Winter Home Improvements Lead to Lower Utility Costs.

Ideas to lower your utility costs.
Ideas to lower your utility costs.

Save money on your utilities by tackling these smaller improvements this winter.

  1. Appliances

January is a great month to buy appliances. Retailers are trying to move last year’s inventory before new models are introduced. For every energy-efficient appliance you add to your home, you’ll save anywhere from $50-$100 annually. Time your purchases right for deep discounts and save money on your utility bill. In addition to the cost savings, you’ll have reliable appliances you can depend on for many years.

  1. Insulation

Make sure your insulation is in top shape, especially in the basement, attic and garage. Studies have found insulation purchases have over 100 percent price recuperation if you decide to sell your home. Not only will it add value to your home in the long run, your energy bills will be lowered almost immediately.

  1. Landscaping

Winter months are the perfect time to start planning your outdoor designs. According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, in winter there is less chance of transmitting diseases from one plant to another or attracting insects to fresh pruning wounds. By planning your spring planting now, you’ll get a jump on your spring chores. By the summer, your pruned trees or new plantings will be shading your yard and padding your pocket in the form of lower utility costs.

Prepare for Dangerous Winter Road Conditions.

Prepare for Winter Weather
Are you prepared for winter weather?

Traveling during the winter can be dangerous, especially during severe storms. Sometimes travel is unavoidable, so follow these tips to make sure you stay safe on the roads this holiday season.

  1. Prepare Before a Storm Hits

Preparation is essential to having a reliable and safe car during the winter months. Have a mechanic check your battery, brakes, fluid levels and heating systems. Be certain your car is in the best possible shape. If you are stranded, make sure to only run the heat for about 10 minutes at a time as snow can sometimes block exhaust systems.

If you are going to travel, notify someone of your estimated travel time and route. This will provide you with a safety net if you end up stuck in a storm. Someone will know you’re not at your intended destination, and will be able to contact authorities for help if you can’t.

  1. Create an Emergency Kit

It’s a great idea to have an emergency kit in your car at all times. Blankets, food, water, first aid kits, road flares, shovels, towrope, booster cables and sand for additional traction are all extremely useful, especially during longer trips. Make sure you don’t eat snow, as it will lower your body temperature. If it’s your only source of water, try to melt it first.

If you’re planning on a cross-country drive, make sure you have the required items to charge your cell phone. If you’re stuck somewhere the best thing you can do is to call 911, and remain in your vehicle while you wait for help to arrive.

  1. Get The Right Insurance Coverage

Consider including towing or car rental to get back on the road faster after an accident or mechanical issue. Finding the right plan is easy, especially since Mel Foster Insurance offers a free auto quote. Visit our website to find an insurance agent today!

Establishing a Rental Property.

Steps to Establish Rental Property
Steps to Establish Rental Property

Make your rental property stand out and maximize your profits with the help of Mel Foster Co. and its relocation specialists. Buy a condo in downtown Chicago, a beachfront bungalow in Florida or a home on the golf course in Arizona for your enjoyment, and to generate additional income for you. These tips can help you successfully rent out your property.

  1. Partner with Local Businesses.

To get the most out of your rental property, partner up with local attractions and businesses. If your rental comes with a 10% off coupon at a nearby ski resort, restaurant or theatre, it makes your listing stand out above the others. Local businesses will appreciate the advertising and business, and you’ll enjoy the increased interest in your rental.

  1. Reduce the Minimum Stay Requirement.

Renters will often be looking for a weekend getaway, especially during the off-season. During the busiest parts of the year, having a seven-day minimum isn’t an issue for potential renters, but you’ll notice a significant drop in interest during less busy parts of the year when week long rentals are more rare. Having someone renting for a brief period of time is much better than not renting at all.

  1. Keep the Listing Updated.

If you want to entice potential renters, update your listing about once a month. You should list upcoming shows or events that are easily accessible from your property. If someone is coming to town specifically for an event, they’ll immediately know your rental is the best option.

