BuyersFinance November 20, 2023


Are you planning to buy a house this year? Whether you’re a first time buyer or just haven’t been looking for a home in a while, there’s a lot to do before you’re ready to start going on showings. 

Even when the market is on the slow side, it’s important to be ready to move when you find the house. If you haven’t bought property before, there are some things you may not know to do. If it’s been a while since you bought your last home, there may be some things you forgot! This guide will give you the rundown on saving up to buy a house, getting lender-ready, and what to look for when buying a home.

Here are five things to do before you start looking for a home this year:


1. Find out where you’re at financially

Before you dive into listing photos and bedroom counts, it’s important to know how your current finances could affect the home buying process. 

Know your credit situation

Knowing your credit score is the first step to understanding your home buying budget—and looking for the right loan. Although it’s possible to get an FHA loan with a score in the five hundreds, you’ll have a lot more options with a score of 620 or above. The higher, the better! If your score isn’t where you want it to be, take a good look at the report first to be sure everything is accurate. Then you can try to build credit by paying all of your bills on time or by keeping a credit card open, using less than 30 percent of its limit at any given time, and paying those purchases off quickly.

Calculate your DTI

In addition to your credit, lenders will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to assess what kind of loan you can afford. This number compares your monthly earnings to your debt, and unlike your credit score, you want it to be on the low side. To lower your DTI, avoid taking on new debt and work toward paying off any debt you already have. Aim for 35 percent or less, but some mortgage programs are fine with a DTI in the high thirties or even forties.

Come up with a budget

Taking all these things into consideration, look at your financials as a whole to decide what you’ll be able to spend on a house. An online mortgage calculator will give you a rough idea of your monthly payment based on the total mortgage amount, the interest rate, and the mortgage period. You may not know all of these factors right now, so play around with the numbers and look at your options. 

You can also use the “maximum loan” option on many of these calculators to put your desired monthly payment, interest rate, and mortgage period in and learn what mortgage you could afford based on those criteria.


2. Start saving

Once you have a clear idea of your current financial situation, it’s time to start saving up to buy a house! There are a lot of costs hiding in plain sight when it comes to looking for a home, so you should plan ahead for things like:

  • The earnest money deposit—around one to three percent of the purchase price
  • Inspections
  • Your down payment—probably between 3.5 and twenty percent of the purchase price
  • Home Insurance
  • HOA fees
  • Property taxes
  • Overlap between your existing rent or mortgage payment and the new one
  • Unexpected repairs and maintenance after you move in


3. Consider signing up for a homebuyer education course

If all this information is making your head spin, you don’t have to muddle through it alone. Homebuyer education courses are available both in person and online, and they will walk you through the whole thing step by step. Some lenders may even require a course like this for first time homebuyers. But even if they don’t, it’s a useful way to familiarize yourself with the first steps to buying a home.


4. Decide what you really want

Let’s fast forward now and pretend you’re all saved up and ready to take the plunge. It’s time to take a long look at your priorities.

This sounds like the “fun” step, but it’s actually a very important one. No two areas are exactly alike, so if you want a central, downtown location and a two-car garage, for example, you might have to choose which is the most important. Now is the time to start checking out listings online to see what things are going for in your area and what features you can reasonably expect.

A REALTOR® can help you with this part, and they can also show you the bigger picture. Do you care what school system you land in? Are you willing to live in a flood zone? They’ll help you ask the right questions.


5. Work on a mortgage plan 

Congratulations! You’ve got your savings squared away and you know what you’re looking for in a home. The next step is to research your loan options. Here’s what you need to know:


There’s more than one option—a lot more

There are many different types of home loans and different lenders may handle some of them in their own ways, so don’t stop with the first option you see—there may be a better one out there! 

Visit more than one lender and look through the final fees and costs of each one. There may be appraisal fees, background and credit check fees, or fees for document preparation included. This is not necessarily a red flag (The appraiser does have to get paid, after all!) but it’s something to be aware of as you compare your options.


