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Tips to Convert Your Attic Space

jackson nh real estate atticMoving up – vacating your current, smallish home for a larger, roomier abode – was the American way before the Great Recession. Now that the economy is humming again, at least some of the people who stayed put during those lean years will be looking to move into larger, nicer homes this summer. High demand and low inventory, however, may leave many with nowhere to go. Some will rediscover a time-honored space-gaining technique: attic conversion.

As home improvements go, converting an attic into usable living space has a high return on investment – about 84 percent at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. That’s if you use your unfinished attic to create a 15-by-15-foot bedroom and a modest 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower. Create a larger, more luxurious and more elaborate space and the ROI could be even greater. If your family is bursting at the seams, the value of added space will be measured in comfort, convenience and peace of mind, rather than resale dollars.

As with any renovation project, achieving an attic conversion requires you to balance numerous factors, from budget and objective to space and architectural limitations. Some of your most-desired features – such as ample natural light or a full bathroom – may seem out of reach. They don’t have to be, though, if you rely on some time-tested techniques to maximize the space.

Lighting the natural way

Typically, attics aren’t built with a lot of windows, and adding them may be difficult if the ceiling is sloped. Yet natural light is a highly prized feature in virtually any room, especially if you’re converting your attic into a bedroom, family room or other public area. Traditional solutions include adding dormers, which can be costly and time-consuming. What’s more, windows and dormers can eat up wall space, which is often at a premium in attics.

Skylights or roof windows can be a better option in an attic space. They require less time and cost to install than dormers and can easily live on slanted ceilings. Choose Energy Star-qualified no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights like those from VELUX America utilized in the O’More College of Design Alumni House, add solar-powered blinds, and you can achieve a light-filled attic room that is both beautiful and energy efficient. The cost of the products, including installation, are eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit. And from now until August 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. To learn more, visit www.whyskylights.com.

Roof windows, which are less expensive than dormers, are another cost-effective attic conversion option. VELUX offers both a top-hinged model and a double-sash balcony model that open at the top and bottom to create a roof balcony that admits much more light than a dormer while offering access to the outdoors.  Roof windows offer maximum ventilation plus the added advantage of meeting building code requirements as points of emergency escape and egress.

Heating and cooling

Attics are often the hottest or coldest room in the house, depending on the time of year and the quality of your home’s insulation. Creating a comfortable atmosphere in a converted attic requires expert planning.

You may need to increase insulation. Because insulation has such a significant impact on a home’s overall comfort and energy efficiency, it makes sense to invest in the best you can afford. Spray foam is often a good option for converted attics because it can go easily between existing joists and create a tight air barrier without losing the inches of space required for thick fiberglass batt insulation.

You’ll also need to consider how you will heat and cool the space. A heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system expert can help you determine the best approach.

Skylights and roof windows can also play an important role in your heating and cooling conversion plan due to the chimney effect they utilize to exhaust rising hot air from an attic space while providing abundant daylight and fresh air.

Plumbing made easier

Adding a bathroom anywhere in a home is usually a good investment. Bathroom additions return about 60 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. Creating an attic bathroom can be simple – if pipes are already present – or challenging if no plumbing exists in the space.

One alternative to traditional plumbing is up-flush, which allows you to install sinks, toilets, showers and even bath tubs without engaging in major construction to accommodate traditional plumbing pipes. Up-flush plumbing cost less than traditional plumbing methods and is easier to fit into tight spaces – like the odd nooks that often occur in attics.

With planning and the right materials, it’s possible to convert an attic into a living space that makes your home even more livable for your family while you’re staying in place. Plus, it will enhance your home’s value down the road when you’re ready to move up.

 

Generation Who?

conway nh real estate sellI get a little lost with all the Generation (insert letter here) talk. I was born in 1971, but still can’t tell you which letter I am. I think I’m “Y”, but sometimes feel like “X”. Not surprisingly, younger people are getting in the real estate market and making an impact on both sides of the table. Not only are the younger sellers more savvy with their marketing strategies, younger buyers are making a splash in the market as well. In a study done by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate we get a glimpse into the new generation’s goals for the future.

