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Category: Home Projects

Should I Make Improvements To My Home Before Selling It?


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By: Tim Riley

The decisions leading up to selling your house can be very stressful, especially if you are contemplating making any home improvements. Sometimes making home improvements is easy if the structural integrity of your home is in question. For example, you have a basement wall that is cracked, leaking, and starting to cave in. Then there are other home improvements which are clearly not needed, but you wouldn’t mind making a few cosmetic improvements, such as adding new curtains to the home even though you just changed them two years ago. These two types of improvements are easy decisions to make before selling your own home. Fix the basement and leave the curtains alone. Unfortunately not all home improvements are easy decisions, such as a roof replacement.

Roofs could make or break a deal. House roofs are mandatory maintence. People want to wait as long as possible before replacing it because you have 30 year shingles and you are in year 27. After 27 years your shingles are bound to look like they have survived tornados, hail storms, and a zombie apocalypse. Any potential buyer is sure to catch this, if they don’t the home inspector will. When it comes to costly repairs that will need to be done in the near future you must take these into consideration when pricing your house. Having a single layer of shingles tore off, replaced with quality shingles, renting a dumpster, and paying for labor can easily cost $10,000 or more depending on the location and size of your roof.

If you choose to have the roof replaced that is great and you need to use this as a huge selling point. Keep in mind that you may not get all of your money back, but could have a much quicker home sale. If you decide to leave the roof as is you will need to lower your asking price or be prepared for the buyer to use the bad roof as a negotiating point. A lower asking price could draw more interest, but may also turn buyers off because they see it as a project home or think it reflects on the up keep of the rest of your home.

Keep in mind the asking price of your home when making these types of decisions. You will also need to consider your audience and how you plan to market your home. Take a couple days to stew over these big decisions talking them over with friends and family. Ultimately this is your decision acting as your very own FSBO agent. Good luck on all home improvements and selling your house.

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Quad Cities Home Curb Appeal


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By: Tim Riley

Curb Appeal, that simple phrase which can make or break any home selling deal. The allure of curb appeal has people investing more money and time into their yards, namely the front yard. The outside of your home is a reflection of the home owners themselves and what the house will probably look like on the inside. Not everyone is a DIY master or has a green thumb, so I have created a list of 5 simple ways to improve the curb appeal of your middle class mansion.

1. Pressure Wash: Perhaps the easiest improvement on the list. Do not reach for the garden hose and expect to get the same results as a pressure washer. It’s like comparing a squirt gun to a fire hose. A pressure washer gives you the water pressure you need to wash away years of dirt and mildew that has been neglected for years or even decades. Many pressure washers also have the option to use chemicals for cleaning and mildew prevention. I have never used any of the soaps or mildew preventers on my house, patio, driveway, or retaining wall, but have been entertaining the idea over the last year. I have power washed all of these critical areas, and it will take years off of your property.  It gives the property that clean zest appeal buyers are looking for.

2. Fertilize, Water, and Mow: To me, one of the biggest curb appeal impressions comes from the front lawn. When people drive up to the home you are selling they want to see a lush, full, and well groomed front yard, not some janky yard that has been used for boarding dogs. To obtain this desired look you will need to take the time every year to spread fertilizer and weed control during spring. If needed over-seed your lawn as well. The time it takes to do this is literally less than an hour for homes sitting on a half-acre or less. If going through a dry spell in your area square feet, that’s a lot. Finally, remember to mow your lawn as needed. Depending on the amount of rain you receive, or how often you water your lawn, this could be once every 4 days or once every two weeks. I prefer a longer cut because it allows for stronger root growth and healthier grass.

3. Mulching and Flower Beds: Many people mulch around trees, flower beds around the house, and around walkways. If you do use mulch, have your 3”-4” base of mulch and every year after add an additional 1”-2”s of mulch for that fresh vibrant look. For flower beds, make sure the boarders are clearly defined with bricks, stones, vinyl, or any other type of small barrier. These clean edges are a small detail that will really make your curb appeal pop. Replant you annuals in mid to late spring to allow the flowers to bloom and show their colors. I like to wait and address pruning trees and hedges once they are green, so I can shape the plants better as I make my cuts.

4. Outdoor Lighting: Many people forget what their house looks like at night or feel like it is not important. Well, it is important, and outdoor lighting can really take you to the upper epsilon of curb appeal. There are some really simple ways to improve outdoor lighting, for example using solar walkway markers for your sidewalk. A slightly more involved outdoor lighting is using low voltage lighting. This is a more professional look and will ultimately yield better results. More can be seen about outdoor lighting here.

5. Paint Doors, Shutters For Windows: Finally, we have every homes flippers dream product, paint. Why do house flippers like paint so much? Because it is an inexpensive way to give a house a new look or make any feature stand out. A well designed and inviting entryway could mean thousands in your pocket. Fresh paint or stain on an entry door will revitalize your home. With the addition of updated light fixtures and couple unique potted plants can give the front of your home the focal point it has been missing.  Another good way to use some paint is on shutters, if you have them. Updating the trim colors of your home leaves one less task for a potential buyer to address when they move in. Freshly painted shutters and trim will give your home a new look and can bring back potential buyers if they already passed on your house once.

