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7 New Homeowner Tips You Need Right Now

New Homeowner Tips

Owning your first home can be an exciting time, but there’s a lot we wish we’d known going in! Here are seven new homeowner tips that will get you started on the right foot.

1. Save extra money now

You may think that the hard part’s done once you hand over your down payment, but you should still be saving about 1 to 3% of your home’s value per year to cover unexpected repairs. For a $250,000 house that’s between $2,500 and $7,500 a year, or between $208 and $625 a month. That may seem like a lot now, but when your washing machine breaks or your roof gets damaged in a spring storm, you’ll be happy you have the extra cash on hand.

2. Focus on one project at a time

Owning your first home can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to tackling everything you want to do to make it truly your own. Rather than taking on too much at once, make a list of priorities and work on them one at a time. This way you can really think about which projects need to be taken care of right now and which ones can wait. Start with any repairs that can head off bigger problems down the road, such as replacing old windows that risk water intrusion. Aesthetic improvements can wait until you have the budget set aside for them.

3. Make sure you’re properly insured

Most mortgage lenders require you to carry insurance that covers the entire cost of your home in case of total loss, but just because you have this doesn’t mean you’re as covered as you could be. Depending on where your home is, you may need to think about things like flood insurance (because homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage), and it’s always a good idea to carry adequate life insurance coverage so your family doesn’t lose the home if you die unexpectedly. If you have any questions about how much insurance coverage you need, seek out a local insurance agent who’s familiar with your area to get personalized advice.

4. Know what’s in your walls before you hammer a nail

You’re excited to start making your new house into a home, but before you start hanging your art collection, you need to have a good idea of what’s in your walls. It’s not just empty space—in fact, there’s a complex network of different systems that keeps your home running smoothly just behind your drywall (or plaster, or what have you). Besides structural components like wall studs, there are things like air ducts, electrical conduits and water lines that, if punctured, would lead you to have a really bad day. You can use a stud finder (invest in one that also detects metal) to locate any wiring or pipes before you start decorating.

5. Keep your furnace in top shape

Maintaining your furnace is one of the most important steps you can take as a new homeowner. As it turns out, it’s also pretty easy to extend the life of a furnace with a couple of steps. First, make a point of replacing your air filters regularly. These should be changed out every 1 to 3 months depending on the amount of dust and other airborne pollutants you deal with in your area. This will keep your system working efficiently, extending the life of your furnace and improving overall air quality in your home, which is especially important if you suffer from allergies.

Second, most furnace manufacturers recommend having a furnace tune-up performed every year. This will help catch any problems with the system early, so you’re not surprised by the furnace breaking down on the coldest night of the year.

6. Know where your main water shutoff valve is

If you ever find yourself with a broken faucet or cracked pipe that’s gushing water, the fastest way to stop the flow is to turn off your home’s main water valve. The thing is, most homeowners don’t even know where that valve is. Don’t be like them—get to know your home’s main water shutoff valve, where it is and how to turn it off in an emergency.

7. Study up on your drain traps

Notice a strange sewage smell around your new house? It could be coming from an empty drain trap. Every sink and floor drain comes equipped with a drain trap (that U-shaped bit of pipe that comes straight down from the drain opening). The drain trap is designed to hold water, creating a seal that keeps sewer gas from coming up into your house. If you don’t use a sink or drain very often, this water seal can evaporate and let sewer gas through the pipe. Luckily the solution is simple—just pour about a gallon of water down the drain to refill the trap and the smell should disappear.

National Property Inspections Helps Protect Your Investment

Your NPI inspector has the knowledge and expertise to help both new and veteran homeowners save money and add value to their homes. Call us and book an appointment today.

How to Remove Caulk the Right Way

We’re not going to beat around the bush—removing old caulk takes time and patience . . . in spades. But today we’re sharing a few tips that will make the job much easier in the long-run.

Step 1: Apply a caulk remover and walk away

For most caulk removers, the recommended wait time after application is two to three hours before you start prying up the old stuff. But in reality, the longer you wait, the easier it is to remove the caulk. Try waiting 12 hours (or overnight), and up to 24 hours if there are multiple layers to contend with. See, we told you it takes patience!