Generation Z (defined as people aged 13-17) are soon going to be digging into the real estate market. If you find yourself in the mood to buy or sell, you may want to take notice of their building trends and goals in order to align yourself for success. This generation places home ownership in the center of what they believe the American dream consists of with 89% of respondents in agreement. This was followed by a college degree at 78%, marriage at 71% and starting a family at 68%.

In fact, ninety seven percent indicated that they will be homeowners one day and are willing to sacrifice to get there. 53% said they would give up social media for a year or do double their current homework load in order to attain the dream of home ownership. I’m not sure some of my current friends, most of which are well past this age group, would be willing to give up social media for an DAY, never mind a year.

This generation seems to be financially literate as well. While we’re just talking about a single survey done, the results were pretty impressive. Of that 97% that expect to own a home, they also indicated they would pay an average of $274, 323 for their first one. This same group also said they expect to have an advanced degree (60%), be married (59%), have a pet (58%) and have started a family (21%) all before becoming home owners. These folks have some work to do!

It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of these folks will start their home search online. This is the case for nearly all people looking for property. A few of them have some higher expectations of technology though. Nearly 30% indicated they would “expect” to be able to video-chat with their agents! While I enjoy an occasional Skype chat with my mom, I think these kids have much bigger plans!

It was nice to see that about 59% said they would utilize the help of a real estate professional. As much as technology is quickly taking over our daily lives, human expertise and interactions still retain some value. “In fear of tooting our own horns, there is still so much value an agent can provide that goes beyond what you can read on a listing sheet or a website,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kevin Killourie. He continued, “Instant information is useful to an extent, but I believe nothing can replace the insight of an experienced, local agent with real-life knowledge of the area and the local market”.

With 47% of the surveyed kids expecting to settle in a suburban area, I think Kevin’s comments are spot-on. That goes for the 20% who say they’ll live in a rural or “country” area. I’m fairly confident there won’t be a “walking score” for most of the more remote, but beautiful, towns up north. The insight of an agent who has lived, worked, played and grown-up in the Mount Washington Valley can be priceless.

Lastly, the actual size of the home will likely see a shift as this generation starts to get into the market. With the growth of micro-homes seemingly taking hold, these folks are going to be content with smaller living spaces until they are ready. They don’t necessarily want what mom and dad have since they don’t need it right now. Once they build their “family” with kids and a dog, they home size will appropriately increase. Perhaps the days of the McMansion are in the rear-view mirror. (We can hope!)

If you are in the market to sell your home, it makes good sense to be aware of the upcoming generations and perhaps cater to their needs and desires a bit. If you are looking to buy a home, knowing who you are up against will help you be more selective with your desired home style and location. So, which generation are you!?

Buy Now Or Else

north conway home salesI am the absolute best at hyperbole. I’m also the single most humble person I know. Since you’re reading this article, you are likely the most educated and intelligent person in the room. Because of that, you know I’m simply full of it. There is (almost) nothing more annoying in advertising and marketing today, than the “best”, “worst”, “now or never” mentality that comes with lots of company’s message.

There was a “going out of business” sale at a grocery store over in Lincoln a couple years ago and the town was abuzz with all the amazing “deals” they were offering. With everything marked down to 50% off and below, it was a legitimate sale to be excited about. My friend Jane and I were talking about the sale and planning our trip to the store when her husband chimed in from the other room. His only (sage) advice for both of us was “It is not a “deal” if it is something you don’t need”. His point was spot-on. If you come home with a product you have no use for, but you “saved 50%”, was it really a deal?

There are lots of real estate agents out there and no shortage of folks telling you to “buy now”. How do you cut through all the noise and take some intelligent and purposeful steps towards home ownership. I have a few thoughts that might get you started in the right direction.

First of all, be sure to talk to a couple different agents before jumping in. Like most things today, we all tend to ask the advice of our friends, neighbors and family before making a large purchase. This is no different and referrals are a major source of an agent’s business. If they continue to do a good job for their clients, the referrals will keep coming in. It is also important that the area you are looking to move is a place in which they live, work and/or play. You want to work with an agent that knows the town, knows the neighborhoods and can be a real resource in your hunt.

