Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

DIY Paper: Transforming Household Scraps and Yard Waste Into Art

It’s actually quite amazing how many things we can make into paper. One innovative company figured out how to turn elephant poo into paper! Although it’s not recommended that you try this at home. Luckily, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly gift wrap, science project, or arts & crafts, you need only look as far as your home and yard.

What Materials Can Be Used for DIY Paper?

Various materials can be combined in creative ways to make paper with unique colors, patterns, and textures. Throughout the ages, the paper has been made from almost every organic material you can think of. Many of these you probably have lying around your home:

  • Old clothing made of organic materials (cotton, hemp, wool, natural leather)
  • Scrap paper and cardboard
  • Kitchen scraps (leafy greens, rice, fruit/veggie skins & seeds)
  • Yard waste (small sticks, fallen leaves, grass/shrub clippings, bamboo)
  • Experiment! Not all plants have enough cellulose strong enough to form paper sheets. So, make sure you add plenty of stronger materials like leaf/stalk/bark to it.

Remember that the color of the material may not be the same as the final product. Once the paper is dry, you can drizzle or paint it with natural dyes from carrots, berries, boiled grass clippings, used coffee grounds, etc.

Making DIY Paper

First, you will need to cut the materials into smaller scraps and lay wet materials out to dry completely. Once the materials are completely dry, trim them down to a smaller size (if possible). Then, simmer them in boiling water. Cooking times will vary, but the goal is to break down the fibers to as small as possible.   Let the water cool and pour everything into a blender. Run it at varying speeds until the fibers disperse into the water, and the liquid becomes pulpy. The smoother the pulp, the smoother the final product will be. Avoid large chunks, but small chunks may yield interesting designs.

To dry the pulp, you will need a drying rack. Various DIY drying rack designs range in size from a single sheet to many layers. To make a simple rack at home, you can use an old picture frame with the backing and glass removed. Staple screen material or cheesecloth, ensuring there is no slack in the material.

Spread the pulp evenly across the screen and allow it to dry in the sun or other warm, dry place. Viola! You now have homemade paper you can use as gifts, gift wrap, or anything else your heart desires.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

Fishy Fun with Indoor Mini-Aquaponics Gardens

There are plenty of guides to creating small indoor gardens, but none are as fun or mesmerizing as a mini-aquaponics garden! If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get a beautiful fish tank to boost your home’s tranquility, this may be the ultimate reason. Or, maybe you already have a fish tank and wonder how you can cut down on the use of chemicals in your tank. Let’s explore the eco-friendly practice of aquaponics to benefit yourself and your fishy friends mutually.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a form of hydroponics, with the biggest difference being that it does not use synthetic nutrients to nourish plants. Instead, aquaponics uses the dirty water from a fish tank and runs it through the root system of a hydroponic garden setup. The plant’s roots absorb nutrients from the water while simultaneously removing harmful substances before returning the water to the fish tank. It’s a natural alternative to chemical and charcoal filters with the added benefit of boosting your garden’s health. Aquaponics can be as simple as a tabletop tank with a few decorative plants & goldfish to massive indoor vertical crop and fish farms capable of feeding an entire city.

Building a Small DIY Aquaponics Garden

Depending on the space you have available, there are many commercially available prefabricated tanks available, or you can build a low-cost addition to an existing tank. Freshwater tanks are best for producing gardens with edible produce (herbs, small vegetables, lettuce). In contrast, saltwater tanks can produce edible plants (New Zealand Spinach, common ice plant) or serve as a non-edible garden.

There are countless setup designs that utilize a wide range of creative uses for bins, plastic totes, and more. For the most minimal setup, all you will need is:

  • A fish tank and fish
  • A small container with holes on the bottom that can sit directly on top of the tank
  • A water pump and tube long enough to reach the top of the container
  • A small, spongy tank filter to catch solid fish waste
  • Grow media like clay pellets or gravel

Submerge the pump in an appropriate place inside the tank. Ensure there is a hole in the container that is large enough to run the tube to prevent crimping due to the container’s weight. Place the container on top of the tank, run the tube up, and place the spongy filter at the end of the tube. Next, fill the container with the growing media. Start the pump and make sure the container is draining properly to avoid overflowing.

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind

You may need to experiment a little to get a good water flow/drain ratio. You want the flow to be strong enough (and the holes in the container to be small/large enough) to create a small puddle in the container’s bottom, but not so strong that it fills the container. As your plants grow, the roots may clog up the holes in the bottom of the container. If this happens, you can make the holes larger, so the roots begin to grow into the fish tank water. Your fish will love nibbling on the roots, too!

The water flowing down into the tank mimics the sound of rain, which is calming to both humans and the fish. Play around with designs to create eye-catching displays for your home, patio, or garden. Lastly, don’t forget to clean/replace the solid waste sponge filter as needed to avoid solid waste leaking into the grow media and creating unpleasant smells.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

5 Clever Ways to Use Videos to Sell Your House

In the past few years, the incorporation of video and animation has taken the marketing world by storm. It appears digital advertisements with static images or text do not garner the same attention as those with motion graphics.

The real estate industry is also no stranger to this new concept. Those looking to sell their property should think beyond traditional open houses and for sale signs.

With the advancements of smartphones and free video software tools, creating a virtual home tour has never been easier. Especially given current times and the need to social distance, there may be no better or safer way to showcase your listing.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a video can do to sell your home.

To give you some ideas, I have compiled a list of 5 ways to share a virtual house tour to capture the attention of prospective home buyers during their search.

1. Upload the Home Tour on YouTube

Practically every step of today’s home buying search can be done online. From viewing listings on Zillow to scheduling a home tour, prospective buyers have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips.