Step 2: Use the right tool for the job

Do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. We repeat: do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. Sure, you might see professionals use this sort of tool, but as a DIYer, you risk damaging the wall, not to mention yourself. Instead, use a caulk remover tool. These tools feature an easy-to-grip plastic handle and a shape that’s designed to align perfectly with old caulk. And don’t worry about cost. At approximately five to ten dollars each, caulk remover tools won’t break the bank.

Step 3: Use short back and forth motions to pry up caulk

Now that you’ve done all your waiting around and you’ve got your caulk remover tool in hand, it’s time to actually start prying. Place the hooked end of the tool into the seam and start using choppy, back-and-forth movements to loosen up the caulk. It should come up somewhat easily in long strips once you’ve gotten started. You might notice a fair bit of residue being left behind, but we’ll take care of that in a moment.

Step 4: Go back for the rest with a putty knife

Your caulk remover tool may be too large to get down in especially hard-to-reach areas, but a putty knife, or even a toothbrush can take care of the rest. Use the putty knife to gently pry up small, stubborn areas of caulk and the toothbrush to scrub away any excess. This is the part of the job that can get truly time-consuming, but totally worth it. Doing the job right is something to feel good about, after all.

Step 5: Clean your caulk-free surface

To make sure your newly cleaned surface is truly caulk and residue free, you’ll need to swab it with rubbing alcohol. Because mold is almost always a concern with old caulk, you’ll also want to create a cleaning solution that with eliminate mold and mildew. Mix together 1/3 cup of bleach with one gallon water, dip in a rag and wipe down the entire area, allowing it to air-dry completely. Before you go in with new caulk, you’ll need to make sure that you deep-clean all tile since soap scrum and other grime can affect the caulk’s ability to stick.

Call National Property Inspections today to have all your important home maintenance questions answered. Our expertly trained inspectors are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of both residential and commercial property and they have the skills to help you make the best decision for your home.

February 2018: How To Survive Winter

Ask The Inspector

How to Survive Winter

How To Survive Winter: Seven Genius Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make it easier with these seven brilliant snow hacks you can add to your winter routine right now. Learn More

How To Remove Salt Stains the Easy Way

If pesky salt stains are getting in the way of keeping your floors sparkling, you’ll want in on this secret: vinegar. Find out how this inexpensive household staple can help you get rid of winter salt stains in a flash. Learn More

Expert Advice


The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use. Read on to find out the best firewoods, as well as a few you should avoid altogether. Learn More

How to Get Organized Around Your House

The start of the year is the perfect time to set goals and priorities. And a big part of hitting the reset button is getting a handle on your possessions. Here are four proven tricks for paring down, sorting out and organizing your stuff for a stress-free home. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are always coming across interesting things in the field: new home trends, common repair issues—and sometimes even a few throwbacks.

This little light panel may not look like much, but at one time it was considered cutting-edge technology! Now a household rarity, solenoids once allowed us to turn on the lights in almost any room of the house from one centralized location. No stumbling into a dark kitchen—you could simply flip a switch in your bedroom on your way down the hall.

These days, the panels are considered outdated and have been replaced with “smart” devices like the Amazon Echo. This means they have the potential to warrant costly repairs for a home’s wiring down the road. If you own or show a home that features solenoids, we recommend having a specialist check them over.

Maintenance Matters

gutters

5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

Healthy gutters are an integral part of any home. With winter in full force and spring on the way, gutters become more important than ever for keeping your house free of water damage. Look for these five telltale signs to determine if it’s time for a replacement. Learn More

 The Best Electrical Outlets for Your Needs

As long as they’re functioning properly, electrical outlets are something most of us don’t even think of it. But believe it or not, certain outlets are better for certain purposes. Find out how to protect your home and connect to all your devices with this quick outlet guide. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

Q: How long does it take oak to season in order for it to be suitable to use for firewood?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

How to Sell Your Home

When selling your home in a buyer’s market, getting an edge over the competition is important. The following tips may help you sell your home faster without having to compromise on price.