Beyond the neighborhood, look for an agent that knows the type of property in which you are most interested. If you have your heart set on a condo, be sure the agent is well versed in all the condo communities in the area. In the Mount Washington Valley there are loads of these communities and knowledge of their differences is a big deal. A well-educated agent will understand the different locations and their different regulations. While nobody can be expected to have all this stuff memorized, your agent should have these resources at their fingertips.

Your agent should also understand your intentions after the sale. If your goal is to purchase the property and immediately rent it out, an agent with experience in this process will serve you perfectly. Some condo associations frown on this behavior and others welcome it with open arms. If the opposite is true and you intend to live in the home, a neighborhood loaded with rental properties may not be what you are after at all. Again, this is where the agent’s experience is critical.

My last encouragement about choosing your agent is to be sure they are aware of the full scope of the home buying process. There is so much more to buying a home than the exchange of money and keys. There are title companies, inspections, insurance, contractors, moving, storage, cleaning and of course banks all involved in the process. An experienced agent, with a full-service agency, can be an incredibly valuable resource in helping you every step of the way.

On the personal side, I think it is important to remain patient with this process. Buying a home can take months and the markets can shift in that time frame. Your agent can help with lots of these things, but the market itself is out of their control. If you set a realistic expectation from the start, the process is less likely to become daunting and frustrating. “One of the first things I discuss with clients is their time frame,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kathleen Sullivan Head. “It establishes their urgency and objectives but also allows me the opportunity to align myself with their goals. Secondly I use this as a teaching opportunity to adjust their mindset a bit and ensure we are all being realistic,” she continued.

The last nugget for today is to keep your eyes open about the true cost of buying (and owning) a home. With mortgage interest, HOA fees, property taxes, utilities and home maintenance there is the opportunity for the first-time home buyer to be surprised by a few of these unknowns. An experienced agent can help you navigate through the process and make you aware of the extraneous expenses beyond the mortgage. This will help you buy within your means and make the whole experience a little less stressful.

Trulia just published their rent vs. buy report and in 100 of the largest metro areas in the US, the average cost of home ownership is 38% cheaper than renting. This number was 66% in Detroit! With mortgage rates where they are now, rates would have to increase more than 10% for renting to be cheaper in most markets. This really is a good time to buy and with the right agent, the process can be the best and most awesome thing you do in your entire life! Whoa… sorry, got a little carried away there. I told you I was the best!

Autumn Home Checks

conway nh property inspectionFall is a great time of year.  We start to sense the snowfall and get excited to hit the slopes.  The foliage in North Conway NH is second to none and the smells of wood stoves continues to be one of my favorites.  Before we settle into the winter, there are a few things you should check around the house to be sure you are ready for the coming cold.

Air leaks.  The main goal of winter time is to retain the heat you are creating in the home.  Wether by wood stove, furnace, electricity or solar energy you’ll want to keep the warm air in and the cold temps out this winter.  Take a visual look around the exterior windows and doors and target any dried or flaking caulking as this is a major culprit for air leaks.  Check under the doors in the home as well.  These seals become tired and cracked and will stop doing their job after a few years.  Working your way back around the home with some exterior-grade caulking will do wonders for your warmth and wallet.

Check the roof as well.  We’ve had some wild weather this summer and double-checking for damage to your roof is good advice for anyone (renters and owners alike).  Since you’re up there anyway, this is a good time to clean the chimney and fireplace and make sure both are in good working order.  Last but not least, give your smoke and CO alarms a safety check.  Clean out the dryer vent from any built up lint and swap out all of your batteries.  A little overview now will offer you some peace of mind when the fire is blazing.