To cater to this digital shift, a unique way to show off your listing is by creating a video home tour and posting it on YouTube.

Next to Google, YouTube is the second highest search engine in the world. For this reason, when using Google to search on a given topic, videos are often shown in the top few results.

This means prospective homebuyers can search for phrases such as, “houses for sale near me” and be shown your video at the top of the page.

Not only is this prime real estate, but once a video is uploaded to YouTube it makes for easy sharing on other social platforms, websites, emails, text messages, and more.

2. Add the Video to Online Listing Sites

Online listing sites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Homesnap have completely redefined the process of selling, renting, or buying a home.

One of the many integrations these platforms have added to their site is 3D home tours and videos.

According to Zillow Research, the number of 3D Home tours created on its platform was 188% higher in March compared to February of 2020. In the last week of March alone video tours increased by 408% from a normal week in February.

Instead of sharing static images like other sellers in your area, your home can stand out with video. The video can include a voice-over or text on the screen to share descriptions of each room such as square footage, renovations, appliances, and more.

3. Share the Video Home Tour to Your Own Personal Network

Are you active on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms? If so, utilize your personal network by sharing the video in a social media post.

Going one step further, when creating a post, ask your friends and family to share the post. This will help reach a whole new audience of potential home buyers that you would not have originally had access to.

Another great forum on social media is Facebook Groups. If your community has a local Facebook group, share the video here as well. At least a few group members are sure to have friends, family, or colleagues who are interested in buying a home in your area.

4. “Boost” the Post on Facebook

Depending on your budget, consider “boosting” your video tour on Facebook. Similar to sponsored posts, your video tour will be seen on the News Feeds of users who fit within your general targeting parameters.

Doing so helps reach a new audience of homebuyers in your area that might be interested in your property, but are not your “friend” on the platform. Plus, you are likely to get more people to engage, share, like, and comment on the video than if you were to share it organically.

Boosted posts are similar to social media advertising in that it pays to play. The minimum cost to utilize this feature on Facebook is $1 a day, or $7 a week. That small amount of money can make all the difference between a few people seeing your video home tour, to hundreds.

5. Ask Your Realtor to Share in Their Marketing Efforts

Lastly, speak with your realtor about using the video in their marketing promotions as well. Realtors oftentimes utilize various marketing components to drum up interest in their new listings.

This includes:

  • Organic and paid social media
  • Email marketing
  • Google My Business Page
  • Property pages on their website

By creating a video that is a comprehensive and accurate preview of your home, realtors will be thrilled to incorporate this in their marketing and communication channels.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

Why Investing In Real Estate Now Is A Great Idea

Investing in real estate is a great idea at the best of times. During a crisis? Even better. And according to Cheryl Young, senior economist at real estate platform Zillow, “the residential market is on fire right now in most of the country.”

Investing in real estate

In any economic crisis, every market takes a hit, real estate isn’t exempt. The difference however, between investing in real estate and investing in the stock market, is that when you invest in property, you’re investing in something tangible, something you can actually touch.

As simple as that sounds, it can be incredibly comforting, especially during these turbulent, unprecedented times.

Way back in early 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, the real estate market took a tumble. Nowhere was the drop more apparent than in sales. At the start of the crisis, house sales tanked with experts predicting a significant drop in house prices to match. But the drop never came. If anything, they grew.

Yes, the real estate market hasn’t returned to pre-crisis levels, but it’s on the up. And the house price sales that were anticipated to fall? Well, they’re growing too. And while that might not sound like a great reason to invest in real estate now, COVID-19 has changed the housing market forever.

Despite house prices failing to fall, mortgage rates are at an historical low, meaning the cost of borrowing is cheap. And so with the mass COVID migration away from expensive, densely packed urban areas, there’s never been a better time to invest in real estate, in places you might not have considered previously.

You might just snare yourself a bargain in the process.

Why 2021 will be a good time to buy a house

Residential housing is one of the most promising sectors in 2021 for investors to sink their cash into. More specifically, suburban residential housing. That is, housing with outdoor space, with an office, with room for a family and a business.

With no end insight for the ongoing pandemic, people are finding their current homes just aren’t fit for purpose. This new way of living: WFH, exercising, teaching, living, cooking, socializing, it simply doesn’t work with pre-pandemic homes – houses that were purchased because of their proximity to theaters and nightlife, where outdoor space wasn’t a requirement because who spent the majority of their day cooped up at home?

Now, according to realtor.com’s consumer surveys, home buyers are on the hunt for property based in quiet neighborhoods, access to green space, home offices, modern kitchens. Property traits that were once reserved for young families and retirees are now on the priority list for most buyers.

Granted, WFH isn’t going to be with us forever, and life will slowly return to ‘normal’ as the vaccine program gets underway. But, for better or worse, COVID has changed the way people work and as a result, it’s changed what home buyers prioritize.

With companies requiring employees to work remotely for the foreseeable, and with many companies changing their policies for good, why purchase the expensive, city centre property in the cold north, when you can relocate to warmer, sunnier climes, down south, where the weather encourages outdoor living? For example.

Do you really need to be within easy reach of the shops when everything you want can be purchased online? What’s the point of living close to restaurants, bars and other amenities, when the chances of them opening up again, are slim to none?

The question, therefore, is where should investors put their money?

Where to invest in real estate

With everything still up in the air, the answer to how and where Americans will choose to live their lives, post-pandemic, will play a central role in determining which cities will experience demand for real estate – which states will see a surge in population and which ones will be left stagnating.

Those large cities that have been enjoying gentrification of late, such as Washington D.C and NYC, could see a slow down or even a reverse of the investment that’s been ploughed into them. Why would you choose to live cheek by jowl with your neighbours in an expensive, small property, when you don’t have to?