  1. Work with a Local Real Estate Agent.

It’s much easier to work with an agent in your current area before investing in a property in an unfamiliar area. Mel Foster’s relocation specialists can help you determine cost of living expenses, state tax rates and connect you with an agent in the area you’re interested in.

Click here for more information on how to get started finding the perfect rental property.

Holiday Safety Tips For Your Home,

Holiday Safety Tips
Holiday Safety Tips

The holidays are a time for relaxing with family and friends. Make sure your home is safe this holiday season by keeping an eye out for common hazards.

Holiday Lighting

Be sure to take caution when it comes to decorative lighting. Carefully inspect cords, bulbs and connections for all your lighting. If anything is damaged, repair or replace it immediately.

Extension cords are the source of many fires, so be sure they aren’t damaged. Plugging multiple extension cords into each other increases the risk of a fire starting.

Don’t overload an outlet with too many plugs. This can cause an electrical overload and cause a fire. Outlet fires cause nearly $1.5 billion in damage annually. Stay safe by using separate outlets to evenly distribute the lighting throughout the house.

Christmas Trees

Choose a fresh tree that has been recently cut. Fresh trees are more resistant to ignition. Continue watering the tree daily to prevent it from drying out.

Make sure any lighting you use on the tree is designed for indoor use. Again, be sure the lighting isn’t damaged in any way.

Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source. This includes fireplaces, candles and heating vents.

General Maintenance

Test your smoke alarms monthly and be sure to replace the batteries immediately if they are unresponsive. Make sure to have a smoke alarm in every sleeping area and on every level of your house.

Clean any clutter around the house. Don’t store combustible materials near outlets, heating vents or furnaces.

Replace heating and cooling filters as needed and be sure to have yearly cleaning and maintenance done on your heating and cooling systems.

Downsizing For Your Retirement.

Thinking of Retiring?
Thinking of Retiring?

Downsizing before or during retirement is a smart decision for seniors. It means less upkeep and maintenance with a potentially less expensive monthly payment. Make downsizing easy by following these tips from Mel Foster Co.

  1. Work with a Realtor®

Working with an experienced Realtor® is the best decision you can make when looking to downsize. The seller pays the commission so you have nothing to lose by utilizing professional resources. A Realtor® can help you determine financial qualification, size needed and available listings. Condo purchasing contracts also are very different from other types of residence. Even with out of town listings, Mel Foster Co. has relocation specialists to help you find your new home anywhere in the world.

  1. Determine what Property you Need

You should communicate with your real estate agent to let them know exactly what you’re expecting from your new home. Are you looking for a high-rise, a cozy one story house or a small home with a spacious garden? Have an idea of your needs before you talk with your real estate agent so they can find you a property to exceed expectations.

  1. Find Sufficient Storage Options

The smaller space is a huge plus for many retirees. It means less upkeep and maintenance, but also less storage. If you have furniture, photo albums or decorations, you may want to consider renting a storage locker. They’re inexpensive and can be climate controlled so you don’t need to worry about damage to your more fragile items. Talk with your real estate agent to see if there are any storage options near the properties you’re considering.

  1. Consider a Rental

If you’re concerned about a long-term commitment, consider renting. It’s a great way to see if you enjoy the location in a new area. You can decide later with your real estate agent if you want to find a more permanent home. It’s often more cost efficient to rent, and most maintenance is taken care of by the landlord. It can help you determine what size home you need, and the lifestyle changes that come with downsizing.

Find an agent with local or national experience to find a home where you can comfortably downsize.

Top Five Bathroom Staging Tips.

Bathroom Staging Tips
Bathroom Staging Tips

Home buyers love a beautiful, relaxing bathroom reminiscent of a spa. Mel Foster Co. offers five tips to help you create a beautiful bathroom to attract buyers willing to pay a premium for a gorgeous bathroom.