Why Buyers REALLY Need a REALTOR!

conway nh real estate onlineDon’t get me wrong.  I am aware that there is an online tool out there for just about everything you could need with regards to real estate in North Conway NH.  If you have lived here for any amount of time, you are aware of the limitations of technology with regards to directions and navigation.  If you rely on your fancy GPS device or directions from an online mapping service, chances are you are going to get lost.  The reality is that the reality of the roads, streets, paths, etc. are foreign territory for online tools that have never really driven or walked these routes.  We have been preaching the value of using a real estate professional for as long as we have been in business.  Using a REALTOR to help you buy a home has a number of benefits.  I want to highlight a couple as they relate to all of the online tools available.

As we almost always find with a GPS, the online tools for real estate are not always the most accurate either.  These tools that supposedly tell you what your home is worth (or what someone else’s home is worth), admit to their evaluations being off by around 5 percent.  Standard and Poor’s did an independent study and found that discrepancy to be closer to as much as 20 percent!  Because the market is moving so fast and always changing, these tools are using out-dated data and therefore their calculations are off before they even start.

The other reason these tools hold little value is there are so many other factors that they cannot possibly be aware of.  Using an experienced, local REALTOR can provide you with insights that go way beyond the  few facts and figures from a database.  Factors like: Is the neighborhood safe? How are the schools? Can I walk to town or shopping? What has been the trend for these homes over the last few months?

When an experienced agent provides a CMA (competitive market analysis) they take into account an in-person inspection, updates on the property in question, neighborhood condition and the overall condition of the property.  None of these items are found with an online tool.

In an age of instant gratification and instant data, the real estate agent’s position in the buying or selling of a home could appear to be threatened.  I submit that the position of REALTOR is going to continue to be more important than ever.  Real estate is local and real estate is personal.  Working with an experienced “real, live” human being can never be replaced by a bunch of numbers.

Helpful Hints for A Hot Shower

conway nh real estate water heaterSince we’re cruising into the winter months now, it might be time to give your water heater a much-needed “once-over” just to be sure your morning soak does not end up as another ALS ice-bucket challenge!  While nobody expects you to become a water heater expert, there are a couple items you can do yourself, in your own home to ensure it lasts a bit longer or maybe these tests will let you know it is time for a new unit altogether.

Sediment can build up in the unit, so it is a good idea to flush the system to remove any of that debris.  You can hook a garden hose up to the drain valve and run this until the water is clear.  You can also remove the drain valve (once it is empty) and scrub the bottom of the tank with a long narrow brush.  Then just pump fresh water into the unit and then drain that.  Once this process produces clear water, you are all set.

Testing the TPR or (temperature and pressure relief) valve is another great idea and should be done every 6 months or so.  You can test this by simply raising and lowering the test lever enough that it lifts the brass stem.  This should produce how water at the end of the drain-pipe.  If you get a trickle or no water at all, it is time to replace this.  this test is also a good way to discover leaks.  If, after you induce a pressure relief cycle, you find leaks, now is the time to fix those.

In many older homes, you will see water heaters covered with blankets and other insulating materials.  While this is fairly unsafe, there IS a safe way to do it and the resulting savings can be significant.  In general, your water heater should not be warm to the touch. If it is, that essentially means the heat intended for the water is seeping out into the unit itself and into your basement.  Some utilities even offer discounted water  heater insulation kits, so ask your before you go pay full price!

At some point, you’ll need to replace the water heater.  Basically, like most other appliances, once the cost of repairs has (or WILL) exceeds the cost of the new unit, you are well on your way to a replacement.  In most cases of a leak, that is enough of an indicator to replace the unit as soon as possible.

Pack a Peck of Peppers

north conway nh real estate toolsI’m not going to lie. I’m excited about fall. No, I’m not wishing summer away, but I love the crisper air, the smell of wet leaves and the comforting smell of a wood-burning stove. As I’ve talked about in the past, I also use the change of seasons as a reminder to tidy up and organize a bit. I treated myself to a new toolbox this past week and haven’t even taken the time to fill it yet. It’s not that I have to go out and buy new stuff; I just need to take the tools that I have in assorted boxes around the garage, and get them into the new box. Considering how much I enjoy being organized, I truly can’t wait to tackle this project.