How to Sell Your Home

Perform Routine Maintenance

Exceed a buyer’s expectations from the beginning. Change your furnace filter. Replace burned-out light bulbs. Make sure hand and guardrails are securely mounted to prevent falls. Trim bushes and rake up leaves. Cut out dead foliage. All of these things will help reinforce the value of your home.
Research a Realtor or Agent

Interview more than one real estate agent. Consider the cost of services, length of contract and services offered to help you sell your home. Check references and associations if possible. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Envision Your Property Objectively

You’ve worked hard to make your house your home, but now you want someone else to see your house as their home. Chances are, their opinions regarding decorating, furnishings and the amazing beauty of your 3-year-old’s art on the refrigerator don’t run parallel to yours. To show off your home to its best advantage, buyers must be able to see themselves in your home. Make it easy for them by taking your Realtor’s suggestions regarding clutter, paint colors and cleanliness to provide a clean slate for the next owners.

Limit Clutter

Stacks of papers, 40 pieces of a pottery collection stacked on a shelf, walls of family pictures and clothes baskets on the floor make rooms feel smaller. Of course, clutter is part of everyday life, but it usually isn’t part of “selling.” Enter a retail store and certain items are highlighted. Clothes are stacked with like items and in order of size. All of this is an attempt to attract a buyer.
To prepare your house for sale, remove all but a few pieces of a collection. Group odd numbers of decorative items. Vary the height of objects to add interest. Leave space on walls and refrigerators for potential buyers to imagine their own pictures in place.

The Home Inspection

Home inspections aren’t just for buyers. A prelisting inspection gives sellers the nuts and bolts details about the condition and functionality of hundreds of components within the home. The written report is a manual to use in completing inexpensive maintenance repairs and evidence of the efforts you’ve made to keep your home well-maintained to help build buyer confidence and trust. This can be the edge your home needs to sell quickly.

Scent of Cookies

Our sense of smell is directly related to the emotions we feel. That’s why the scent of fresh-baked cookies can make a house feel like a home. To save some time and money, you might try freezing a batch of your favorite drop cookies. Make the batter and drop cookies on a cookie sheet as usual and freeze solid. Once the dough is frozen, transfer the cookie dough to freezer-safe containers. Thaw for about 25 to 35 minutes and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets right before potential buyers arrive. Throw the parchment away to prevent a mess on your pans or in the sink.

Touch up Paint

Fresh paint is a fast easy way to update your home at any time. Consider toning down bright colors with neutrals and touching up trim and garage doors.

Increase Curb Appeal

First impressions are essential. Brighten up the exterior of the home with seasonal plants or decorations. Keep walkways and driveways clean and clear of trip hazards. Trim back bushes and other foliage that blocks the front door or porch.

Network

Your real estate agent will advertise your home. It’s all in their job. Still, it doesn’t hurt to use your own network as well. Tell family, friends and co-workers that you will be moving. You never know when someone you know might be in touch with the perfect buyer.

Get it Clean

If you do nothing else to prepare your home for sale, clean from top to bottom. Keep the lawn tidy and mowed if necessary, shovel walks in the winter, and wash your windows to allow natural light to show off your home to its best advantage. Keep bathrooms and showers sparkling. If you have small children, consider investing in some baskets with lids. Place one in each room for quick pickup of the day’s toys.

Preparing for Your Home Inspection

A home inspector looks at the exterior, interior, and major systems of a home.

Home inspectors are not required, nor advised to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. Failure to provide access to these areas during the inspection can lead to incomplete results, call-backs, additional fees and a frustrated buyer. To make the process as smooth as possible, it’s important to provide clear, open access to the following:

  • Attic access doors, which may be in a closet, hallway or garage
  • Crawlspace access doors
  • Water meter and main water line
  • Hot water heater and surrounding area
  • Furnace and surrounding area
  • Air conditioning units and surrounding area
  • Main electrical panel
  • Electrical sub panels
  • Remove decorative items from doors and windows (including sun catchers, plants, etc.)
  • Kitchen countertops, oven and dishwasher
  • Foundation walls, especially the corners of the basement
  • Garage overhead and service doors

Provide a Safe Place for Pets

Whether a prospective buyer, home inspector, appraiser or real estate agent is coming into your home, it’s important to provide a safe place for pets. This may mean a sturdy, appropriately-sized kennel in the home. It can also mean taking the pet to a friend or relative they are comfortable with until things are more settled.

Please remember, many of these professionals will need to view both the interior and exterior of the home, so simply putting pets in an open yard is not enough.

Home Inspection Checklist

A comparison sheet for consumers looking to find the right home. This checklist is intended to help homebuyers remember the positives and negatives of several properties.

Home Inspection Checklist