your home energy usage right now.

Reduce hot water usage

Don’t worry — you don’t have to take a low-flow shower! But heating up hot water does require energy, so take the simple and painless route:

  • Adjust the water heater’s temperature. Lower your water heater to 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). An added bonus — you’ll lower the risk of scalding accidents.
  • Don’t overuse the dishwasher. Try to run your dishwasher only once a day or when it’s completely full. See if your utility company offers savings for running appliances at off-peak times.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Most modern detergents clean clothes very well with cold water. If you have items that you really need to wash in hot water, save them up and do one hot load every few weeks.

Projected savings: Up to $250 per year, depending on the number of people in your home.

Turn it off

Little things add up! An easy way to save money on your energy bill is turning off the lights, electronics, and other energy users when you’re not using them.

  • Leave a room, switch lights off. Make a habit of turning off everything in the room when you leave it — the TV, lights, your computer, etc. Leaving electronics on is one of the easiest abuses of using excessive energy.
  • Get the kids involved. Make a game out of turning off the lights instead of constantly reminding them to do it. Offer some sort of small, non-monetary reward for remembering to turn off their bedroom and bathroom lights for a week.
  • Install countdown timer light switches. For intermittently used rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry room, install a countdown timer light switch that will turn off the lights after a specified period, so you don’t ever have to worry about it.
  • Install auto light switches. Pantrys, closets and perhaps guest baths are typically kept shut, so installing auto switches that come on with the opening and go off with the closing of those doors can automatically save electricity.

Projected savings: Between $100-$300 per year, depending on the number of people and rooms in your home.

Heating and cooling bill savings

Generally speaking, the furnace and air-conditioner are the big energy hogs in your home. Here are some easy ways to reduce your dependence on them — and save money!

  • Use windows strategically. Install heavy drapes or blinds on windows located in sunny areas of your home. Open the blinds on cold days to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, and close them on warm days to block out the sun.
  • Install ceiling fans. This one takes a bit more effort than the others, but the payoff can be quite large. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise or downward during the summer to force cool air down into the room. Run them clockwise and upward in the winter to better distribute the warm air.
  • Adjust the thermostat. Yes, this sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to save on heating and cooling bills is simply lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer! A programmable thermostat is ideal, but you can save money even with a traditional thermostat. In winter, lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for at least eight hours — when you leave for work, before you go to bed, or both — then raise it when you’re back.  If you have air-conditioning, do this in reverse come summer.

Projected savings: From 10-30 percent on your heating and cooling bills each year.

And some other savings ideas:

CFL bulb

CFL bulbs will provide 10,000 hours of light and use $10.40 of electricity (at 8¢ per kilowatt hour). To get the same output with incandescents, you would have to use seven bulbs, which would cost less up front, but the electricity would cost $48. Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is one of the quickest, easiest ways to save money—and a place everyone can start. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This can save you up to $35 in electric costs over the lifetime of each bulb. Switching to CFLs in the five most frequently used fixtures in your house will save about $60 per year, according to Energy Star.

Choose CFLs with the Energy Star label to get the greatest savings. Energy Star products have to meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the Department of Energy. When you shop, keep in mind that light fixtures with dimmers require special CFLs; read the label.

Install smarter switches: Save up to $100 a year

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors are the perfect solution for left-on lights. They turn off automatically so you don’t waste electricity. Motion sensors (occupancy sensors) automatically turn lights on and off so you only get (and pay for!) light when you need it (Photo 1). Using motion sensors can save you $100 per year. Some motion sensors need to be manually turned on but turn off automatically. They’re great for bedrooms because they won’t turn on when you move in your sleep.

Some switches are installed in junction boxes; others are wireless. You can also buy light fixtures with built-in motion sensors. You’ll need special motion sensors for electronic ballasts that control CFLs. Special-order them at home centers or buy them on the internet.

Use timers to control bath fans so the fan will run for a preset time to air out the room and then automatically turn off (Photo 2). You can set the length of time you want the fan to run. Be sure the timer you buy is rated for motors, not just lighting (check the label).

Buy Energy Star appliances: Save $35 to $600 a year

Energy Star

Look for the Energy Star label when buying appliances. It tells you that the product meets strict standards for energy efficiency.

When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. The average household spends $2,000 each year on energy bills. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut those bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings of about $600. But you don’t have to replace everything to see a savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.

When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. The average household spends $2,000 each year on energy bills. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut those bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings of about $600. But you don’t have to replace everything to see a savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.

Roughly half of an average home’s annual energy bill (gas and electric), is spent on heating and cooling. Air conditioners placed in direct sunlight use up to 10 percent more electricity. If yours sits in the sun, plant tall shrubs or shade trees nearby—but don’t enclose the unit or impede the airflow. Place window units on the north side of the house or install an awning over them.

Keep your window or central air conditioner tuned up so it runs at peak efficiency. Every two or three years, call in a pro to check the electrical parts and the refrigerant.