This is creating opportunity for smaller cities and less popular states that were once written off as not being big enough, not popular enough, not cultural enough, lacking in sophistication. Those parts of the country that are warm, less populated and offer a better quality of living. With better access to education, less crowded schools, better hospitals, more open spaces.

Those are the places Americans are now seeking out. The great COVID-19 migration is well and truly underway. So where are people looking?

Hot real estate markets

With the requirement to live close to where you work no longer on the table, a vast number of Americans are seizing the opportunity to live a life where they want to live, rather than where they have to live. Americans are moving faster now, than they have ever done.

According to realtor.com, America’s hottest real estate markets are outside the big urban centres, with places such as Melrose, MA, Portland, ME, Hudson, NH, Worcester, MA, and Rochester, NY, topping the list. Real estate platform Zillow paints a similar picture. Their data indicates that three of America’s hottest real estate markets are in Ohio: Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

So where’s notably absent from the hottest real estate lists? Well, those places that have traditionally been high priced, high taxes and now, highly locked down. Urban locations such as California and the Pacific Northwest, NYC, Honolulu and Philadelphia.

America, right now, truly is your oyster. The question is, where will you end up?

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

The Challenges and Opportunities for Real Estate in a Digital Age

A big shift in the way we buy property has been coming for a while and that’s only been accelerated by the pandemic. Browsing online for a home is nothing new but the buying process has changed, offering up unique challenges for realtors but also providing a number of opportunities to be early adopters when it comes to video communication and virtual tours.

These services are expected by buyers and sellers alike, and while it’s nice to look at images of a property, people want to be able to delve deeper into what a place has to offer. Whether that’s a live video tour, 360 imagery, or a high-end sales video, the digital part of the buying process is getting longer.

Embracing the latest technology

The technology that enables real estate agents to show homes digitally is nothing new but it’s the realtors who embrace this who will win in a digital age. All technology takes some getting used to, so refining the way you communicate with your customers and how you showcase a beautiful home will take time.

It’s not just the customer-facing technology that can give an agent the edge, though. The data processing capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning mean realtors can be as informed as ever about changes to the property market. Whether that AI is matching you with potential buyers, monitoring property prices, or personalizing the way your marketing is delivered, it presents a large opportunity.

In fact, there are already a number of startups using AI to create apps and platforms for realtors to use in the sales process. As well as this technology for realtors, however, homeowners are also using similar apps, which presents a clear challenge for agents who could be replaced by this technology in the future.

Facing the challenges

Many individuals who are selling a property think that simply getting it onto one of the popular listing sites is enough to make it sell. While this might be true in a popular area with high demand, it’s not actually the case for a lot of properties.

It’s important for realtors to make their properties look appealing to an online audience but their work is so much more than that. The personal touch that comes from working with an agent makes the process so much easier for both buyer and seller.

Because a realtor actively works to sell a home, the speed of the sale could be much quicker than simply listing it online and waiting passively for a potential buyer. For millennials who are tech-savvy and willing to list their home online, the human touch is often a forgotten element.

It’s important for real estate agents to communicate the active role they play in helping a property to sell.

Uncovering opportunities

Perhaps the biggest opportunity — in a time when many people have been forced to embrace digital solutions for home, work, and socializing — is a willingness to go digital. Whether a safety concern or just for convenience, a video tour of a property can help usher someone towards a buying decision, making it even easier to land the sale later on in-person. Or perhaps without the need for any in-person interaction at all.

The buyer journey isn’t the only opportunity, however, but it can be difficult for agents to keep up with the latest technologies. It’s worth keeping your ear to the ground for developments in big data analytics (to identify buyer and property trends), smart home technology (that could be a big selling point for buyers), AI and machine learning (to give you more automated insights about your customers or the property market), and apps coming to market that could serve all manner of purposes.

The challenges and opportunities facing realtors are similar across the board whether your focus is on rental or purchase, commercial, or residential.

Staying on top of these is all about looking at your business, how it operates and how it interacts with both buyers and sellers. If you can uncover the needs of the individuals on both sides of the sale, not only will you be able to find the technology to better help you serve them but it’ll lead to more sales, too.

Ask yourself what your customers struggle with. It’s likely a problem you can solve with technology.

  • Do out-of-state buyers hate the back-and-forth travel to find the right home? Live video tours could help narrow down those properties.
  • Do sellers struggle to find buyers who are a good fit for a property? Machine learning software could help better pinpoint the right people to show the property to.
  • Perhaps investors are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of choice available to them? Your guidance and access to the right software that tracks market trends could make it easier for them to make their next investment.
  • Maybe your customers want to know about the latest properties that interest them but feel bombarded with unsuitable options? Some simple personalization could ensure they only get what’s relevant.

In a way, embracing the digital age is all about going back to basics. The needs of both buyers and sellers might be evolving but they still require the personal touch of a professional. Technology can make a realtor’s life easier but success all comes down to the way you communicate with your customers.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

Finding a Handyman to Help Get Your Property Ready to Sell

Selling a home is one of the most stressful experiences in life. You have to find a new place to move, pack up all your possessions, arrange for a moving company to pick them up, and on and on. But if you want to get top dollar for your property, you have one more task: completing all those minor repairs you’ve probably let slide over the years on your current place. This is where the services of a handyman can, well, come in handy. Let’s look at how you can find qualified help at a reasonable price.

What is a Handyman?

There are contractors and tradespeople with specialized skills, many of whom must be licensed. Examples would be plumbers, electricians, heating and cooling contractors, and construction workers. A handyman, by contrast, is a jack of all trades. Some may have specialized training in certain aspects of home repair, while others may be largely self-taught. They may be a one-person operation, an employee of a home repair company, or a member of a national handyman franchise. They do have one thing in common, however – they are typically cheaper than hiring a specialized tradesperson or contractor because their overhead is low.