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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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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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5 Ways to Spruce up Your Home This Winter


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By: Tim Riley

Do you find yourself looking around your home this winter wanting to find ways to spruce it up and personalize it? As I had these ideas come, to me I posted them on Twitter and Facebook. It would be nice to be in the situation where I could just call up anyone of my self-employed construction buddies and have them add a bathroom to my basement, but the Dave Ramsey budget does not allow that. So keep in mind I am looking for low cost but high upgrade,s which will help any Quad City home for sale. Here is a short list of those ideas:

1. Update cabinet hardware – This is a very simple upgrade anyone can make with a screwdriver. Most handles and knobs in the kitchen and bathrooms are old and dated. Head to your closest hardware store for dozens if not hundreds of options. Keep in mind hardware can range from $0.69 – per unit upwards towards $50 and higher per unit.

2. Shampoo carpets – Choose carpet areas that are not located in high traffic areas, especially exterior doors. Yes, this may fall under the category of “cleaning” but a freshly shampooed carpet brings out that new home smell. For as little as $25 a night, plus cleaner, you can shampoo bedrooms and the basement. You also get a head start on your spring cleaning. If it’s too cold to open the windows, box fans work great to dry the carpet.

3. Change light bulbs – Walk around your house and see if all your bulbs have the same color, otherwise known as color temperature. My parent’s house has a bright white, soft white, and a yellow hue collectively in one ceiling fan fixture.  Make sure you color temperatures are organized by room. You will also save on your utility bill, which takes a beating during harsh winters.

4. Outlets, switches, and covers – I am going to start this off by saying, IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ELECTRICAL CIRCUTS, HIGHER A PROFESSIONAL. Believe it or not, outlets and light switches all have a life expectancy and will fail to work properly after heavy use, not to mention looking old and dilapidated. If your outlets show these signs it is time to change them. How do you know if your outlets are worn out? If the vacuum does not stay firmly plugged in. They also sell child proof outlets. These outlets have the safety plastic built into the plug-in and they work great! Most new homes require you to install this new build of outlets .

5. Ceiling fans and globes – Light fixtures have a globe surrounding the bulbs. These are usually very easy to change and bring a much needed fresh look to every room. Most globes screw in or may require a nut to be taken off, that’s it. If you're wanting to change one or two ceiling fans see #4 above, and if you do decide change the unit yourself make sure the breaker is flipped OFF before beginning work. I would suggest changing these during the day for obvious reasons.

Good luck sprucing up your home this winter, and if you have any other tips please share them!

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A Fresh Carpet Smell Can Make or Break a Sale


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By: Tim Riley

Do you remember going to your great grandmother’s house as a child, and it smelled like mothballs? I hated that smell, and I bet you did, too. While mothballs have a functional purpose, they don’t have a functional smell. A house with a funky smell is a deal buster.

So, what should a QC home owner do about the odor coming from years of pet ownership? There are a few different options. The most expensive, but a great home seller, is to lay new padding and carpet. If you just put new carpet on top of foul smelling padding, your house will still stink. Plus, you just ruined hundreds of dollars in new carpet.  Padding is expensive, so get one that is within in your budget and not top of the line.

If you can’t afford new carpet, rent a carpet shampooer. These can be found at most local rental business; I have even seen them that Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, and Moline Hy-Vees. For under $100, your carpets could be looking new and smelling fresh.

If you have a few extra dollars before a showing by some scented carpet powder and sprinkle it on the floor, (I would not suggest this for dark solid colors like green). Let the powder sit for 15 minutes and vacuum. Your house will smell like a fresh bed of flowers on a warm spring day. This could be what sells your QCFSBO home.

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How to Make a House New Year’s Resolution


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By: Tim Riley

Trash the junk food, join a gym, pitch the cigs, and get ready for a great year as to which you will drastically change your life for at least month or even a couple weeks. New Year’s resolutions should be filed under “controversial topics”. They always start off with the best of intentions but seem to wither away like a poorly kept hydrangea.  What you think is an indestructible goal gets lost in work, family, friends, and finances. I propose that you make a resolution this year which allows you flexibility yet keeps your attention for the entire year. Make a “To Do” list for your home.

Quad City homes and lawns need to be durable to last through the artic conditions of winter and still withstand 115 degree summers. Making your home energy efficient should be at the top of your list. I have talked before about getting an energy audit done. Many local companies such as Mid-American, who Bettendorf, Moline, Davenport, and Rock Island home, will do these for free. If you are a handy person, then they will even pay you to make some energy updates.

Pick one room to update or completely renovate each year. Let’s face it, updates can be really expensive. Doing a whole house renovation is practically impossible. Budget a room or multiple rooms to update each year. This year it’s the bathrooms, next year is the bedrooms, then a new roof, etc.

Make a resolution to resolve the constant mess pile of dishes in the sink. Make a contract with yourself or the family that every other day dishes will be done. If your single and eat out a ton, (which is an excellent way to burn through cash) write a contract with yourself to clean the kitchen once a week.

