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Articles Tagged "Home Utilities"

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August
17

Companies are working hard to bring in extra money for business all the time. Airlines are charging for extras which used to be free (baggage, extra leg room, snacks) and food companies are putting less in packaging for the same or even a higher cost. The bottom line has become more important than meeting consumer needs, in some cases. Consumers may forget this fact when signing a lease for a home. Renters may feel reasonable fees are charged to lease space but forget about itemized charges for utilities and other amenities which add to the total cost. A competitive rental market has driven prices higher than ever before in many urban markets. Learn more about the hidden costs and fees associated with leases and what to look for before signing a lease on the dotted line.

 

Utilities

Tenants tend to overlook amenities and utilities in a lease in a desire to either renew a lease or move into a new apartment. The overall cost of a property can become more than was bargained for if a consumer is not careful. Landlord/tenant laws in each state govern how utilities are billed and what recourse is available when payments are missed or shutoffs occur. Utilities may be included in the overall charge yet other times tenants must pay electric or gas bills. Third-party billing happens when an entire building is metered and the landlord splits charges among all tenants in the building, then bills individually. The charges are usually an add-on the rental charge.

 

City Ordinances

Third-party billing is seen by some states as a deceptive practice. Ordinances such as one in Seattle,  cover all residents living in buildings with three or more units to protect tenants from fraudulent overcharging practices. Some questions can be asked of a landlord prior to signing a lease. The following are just a few a tenant may ask about add-on fees:

  • Ask about utility service before signing a lease

  • Set up utility accounts quickly

  • Pay utility bills promptly and document payments

  • Take steps to protect self from landlord

  • Act immediately for better dispute resolution

 

Hidden Charges

Landlords in a competitive rental market may increase fees based on supply and demand which is cause for even more awareness around hidden fees. Additional fees may include:

  • Pets

  • Separate parking fee

  • Application fee (with approval or not)

  • Condos or HOAs may charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units

  • Cable TV, internet may be billed through HOA or the landlord

  • Security deposit payments

  • Pre-paid fees (first and last month's rent due on move-in)


The best way to protect oneself in the rental market is to be a savvy consumer, know rights afforded tenants and don't sign anything without asking questions and reading the paperwork. Advocacy organizations and state agencies provide information to consumers. Lawyers are also available who specialize in landlord/tenant law to provide support and dispute resolution.

 

Get more advice on spotting those hidden costs in your lease.

Contact one of our agents today.

June
23

A home which provides eco-friendly features can sell well in today's market. Geothermal systems, solar panels, Energy Star-rated appliances and LEED certification go far when selling a home. Home builders and sellers of upgraded homes that provide 'green' features spend a fair amount but whether a prospective buyer cares about it depends on many factors. Learn what the factors are and how to position a home with 'green' features for the marketplace.

 

Feature, Fixture or Finish

Prospective homeowners look for features to touch, feel and show off to friends and family. Spa-like bath, media room or a chef's kitchen all have buying power. A buyer may not necessarily pay extra when it comes to home improvements that cannot be seen (such as the roof, boiler or new plumbing). Green features fall somewhere in the middle. A buyer may pay extra for 'cool features' such as an energy-saving thermostat which can be controlled from a mobile phone but will not necessarily pay extra for reclaimed hardwood and unique air filtration systems.

 

Savings

A consumer will not spend a huge chunk of money on a home but if a green home means savings, short term or down the road, buyers usually listen. Resale value such as a high-tech thermostat or remodeled kitchen can present a great scenario for buyers who receive value from the feature while also having built-in equity.

 

Green vs. No Green

Most buyers will make a cost-benefit analysis with new constructions. With extra cost must come extra value to the consumer in the form of an immediate tax credit or other benefit to make the purchase worthwhile. The cost of a new system which provides such benefits and requires zero out of pocket cost has great curb appeal. A buyer is able to realize savings in lower energy bills and savings over the long term but not everyone wants to pay for green features, regardless of savings. Overall, buyers who plan to be in the home a shorter time have less to benefit from the cost savings than those who plan to stay long term. A future buyer likely will not pay extra, especially in a down market.

 

Growing Market

Some new buyers are concerned for the environment and want to give back, financial features of a home notwithstanding. Whether or not the features are cool is not significant as an environmentally friendly focused buyer will pay extra anyways.


Green features are becoming a mainstay in the housing market. Today's consumer likes to see some of the features when shopping to consider environmental impact alongside cost savings. This, weighed against particular real estate decisions, can ultimately add up with personal considerations such as location, floor plan, number of bedrooms and, of course, green features. All of the above add up to choices worth prioritizing when searching the market for that perfect home.

 

Get more advice on ways you can get started on creating an Eco-Friendly home.

Contact one of our agents today.

September
21

 

It's a well-known fact that with homeownership comes home repairs. It doesn't matter if the house is new or if it's a property that has been in the family for generations, Life happens and things break. Professionals can always be called in to do the repairs, at a cost to your monthly budget, so it's best to save them for the really big break downs, like busted water heaters, roof replacements, or new HVAC systems. The common things that crop up can be handled on your own with a standard toolbox and maybe a run . . . or two, to your nearest home improvement store.

 

1. Leaky faucets, running toilets

Per the EPA, ten percent of US homes have leaks which are wasting more than 10,000 gallons of water annually due to worn out gaskets, flappers, drippy faucets, and leaky valves. Here are some ways to confirm whether you have a leak:

  • Take a reading on your water meter before and after a two-hour water period of no water use on the property. If you get any differences in your findings, a leak is likely.