In short, there is no national standard or definition of what being a handyman entails. Some in the trade might specialize in certain areas such as painting, light carpentry, or drywall repair, while others may perform simple plumbing and electrical repairs. Licensing requirements and regulations governing the industry vary by state and locality. Before hiring anyone, it’s a good idea to ask for references and make sure the person you are hiring is bonded and insured at a minimum.

How a Handyman Can Help

Typical jobs for a handyman include:

  • Minor plumbing repairs, such as installing a new fixture or repairing a leaky faucet
  • Installing light fixtures
  • Calking around windows and doors
  • Minor drywall repair and patching
  • Painting and touchups
  • Gutter cleaning and repair
  • Hanging pictures, mirrors, and window treatments
  • Minor repairs of all kinds

Basically, if it’s a job you could conceivably see yourself or a family member take on, but just don’t have the time or skills to complete, it is probably a good candidate for a handyman.

Before You Contact a Prospective Handyman, Make a Plan

A handyman typically charges an hourly rate no matter the task. That means you can save money and time by compiling a list of all the tasks with which you need help so you can have them completed in a single session. If the tasks are all in a single category, such as repair and painting of walls, you may want to seek out a specialist. If, on the other hand, you have a wide variety of tasks requiring a number of specialized skills, you may want to contact someone with a broad range of experience or even hire a team from a handyman service at one flat rate.

You can expect a handyman to be equipped with all of the tools required to get the job done. He or she should also provide basic supplies like nails, screws, and glue. Building materials, such as drywall, tiles, fixtures, and paint, are typically negotiable. Before contacting someone, decide whether you’ll provide these supplies or if you’d like them to do so. If your handyman purchases the materials, the cost should be added to your final invoice without a markup, but be sure to check first, so there are no surprises.

Hiring Your Handyman

Once you’ve defined the scope of the job, it’s time to hire someone. It’s always a good idea to get three quotes for comparison. So, where do you find prospects? Begin with a simple Google search for “handyman near me” or, alternatively, a specialty such as “exterior repair near me.” You can also turn to contractor source websites, such as Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor, that advertise pre-screened workers, or look to listings on Yelp. In any case, take a few minutes to read the reviews that previous clients have left.

Other places to look for recommendations include your local big-box retailer, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, or your local hardware store or lumber yard. If you are working with a real estate agent, ask them for recommendations since they have a vested interest in making sure repairs are done right on the properties they sell. Finally, you can check with friends in the area or contacts on Facebook or Nextdoor for a word of mouth recommendation.

Ask each prospective contractor about their experience and areas of specialization. Also, request references from other clients who have hired them. Get a written quote detailing the job, cost, and payment schedule, and be clear about when you expect the work to be begun and finished. And be sure to get all guarantees in writing. After the job is complete, inspect the work before paying, ensuring that everything has been completed to your satisfaction.

Conclusion

Hiring a professional to help you with a long list of repairs and improvements can help ease the stress of putting a house on the market. And when these jobs are done right, it will ensure that your property looks its best, command top dollar, and sell quickly. A good experience with a handyman often leads to one final question: Why didn’t I do this years ago?

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

10 Costly Homeowner’s Insurance Mistakes

It is a very tricky job to buy any kind of insurance, and when it comes to buying house insurance it takes time to choose the right policy for your circumstances. For most people, their home is the most valuable asset they own. There are certain mistakes to avoid while insuring their property.

1. Underinsuring your property

To avoid this mistake contact a professional cost estimator, to analyze the cost to rebuild your home. Don’t forget to include any variable or upgrade cost that you have invested in your house recently.

2. False assumptions

Often owners assume that certain common aspects are covered in their policy terms, only to later find out that they were not. Read the entire policy thoroughly and check if it has everything you require or not. For example, in the US, flood insurance is rarely included in a traditional insurance plan, and owners who live nearby flood-prone areas, needs to get extra flood insurances. Also, a lot of insurance policies do not cover mold damage, which might cost a lot to repair. Never overestimate the coverage of your insurance policy and read every point before choosing the right insurance provider.

3. Not understanding a deductible

Often, the deductible, or the amount you pay before your insurance commences may increase at times. This usually happens on the occurrence of some storm or other natural disasters. Check if it remains static or changes on the occurrence of any natural disaster.

4. Choosing an insurance policy on the basis of price

As most of us make our decisions on the basis of price, a lot of homeowners make this mistake of choosing an insurance policy solely on the basis of the most convenient price. Instead, along with the price, research about the credibility of the company, their customer service and past records about handling claims. Also take advice from your family members and friends about their experience with the respective company.

5. Sticking with the standard policy

You might believe that a standard insurance policy would be enough, but it might not protect you from all the kinds of possible damages that can be done on your property. Before deciding an insurance plan, conduct a research about the major crisis that has happened in the past in your area and what are the essential things that should be covered by your insurance. If it is not there in the standard plan, ask for alternations or go for some other choice.

6. Buying just the legally required insurance

Most of the owners just buy the insurance that is legally required, which covers merely some basic damage. Make sure yor insurance coverage is adequate.

7. Not paying for workers compensation insurance

For those who have to hire full-time or part-time domestic employees should essentially cover workers compensation insurance. If required, you should talk to your agent about extending your policy to cover the needs.

8. Failing to provide full information to the insurance company

Often people fail to provide in-depth knowledge of their household and other significant things related to their lives to the insurance company. Imagine a scenario where the company has declined to cover you because you didn’t tell them that you had a dog. You should be completely honest with your insurance agent and should tell them about all your recent possessions or life changes.