Don’t skip preapproval

We’ll say it again: don’t skip preapproval. It isn’t necessarily a loan guarantee, but it does give you a leg up over other buyers who don’t have one. The application process involves showing your preferred lender documentation that supports your ability to pay the loan you’re asking for. Think payment histories, W-2 forms, and tax returns.

Don’t confuse this with a prequalification, which is an estimate of your loan eligibility based on your word; it’s not always verified the way a preapproval is.


Now go check out some listings!

Having your ducks in a row means you can sit back and enjoy the best part: looking at houses! When you find the one that’s right for you, your REALTOR® will be able to put together a stronger offer and do it more quickly because of all the legwork you did early on. Happy house hunting!

BuyersHome InspectionLocalTips May 3, 2023

Home Inspection 101: What to Know

Most buyers and sellers know that a home inspection can be a big part of the real estate process, but when it comes right down to it, do you know what to expect from one? By the end of this blog post, you will! We’re here to cover:

  1. What a home inspection actually is
  2. How to get set up with one if you need it
  3. How to find the right inspector for you
  4. How long it might take
  5. Other inspections you might want to consider
  6. What to do after your home inspection is complete

Let’s dive in!


What is a home inspection?

First, be sure you don’t confuse this with a home appraisal. Appraisals are often required by lenders to confirm that the agreed-upon price lines up with the property’s actual value. These may not find some of the serious issues you would want to know about as a buyer—or even as a seller!

A home inspection is a noninvasive exam of a property. It’s intended to give an idea of the condition of that property as well as bring to light any potential safety concerns. Remember, though, that it is noninvasive. Your inspector will not be opening up walls, for example, and may not even move things like furniture and rugs, which means that unfortunately they can’t be expected to catch everything. They should, however, check out attics, basements, crawl spaces, and so on in addition to rooms that get more everyday use.

Home inspections aren’t a part of every sale, but many buyers ask for a home inspection contingency in their offer to make sure there are no “deal breakers” before they go through with closing.


How do I get one?

Buyers who need a home inspection should weigh their local options before deciding which inspector to go with. (More on this in a bit.) But don’t take too long! There will be a set amount of time in your purchase agreement for you to complete the home inspection process. Keep your agent in the loop as you decide; they’re your best advocate and likely know most of your options in the area.

As a buyer, you would likely pay for and schedule the inspection. Some buyers may negotiate for the sellers to cover it in the purchase agreement, but it’s not always the way to go. Although home inspectors are, ideally, an objective third party, there’s peace of mind in knowing that they are working directly for you and in no one else’s interest.

Most inspectors are happy (and may even expect) to have buyers tag along for the inspection, and it’s a good idea to do so if you can. You can ask questions and get information in real time, along with getting a closer look at the property you’re about to invest in. Sellers should be careful to make sure the inspector can easily access the property to make everything go as smoothly as possible. That means making sure keys or a lockbox are ready to go, utilities are connected, and pilot lights are on if the property has been vacant while listed.

(Oh—and sellers, you can also get a pre-inspection before listing your property if you’d like to know what is likely to pop up and possibly address a few things ahead of time!)


How do I find the right inspector?


First things first: Ohio licenses home inspectors, so it is important to work with an inspector who holds a license issued by the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing. Next, look for certifications like InterNACHI (the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) and ASHI (the American Society of Home Inspectors), which shows you they have official training in providing home inspections. You also want your inspector to be insured, experienced, and have a solid knowledge of local issues your property may face. These range from local pest populations to specific soil types that affect the settling of a home. Reviews, testimonials, and referrals are also usually reliable ways to learn more about an inspector.

Some home inspectors will be able to offer repairs and renovations, though there’s a chance they may see defects as the opportunity for more work—so be prepared to take their recommendations with a grain of salt.


How long does a home inspection take?

