DIY projects can save money, increase the value of your home, and make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished. A kitchen remodel is a significant project that can add a great deal of value to a home. However, DIY projects can be risky, especially if you are new to them, as mistakes are inevitable. It’s important to learn which mistakes to avoid. According to Bill Gassett of Maximum Real Estate Exposure, "Poor-quality workmanship . . . can easily decrease a home's value." Here are 10 common DIY mistakes people make during a kitchen remodel that are easy to avoid.
1. Not Asking For Help
Before you start planning your remodel, talk to someone with expertise in kitchen remodeling.Show them your plans and ask for advice.They will think of things that you would not have come up with on your own. They can guide you in the right direction on details like which materials and appliance brands to use. They can also help you ensure that your design fits your actual needs for the space.
2. Gaps Between Walls and Cabinetry
No home is perfectly level, however, you try to make cabinets level when you hang them. But because of this, gaps occur next to the wall. To fix this problem, use a wood shim to fill the gap. It’s the same principle as putting something under the leg of a table to stop it from rocking back and forth. Then, you can use the same molding that covers the rest of the room to hide the shim.
3. Poorly Placed Lighting Fixtures
People who aren’t experienced with remodeling often don't think about lighting fixtures and don’t budget for them. Instead, they just keep the old lighting, but it may not match the new kitchen design. Lighting fixtures should line up over the sink, countertops or kitchen island.To avoid this problem integrate lighting fixtures into the overall kitchen design from the beginning. Budget to hire an electrician (get multiple bids). One thing you can do yourself is to repair the ceiling after the electrician has installed the lightning. For safety, you should let the electrician handle the wiring.
4. Badly Laid Floor Tiles
According to Gassett, if the subfloor is uneven or there is something wrong with the underlayment, tiles laid on the floor can crack or shift. First, do a test to see if the subfloor is even. Then secure the subfloor to the floor joists. Use the appropriate type of underlayment for the type of tile you’re using. For example, use liquid underlayment for porcelain or concrete tile. If this sounds unfamiliar, don’t worry, the tile supplier you work with can explain how to do this. The underlayment will compensate for any unevenness in the floor and prevent the tiles from cracking.
5. Painting Without Prepping
If you try to cut corners and do your paint job as quickly as possible it will show in the results.Telltale signs of an amatuer paint job include, paint on light switches and imperfections in the wall that are poorly covered, like cracks and dents. To avoid these mistakes, spend the time to prep and clean your surfaces properly.
Before you start painting, be sure to do the following:
6. Not Protecting the Rest of Your Home
During your remodel, you will need to take measures to keep the rest of your home clean and free from dust and paint. This way you will avoid a major clean-up job when the renovation is finished. You can use plastic sheeting and tape to seal off the kitchen area from the rest of the house. You can even add an adhesive backed zipper to create an entryway into the work space. Take steps to protect your new kitchen as you go, for example, cover your countertops with cardboard secured in place by painter’s tape to protect them until the remodel is finished.
7. Poorly Planned Tiling
Common problems with poorly planned tile work are large gaps filled with grout and pieces that don’t fit together well. For a professional look, use grid-paper to make a “map” of the area you’re going to tile. Put electrical outlets, door frames, and other obstacles on the map. Then lay out your tile on the map, starting in the center. Test out your calculations by laying some tile in a non-conspicuous area first.
8. Leaving a Space Between the Wall and Floor
If the baseboard or shoe molding wasn’t removed before laying a new floor, a gap between the floor and the wall will result. Before putting down new flooring, remove any existing molding first. Then put down the new flooring. You should use the manufacturers recommendations to determine how close the flooring should be to the walls or cabinets in your kitchen. After that, you can lay a baseboard or shoe molding to cover the area where the floor and wall meets.
9. Forgetting about Workflow
Your new kitchen may look great, but if you forget to organize the space to fit the way you work in it, or your workflow, you will be missing out. The three busiest areas of a kitchen are the stove, sink, and refrigerator. This is referred to as the kitchen “work triangle”. Make sure to place these areas close together in a way that enables you to move efficiently between them.