9. Not making an inventory of all the possessions

Often homeowners fail to create a full inventory of their possessions. Since most home insurance policies cover contents of the property including appliances, electronic products, furniture, jewelry, and other expensive stuff, you should try to devote some quality time in order to make a detailed list of all your valuables and other possessions.

10. Not all the expensive items may be covered

Your home insurance may not cover expensive jewelry, there might be a limit to how many items you can include in the homeowner’s policy, and the claim can also be limited to certain items. Find out if your current policy would cover all your expensive items or not.

Homeowner’s insurance policies come in different prices and with a different set of rules. Before choosing the right policy for your home, create a checklist of all the important points, do your research and make a wise decision.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

Finding The Right Home To Renovate

The world is filled with numerous homes, whether it is an apartment or a house which have been damaged, weathered or simply not well kept by a careless tenant over the years. These homes may not seem like much due to their visual appearance and state, but they could hold rich history, beautiful architecture, or simply radiate natural warmth deep on the inside. They may appeal to you simply due to their ideal location or because with a little work they can bring a big return. In either case and just like the saying “Never judge the book by its cover”, which applies here as properties like this, with careful study and research could turn out to be real gems. And this is not all, they could also end up saving you a whole bunch of money if you do it right!

We are also going to look at how the renovation is done and if you should hire a contractor or do it yourself. Last but not least, we are going to tell you a little bit about the legal side of things when it comes to renovations and give you some general tips for desert. So, let’s begin…

CHOOSING A PROPERTY TO RENOVATE

Choosing the right property for renovation is a very difficult task, especially if you have no prior experience. Selection requires a keen eye for detail and knowledge to estimate the cost of work and time the project will require.

An individual can easily purchase any old property and renovate it to perfection. This does not however mean that it will be a profitable investment in the long run. When browsing through the available listing and attending viewings you must control your excitement and desire to get it done quickly.

Here is a list of common things that you should take into consideration before taking on a renovation project:

  • Is it a good investment? – This is going to require some analytical skills. Try to estimate and evaluate the price of the property against the expected return on your investment.
  • Will the buyers like it? – As with any other product that you intend to sell, you must always consider if you potential Clients would see the property as a good investment and if it would meet their overall demands.
  • Floor-plan is important! – pay attention to floor-plans and the general layout of the property as this is a very important factor in its marketability. There should be sufficient space to move about and sufficient natural light.
  • Look out for structural defects – structural damages cost a lot of money to repair. In the long run, when renovating you would look to invest into adding value visually and avoid proeprties with structural defects.
  • Remember the goal – unless you are renovating the property for your own use, never forget the goal derived based on the demands of your potential Client. Keep this in your mind throughout the project and fight your desire to personalize it to your likes.
  • Recalculate the estimates – recalculate all your cost and profit estimates to make sure they are correct. This may be your last time to get out of a specific deal before it’s too late.

BEFORE STARTING THE RENOVATION

Now that you have selected the property to renovate, you should note down the overall plan. Throw your ideas down on paper. Once ready, check for local regulations to make sure that the modifications that you intend to make are in line with the law.

The next step before proceeding with the renovation is to prepare the budget. Spend sufficient time on this so that you don’t leave anything behind. Consider all costs and go in line with the estimated profits that you intend to make unless the property is for your personal use. If you arrive at a figure, which is outside your target consider making the necessary adjustments or proceed to explore means of savings on cost.

Keep things simple. Expensive and complex aren’t always the best solution. Try to explore various simple ideas that don’t require too much effort and could be accomplished with minimal material and labor hours. Remember that basic stuff like painting the property with a fresh new color is already going to be a big and noticeable improvement. It’s really easy to overcomplicate things by doing way too much. Try to avoid that at all cost.

Assess your true abilities and skill level if you intend to carry out the renovation yourself. Be true to yourself and don’t overestimate your abilities no matter how enthusiastic you are about it. Make a bullet point list of your strengths and weaknesses in line with your project activities and evaluate it before you proceed with any work. Any mistakes that you could make along the way due to lack of skill and experience could not only cost you extra money but also undermine the safety of the property.

Not matter how great you are at renovating and DIY, consider getting a professional opinion. Seek advice on matters which you are uncertain about. Additional good practice is getting quotes from professional renovation companies or individual workers for subcontracting some of the work. It is wise to know all your options as sometimes that could mean potential savings as opposed to doing it yourself.

If you are in this business for long or if you in this business to stay, you should consider building a team of trusted professions that you can rely on. Find a good electrician, plumber, painter, cleaner etc. and maintain their contacts. There will be times when you will require additional help and expertise as well as an assisting hand if you are late on the schedule and you have an impatient client

Rely on agents when in need. While you are busy preparing for and carrying out the renovation, the agent can and will establish a network of potential buyers for you. Don’t forget that good agents are professionals and know how to approach people with a proposition. Sure this will cost you an additional $ as they will expect a commission on every sale, but this may turn out to be cheaper than you could end up spending for advertising. You will save yourself a whole load of time and effort too.

The renovation process is going to be an extremely noisy and potentially lengthy process. If you personally live in this property or it has existing tenants, we suggest for you to find an alternative temporary place to stay for the duration of the project. Property being renovated is most certainly not the ideal environment for residents.

Give it a one last thought before proceeding with the actual work. Go through the plans and schedule once again to make sure that everything is in order and nothing is missed. Go through all the necessary tools that you will require and check to confirm that you have all the materials for the job.

DURING THE RENOVATION

As already stated, renovation can be a very lengthy, stressful and difficult task. It will require a lot of strength, willpower and determination to complete. There are some things you can and should consider that could potentially ease the load and make it better experience overall.

Have a decent space to relax.

