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QC Backyard Landscaping


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By: Tim Riley

This week I am starting my backyard make over, which appears to be a full summer project. When we first bought the house, which by chance happened to be FSBO, one of the features we loved the most was the backyard. It added space, trees, and privacy, something hard to find in the urban Quad Cities. Trust me we scoured the MLS using Ruhl Homes and Mel Foster for months. Anyways the house was what we were looking for, but it needed some TLC, inside and out.

Our backyard offers close to a dozen trees and includes a wildlife habitat. I refer to this area as the “dead space”. The dead space is heavily shaded by trees, three of which are pine trees that leave a heavy mess. The previous owner must have started a “save a hosta foundation” and declared the corner a free dumping area for mulch. This space is overgrown and unusable.

We have decided to invest in a professional arborist to kick off our backyard make over. For what they can do matched with professionalism and speed it is money well spent. Plus a professional arborist should be bonded and insured for any accidents. After the tree trimming is done we still need to figure out what to do with the dead space in our yard. Living in the QCA we have cold winters and hot summers and we would like to make this space useable throughout most of the year. I personally would like to make it a home selling point when we do decide to sell. There is the option of just cleaning it out and keeping the hostas and mulch, but that’s a little bland for us. A small garden would be great but feel like there is not enough sunshine to support a good Iowa crop. So we are going to make it into a family space and build a playhouse. Not much can grow there so the structure will add aesthetic beauty while providing hours of family fun. We can keep a number of the hostas already planted along with the mulch.

When planning your back yard makeover take the time to gather multiple ideas, get some feedback, and have some fun with it. If you enjoy what you are doing then it will make the backyard work that much more enjoyable.

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Quad Cities Homes for Sale Needed


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By: Tim Riley

If you have been following my blog, then you know the housing market is doing better yesterday, today, and tomorrow than it was six years ago. If you are in the QCA and are thinking about listing your house then you need to list it TODAY! The supply of homes on the market is down, which will inversely make the market value of your home go up. This includes the larger cities such as Moline, Rock Island, and also the smaller surrounding areas like Eldridge, Muscatine, and Long Grove. We actually listed a home in Long Grove, IA and the seller had 8 showings in his first two days on the market. So, what’s his secret?

The real magic in selling a home is pricing it correctly and being in the market which favors the sellers. This homeowner has both of these working in his favor. The next step in FSBO (For Sale By Owner) is acting as your own agent. Like any good real estate agent you need to get your property out to the masses. Focus your efforts where people will be looking, FSBO websites, Craigslist, Trulia, and Social Networks. Hanging flyers is a good idea but a very low percentage of people find the homes they buy using printed marketing tools. If you opt for a real estate agent from Ruhl Homes, Mel Foster, or Remax then you can get your house on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).

The bottom line is, houses are selling better now than they have in the past six years. So make like Jessie J and put a Price Tag on that beautiful home, and sell it. Mortgages remain at an all-time low according to National Associations of Realtors President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., "In the history of mortgage interest rates since 1971, the 30-year fixed rate has been below 4 percent in only 15 months, and those have all been in the past 15 months," he said. "Even with rising home prices, affordability remains historically favorable because home prices over-corrected during the downturn. This means there is still great value for buyers in the current market."

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Real Estate Trends Still On the Rise


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By: Tim Riley

February is following in its predecessors footsteps. January was a good month in real estate, especially for Quad City homes. National statistics have been released for the month of February, and the real estate market is still trending upwards.  Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Realtors Organization, reported, “Home sales in the month of February increased 0.8%, to a seasonal adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million unit pays." This kind of news should really boost the morale of those trying to sell their house now or who have had their home on the market for several months. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to think about your asking price. Take away the emotional attachment you have with your home and ask a more appropriate market value. If you do need a certain dollar amount for your home there is still good hope.

Mr. Yun went on to report, “In a year over year bases existing home sales were higher by 10.2%. Which marks 20 months of year over year increase. The national median home price was $173,600. An increase of 11.6% from a year ago." Increase in home prices are related to the continued low amount of real estate supply. This does not necessarily mean you will sell your house for more now than what you were asking 6 months ago, but what it does suggest is you will not have to drop the price of your home $20,000 over night. In the Davenport or Bettendorf market, this might mean a $5,000 price adjustment will suit your needs better and will still help bring a reenergized interest in your home.

I have talked with several clients this week who have had their house listed for roughly one year. A change in marketing plans, and a fresh price, could help them unload this financial burden early this spring.