  1. Create a Blank Canvas.

Start by removing all clutter from the bathroom. Buyers don’t want to see your soaps, hygiene products or medicines. Create an environment where potential buyers can imagine the possibilities of their own personalization.

  1. Clean Extensively.

Once all clutter is removed, clean everything. Every surface from floor to ceiling should be sparkling new looking and fresh smelling. Buyers will pay top dollar for a bathroom that is well maintained and move-in ready. Once you’re finished cleaning, be sure to remove all cleaning supplies or tuck the bottles away in the linen closet or below the sink.

  1. Add Minor Upgrades.

Small upgrades add significant value to your home, especially in the bathroom. Repainting walls, updating the sink faucet and cabinet handles or installing new light fixtures are all inexpensive changes to modernize your bathroom. Stick with classics like stainless steel finishes to create a timeless style to appeal to the majority of buyers.

  1. Replace Towels and Curtains.

Purchasing new towels and shower curtains gives the bathroom a fresh look. White is a great neutral color, providing a fresh and clean finish. Only use your new linens for display so you’ll have an easier time preparing for showings and open-houses.

  1. Add Simple Accessories.

Don’t be afraid to add some accent colors to your bathroom. Including plants or matching set pieces can personalize your bathroom without making buyers feeling like they’re intruding. Don’t go overboard though, one or two items will be enough for most bathrooms.

Ask your agent about other staging ideas to bring top dollar for your home.

Sell Your Home for More with a Pre-Listing Inspection

Have you thought about a pre-listing inspection?
Have you thought about a pre-listing inspection?

The fastest way to derail a pending offer is by having major mechanical or structural issues revealed during the home inspection. One way to get ahead of any possible concerns raised by buyers is by conducting a professional, pre-listing inspection before putting your home on the market.

What is a Pre-Listing Inspection?

A pre-listing inspection is an evaluation of your home that reveals flaws. If your furnace needs to be replaced, or there are leaks in the roof, an inspection will highlight these issues, allowing you to pay for repairs now or set your listing price accordingly for an “as is” property. The inspection deficiencies give you more knowledge and options. Around 80% of all real estate deals are conditional upon home inspections, so be prepared by having an inspection done ahead of time.

Earn More Money by Planning Ahead

It may seem as though paying for a pre-listing inspection is an unnecessary expense, but it’s invaluable. For every $1,000 of perceived repairs, buyers will offer $3,000 to $5,000 less. This adds up quickly if the house needs multiple repairs, especially if roofing or siding needs to be replaced. You need this information sooner rather than later to set a realistic asking price for your home.

Market the House as Inspected

Buyers always want to know as much as possible about the home they’re planning on buying. Make your home stand out by marketing it as inspected and be prepared to share the inspection report with potential buyers.

Not sure who to call for an inspection of your property? Ask your Mel Foster Co. agent for a local, reliable recommendation.

Make Your Perfect Man Cave

Perfect for Entertaining

A man cave should be a place for a stay at home vacation. It’s an exciting project to begin, here are ideas to help start creating your own personal paradise.

Personalize with Your Preferences

Your man cave is a reflection of yourself. Your hobbies and interests should be represented and on display for everyone to see. Adding jerseys from your favorite athletes, LED signs from your favorite drink and collectible posters gives you an idea of how the room will look and present possible themes to match your personality.

Choose a Theme

Don’t have wood paneling on the walls with modern furniture as decoration. Keeping the theme consistent is important. Deciding early on if you want a rustic cabin, a sports shrine or classic retro look will make buying furniture and decorations a breeze. Use decorations you currently have as a starting point for what theme to choose.

Keep a Fully Stocked Bar

If you have the space, adding a bar is an amazing addition to any man cave. Stylize and stock the bar as if you were open for business. Being able to accommodate any order for friends and family will make your bar even more impressive, even if you have to Google the recipe.

Include an Entertainment Center

Another must have for your man cave is a fully equipped entertainment center. Pick out a TV, add surround sound speakers and you have a private movie theatre. If you’re tight on space, mount the TV on the wall. Include sufficient seating as well, you don’t want people standing in front of the TV during the big game.