Consider the following option for stay during the project:

  • Stay with your relatives if they have a place not too far
  • Rent a caravan and park it near the property or at a nice location nearby
  • Find a nice short term rental nearby

If for whatever reason you have no other alternative but to stay at the property that you are renovating, take all the necessary steps to ensure that your immediate needs are provided for. Make sure that you have access to water, toilet, clean space to rest etc.

Also, remember not to overwork yourself. When you feel that you have exceeded your daily limit, stop for the day.

Ask your friends or family for assistance. It is very likely that this will be a very economical way of getting through the workload and you will enjoy the work more as you are surrounded by familiar faces.

Be realistic with yourself and your expectations. It is extremely easy to dream big and get a little bit carried away so you avoid overspending the budget, overstressing and being late on the set schedule.

Always keep health and safety as top priority on your activity list. No project is worth you injuring yourself of damaging your health. Don’t rush to carry out tasks which have a potential to harm you in any way and if you are unsure about something or have health concerns regarding something you see or feel during the renovation, contact a professional for an advice.

Do not try to save money on various safety equipment that may be required during the renovation. Safety is the one thing that you shouldn’t economize on. The property that you may be renovating is probably quite old and may harbor all sorts of harmful substances once you start breaking things down.

Last but not least, stay optimistic, enthusiastic and determined to do a good job!

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

8 Steps To Make Long Distance Moving Easier

Long distance moving as the name suggests, can be a very difficult and lengthy process that requires careful planning and a lot of considerations. Many of us have previously moved houses or apartments and know how painstaking it can get when you have to pack everything you have and one by one transport these brown boxes over to the new home where the unpacking begins. It is a process right in between the excitement of making the decision to move and the excitement you feel, once you finally fall on to the warm soft sofa at your new place having completed the move. No matter how hard this may sound, we are all willing to go through it as the feeling of a new beginning is always worth paying the price.

Long distance moving is nothing like moving homes within the same town or City as you can no longer just pay a moving company and be done within a day. By long distance we mean cross country or even to a new country and this process may take many days and even weeks to complete. A lot of planning and scheduling lies ahead.

We will look at common aspects and steps that you need to consider including how to choose a freight forwarder, what to take and what to leave behind, associated costs, useful checklists, how to pack and how to insure your things. If these sound exactly like the thoughts and questions you are having, then just relax and read on…

STEP 1 – DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET

The first thing to consider is your available spend. Surely if your current bankroll is in the red your options will decrease greatly and you may end up having to leave a couple of sofas behind. We don’t want that to happen. So start by calculating your budget. This will give you an idea on where you stand and what your options are. There are many ways to cut costs but there are also unexpected surprises that may arise on the way, so make sure that you are covered if something goes wrong. When setting the budget always leave a little extra aside for such instances, as long distance moving is a complex task and you should leave a margin for error.

STEP 2 – WHAT TO TAKE & WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND

Some people will find this part quite easy as they either don’t mind leaving everything behind or have plenty of money to buy everything they need new. The others on the other hand cherish their possessions and may find it difficult to part with personal belongings and thus will have plenty to transport when the time comes to move. The best way to go about this is to start by going through all your things and divide them into groups with top priority being 1 and lower priority being 5 (to track this easily you can grab a pen and a pad and write down all the items):

  1. Items that are an absolute must for surviving in your new place
  2. Items that are of high value either monetary or sentimental
  3. Items that are required for comfortable living in your home
  4. Items that you need and will not be able to buy/replace on arrival
  5. Everything else

 

You can add additional categories if you like or switch the existing ones to best suit your needs and personality. The idea is that doing the above exercise gives you a visual map of all your belongings and will assist you in deciding on what to leave behind if there was a need to do so (i.e. if you had to reduce the overall transportation cost). In this circumstance you would start removing items from the low priority group first without affecting the important ones.

STEP 3 – CHOOSING THE MEANS OF SHIPPING YOUR BELONGINGS

The approach to selecting the most appropriate means for shipping over your belongings depends on where you are going. If you are moving cross country, road transport is an option. If however you intend to move overseas you will have to consider sea or air freight options.

 

MOVING OVERSEAS

This is certainly going to take some time and heavy planning as well as some thorough coordination. You must also know your budget as this will highly depend on it. The most common means of shipping personal belongings overseas is via standard air freight (more expensive but faster) and via sea freight (more economical but time consuming method).  Here is a list of points that you should consider when deciding:

  • Always get multiple quotes from different sources as prices vary and you could overspend if not careful or don’t research this well enough.
  • Approach qualified freight forwarders as they can not only advise you on best option available but also take a lot of the work into their own hands. Overseas freight forwarding deal with customs declarations and packing lists. Unless you want to burden yourself with a lot of paperwork let the agent take care of this for you.
  • Consider sharing a container with someone else. Many containers are shipped semi full, which means that you can probably use the remaining space for your belongings at a lower cost. Make sure though that this is done via a reliable source.
  • Always compare sea Vs. air freight costs as sometimes one may be more favorable than the other.
  • Always make sure your belongings are covered by insurance. It may seem as an unnecessary cost, but believe me things get lost and damaged all the time so it’s a wise precaution measure.
  • Some items may not be considered legal in the country of arrival and you must be careful as to what you ship. It is best to have relevant experience service provider to advise and handle this aspect.
  • Air freight is normally charge by volume whereas sea freight is charged per container (either 20 or 40 foot)
  • Consider storage facilities upon your shipment arrival at the destination. You may not arrive there on time to collect it or you may simply not be able to move into your new home just yet for whatever reason. Unless you want your belongings to be stuck at customs, find a storage unit as it may be required.
  • Take into account the legal and tax requirements in the country of destination as additional requirements or charges may apply to the items being shipped. This is very important.
  • Some carriers will also have specific requirements and restrictions for carrying certain types of goods. Make sure that any items are recorded so carrier requirements are met. This may also mean that specific packaging will be required in some cases

Overall unless you possess the required knowledge and you are willing to supervise the entire process, it would be best to hire a professional forwarder to coordinate this. There are simply too many things to consider and the potential of things going wrong if you do not check everything thoroughly enough is very high and may end up costing you more.