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Honey Do Spring Cleaning List


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By: Tim Riley

Spring has arrived, technically, and those “honey do” lists are soon to appear on the fridge. Before the list is filled by your significant other, add a couple items you want to accomplish this spring. Thanks to another poor performance from Poxatuny Phil, Quad City home owners will be able to procrastinate their outdoor spring chores at least one more week. That being said, be prepared to complete these 5 tasks over the next 4-6 weeks.

1. Car – Your vehicle takes a beating over the winter months, even more so if you live in a Midwest city like Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, or Moline. If the weather is warm enough, pull out the garden hose and soap to wash all the road salt off your car. If applicable, take your grocery getter or speedster to a car wash. For $8 you can power wash your own car and put a nice glow back in your ride. Don’t forget to wash the bottom off really well, too. This is where most of the rust will occur.  A good waxing is also a great idea to protect the paint on your car.

2. Garage – Many holiday items get, more or less, thrown onto a work bench or on the ground because we don’t want to deal with packing away these items during the cold months. Clean up any lose trash, sweep the floor, and reorganize all the tools you had to bust out to fix your leaky toilets, faucets, furniture, and anything else gets may have broken.

3. Gutters – Will chore ever go away? Only if you cut down every single tree within a twenty foot radius of your house. Admit it, you procrastinated on cleaning your gutters last fall and now you have to clean them. This will always be one of those home ownership chores which will not go away.

 

4. Closets – Spring will still offer some chilly days, so your top 5 cleaning list needs to include some indoor chores. You have been hitting the gym every day since New Year’s and you lost that tire around your waist. Get rid of the clothes are not going to wear anymore and get some new threads, you deserve it. Take the time to touch up paint, hardware, doors, and organizer shelves while in your closet. I remember looking at a QC home for sale several years back, and all I remember about that house is a dingy bedroom closet.

5. Grill & Smoker- If you’re like me, then you have an eternal fire to grill most nights of the week. Remove the cover, clean out the sticks and leaves, and start breaking your grill or smoker down.  Clean the grates, drip pan, burners, and even the belly of the grill. Look for any wear and tear which might require repair, such as a bad burner.

 

Some may not look forward to spring chores, but cabin fever has possessed my body…and I need an outdoor exorcism. If you’re like me, then you can’t wait to get out there and mark some chores off your list.

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Why You Need to Start Smoking


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By: Tim Riley

How many times in your life has someone told you, “Hey, you need to start smoking," probably not often, if at all. I am not referring to the plant which made Virginia and the 13 colonies so successful. What I am talking about is smoking meats. Smoking has been around since "prehistory" to preserve meats and more recently used to give a rich authentic taste to BBQ.

Smoking meat is more than just a 2-15 supper prep, there is a lot of planning, preparation, comradery, and beer drinking involved. It can take years of practice to perfect but just days of cooking to get a good tasting product.

Smoking meats is perfect for outdoor temperatures between 50° and 90°. Family members can’t wait to get a taste of chicken, pork, beef, or vegetables. That’s why smoking is perfect for birthdays, holidays, reunions, and other family events. If looking to gain a relationship with your neighbors, nothing draws their interest more than a succulent smell of hickory.

Smoking meats is not just about cooking a meal, it’s about the effort, story, and experience. If you are looking to expand your Quad City hobbies around the house, and want to spend more time engaging your friends, family, and neighbors then smoking meat is for you.

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Will Cold Weather Halt the Sale of My Quad City Home?


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By: Tim Riley

Let’s face it, the weather in and around the QCA has been basically miserable. I never understood how Puxatony Phil could predict an early or late spring. As it turns out he can’t. I have lost all faith in groundhogs predicting the weather. None the less you are still trying to sell your home and no over-hyped critter will ruin your sale…or will it?

Davenport and Bettendorf got out to great start this year in the Quad City real estate market. Then came the snow and chilling temps. For the most part, snow fell in the early parts of the week, (Monday-Wednesday). Good news is not too many residents are driving around looking for QC homes on these days. Of course the bad news is you have to shovel. A few inches of snow can really help your house sell and stand out from the rest of the market. That new layer of snow will add a fresh look to your home. I suggest not letting your dog out in the front yard to keep the snow freshness as long as possible. Another QCFSBO insider tip is to get out there and shovel/snowblow your driveway and all sidewalks. This will help your curb appeal during the winter and show potential buyers you care about your home inside and out.