In my garage I have tried to make the most of the limited space we have. I have the bikes (all 5 of them!) hanging from the left wall. I have a kayak hanging from the right wall. And I have utilized those awesome plastic shelves at the front of the garage to store all of the other “garage” stuff that we have. I even built a shelf last week, to hold all of the car-related items. Once I migrate the tools into the new toolbox, I’ll be able to further organize the shelves so they will become more usable. It is very frustrating to not be able to get to an item without knocking over 3 others.

One of the things I appreciate most about a home, especially those without loads of space, is the utilization of the available storage space. I lived in a tiny cabin down in Ogunquit, Maine for a summer and you would swear the builder was a ship builder. Every nook and cranny of that tiny home was shelves, drawers or some sort of space for storage of food, clothes or plates and utensils. It actually has served as an inspiration for when I built my house and for the smaller apartments and cabins I have occupied over the years. Making good use of space is a great way to make any home feel larger and better organized. There are multiple ways of doing this and I wanted to share a few of my favorites.

Shelving is always going to be a key component when trying to make the most of an area. One of my favorite uses of shelves was having them surround a doorway. Typically, the wall area surrounding a door way is unused space and is a perfect spot for shelving, both on the sides and above (if there’s room). If you can do “built-ins”, this is the most efficient use of space, but even standing shelves will work in this spot. You can use these shelves for books and picture frames as well as other knick/knacks you may have. It helps to get stuff out of the basement boxes and shows off your reading (have read or to be read) collection.

Since I’ve finally upgraded to having more than just a mattress on the floor, I now am spoiled with the under-the-bed space. There are now purpose-built “under-the-bed” boxes made of all sorts of materials. Some of these have multiple compartments, wheels and even a space for some cedar or mothballs. For those items that you rarely use or even seasonal clothing that does not need to be accessed on a regular basis, these boxes are perfect and fairly inexpensive.

north conway nh homes shelfOne of the more creative and useful spaces that are almost always under utilized is the area under the stairs. While Harry Potter made good use of it, most of us simply ignore it because of the work involved. If you own the home and have the correct setup, this project is really not as difficult as it may seem. If your stairways are stacked, like most homes are, you just need to be sure you have enough headroom above the first few steps of the lower staircase. You can then adjust the opening to the area accordingly and have at it. This area can be used for “closed-door” storage, a child’s toy storage area or even a small bookcase and reading room. Focus first on opening the area and seeing how much space you have to play with, then you can get creative with the usage.

Another fantastic usage of stairs is to make the stairs themselves storage boxes. Considering that most stairs “rise” between 8 and 12 inches, you can replace the riser with a drawer. The area behind those stairs is typically unused anyway and making them drawers is a very simple solution. I will grant you that this may take more than a “weekend warrior” skill level to pull off, but the return will be awesome. This is another great place for off-season clothes and other infrequently used items.

Lastly, and the place I’m heading when I’m done writing this, is the garage. I simply love those plastic shelves they sell at the home improvement stores. They are great for just about anything and are strong enough to support the largest and heaviest items you likely own. If you can see the trusses in your garage (the things that hold up the roof) you likely have the capacity to add some storage up there as well. A couple pieces of plywood can go a long way to turn that wasted space into a great place for the fake Christmas tree and that nasty, growing ball of tangled string lights! Hanging things off the walls, as you now know I’m a big fan of, is also a great way to free up the floor space and keep yourself organized.

Grab one of these ideas and head down that road. You’ll find yourself better organized and more easily able to find things when you’re looking for them. When I finally got into a house big enough to hold all of my belongings, the sense of peace was just incredible. Having some stuff in storage, some stuff in boxes in the corner and other stuff at my parent’s house was just annoying and exhausting. If you struggle to have room for all of your belongings, take a few steps towards creating better use of the space you have.

Late Summer Landscaping

north conway real estate fallI’ll admit it seems a little silly to be talking about landscaping this late in the season. However, the general consensus is that fall planting of grass is actually the best time. The ground is still warm and the cooler daytime temperatures make watering less of an issue. Between now and mid-September is a good time to plant and by mid-October the new grass should be healthy and ready for winter. But beyond the new grass, there are still some things you can attend to which will make your landscaping more attractive, both to you and to potential buyers.