CROSS COUNTRY MOVING

This is slightly easier than overseas shipping as road transport also becomes an option. It should still not be underestimated as thorough planning and coordination is required if you want to do it right. Do not underestimate the associated costs. Here is a list of things that you should look at when approaching this:

  • Contacting various moving companies is a must in order to obtain a wider selection of quotes. You need this to know your options and to identify the most cost effective one.
  • Try to select the appropriate time to carry out the move as seasonal weather factors can affect the entire moving process and cost you time and money.
  • Take insurance cover into serious consideration as damage and theft are always a threat.
  • Consider storage spaces at the arrival destination, just in case you don’t make it there on time or your new house warming party is delayed.
  • If you are moving into a location where different tax laws and regulations apply make sure this is taken into account in respect of the items being shipped.
  • Make sure you maintain a record of items being dispatched and compare it to what has actually arrived at the destination.
  • Make sure that you pack your items safely and as per carrier requirements.

Research is always a valuable tool and you should use it as it will reduce the risk for experiencing any unpleasant issues along the way and you can always hire a professional to manage the process. There are plenty of reputable companies around that can supervise the entire job.

STEP 4 – HOW TO CHOSE THE RIGHT FORWARDER

Whether it is a sea freight forwarder, air freight forwarder, moving company or trucking company that you are trying to select, word of mouth and the internet are your valuable tools as such, offering access to hundreds of relevant companies with customer’s feedback and reviews

 

Here is a list of items to consider when choosing a forwarder:

  • Make sure that the company you intend to hire is a legally registered forwarder. You may come across amazing offers, which are hard to believe and may be tempted to go for it. Before you do so, carry out a quick background check on that company as it could be just another scam.
  • Study the offered insurance coverage carefully. Including the fine prints which may seem irrelevant to read.
  • Study the offered quotes thoroughly. Make sure that the charges are calculated with correct weights, distance and times.
  • No matter how excited you may be to complete the move, take your time finding the right company. Rushing things has the potential of leading to mistakes.
  • Speak to people you know personally, who have moved before. Maybe they could suggest a company they trust based on experience.

STEP 5 – UNDERSTANDING & CALCULATING THE MOVING COSTS

The overall moving cost will consist of various charges and it is good to understand what these are. Typical costs that would add up to this figure include but are not limited to:

  • Packaging
  • Actual freight cost
  • Agency fee
  • Insurance cover
  • Man labor hours
  • Vehicle rental
  • Storage space rental
  • Tracking charges
  • Express delivery fees if applicable

Once the quotations start flowing in, you may find some figures and charges that you may not understand entirely. It is necessary to know how these costs are calculated in order to compare them. Typically most offers will be based on distance, weight and time and the service type that you use. Always make sure that the details you provide to the quoting company are valid. Also try to be lenient with the movers’ availability as it may turn out to be cheaper this way if you do the move in a low demand period and ask the moving company to provide you with a specific quote breakdown. This way you can maintain uniformity amongst all the quotes you receive to easily compare.

It is also very important to note that in many cases the overall figure that you will be given are only estimates and not what you will actually end up paying. It is extremely difficult to calculate the exact cost spot on as there are uncontrollable factors that play a big role. Do leave a safety margin within your funds to cover the likely excess from the initial estimate provided as quoted amounts are typically exceeded. Once the final invoice is received, check all the charges thoroughly as if there are additional services added, you should have been informed of it beforehand.

If you decide to take up a level, there are also professional moving contracts which could be arranged, where the moving company will actually inventory all your items and take all necessary steps to ensure an accurate offer. The contract will be your ultimate means of defense if something gets damaged or lost. This may cost you a little bit extra but it is a good option for those not willing to take the chance.

STEP 6 – PACKAGING & LOADING TIPS

How you package your belongings and load them is an important factor which will affect the overall efficiency of your move. Unfortunately you can’t just dump everything into one giant box and have that brought over. You will need to organize your items and package them as per specifications provided by the moving company (Note: different requirements will apply depending on the means of transport). If you don’t mind paying an extra dollar, have the forwarding company do this for you. Otherwise if you are DIY type of person and don’t mind the challenge, here are a few tips that will hopefully make your life slightly easier:

  • Try to group the items based on their nature. I.e. furniture, kitchenware, clothes etc. and package them accordingly taking into consideration the fragileness of each item.
  • Label all the boxes/crates that you prepare. This will help you when loading them on and unpacking when you arrive.
  • Try to pack everything compactly to ensure best utilization of available space. The more efficiently you do this the more you will save.
  • Make sure that you add protective material in packages containing fragile items to avoid breakage.

 

When loading all the boxes into a truck or container (unless this is handled by the forwarder) follow the loading guide below:

  1. Place items such as refrigerators, dryers & washing machines against the walls of the truck/container.
  2. Anchor furniture like sofas between other heavy items and turn them on their side.
  3. Place all the flat objects like mirrors along the side walls.
  4. Once the heavy objects have been loaded, fill the remainder space with larger boxes.
  5. Fill the empty spaces in the front section of the truck/container with smaller boxes
  6. Fill the remaining spaces with soft and other flexible objects.
  7. Remember to keep heavier items at the bottom of the truck/container and lighter items at the top as that will impact its stability.

Always remember to stay safe when loading your belongings. Take special caution when loading heavy items. If you are having difficulties best consider hiring a professional to do it for you.

