April 18th, 2016 by Terri Aubain
Do you have a home garden? Are you thinking of starting one? Are you concerned about pesticides and expenses associated with growing your own food? Check out these tips for making a home garden healthier, greener, and more economical:
- Start collecting rain water. You don’t need to run your sprinklers or hoses full-time to get the hydration fruits and vegetables need to flourish in your backyard. Purchasing and installing a simple rain barrel can help you store hundreds of gallons of free water throughout the year. Make the most of that rain water with drip hoses to supply your plants with the water they require.
- Begin with seeds. If you want to go organic with your home garden, don’t buy young plants… plant your own seeds. Starter containers, soil, and fertilizer are the basics you’ll need to bring up your starter plants. Tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers are a great bet for your first attempts as they tend to take to home growing fairly well. Check out this Community Garden Guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for detailed information: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mipmcar9781.pdf
- Fertilize & spray organically. Your local garden store or plant center should have a selection of organic fertilizers and natural, bio-based pesticides to help you nourish and protect your plants. There are plant and animal-based fertilizers available, as well as natural bacterias and plant-extract pesticides available.
- Compost! The food you throw away is perfect fuel for your own compost bin. Plants can eat what you don’t! Small compost bins are a good place to start, though you can scale up your compost operation by investing in larger, somewhat more complex systems. For a complete guide to composting, check out this website: http://compostguide.com/
There’s nothing quite like tossing a salad full of vegetables you grew in your own yard. The freshness and satisfaction are incomparable, plus you’ll feel good knowing you’re feeding your family organic food.
Don’t have a backyard yet? I can help you with that! I can help you sell your current home or find a house ideally suited for a little organic garden of your own. Get in touch with me now: 832-777-8850 or firstname.lastname@example.org
March 11th, 2016 by Terri Aubain
There are thousands of licensed real estate agents, but of those licensed, how many are dedicated professionals? Many can make a good first impression, but to truly represent your needs, they’ll need to be able to make good on the promises only pros can make. One way to separate the pros from the merely qualified is to ask them if they’re willing to make some promises about how they conduct their business. Here’s what any great agent should be able to say from day one:
- “I promise to keep you in the loop and the lines of communication open.” Communication is fundamental to a working relationship, and a great agent knows that a buyer or seller may have questions and concerns which need addressing as soon as possible. You should never feel your agent is missing in action.
- “I promise you this is my full-time career.” Those with experience in real estate have graduated from the part-timer’s realm to the ability to support themselves with their income in real estate. People are pros when they go full-time.
- “I promise to be open to work with the people you want to work with.” A true professional is open to working with the lenders, insurance brokers, inspectors, and other companies you feel most comfortable with. Pros may recommend those who they know and trust, but a great agent will never confine you to their personal network of cronies. They’ll also let you know if someone you recommend may not meet their professional standards.
- “I promise to give you honest advice.” A professional real estate agent is engaged, concerned, and will tell give you the best counsel when it comes to serving your needs. Sometimes, this advice may not be easy to hear, especially when it comes to pricing, budget, or repairs. An agent who doesn’t give advice may well be checked-out and giving you less-than-ideal representation.
- “I promise a professional attitude across the board.” Honesty from your agent doesn’t mean abuse, neglect, name calling, or undue pressure to see things their way. In every interaction you should feel your agent walks, talks, and projects the image of a competent professional. Stress is part of real estate. The stakes are high and emotions are always just beneath the surface. A pro agent will have the fortitude and discipline to maintain a professional demeanor under fire.
If agents you meet can make you these promises, are you sure they’re right for you? I can certainly make these promises and would welcome a conversation about your real estate goals this year. Should we talk soon? email@example.com ~ 832-777-8850
February 28th, 2016 by Terri Aubain
The dream of home ownership is about more than just a stable place to live, exempt from the whims and decisions of landlords. For many, home ownership is a piece of the wealth building picture, essential to a future retirement or financial independence. The idea is pretty basic: You purchase a home and pay it down while hoping the value of the home increases over time. Generally speaking, this is what happens over a long enough period of time. As you go, you build what’s called “equity.”