From the top-down, first and foremost you should remove dead (or dying) plants, shrubs and branches. You know how much I love clutter and these items fall into that same category. They are not adding anything to the yard and are grabbing the attention of buyers (and your neighbors) in the wrong way. As a quick and inexpensive way to fill in those gaps, grab some potted plants to bring some color into those areas. This will show that you care about the exterior of the home just as much as the interior. Those buyers are more likely to maintain their excitement about your home (once they get inside) if they didn’t start the visit on a down-note.

As pretty as the leaves on the Kanc. are this time of year, they are not so attractive on your lawn. Even though your home is only being shown this weekend, it is “on the market” 7 days a week. Make sure you tidy up the fallen leaves daily or at least weekly. This is a quick project for a neighborhood kid that can save you time and make them a couple bucks. Now that I mention that, Do kids even do yard work anymore? Do kids still play outside? Are they all glued to their TVs and video games? Back when I was a boy….

jackson nh homesHow about a fresh coat of paint!? “Wait a minute” I can hear you saying, “I thought we were talking about my yard. Well, believe it or not, painting your lawn is a fast and easy way to get your lawn looking perfect without having to bring in a load of sod or spend hundreds of dollars with a lawn-care expert. The professional companies offering this service will actually match the color of the rest of the lawn so it looks more natural. The paint itself is non-toxic and takes a couple months to fade. Considering the time of year, this might just be the perfect option.

While we’re on the topic of coloring, why not add a splash of color to the front of the house. Painting the front door is a great way to highlight the home and draw the eye past the yard. This is a popular way to add some spice to the home and add some personality to the “curb-appeal”. The potential buyers also recognize that the re-painting of the door is simple for them in case they prefer a different color. Unlike painting an entire room, this is one area of the home where it is safe to get a little creative with the colors.

“We are so used to telling sellers to stay neutral with their color choices, this is one of the spots where the exception becomes the rule,” notes Badger Realty agent, Maureen Garrette. She continued, “I encourage sellers to bring some highlight to the front door. It brings some attention to the home that might otherwise blend into the neighborhood”.

conway real estate leavesAnother way to add some personality and “spice” to the yard is to add some fencing. Granted, this is not always the least expensive way to go, but the effect is stunning. Fencing does not have to be “privacy-based” it can simply be visually appealing. The American dream of 2.5 kids and a house with a white-picket fence is still a reality. A small fence can make a your backyard feel bigger and the lower height allows the eye to see beyond, but still creates a contained space for a sense of privacy.

Take a walk around your home and put on a critical eye. Paint chips, broken sills, cracked windows and other unsightly blemishes are typically easy and inexpensive to fix. This is a great time of year for these repairs and, if you’re selling, there is no time like the present. So quit reading the paper, take a lap around the house and get to the hardware store so you can get busy.

Can Your Neighborhood Save Your Life?

north conway realty neighborsIn a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers found that the more social connections you have in your neighborhood, the lower your chances are of dying from a heart attack.  Turns out, that annoying neighbor may actually be a good thing for you!

The study looked at over 5,000 people living in urban, suburban and rural areas over a time period of four years.  At the end of the study, 148 of those folks had died from heart attacks.  They found a close relation to the people living with the highest level of “neighborhood social cohesion” having the lower risk of heart attack.  The difference was about 67 percent at the end of each spectrum.

This makes you really consider your North Conway real estate neighbors for sure.  I’m actually going to head out after I’m done writing this, and see about organizing a neighborhood BBQ.  Why not!?

The researchers utilized controls for factors like age, race, income, education, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.  It turns out, when you are more close with your neighbors, you end up seeing each other on a more regular basis.  This makes for better relationships and a more open conversation about health concerns and other health-related items.  The opposite is true as well.   In a number of studies done over the past few years, the more isolation and poor quality buildings (boarded up, abandoned) typically leads to higher rates of disease  and poor health in general.