10. Not Looking at the Big Picture
Don’t forget to think about how all the elements of your new kitchen fit together. Key elements to include as you plan your grand kitchen design include paint colors, appliances, cabinetry, hardware, and flooring. If you take the time to consider each of these elements in relation to each other, you’ll end up with a much more cohesive and appealing design.
As I discuss in the video below, we are seeing the 30 year mortgage application rate almost fully recover to where it was last year. This is encouraging news!
Weekly Statistics Updates
If you are closing on a house as a purchaser or seller, you may be wondering what that process looks like during the COVID-19 outbreak. Settlement agencies have been in operation during the pandemic as they are an essential business but many of them have had to readjust their typical settlement procedures to ensure the safety of their staff and clients.
New Practices Under Virginia's Stay-at-Home Order
Certain procedures will vary between title agencies as each company decides what is best for their office. West View Title Agency has temporarily closed the office to the public and is handling closings over the phone while the seller or purchaser signs the documents from their car or a table in the parking lot, still within sight of a processor who can notarize the documents. According to Stewart Title’s website, they are limiting who attends closings, disinfecting between all clients, and maintaining 6 feet of distance (in addition to other safety precautions). Other agencies may require you wear a mask at closing or email photocopies of your driver’s license prior to settlement. If you aren’t sure what your own settlement agency’s policies are, a quick call can help you prepare for a contact-less/ limited-contact closing.
Closing in the Future as the State Slowly Re-opens
While the new practices for closing are not ideal, they are in place to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Setting aside the health ramifications, it’s important to keep in mind that if one employee gets sick at a title agency (particularly a smaller agency where the employees work closely together), it could require several people in the office to quarantine for two weeks which would slow down transactions. In the case of West View Title Agency, future closings will likely be handled differently than they were pre-pandemic. Buyers and sellers will close separately and only those who are signing documents would be allowed in so social distancing is still observed. Masks will probably be required as well. Regardless of how a title agency decides to operate, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is still up to every individual and we should all continue to follow recommendations from the WHO and CDC.
Overall, the year to date sales are still up when comparing to 2019. We will continue to keep an eye on how this progresses on a weekly basis until we have a more normal house buying environment.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has forced most of us to shelter-in-place, some of us may find it necessary to move to a new shelter. A move could be something that’s been in the works for months, or something that’s come up unexpectedly. If you find yourself in either scenario, don’t worry. There is plenty of good advice available to make your move more doable, even under trying circumstances.
First, if you are at a high risk of illness due of Covid-19, consider postponing your move. According to Coronavirus.gov, those who are over 65, those who have pre-existing medical conditions, and those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are at greater risk of developing severe illness if they contract the coronavirus.
If you find it necessary to move now, whether you are in the high-risk population or not, be sure to read the following tips to make your move as safe and low-stress as possible. Moving services have been deemed essential by the federal government, so moving professionals are still operating in all states. This includes movers, storage facilities, and rental truck companies. The following tips are applicable whether you choose to employ professional services for your move, or take a D.I.Y. approach.
1. Research Before You Move
Determine If You Are Allowed to Move
Moving is considered “essential” by the federal government, however, some localities may have temporarily restricted moving because of Covid-19. For example, some buildings in NYC do not permit moving because of the shelter-in-place order. Check with your local and state government before you plan to move to make sure there are no restrictions in your case. If you are part of an HOA or condo board, also check with them to see if there are any temporary restrictions on moving.
Research Moving Services
Conduct research into all the different services you are planning to use during your move.
If you want to hire a moving company, interview them about their sanitary practices, how they clean and disinfect their equipment, and how they determine that their workers are in good health. Find out what kind of protective gear the company uses, like masks, gloves, and booties. Check to see if they have a cancellation policy in case you need to change plans last minute. Usually, contracts with moving companies are non-binding, so you have a window of time in which you can cancel the move without having to pay for it.
If you are going to use a storage facility, call ahead to see what their current hours and policies are due to Covid-19. Storage facilities may have made changes to their operation such as limited hours of access or a limit to the number of customers allowed in the storage facility at one time. You will also want to make sure the company you use is sanitizing their storage units and common areas properly. Similarly, if you are going to rent a truck or trailer, find out about current company policies on operations and sanitation.