People living in the in the Quad Cities, including Rock Island and Moline, expect snow in the winter. Do not think the snow will turn buyers away. Do your best to use it to your advantage. If you are showing your home in these cold months have your furnace turned up and a fresh crockpot of chili or stew cooking in the kitchen. Nothing says comfort like a warm and inviting home.

Don’t let the cold weather and snow bog you down during these weather conditions. Take this opportunity to highlight your Quad City home for sale. While the competition is crying and whining about the weather you will take this awesome opportunity to show how your house is better than the rest.

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Why You Should DIY


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By: Tim Riley

DIY – Do It Yourself, three little words can save you so much money. Some people are all over DIY projects like white on rice, while others avoid these projects like the plague. Whatever your opinion is, I encourage you to attempt some DIY projects.

How familiar you are with hand tools, power tools, electrical circuits, plumbing, and carpentry skills will dictate where you start your home improvements. I purchased my first home for $59,000. A deep cleaning was needed along with updates throughout the house, inside & out. I saw my first home as an investment property, and it would prove profitable.  

One of the easiest DIY projects is demolition. Generally, nothing more than a crowbar, hammer, and a destructive attitude is needed. Be cautious of all electricity and plumbing. This includes fixtures inside and outside of the floors, ceilings, and walls. You will come across some “unique” artifacts such as antiques, collectibles, photos, and in my case a crack pipe, yes a crack pipe. I bought a rental property in a neighborhood that was transitioning back into a safe. family-oriented neighborhood.

Once you have completed demolition the amount of DIY projects for your house varies from putting in tile floors to new ceiling fans or adding a deck to installing kitchen cabinets. Odds are, you are not a master carpenter so become familiar with home improvement websites such as; Hometime, DIY Network, and Youtube.

I would also suggest you buy a DIY book lik,e “Home Improvement 1-2-3." My biggest help came from family and friends. You will buy a lot of pizza and beer and not always get a lot done in a day, but you will enjoy the time spent on your home and learn how to become a DIY expert yourself. I paid cash for all the materials, food, and beer. Thanks to my family and friends, I was able to sell my home for a $24,500 profit. Not too shabby for a six year investment.

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Light’em Up


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By: Tim Riley

http://www.landscapingnetwork.comYou have narrowed your next home down to 3 houses in similar neighborhoods. You drive by each one multiple times and can’t decide which one you like the most. Finally, one night you are out doing some house stalking and see the second home lit up with an ambience of outdoor lighting. The walkway has a soft path glow, garden lights highlight bold plants and mature trees, and the entryway is highlighted with candle lit lanterns hanging on both sides of the entry door.

The use of lighting to dress up your curb appeal is often overlooked because many people assume it must be professionally done and is expensive. This just isn’t the case.  Hanging a couple wall anchors next to your entry door just requires a couple screws and candle lanterns. Solar powered lights don’t give off a lot of light but are perfect for creating a walkway and incredibly easy to install. Low voltage kits provide brighter lights if desired and can be set with a timer. They work off of a transformer which is plugged into an outdoor outlet. Low voltage kits are affordable and can be installed in an afternoon.

So, if you are looking to send your Quad City home for sale screaming to the top of the market or just want to add a few highlights to your home, look into outdoor lighting to increase your curb appeal.

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Quad Cities' Homes For Sale, (Good News In the Neighborhood)


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By: Tim Riley

Will my house sell in this market? Who has heard someone ask this or even asked this question yourself? People are concerned how well the housing market is doing. We spoke with hundreds of people at the KWQC Women’s Health & Lifestyle Fair this weekend, and many of those individuals were concerned if their home will sell in this market. I have a simple answer for you, YES!

I was reading a 2012, 4th quarter report that Ruhl Homes published. They gathered their data from Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The report told me that Eastern Iowa real estate is having a steady rate of success with the most consistent real estate occurring in the Quad Cities. QC real estate prices have increased 1.58% over the last year and 2.09% over the last 5 years. Looking at the 2012, 4th quarter National Ranking of 302 MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas), the QCA comes in at #77.  This is fantastic news for you as other areas, such as Des Moines, are still struggling and house prices have decline 4.82%.

The time to sell is now. Don’t wait for next month, or next year. It is hard to let go of the emotional connections you have with your home. One client said it best, “Usually people selling FSBO (For Sale By Owner) are scared to sell their house, so they over price it because of the emotional connections they have. Using a realtor takes the emotion out of pricing and listing your house."  This is so very true, and it is difficult to let go of the memories you made in e thhouse you are planning to sell. The time will come when you will need to sell, and if you are on the fence of this year or the next, the best advice I can give you is jump in and start the process. The market will treat you well.

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