Equity is defined as “the market value of a homeowner’s unencumbered interest in their real property—that is, the sum of the home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property.” If you were to sell your home and pay off the balance of the mortgage (and any other debts, such as home equity credit lines or liens), the cash you would have leftover is your equity. Your “equity position” changes over time due to a variety of factors.
As you’ve probably noted, the biggest variable in your home equity position is the home’s true market value. A variety of factors can influence your home’s value, including: Market demand for homes in your area, local amenities, schools, your home’s particular features, upgrades you’ve made, condition issues, and quite a bit more. So how can you tell your equity position?
First, you need to know what you owe on your home. This is as simple as checking your mortgage statement to see what your principle balance is on the loan. This number can differ slightly from your actual payoff amount due to closing dates, interest, and other issues determined during the sale, but generally speaking your principle balance is the number you need to know. If you have any other debt on the home, you need to add the value of this debt to the principle balance. This might include credit lines, liens, or second mortgages, for example.
Next, you need to know the value of your home. While there are sites such as Zillow and Trulia out there which will tell you what your home’s value is, these “automated valuation models” are generally not very accurate when it comes to your home’s value, as they exclude many crucial factors. Often they come in quite a bit higher. They can, however, give you an idea of general changing trends in your market over time.
Hiring an appraiser is one way to determine your home’s value from a more bank-like perspective. While an actual sale may be above the appraisal, this thorough, conservative option is a good way to go. The downside? You may have to pay up to $500 for the appraisal.
Of course, I’m happy to help you get a handle on your home’s current value with a comparative market analysis (CMA). Just get in touch today: firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-777-8850
December 16th, 2015 by Terri Aubain
With big holidays come big meals, and despite our best efforts, we seldom finish all the amazing food. Ever found your fridge too stuffed with leftovers?
The truth is, many of us don’t manage our refrigerator space well. There’s actually a ton more room in your fridge if you make smart choices about how you organize what you need to store. Here are some surprising ways to make the most out of the cold space you have in your kitchen.
- Ditch the round storage containers. Plastic storage bins are cheap enough now that you can probably afford to replace those old circular ones with stackable square ones. Square or rectangular shapes are far more efficient for the typical fridge.
- Prioritize the shelves. Put what you want eaten soon on a middle rack, and don’t let it drift to the back. Items which fade into the back get forgotten, and typically don’t require the coldest temperatures. Put your milk and your meats in the rearward cold zones for freshness and storage efficiency.
- Remove tomatoes, onions, potatoes. You’re doing these veggies a favor by keeping them out of the cold. Tomatoes will get mealy and soft, while the cold amps up the starch in potatoes. Onions and potatoes can survive just fine if separated into bags and placed in a drawer away from the light.
- Check your condiments. Many of us keep condiments in the fridge that don’t need to be chilled and can be stored in the pantry or cabinets. This includes mustard (8 weeks), ketchup (4 weeks), fish sauce (2 years), hot sauce (3 years), and soy sauce (1 year). Keep them out of direct sunlight in a relatively cool room.
- Supplement with a beverage fridge. Sodas, beers, and other beverages can take up a lot of room in your fridge. Consider investing in a smaller beverage fridge. Many can be found for under $300. A beverage fridge will also reduce the in-and-out traffic to the main fridge, ensuring greater energy efficiency and more stable food storage temperatures. Decluttering your fridge can also promote food safety. A packed fridge prevents air from circulating and keeping foods at their optimal temperature.
If your fridge isn’t the problem, but your small kitchen is, maybe it’s time to start hunting for a bigger house! Get in touch with me, and I’ll help you find homes in your area with dream kitchens.