2. Plan the Timing of Your Move
Strategically Space Packing and Unpacking
Now more than ever it’s important to make a detailed plan of the timing of your move, to avoid any possible contamination of your belongings. First, because Covid-19 can last up to 24 hours on cardboard boxes and other surfaces, it’s best to pack everything up, and then wait 24 hours before you begin the moving process. Even if everyone wears gloves and masks, it’s better to take this extra precaution to protect your moving team.Then, you should wait 72 hours from the time your belongings are moved to your new home until the time you actually start living in the space. This way you can ensure that there is much less of a chance that a virus will survive on any of the surfaces.
If you are not able to postpone occupying your new home, be strategic in the way you unpack. Pack one box that you will open first, containing all your cleaning supplies and any essential items for the first few days, then keep it separate from the other boxes and let them sit for 72 hours. Take the time to clean and disinfect your new home before unpacking everything. Then, as you unpack, disinfect furniture, boxes, and anything else that was touched by your moving team before using it.
Plan Well in Advance for Setting Up Services
At this time, it’s likely to be harder to schedule an appointment with a technician to set up cable or internet services. It’s best to start looking for a technician well in advance so you can get an appointment at the time you need one.
3. Keep Open Communication With Others
Maintaining open communication with everyone who will be affected by your move is key to a smooth moving process. Tell your neighbors about your move and include specific details about the date and time of your move so they can maintain social distancing during your move. Ask neighbors if the timing of your move will be ok or if it could be problematic for them.
If you are working with a moving company, confirm your reservation and talk about how you will use safety precautions during the move. If you need to cancel the move, contact your moving company or anyone else who will be affected, immediately. If you rent, communicate with your landlord about how to return your keys and pick up your security deposit with proper social distancing. Also talk to your new landlord about how you can move in safely.
4.Take Sensible Safety Precautions
Reduce Personal Contact
Do as much planning as possible by phone or email, this includes scheduling the move and getting quotes from any professional services for the move. Many larger moving companies are already equipped to perform contactless moving. They can do virtual surveys using video chat technology instead of in-home surveys to give an accurate quote for the move. Video chat technology is also used by the crew during the move, allowing the customer to be away from the home while the move is taking place. For example, Bellhops, a national moving company, uses Facetime to communicate with customers remotely while they perform their moving services.
If you have friends or family helping you move, keep your moving crew as small as possible. If you need a lot of help, consider having helpers come in staggered shifts. Assign one person to manage the moving process and make sure all safety measures are followed and safe social distance is maintained.
Don’t shake hands with any one or hug to show appreciation to those helping you move. An alternative is to give a tip to show appreciation, there are now many virtual ways to pay for services, like Venmo or Paypal. For friends and family, consider gift cards instead of hosting a meal or party.
Be Prepared For Cleaning and Sanitizing
Before the move, stock up on items you’ll need for cleaning and sanitation purposes. Make a list of everything you need and try to get it in one trip to the store. Be sure to have masks, gloves, and booties for everyone helping with the move. If you are working with professional movers, find out if these are supplied by the company, or if you will need to supply them. Also purchase enough hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, disinfectant spray or wipe, and paper towels for everyone helping to use.
Use Clean Boxes
It is safer to do your own packing in order to minimize contact with others. Since Covid-19 can live on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, you should get new boxes or use boxes you already have at home. Do not collect used cardboard boxes from elsewhere. Cardboard boxes are preferable to plastic bins because the coronavirus can live for up to 3 days on plastic surfaces.
Clean and Sanitize as You Go
Before your move, sanitize items as you pack them. You can use a commercial sanitizing product, or make your own by mixing one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
During your move, make sure there are soap and paper towels by sinks and hand sanitizers by the door. Before and after the move out, use disinfectant on any surface or object that is touched often, such as door knobs and handles. Clean and disinfect the common areas in your home. You will also want to do the same in your new home after the movers leave. In an apartment or condo building, be sure to disinfect commonly touched surfaces, such as elevator buttons.