  • Test toilet tanks by by placing a drop of food coloring in the tank and waiting about fifteen minutes. If water in the bowl takes on any coloring, then you have a leak. Flush to avoid staining the tank.

  • If a visual inspection of pipes, faucet gaskets, and pipe fittings reveals any water on their exteriors, then you probably have a leak.

Once a leak is confirmed, if you're unsure how to proceed you can start by talking to the experts at your local home-improvement hangout, or you can always Google for tips. Remember, if the project gets too big for you to handle, go ahead and call in the professionals rather than risk a house flood!

 

2. Cracked paint or siding

Besides looking nice, it's important to maintain the exterior of your home in order to protect it from the elements and critters. Cracked, peeling, or dusty paint (or caulk, vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.) is a sure sign that the structural integrity of your abode could be at jeopardy. If you catch it in the early stages, you should be able to handle the task yourself. Bringing in hired painters will land you a bill for a few thousand dollars at least, depending on the size of the house.

 

3. Garbage disposal jam

WARNING: Always make sure the disposal switch is OFF before you stick your hand or any other object down the drain.

Garbage disposals have an average life of about ten years. If you use it a lot, or abuse what you put down it, it's going to die much sooner. With the aid of the owner's manual, and that wonderful "RESET" button, disposals can be an easy fix. Should full replacement become necessary, you can spend a couple hundred and probably a handful of cuss words as you work or you can spend twice as much to pay a plumber to do it.

 

4. Nail pops

Most foundations will have some degree of shifting over their lifetime. Heat and cold, wet and dry weather, and even wind strengths tax the structure. Oftentimes nail pops are the result of this. Minor ones from initial settling can be fixed by driving the nails deeper, refinishing, and touching up with paint. However, if they are excessive or are suddenly appearing after years, you probably need to bring in contractors to look at the bigger picture. Home warranties and insurance will help you incur the cost of foundation repairs.

 

5. Cracks in the concrete

Your driveway, patio, and sidewalks are constantly exposed to the elements. Extreme weather, improper mixing, shrinkage during curing, pressure from vehicle loads and even old tree roots can contribute to these places beginning to crack and breakdown. Much like the house exterior, water and pests can get into these cracks which will only aggravate the problem the longer it's left untended. If you've had experience with concrete mixing and laying, by all means take on the repairs yourself, but for most homeowners, this IS going to be one for the trained professionals.

 

Tensions can run high when things start to fall apart around you, so if you share a home with somebody, do you and your partner a favor . . . don't let your relationship get added to the "honey-do" list. It's so much easier to get things done with teamwork.

 

August
10

 

Everybody loves the lazy days of summer in Ohio; sunshine, sleeping in, picnics, adventures. The one thing that makes summer a little unbearable at times is the HEAT. Let's face it, scorching temps lead to sweltering if you don't have access to air conditioning. Here are some budget-friendly tips and tricks for staying cool and keeping the utility bill from skyrocketing August to September.

 

Regardless of which brand, make, and model HVAC system you have, the ultimate savings on your energy bill will come from how you adjust your thermostat(s). To start, set the thermostat as high as you can while still being comfortable, but where the difference between the indoor and outdoor readings are as small as possible.

 

If you've been away, don't crank the thermostat down as soon as you get home to try and speed up the process. This will only strain your machine, making it work harder and expend more energy. It will not cool your house down any faster. Even better would be to take advantage of the Energy Saver programmable modemost thermostats come with for multi-room systems.  

 

How is the ventilation in your Logan County home? Proper ventilation can aid your cool-down efforts by improving indoor air quality, removing moisture and odors, and allowing refreshing outside breezes to transfer with stuffy indoor air. Evenings are a great time to open the doors and windows. Encourage airflow by installing fans throughout the house to help push the stuffy hot air out and pull the cooler evening air in.

  • ceiling fans should be set to run in a counterclockwise direction during summer months (draws cooler air up from the floor)

  • attic exhaust fans will pull hot air into the attic where vents can dissipate the heat

  • position portable fans near windows or basement door at night to pull cooler air from these areas into the home

 

If you're fortunate enough to be in the roughly 90% of US homeowners who have a/c, then you should cherish this appliance … take care of it, appreciate it, and keep the maintenance current. The last thing you want when it hits triple digits outside is to discover your unit isn't cooling.

  • Ensure you have adequate insulation in the walls and ceilings to keep hot air out and cool air in.

  • Caulk leaking windows and doors, and/or use draft stops (sometimes called 'snakes') to cover the gaps at the bottom of these entry points.

  • Aluminum blinds, insulated curtains, or window tint film can block sunlight from entering your home and heating up the place during the day.

  • CHANGE YOUR FILTERS REGULARLY. Easy and quick, this reduces the workload on your air conditioner and improves indoor air quality. Check filters once a month and clean out any dust particles which may clog.

  • Clean the coils. Outside units should be kept unobstructed and cleaned regularly. Use a soft-bristle nylon brush to gently remove any debris, and hose off any leaves or caked-on dirt. Clean the inside coils using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, or wipe down with a soft, damp cloth.

  • Call in a pro. It is still important to call in a reputable HVAC contractor to regularly look at your system. An annual tune-up will help guarantee you have an efficiently working air conditioning system and keep any warranties you have on the system active.

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