Remodeling Risk and Reward

north conway real estate roofingWe have talked, over the past few weeks, about different projects you can tackle around the house. These range from simple painting projects to full on “add a deck” weekend events. Essentially you are either investing in the home to make it better for you or the buyers, or you are bringing the home up to par with the quality you desire. Either way, you home gains value and you are likely happier every time you pull in the driveway or walk out onto that deck. But what if you were to ignore certain projects and leave things alone. Let’s take a look at some of the risks (and rewards) of a few remodeling projects.

Some projects are quick and easy. Tackling the painting of a room can be done in an afternoon and does not take much effort or skill. Replacing screens or washing windows is another quick and easy “fix” that can be done solo and without a ton of investment. The larger scale projects are where the true “risk / reward” conversation begins. These are the projects that require more planning, skill, savings and time. The risk in putting off painting a room is merely an annoyed spouse (or child). The risk in ignoring your roof can be far more serious.

We have our share of storms in the Northeast and those winds, snow, rain and hail can wreak havoc on the exterior of your home (never mind the hood of your car!). After one of these storms, take the time to venture up to the roof and survey the (possible) damage. While a couple loose or broken singles can be harmless between storms, as soon as the next round of weather makes its way East, you may be in for a surprise. You could also inspect your roof between seasons. This costs you nothing but time and can save further damage to the roof itself.

While you’re flying high, take a look at any trees that are in close proximity to your home. Again, this costs you nothing but time but can show you branches that could land on your roof (or car!) during the next storm. These quick checks can highlight potential damage and prompt a call to the roofing or tree-removal professionals. The removal of a few errant branches or fixing a small area of the roof is far less expensive than replacing the whole thing (or the damaged goods inside the home). The average cost of weather-related home insurance claims is just over $7,000. A good ladder costs under $100.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2007 and 2011 faulty heating or electrical equipment causes 80,652 structure fires and $1.5 billion in property damage each year, in the US. You can take some steps to prevent your home from adding to the statistics. If your heating system is more than 10 years old, have it inspected and cleaned. I’d actually recommend you have it “serviced” on an annual basis just for the peace of mind. The cost is minimal and, as with most things, regular service will extend the life of the system.

conway nh real estate safetyReplacing the HVAC system is going to be costly, but if it’s time, it’s time. You will sleep better knowing you have done all you could to keep your home and your family safe. If you are like me, you love the heat of a wood stove. While this may seem obvious, have your chimney cleaned every fall as well. Call early to get on their schedule before they hit their peak season (like today!). It’s already getting a little chilly out there at night. You can also buy a kit and do this yourself. Either way, annual cleanings are the best way to keep this area of the home safe.

Electrical problems can creep up in older homes so a professional inspection is a good idea here as well. “With a new purchase, home inspectors will review the electrical systems as part of the job. It is the existing home owners that tend to neglect this piece,” notes Badger Realty agent, Bernadette Friberg. She continued, “If your home is more than 20 years old, it is a good idea to have an expert give the wiring system a look over”.

OK, we’ve covered earth (trees), wind (storms) and fire (HVAC), let’s trickle down to the last one, which is water. If you have experienced water damage to your home, you know that it simply goes everywhere. A simple leaking toilet, left for a few hours, can spread water down the stairs, through the floors and onto furniture and appliances. While storm damage and broken windows or roofing are out of our control, some simple inspections to incoming water lines can save a lot of damage.

Inspect the supply lines on all of your appliances; this includes dishwashers, toilets and the laundry room. If the hoses are worn or already leaking, take the time to replace them. I recommend springing for the steel-braided lines on all of them. They cost a bit more than the standard rubber or PVC, but the peace of mind is worth it. I also encourage everyone to be aware of where the water shut-off valves are in any home you are living. At least you know, if something goes askew, you can stop the inflow and mitigate the damage.

Home maintenance and remodeling projects can be fun, rewarding, cost-effective and typically add value to the home. The projects above are all intended to be proactive and preventative in nature. While the results of your inspections may lead to a more involved and costly repair, the end-result will be a higher quality structure and a safer, more secure home for your family.