5. Consider Making Donations
Rather than moving all the non-perishable food you’ve accumulated, consider donating it during this time of increased need for many people. Even before the pandemic began, about 40 million Americans struggled to pay for groceries. Covid-19 has caused closures of schools and soup kitchens as well as massive layoffs, meaning that more people than ever are in need of food.
You can donate to a local food bank or to Move for Hunger, an organization that makes it easy to donate extra food when moving. Also consider donating household items. Call around to different charities in your area to see if they are accepting donations at this time. Some charities are still in operation and open to receiving donations.
6. Postpone Your Move if Anyone Gets Sick
If anyone in your household comes down with an illness or shows symptoms related to Covid-19, it’s best to postpone the move until a health professional gives you the green light.
Make sure to communicate with your moving company about their cancellation policy. Under the circumstances, it’s reasonable to expect most companies to be flexible and not charge anything for cancellation due to illness.
As you plan your move, it’s a good idea to check out online resources that will keep you updated on health and safety guidelines. The following resources may be helpful:
Here is this week's update on the market statistics. Let me know if you have any questions or comments and download the full report below.
In a time of social distancing, if you are looking to purchase a home, you may be wondering how to go about touring houses without exposing yourself or others to COVID19. Or perhaps you’ve decided it is still an ideal time to list your house and want to find ways you can showcase your home while reducing foot traffic.
Naturally, we all want to keep ourselves and others healthy and limit spreading the virus. If you still tour a home in person, this may mean wearing gloves and a face mask (many sellers will probably insist on this, especially if they are still living in their house). You may limit who goes to see homes for sale to just you or your spouse, as opposed to the whole family tagging along. You might even decide to drive around the neighborhood you’re looking at and walk around the outside of the house you are interested in (with permission from the sellers, of course) and save touring the inside after your offer has been accepted. Even with these precautions in place, you could feel most comfortable foregoing physical visits to a property completely. Below are a few tips for sellers and buyers to help make a sight unseen purchase possible.
Use A Realtor You Trust
A good relationship with your realtor is always important when purchasing a home but especially so if you decide to make an offer on a home before stepping inside. Your agent can walk through the property while on a video call with you and be your eyes. You can ask questions as they walk through the rooms; a good realtor will be honest and upfront with you about any issues they may see that might not come across in photos. Additionally, you can request your agent bring along a measuring tape to measure out any rooms for your reference. A good realtor will serve as your advocate and make sure you don’t have any regrets down the road. Below is an example of how a video tour might go.
3D Virtual Tours are a great tool to use if you have your house on the market but want to limit how many people physically tour your house. In fact, Zillow saw a 400% increase in agents using the 3D tour feature in just one week with the onset of COVID19. Videos and 3D tours offer more exposure of the house and help your potential buyers really visualize the space in case photos don’t convey the size of rooms or flow of the house. Here is an example that demonstrates how technology can show off every aspect of your house:
VR and 3D Tours
Include Contingencies in the Contract
Virginia Realtors now has a COVID19 addendum that can be added to contracts; the addendum can be used to extend deadlines or provide a penalty-free way to terminate the contract if the purchaser’s financing falls through due to COVID19. As the purchaser, you should always opt for a home inspection contingency addendum but it is paramount if you haven’t seen the property in person. You may also want to add additional or specialized inspections if there is anything you may be worried about. If you are the seller, it’s helpful to stay flexible and open to contingencies as this will ultimately help the execution of the sale.
With experienced realtors and the help of technology, purchasing or selling a home is still very achievable while ensuring you keep yourself safe and healthy.
It is important to stay on top of the local market trends if you are thinking of buying or selling. Please watch this video, download the report below, and contact me with any questions or comments!
First impressions matter, and this is particularly true in real estate. Whether you’re looking for ways to increase the value of your home, or just looking for a fun home project, consider upgrading your landscaping.
Multiple sources attest to the draw that a beautifully landscaped yard has on potential home buyers. Martin Eiden, a top broker with Compass in New York City, claims that good landscaping can increase a home’s value by 10 to 15% at the most. Similarly, a study by Michigan State University found that potential home buyers perceived the value of a home with good landscaping to be 11% higher than a home without it. In addition, a survey done by the National Association of Landscape Professionals found that 84% of Americans said that landscaping would impact their decision to buy a home.
