The Warm Weather Is Coming: Is Your Home Ready?

The warmer weather is right around the corner, and there are a few maintenance items you can do to prepare your home for this time of the year.

Test your air conditioning and change the air filter. A well-working air conditioning unit will provide greater efficiency – which helps reduce your overall utility bill. Early in the warm-weather season, turn on your AC unit to ensure that it is working properly. If you detect any issues, call your HVAC contractor – before the first hot-weather spell is upon you.

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Check your window screens. While you are cleaning your windows, take time to check the window screens. Make sure they fit securely and don’t have any holes or tears in them that would allow bugs to get indoors.

Inspect fire-prevention devices. Spring is a good time to check the batteries in your smoke detectors and make sure they are still working properly. You also should look at your fire extinguishers and make sure they are not out of date.
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Change ceiling fans and air returns. During warm months, air returns on the walls should be open at the top (allowing the warm [lighter] air to return) and closed at the bottom. Ceiling fan blades should turn counter-clockwise (when viewed beneath the fan).

Check the roof. During the harsh winter months, roof shingles and flashing could have been damaged. Check your roof and if you see potential damage, contact a professional.

Weatherize the deck. Now is a good time to pressure-wash the deck, replace any splintering boards and give your deck a good coat of weatherproofing.

Remember, with a little care and attention, you can keep your home looking in tip-top shape and functioning efficiently.

Consider Semi-Custom Cabinets for Your Kitchen Remodel

Of all the home improvement projects you can take on, a kitchen remodel can improve your home’s value the most. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, in 2010 a Kitchen remodeling project yielded a
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69 percent return on investment – one of the highest among all remodeling projects. However, many homeowners assume they can only achieve the richness they desire by installing custom cabinets. This simply isn’t the case.

Semi-custom cabinets can add significantly more perceived value than base-model cabinets, yet are more cost effective than custom cabinetry. Additionally, semi-custom cabinets provide many stylistic options in wood, door design and color.

When you combine custom doors and other accents with stock cabinets, not only are you saving money on the cabinets, but you are also able to set aside a greater portion of your overall Kitchen remodel budget for other features – such as upgraded countertops or appliances. And if you are thinking about resale value, the money you invest into the kitchen can increase its appraised value and add more appeal for potential buyers.

Semi-custom cabinets have greater size choices and features than base-model cabinets, giving you more floor plan and storage options. These cabinets can be specifically designed to hold spices, large pots and lids, and even your heavy KitchenAid® mixer. Let’s face it: increasing the storage and work efficiency of your Kitchen adds to your enjoyment of it.

You can also expect the quality of the materials and workmanship in semi-custom cabinets to be higher, too. Base-level cabinets are often manufactured with particleboard for the cabinets and shelves, and coated with
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laminate or thermofoil – both of which wear away quickly. Particleboard as a building material also absorbs humidity and moisture, a real detriment in a Kitchen where the humidity is higher and spills are frequent. Particleboard also sags under heavy loads, which means you have to watch how much weight each shelf holds. Most semi-custom cabinets use veneer-covered plywood as the construction material, a far stronger and more resilient type of shelving.

A kitchen remodel is a commitment of time and money. Your cabinets are both functional and decorative, and when you’re considering upgrading this well-used room, choosing value-driven products that last, and bring efficiency and beauty to your home is always a good move.

Options for Financing Your Home Improvement Project

As a homeowner considering a home improvement project, you should know your options for financing those improvements. Usually homeowners have three traditional financing options:

  •     Home Equity Loan
  •     Cash-Out Refinance
  •     Construction Remodel or Renovation Loan

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For smaller projects, such as replacing a couple of windows, replacing gutters or putting in a skylight, a home equity line of credit may be ideal. For starters, this is usually the easiest and fastest approach to getting money, and once the line of credit is established, you can withdraw the money you want when you want it. Furthermore, if you plan to pay back the principle in a short period of time, a line of credit could cost you less in interest than other financing options.

With a cash-out refinance loan, you refinance your existing mortgage and include additional funds for your remodeling project. The bank rolls your current mortgage into the new loan and then gives you the balance of the loan in cash. So for example, if you have a $150,000 mortgage but do a cash-out refinance for $200,000, you’d receive $50,000 for your remodeling project.

One major drawback to this loan setup is that you are paying interest on the total amount immediately ($200,000 in the scenario above). This means that you could be paying mortgage and interest on the full amount before the remodeling project is complete. Another drawback is that you are locked into that amount – so if your project ends up costing more, you can’t get more money.

The construction remodel or renovation loan is designed for large remodeling projects – Additions, Kitchens and finishing the Basement. This financing option is treated like a construction loan. At settlement, the bank pays off your current mortgage and, in addition, sets up a “draw” schedule for paying the remodeler for your home improvements.

The biggest advantage to the construction remodel loan is the draw schedule: you are only paying interest on the money that has been paid toward the project – not the total amount. Also, this loan takes into consideration the future value of the property – after the home is renovated. This may allow you to tap into a larger pool of money to finance the project, not just the equity you currently have in the home.

No matter which financing option you are leaning toward, make sure you consult with your financial advisor to determine the option that is best for you. Each option has advantages and drawbacks, so it is important to weigh each option carefully.

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