Add a Game to Play

Including a pool, foosball, or ping pong table adds an exciting feature to your room. Maybe you have a favorite arcade or pinball machine you played when you were younger. Anything you enjoy playing is a perfect novelty item to complete your cave. Even something as easy to install as a dart board is a great way to spend time with friends and get the party started.

How to Sell Your Home, Fast.

Five Tips for Quick Sale
Five Tips for Quick Sale

Selling your home quickly can be difficult, unless you follow Mel Foster Co.’s five tips for getting off the market quickly.

  1. Price it Competitively from the Beginning

Your home listing receives the most attention during the first 30 days it’s on the market. Don’t set yourself up for failure by overestimating your home’s value. Online comparisons make it easier than ever to determine an accurate value of houses, so make your house stand out by pricing correctly the first time it’s listed. Your Mel Foster Co. agent can help you determine your listing price.

  1. Advertise Immediately

Half the battle is letting everyone know your home is for sale. Your Mel Foster Co. agent will develop a custom advertising plan for you that includes adding your home to the MLS and letting other agents know it’s now on the market.

  1. Showcase the House Online Properly

Over 90% homebuyers start the search for a new property online and the number one way to gain their attention is through high quality photographs. You need something better than awkwardly lit rooms with photos from an outdated camera. Using a professional photographer is the easiest way to get the best photos for your listing. Talk to you Mel Foster agent to help your home stand out among the competition.

  1. Depersonalize Before Listing

Remove family photos, personal art, and collectible items from your home before showing off to buyers. Don’t take it personally, but buyers don’t want to see your life on display. They want to imagine themselves in the house, and your personal accessories make this difficult. Removing these items also has an added bonus of making the home look less cluttered and clean.

  1. Sweeten the Deal

If you’re really in a hurry to get out of your home, offering to pay a portion of closing costs will attract buyers. Consider a shorter closing time so buyers can move in quickly after deciding they want to purchase your home. If you have a large yard and a riding lawn mower, include the mower during negotiations. There are numerous ways to generate additional interest, and asking your agent for ideas will help you find different options to expedite the sale.

Planning for Your Baby

Creating the Perfect Nursery.
Creating the Perfect Nursery.

There are many things to worry about when a baby is on the way, but getting your nursery together shouldn’t be one of them. Here are a few tips to help you have a perfect nursery for your newborn.

Plan Ahead

The most important thing to do is to start with a plan. It’s very easy to get caught up in picking out cribs, toys and diapers, but you don’t want to find out later the curtains you love won’t match the paint you picked out. Be sure to get exact measurements to know how much space you have to work with. Starting with an overall plan will prevent future headaches.

Function over Fashion

Appearances aren’t everything when picking out furniture, paint and decorations. Don’t forget the nursery serves specific functions. You need to be able to change diapers, feed and calm the baby while remaining comfortable. Make sure the beautiful rocking chair you picked out is comfortable for extended periods of time, or the changing table, which fits perfectly with the room, also provides ample storage. You’ll end up kicking yourself if the investments you made aren’t practical.

Create a Calming Environment

You’ll be spending quite a few hours in the nursery, so be sure to create a comfortable environment. Natural colors and adjustable lighting are ideal to create a soothing environment for both you and the baby. If you plan to add fun colors and accessories, consult the color wheel and pick complimentary colors. This allows you to create a personal nursery, while remaining universally appealing if you decide to sell your home.

Be Creative with Storage

A nursery can never have too much storage. Diapers, wipes, blankets, clothing and medication need to be easily accessible. Adding shelves or stacking cubbies provides vertical storage to maintain more organization with less space. You’ll thank yourself when you easily diapers and spare clothes in the middle of the night.

Planning ahead to create the perfect nursery allows you to devote more time to caring for your baby. Your little one won’t be little forever, so enjoy being with them during this exciting time.


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