STEP 7 – PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLIST

Now that we have looked at the primary aspects of moving your belongings, we need to consider what else has to be done before you forever close the doors of your old home and get on the way:

  • Remember to change your address unless you want all the correspondence addressed to you to pile up at your old home.
  • Cancel any contracts that you may have. These typically include electricity, water, TV subscriptions, Internet, newspaper & magazines etc.
  • When closing the accounts for utilities ask the companies to carry out the final meter readings to ensure that the correct balance is paid before you depart.
  • Make sure that the general utilities are enabled at the destination location (your new home) before you arrive.
  • Make sure that you have all the vital travel documents with you.

STEP 8 – PREPARING YOUR CHILDREN FOR THE MOVE

As important as your personal belongings may be and no matter how much work you have ahead of you to arrange all this, you must also consider the needs of your children if they are moving with you. To begin, make sure that you inform them of the move in a correct way. Children may not understand most of your motives so take your time and be patient when speaking to them about this. A good way to start is to hold a family meeting and answer all their questions. It is a lot easier to go through with this in the early stages as ignoring this step may bring out negative behavior from their side which will not make either one of you happier. Consider the following:

  • Take into account the age of your children. The younger they are the more comfort and familiarity you will have to provide them with during the move.
  • Explain to them clearly why and where you are moving
  • Older children will find it more difficult to move as they will have greater social bonds at the existing home. Look at registering them at various social groups at the new location prior to the move. This will re-assure them that they can make new friends on arrival.
  • Respect you children’s wishes when packing. They may want to bring along the most useless things. Don’t rush with saying No as they may be of high sentimental value to them.
  • Try to get your kids excited for the new location. Do a quick research of the things they like and find similar activities around the place that you are moving to and tell them about it.

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.

Declutter Before You Make The Move

Have you ever stopped for a moment and really thought of how many things that you own in your home you actually need and use? Most probably the answer to this question is no. People naturally find it difficult to let go of their personal belongings. Over the years your home will accumulate all sorts of interesting items. It could be the sentimental value of these things that draws people to them or simply the fact I may need it again and I have space in the house, so why would I throw it away? So the accumulation of old objects like TV’s, appliances, clothes, documents begins. Eventually the shelves and closets become full and the items you no longer use begin to migrate over to the attic, the basement and other dark and dusty corners of your house.

Moving to a new home will normally open up your eyes to this and make you understand how many things you own that you don’t actually need or use at all. Of course those of us who are a little bit lazy will turn a blind eye and just pack everything anyway, but you should really stop and think about it, as moving to a new home is an ideal chance to de-clutter. Moving is a new start and a new blank page in your life, which starts of clean. So why not free yourself from all the unnecessary junk instead of carrying it with you? Trust me if you do this you are going to feel fresher and more energized than ever!

There are many ways that you can approach this, but let’s look at the following method:

STEP 1 – MAKE THE DECISION & STICK WITH IT

Things are often more easily said than done, we all know this saying. If you make the decision to de-clutter stick with it no matter how hard it will be to let go when it comes to that moment. Your mind will browse through multiple reasons to keep something instead as you will naturally be drawn to these items by memories. Well, new memories are there to be created so don’t give in!

STEP 2 – DE-CLUTTER CHECKLIST

To help you go through and organize the belongings that will be left behind on this trip, you can put together a quick checklist. A common list of items will include:

Duplicate Item’s

You may be surprised but you might come across two or three or more identical items. Keep only one unless you really need it. The rest goes into the de-clutter pile.

Clothes

Take your time to go through your wardrobe as there is lot you can get rid of in there. Take out the clothes that you haven’t worn in the last year, those that are too small or faded as well as the ones that are no longer in fashion can hit the de-clutter pile.

Forgotten Items

Once you start digging into every corner of your old home you will begin to discover all sorts of things that you probably forgot even existed. Use the 1 year rule in this case. If it’s something that you haven’t used during the last 12 months you are probably not going to use at all. Add these to the de-clutter pile.

Unused Furniture

You may also have various items of furniture that have been stranded around your house gathering dust over the years. Get rid of these too.

Redundant Paperwork

Normally there’s plenty of that around the house. It could be old documents, newspapers, magazines, invoices etc. This kind of stuff will most definitely take up unnecessary space in your new home so it is probably a good time to part with them.  Be careful though not to throw away any important documents.

DVDs CD’s & Tapes

Everything is becoming digital these days including music and movies and you might have some old DVDs and CDs stashed away in the attic or the basement. Not only that you don’t really listen to them anymore your probably won’t have something to play them on within a couple of years. This is a good chance to get rid of them.

Anything Broken

We all have items in our house that break from time to time. Some that are important get fixed or replaced. Some on the other hand get left behind because despite telling yourself that you will fix them on the weekend, you simply forget about it. It’s now time to identify these items and add them to the de-clutter category. If you haven’t fixed it by now, it’s probably not that important.

Once you have gone through all the things and identified those that you will saying goodbye to, don’t rush with simply throwing them away. There are many people who are in a difficult situation in life and may have some use for these. Speak to a local second hand shop or charities and see if any of your unwanted things could be passed on to the needy families or individuals. You can also sell some of these items if you have the time. Check out some local newspapers and online classifieds as you may be able to earn a buck or two and use it to cover some of the moving expenses. If you live in the right neighborhood you can also hold a quick garage sale. There are many people around that could use something you have and want to get rid of.

Remember that de-cluttering is a great experience when making a new, clean start, so don’t hesitate to let go!

About the Author: Christie Morgan

I am a former Licensed Real Estate Agent that absolutely loves helping people find the home of their dreams. I also enjoy interior design, reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with my two cats.