If your central air conditioner is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star model can cut your cooling costs by 30 percent and save maintenance costs. The payback for replacing a 12-year-old system is typically about eight years. An air conditioner’s efficiency level is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. A 13 or 14 SEER rating is considered high efficiency.

Kill energy vampires: Save up to $100 a year

Turn off electronics

Electronics guzzle lots of power even when they’re turned off. Stop wasting electricity: Plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.

Seventy-five percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off, according to the Department of Energy. These “energy vampires” suck electricity all day long—costing you an extra $100 each year. So if you’d like to keep that Ben Franklin in your wallet, unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.

Don’t worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have an old VCR or other devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in. Some power strips have a few outlets that always have power even when you flip off the switch. This type of strip has a main outlet for the computer. When you turn off the computer, the strip also shuts down other devices, such as your scanner, printer or modem.

Clean out the lint for dryer efficiency: Save up to $25 a year

Clean out lint

Keep your dryer safe and efficient by cleaning lint out of the ductwork once a year.

A clogged lint screen or dryer duct drastically reduces the efficiency of your dryer, whether it’s gas or electric. Clean the lint screen after each load and clean the exhaust duct once a year. The cleaner shown here has an auger brush that attaches to a drill to clean out the ducts. It’s available at home centers.

Electric dryers use about $85 of electricity annually. A dirty lint screen can cause the dryer to use up to 30 percent more electricity ($25 per year), according to the Consumer Energy Center. Lint buildup is also a common cause of fires.

Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so the dryer doesn’t cool down between loads (a warm dryer uses less energy). And only run the dryer until the clothes are dry. Overdrying damages your clothes and runs up your electric bill. If you’re in the market for a new dryer and already have a gas line in the house, go with a gas dryer. A gas dryer is more efficient.

Change furnace and AC filter: Save up to $60 a year

New filter

Label filters with the month they’ll be used, to help you remember to change them.

Keeping your furnace and AC tuned up has two big benefits: It makes them run efficiently and it prolongs the life span. Doing an annual tune-up will save big bucks in the long run.

Change the filter every month of the heating season (or year-round if the filter is also used for A/C). Be sure you insert the new one so it faces the right way. The filter protects the blower and its motor; a clogged filter makes the motor work harder and use more power.

Save on electric water heating: Save up to $25 a year

Water heater timer

A timer turns on the water heater only when you need it, so you don’t waste electricity heating and reheating water that sits in the tank.

If you only use an electric water heater at certain times of the day, you’re wasting electricity keeping the water hot 24/7. To solve that problem, install an electronic timer switch (Photo 1; sold at home centers). Timers are available for 120- and 240-volt heaters. They can be programmed for daily or weekly schedules so you only heat the water when you need it. A timer can save you $25 per year.

To make your water heater even more efficient, drain the tank and flush out the sediment at the bottom (Photo 2). Otherwise, you could be heating through inches of sediment before heating the water.

If your electric water heater is warm or hot to the touch, it’s losing heat. Wrap it with an insulating blanket (sold at home centers).

Get smart metering: Save up to $140 a year

Time-of-use meter

Time-of-use meters replace the existing meter and attach to the meter box. They enable you to pay less for electricity used at certain times of the day.

Smart metering programs vary among utility companies, but the basic idea is the same: The utility installs a special “smart” meter that tracks how much electricity you’re using. The utility uses that data to make sure its power grid doesn’t get overloaded and cause blackouts. If the grid nears capacity, the utility can shut off major appliances in homes for short periods of time (such as 15 minutes per hour). Not all companies offer smart metering, but some do and many others are considering it.

What’s in it for you? Money! Some programs pay for signing up. Others let you view your home’s usage online in real time so you can better manage your electrical consumption. Others let you choose “real-time” or “time-of-use” pricing that allows you to pay less for electricity that’s used during off-peak hours (for example, on weekdays from early afternoon until 8 p.m.). These plans reward you for using electricity when it’s cheapest. Smart metering makes the most sense if you’re away from home all day—you won’t notice or care if things get turned off (although it’s a good idea for everyone else too!). According to SRP, a power utility company, the plans cut 7 percent off your bill, which is $140 for the average $2,000 yearly energy bill. Check with your local company to find out what smart metering programs are available in your area.

Run your refrigerator for less: Save up to $60 a year

Clean coils

Brush and vacuum the coils at the bottom or the back of the refrigerator. A coil cleaning brush (available at appliance parts stores or home centers) is bendable to fit in tight areas.

Your refrigerator uses more electricity than all your other kitchen appliances combined. To keep its energy costs down, clean the coils twice a year, which improves efficiency by 30 to 50 percent.

Your fridge and freezer run more efficiently when they’re full. Put water containers in the fridge and ice bags in your freezer to keep them filled. Keep the refrigerator setting between 35 and 38 degrees and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F.