With spring weather here to stay, now is the perfect time to make an investment in your home by improving your landscaping. It may sound like an overwhelming project. Where do you start?
Here are some helpful tips to consider as you embark on this project.
1. Think Outside the Green Box
A green lawn has become a staple of the American yard, but there are many quick and easy ways to add on to that to create more interest. To add a pop of color here and there, use potted flowers. Refresh the look of your lawn with new mulch around bushes and in plant beds. Add some outdoor furniture or lawn ornaments
2. Match Your Yard to Your Home
Make sure the style of your landscaping matches the style of your home. If you have a classic style of home, choose landscaping that reflects that style, don’t go for a bold, contemporary statement.
3. Opt for Sophistication
A green rectangle is uninspired. Employing more sophisticated design elements like curved lines for plant beds and an island of plants in the middle of a lawn is much more interesting, and can even result in a higher sale price, according to a survey by Turf magazine. The same survey also found that yards with a mix of large trees and colorful annual plants also sold better.
4. Plan for Each Season
Plan your landscaping so that it will look good all year round. This is especially important for home-owners in a four-season climate. A blog post by HouseCall describes what plants to choose for each season, “blooming bulbs for spring, annual beds around the house during the summer, shrubs with brightly colored leaves in the fall, and evergreens for the winter”.
5. Trees are Awesome
Trees not only increase the value of your property, they also clean the air, provide fruit, provide privacy, and can reduce your heating and cooling bills. What a powerhouse plant! In addition, they are relatively inexpensive to plant.
A study by Landscape and Urban Planning found that homes with trees in the front yard in Portland, Oregon, sold for $8,870 more and also sold 1.7 days faster than those homes without them. A single hardwood tree can remove 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air in a year. The U.S. Department of Energy found that strategically planted trees can reduce a home’s energy use by 25%, since they can provide shade in the summer and block wind in the winter. The Tree Benefit Calculator can give homeowners an estimate of how much benefit a given tree can give the neighborhood.
While trees are generally awesome, if you are planting new ones, it’s important to choose their location carefully, making sure they aren’t too close to the driveway or home. Once matured, a badly placed tree can get in the way of power lines or septic system drain fields, a definite detractor for potential buyers.
6. Invest in an Automatic Irrigation System
If you are going to put the time, effort, and money into upgrading your yard, you may want to protect that investment, and reduce your daily time spent maintaining the landscaping, with an automatic irrigation system.
7. Keep it Low Maintenance
While a well-landscaped yard is a definite asset, for most homeowners it’s best to create a yard that is also relatively low-maintenance. Unless gardening is your passion, you’ll get the most economic benefit from a yard that’s easy to maintain.
If you live in an area that’s dry, like California or the southwestern states, consider water-smart landscaping, which features artfully placed rocks with bushes and shrubs that don’t require much water.
In general, plants that are native to the area you live in will be hardier and easier to maintain. They won’t need as much water, fertilizer, or hands on care to thrive in their native environment as something exotic would.
8. Create a welcoming pathway
Visitors and anyone interested in buying your home will encounter the front yard first and enter through the front door. Make a good first impression by designing a pathway to the front door that creates interest. “Ideally, have it winding with plants or a small hedge on each side,” says New York City broker Martin Eiden.
9. Install Outdoor Lighting
Outdoor lighting not only shows off your beautiful landscaping at night, it also provides added safety for anyone coming and going at night, and can ward off burglars. Outdoor lights can now be LED or solar-powered, saving money and electricity. There are a wide range of outdoor lights available, so you can pick up a simple DIY kit at a hardware store, or invest in a professional to design and install a lighting scheme.
10. Edge the Lawn
Since you have put the time, effort, and finances into improving your landscaping, why not finish the job with a nice clean edge around your lawn? This is especially important for home sellers. It will add clean lines and a sense of organization to your yard, overall. This sends a signal to potential buyers that you have kept the property in tip-top condition. For tips on how to edge your lawn, click here.