Making a New Year’s resolution to spruce up your house this year will give you flexibility and the since of accomplishment that we often don’t get with bodily resolutions.  Love your house, take care of it, and give it the attention which it deserves. Your home is probably the single largest investment we make, yet we tend to overlook the most. 

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What’s the difference between oil-based and water-based paints?


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By: Tim Riley

 

How much damage could a spouse do in one weekend painting an old rocking chair? My first thought is none. But after I spent a weekend hunting in the woods, I have a different opinion. As I was trying to pack for my weekend hunting trip, I was getting drilled about what she would need to do to refurbish this decrepit rocking chair she bought off Craigslist. I have to admit, I gave her a bit of the breeze because I could only focus on getting out in the woods. What damage could she really do? I quickly set out all the sandpaper, brushes, and paint she would need and jetted for my trip to renew my man card. I told her if she had any questions go to our local Quad Cities Menards and they would help. I have used this hardware store hundreds of times for home DIY projects, and they are very helpful.

Upon my return, just a day and a half later, I found there was white elf hand prints on our garage floor, the black kitchen sink had white rings, spots, faded wash, and our kitchen faucet was covered in what appeared to be crusty whiteout. No matter how hard I scrubbed the white would not go away. I asked my wife what type of primer she used, her classic response was, “what Menards told me to use.” Yes that was her response. After rephrasing the question she told me it was oil based primer. I messed my pants a little. This is why; unlike a water-based paint, commonly known as latex paint, oil based paints DO NOT clean up with soap and water. Oil based paints require paint thinner or mineral spirits to have any chance of cleaning up after a mess. The longer you let them dry, the harder it is to clean up, if they even clean up. I can see why the hardware store recommended an oil based primer. It does cover better, especially a glossy finish over a dark stain, which is what the rocking chair had. But the mess it leaves behind is not worth it. Latex based paints are easy to clean up, dry faster, and still look great if used properly. Reflecting back, I wish I would have spent 10 minutes helping my wife with her project. As it looks right now, her weekend project just earned me my own weekend home improvement project.

A small sample of white oil-based primer on a black sink and nickle brushed faucet.

.White primer on the faucet and black sink. This isn't coming up easily.

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5 Ways to Winterize Your House


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By: Tim Riley

Being the proud owner of an Iowa home, I do look forward to the winter months. I love the cool temperatures and white fluffed snow. I actually enjoy shoveling snow, as long as it’s not two feet deep. What I do not like are the 30 MPH winds carrying temperatures from the North Pole, good gracious - it gets ridiculously cold here some times. This, in return, seemingly sucks the heat of your house and can cause a plethora of problems in return. So here are 5 easy tips to make sure your home is prepped for Ol’ Saint Nicks favorite time of the year:

  1. Manage your gutters and downspouts. I hate cleaning gutters as much as the next fella. It’s grimy, uncomfortable, and just plain crappy work. However, if gutters are left neglected you can run into very expensive repairs ranging from roof or gutter repair all the way down to foundation repairs. Taking a couple hours during late fall to clean your gutters and make sure your downspouts are at least 10 feet away from your foundation. This will save you many headaches and wallet-aches down the road.
  2. Shut off your outside water from the inside. First, drain all the hoses you have attached to a spicket and unhook them. Second turn the outside water supply off from the inside. These controls are usually in the basement near the ceiling where the spicket is located outdoors. Then, turn on the outdoor spicket and let any remaining water drain out. Water in your hoses and pipes can freeze and actually make your pipes burst. This is not good.
  3. Winterize your windows using a kit. Head to any of your local hardware stores and pick up a window kit. They normally run $5 - $10 and will cover five averaged size windows. The process is simple:  apply double sided tape around the window trim, stick plastic to the tape over the window, and finally use a blow dryer to seal the plastic tight. This alone will save you hundreds of dollars over winter, especially if you have drafty windows.
  4. Don’t forget about your outdoor power tools. A lawn mower to me is like newborn infant to their momma. I love my mower. I will nurture it, clean it, and prepare it for harsh times like the winter. As the years pass, my mower in return will rarely let me down and give a pristine cut week after week. If you don’t change the oil, change the air filter, sharpen the blades, stabilize or empty your tank, your mower will let you down.  Do the same for your weed eater. Also, make sure your snow blower is in fine running condition, has oil, and is filled with gas. Wouldn’t it just suck to wake up at 6 a.m. and run to the gas station and auto shop to get gas and oil?
  5. Contact your utilities provider for a free energy audit. Both Iowa and Illinois homes commonly use Mid-American Energy as their utilities provider. Contact them and request an energy audit. They will come inspect your house free of charge and will tell you how you can make your home more energy efficient.  They will even give you rebates on the improvements you make. Recently, I was approved for $1,400 in insulation rebates and received all new florescent lights as needed. Visit Mid-American Energy’s Efficiency for more information.
  6. *Bonus Tip - Get the sleds out and polished. After all your hard work, it’s time for fun.  Have the sleds, inner tubes, skis, and snow boards ready to go. Meet up with your kids, family, and friends to let the good times roll. I cannot wait to Clark Griswold down a hill and take a 3 foot ramp with a sled. Just be careful of your tailbone.
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