Refrigerator door seals wear out over time. Test your seal by closing a dollar bill in the door. If it pulls out easily, replace the seal.

If your fridge was made before 2001, it’s using at least 40 percent more electricity than new Energy Star models. If you’re replacing your fridge, buy an Energy Star model and recycle your old one. Don’t hook up the old one in the basement or garage—an inefficient refrigerator costs as much as $280 a year in electricity. Any money you save buying food in bulk and storing it in an inefficient second fridge is lost in electric costs.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be a chore. With some very simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save big!

 

 

Should You Buy an Older Home or Newer Option?



So you have been watching HGTV and think it would be fun to restore an old house. You envision the painting, remodeling and restoring. It will be so charming and everyone is going to go wild over the end product. The reality is the job is often much much larger than originally thought. You will have to deal with plumbing that is corroded, electric that is brittle, windows that need replacing, floor boards that need removal, roof that needs shoring up and insulation that must be removed and replaced. Cabinets may have good basic shape but require new doors to become functional. And then there are handles. (which are surprisingly expensive!) Often the entire house needs leveling.  Even a newer roof may require replacement after it is all said and done. Everything will need to be up to code.


Keeping up on an older home is going to cost more than a newer home because of the age of the home and the materials it’s made with. It’s a good rule of thumb to budget 1% of your home’s value to annual maintenance. On an older home, the cost of annual maintenance can actually be as much as 50% higher.


Our lifestyles and our needs have changed a lot over the last 100 years, so older homes usually come with some hurdles with regard to our modern lifestyle. Oddly placed rooms, tiny closets,  lack of garages, single bathrooms, and less usable square footage are a some of the big complaints you’ll hear about older homes.
In my experience, the functionality of the home is one of the most often overlooked issues that buyers regret after they move in. Fixing a functionality issue can be very costly and usually won’t raise your home’s values like a typical upgrade would.


Let’s face it, old homes are drafty. They’re not sealed up as tight as new construction and typically cost more to heat and cool.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that old homes were built for efficiency. Long before we had A/C, builders had to be more intentional about how they kept the homes cool. High ceilings, transom windows, large overhangs, window orientation and a host of other things that can often go unnoticed were all very intentional features to help make the home efficient. Attic insulation is probably the best “bang for the buck” as far as making your home more energy efficient. Once your new plumbing and electrical is all in place, applying a spray foam insulation under the house (pier and beam) greatly increases efficiency.


There are also environmental issues that may have to be dealt with such as lead-based paint and asbestos. Unless the house has previously been gutted and remodeled, you will find yourself dealing with these issues.  Depending on where you are located, restrictions on removal may apply. Be sure to read how to protect yourself and your family while you complete the work.
And so…hum?!? Have I got you thinking?


If you think you might be getting in over your head… you may be right. If you’re hoping to DIY a remodel on a 100yr old home (been there) and you think the projects may be outside of your comfort level, it might be a good time to hit the brakes. If you still want to go this direction, this might be a good time to get commitments from qualified reliable family and friends. Many hands make quick work, and of course a whole lot less expensive. You will need a crew!

The good news is, it CAN be done!
And, the RESULTS will be FABULOUS!
(I have done it myself!)
SO LET’S LOOK AT SOME OF THE PROS

They absolutely do NOT build them like they used to! There is a craftsmanship that just does not exist today. In the old days the carpentry craft was passed down from father to son, and great pride was embedded with each hand-hewn nail and sturdy hand-milled timber. Many walls in a older home were actually tongue and groove! Today we are in a mass produced society. Time is of the essence and the bottom line is to finish and close as quickly as possible. So even though some of the “CODE” requirements are stricter, lumber is light-weight, mass produced and imported nails bend at the first sling of the hammer. There is often a sturdiness that can only be found in an older house.
The level of craftsmanship and care that went into the construction of older homes is incredible – and to think – they did it all without power tools! Beautiful mill work, leaded windows, transoms, real hardwood floors, picture rail, etc… are all stunning features that are unique to older homes.

Just like your thumbprint is totally unique, so are most older houses. Unlike some new subdivisions that are composed of 5 or 10 different floor plans throughout the entire neighborhood, older homes are generally all going to be unique. Even if they’re an old Sears kit house, they will inevitably have their own special variations. The building process has become much more model-driven over the past few years
As a general rule, the oldest homes were built in the most desirable parts of the city. When cities were originally developed, the residents would choose the best areas for their neighborhoods and begin building their communities. As time goes on, new homes are naturally forced out into suburbs and areas that are often less desirable. You’ll also likely be closer to an urban setting with walkability to entertainment and restaurants.

As older neighborhoods get restored, a purchase and restoration of an older home in a older neighborhood are often a far better investment than a home in a new neighborhood.

 

So… while remodeling an older home may be absolutely the challenge you have been looking for… it is definitely not for everyone. Time, money talent and fearlessness are all things to be taken into consideration before you jump in to this type of purchase. Happy remodeling if you do!