November 10th, 2015 by Terri Aubain
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918, World War One ended. Arguably the most terrible war the modern world had witnessed to date was finally over. Few souls on Earth went untouched in some way by the war. So many served, so many died, and so many took the scars of their experience home with them and did their best to get on with life. All had hoped there would never be cause for such sacrifice in the future.
Of course we know the call came again and again. And despite full knowledge of the challenges, horrors, and heartbreaking losses, brave men and women answered the call. They have done so because they accept what it means to serve and defend our most deeply held shared values.
This Veterans Day I hope you will join me in a spirit of gratitude for veterans everywhere. I believe each of us can see our way to hold them in our minds— those we know personally and those we have never known. If you see a veteran, thank them. If you know the family of a veteran, help them. Let us pay homage with pride.
July 7th, 2015 by Terri Aubain
Whether your home is two years old or a classic concrete block ranch from 1950, you can help your house hold its value and scream curb appeal with a few simple fair weather cleaning projects. Keeping a home in shape in a little like good dental hygiene… routine attention prevents major renovation!
With the sun shining, here are the top projects you should schedule before settling into vacation mode. Stay on top of these at least once a year and you’ll not only help your home shine, but you’ll fend off the threat of more costly repairs and replacements in the future:
1. Power wash. Blast off mold, oxidized stains, kicked up mud, and the grim insect life which can build up over the course of a year. This is good not only for your exterior walls, but also driveways, patios, and panel fencing (both sides, please!). If you don’t own a power washer, you can usually rent one affordably. Be careful with power washers, though, as they can also strip paint when dialed up and used improperly. If power washing isn’t your bag personally, hire someone with a track record to handle this wet-and-wild job.
2. Gut the gutters. Freely flowing gutters prevent a host of problems. Dig out the muck and you’ll be certain that water isn’t backing up under your roof or running down to the foundation. While you’re working, check the downspouts for cracks and corrosion. Be sure to run water through the clean gutters to see if there are any holes you may have missed while inspecting the clean gutters.
3. Wash the windows. This is an inside and outside approach, because if you want to maximize the light your house lets in, you need to get the panes from both directions. Start with the outside. While power washing can sometimes be harsh on window seals, using a hose with a green/garden safe cleaning fluid is a good way to start. Once you’ve take care of the outside, remove and wash any indoor window treatments (blinds, drapes) and do a thorough job with the glass. Some people like to use old newspaper as it makes an excellent eco-friendly alternative to rolls of paper towels.
4. Shore-up sheds and garages. Start by discarding. A year or even a season can result in piles of unwanted objects or half-used containers of questionable chemicals. Be ruthless in what you keep. Once you’ve identified the must-keep items, haul them out and clean the interior of the shed or garage. Replace items mindfully.
I love to sell clean homes! If you think your house is at maximum curb appeal, why not find out how much it’s worth? Get in touch: 832-777-8850 ~ email@example.com
June 22nd, 2015 by Terri Aubain
Spring kicks off the peak home hunting months of the year, but it isn’t until summer that things really get cooking. While there are pros and cons to buying and selling homes at various times throughout the year, summer can be, on average 25 to 30 percent more active than the annual average.
In summer you have a real mix of buyers and sellers… some serious and some not-so-serious. In the winter months, many buyers searching for homes would only do so if they absolutely had to. In the summer, there are often a larger number of buyers just toying with the idea. (Many of the serious buyers are eager to get settled before school starts in the fall.)
Selling homes in the summer requires its own brand of seasonal marketing and showing. Here are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you invite buyers to consider your home:
1. Keep it cool, but don’t keep it dark. Your instinct may be to close the blinds and draw the drapes, but making your rooms feel dark and shut-in is counterproductive. Run the A/C and keep the air circulating. While your wallet may not appreciate the bump in your power bill, imagine how expensive it can be to keep the house on the market.
2. Stage it inside and out. Have a pool deck? What about a garden patio? Make them as inviting as you would the living room or kitchen. Stage them appropriately and tell the story of what it might be like to live with such nice amenities. Think magazine photo shoot!
3. Make the lawn sing. Curb appeal can be king in the summer months, especially when the neighbors’ lawns may be looking a little brown by comparison. Find bright flowers that can withstand the heat and provide a high-contrast to your green grass.
4. Ride the sunset. With the longer daylight hours, you may have buyers who want to check out your home closer to dinner time, once the hottest hours of the afternoon have passed. Try and roll with the disruption… buyers prefer to see a home when the owners aren’t around.
Take advantage of the summer sales activity! I’d be happy to guide you on the buy or sell side of this white hot market: Terri Aubain ~ firstname.lastname@example.org ~ 832-777-8850
June 17th, 2015 by Terri Aubain
Just a short note to wish you and yours a happy Father’s Day this year.
If you still have your father in your life, you are blessed. If you are a new father, may this Father’s Day be the first in a long line of Father’s Days. If your kids have left home, or cannot be with you today, I sincerely hope they will remember their father on the day we set aside to honor fathers everywhere.
Summer is truly one of the great seasons to be a father or a father figure in someone’s life, and I hope you’re able to take the time to enjoy some of the activities that kids remember far into their adult years.
Do take the time to make some memories or recall some fondly today.
May 5th, 2015 by Terri Aubain
If we’re honest, every day should be Mother’s Day. No person alive is without a debt of gratitude to a woman in the world who carried them in their body. But as we all know, the biological connection to a mother is perhaps the smallest part of motherhood.
The forms of motherhood in the world are numerous. For some of us, our mothers were our grandmothers. For others, a teacher or a neighbor became a mother, protecting and guiding us. Mothers have protected us, nurtured us, accepted us when we felt beyond acceptance, and at times been our very conscience as we’ve made our way.
On this Mother’s Day, I hope you have the opportunity to reach out to all the mothers in your life and let them know you are grateful. For those mothers who are no longer living, take a moment and remember them vividly and thank them with your heart.
Washington Irving had this to say about mothers:
“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
I would also add “mother” is another word for “home.”
Happy Mother’s Day,
April 22nd, 2015 by Terri Aubain
As you probably know, having a real estate license doesn’t make someone a great agent. In fact, in any given market, a relatively small percentage of the total number of agents are responsible for a majority of the business. This means that when you’re evaluating agents, the odds of picking someone with relatively little experience or true skill can be disconcertingly high. So how do you know you’re in danger of working with a rank amateur? Here are some common “sniff tests” to help you sort through the masses:
1. Is the agent’s top selling point the fact they offer a lower commission? If an agent is eager to buy your business by promising to work for less than the competition, be wary. Professionals are compensated for hard work, and a true pro won’t make commission cutting their go-to reason for representing you in the sale of your home.
2. Is the agent’s proposed listing price for your home way higher than everyone else? It can be sweet to hear, but sometimes sweet things are poisonous. In the business this is called “buying a listing” and it usually works this way: An agent says your home is worth more than it is in order to get you to sign with them. Then, as the home languishes on the market, the agent will begin discussing price reductions. Instead of a quick sale for a fair price, you endure the heartache and expense of a home which takes longer to sell.
3. How is the agent marketing their current listings? Ask to see some listings for homes their representing right now. Are the photos terrible? Does the advertising copy for the home sound generic and unhelpful? Have all the homes experienced price reductions? How do the homes compare to other listings online? Can you find the home online easily? The agent is suddenly going to be working harder on your listing. How they’re treating their current listings is how they’ll treat yours.
4. What comes up when you Google the agent’s name? If it’s a common name, you may need to add “realtor” or “real estate” to the name. What comes up? Do they have a website? If nothing shows up, that’s a bad sign. Are they in the business or not? Can you find them on social media like Facebook? Have they updated profiles on Zillow / Trulia? If they’re a ghost online, beware. After all, that’s where buyers are starting conversations about buying!
I promise you I pass all four of these with flying colors and I’m eager to help you sell your home. Let’s talk soon: 832-777-8850 or email@example.com.