In terms of how long it takes from finding an inspector to getting the final report, expect anywhere from one to three weeks. Your purchase agreement should outline this very clearly. The day of, you can expect your actual inspection to range from two to three hours, though it could be more or less, depending on the size of the property and the shape it’s in. After the inspection is completed, you can usually expect the report to come from your inspector within a few days.


What other inspections should I consider?


A home inspection can be very broad. If you have specific concerns, there are other types of inspections that may be able to give you more detailed answers. For example, you may want to know more about:

  • The presence of radon
  • Wood destroying inspects
  • Mold and mildew concerns
  • Sewage and drainage
  • …and more!


What comes next?

When you receive your home inspection report, it will be broken down into different sections of your house. Be prepared to see lots of “defects” listed. A home inspector will note even the most minor things they notice—and that’s a good thing! However, it doesn’t mean everything they find is necessarily a concern. It’s important to note the difference between genuine hazards and inconveniences. In other words, “now” fixes and “later” fixes. An active leak is usually a “now” fix, as well as potential foundation issues. Some “later” fixes might include jiggly doorknobs and other superficial flaws that don’t pose a danger, though they may be unsightly or even somewhat annoying.

Now is the time to decide what you’ll do with the information in your report. Will you continue with the sale as planned? Do you feel the need to renegotiate terms like closing costs, overall price, or repairs that need to be made before closing? Is there anything concerning enough to warrant backing out of the deal completely?

If you choose to ask for repairs or changes, be sure to follow up to be sure that everything is on track for a timely closing. You may even need to set up a reinspection to confirm that your concerns have been addressed. Then, it’s time to get moved in and enjoy your new home!


Our trusted REALTORS® are standing by and ready to help you with your next real estate transaction! Reach out today to get started on your next purchase or sale.

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SellersTips April 17, 2023


Good real estate photography could mean the difference between a slow sale and an all-out bidding war. Many sellers, however, find themselves wondering if it’s really worthwhile to hire a professional. After all, they’ve got a perfectly useable smartphone camera right in their own pocket!

While it’s true that digital photography is making it easier than ever to get quality photos on your own, photographing your property is a completely different animal than your usual family snapshots. Let’s look at a few reasons why real estate photography is so important, what a professional can offer, and how to get semi-professional results if you do decide to go it alone. 


Why is real estate photography important? 

First impressions are just as important in real estate as they are anywhere else. It’s up to you to make your property stand out from the comps and highlight its unique advantages.

Even though most buyers will hire a realtor to help them in their search, a large part of that search will probably still happen online. Even if your house fits a buyer’s criteria, they might consider it a red flag if you only show photos of the outside of your house or if the photos you do show aren’t well lit or staged. After that, it’s all too easy for them to scroll down to the next listing. 

On the other hand, if your property lacks some of the features found in the same price range, you can use photography to encourage interest in the features you do have. Too few bedrooms? Highlight that amazing kitchen reno!


How can a professional help?

Real estate photographers have a different skill set than portrait, food, or product photographers. They know about lighting dark rooms attractively and getting a full view of tight spaces. 

Want an example? Try getting a shot of your powder room with your smartphone. Challenging, right? You can’t back up far enough to get everything in the frame. 

A professional real estate photographer will have a wide to ultra-wide angle lens to solve this problem, as well as a tripod. But here’s the catch: while those lenses might allow you to get the whole room in one shot, they’ll probably cause some distortion too (meaning, the walls might appear to be tilted or curved). A pro can fix those distortions with a professional photo editing program. 

They can also optimize your photos for use on social media, so your images don’t appear stretched from being taken at the wrong aspect ratio. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone take all that off your hands?


How to find the right photographer:

Make sure the photographer you choose has experience in real estate photography. They should have a portfolio to show you! Some photographers will even offer extras like drone shots for large properties or a 3D walkthrough. 

Your realtor may be able to recommend a good photographer, but make sure your house is staged and ready before they get to work. Taking photos of your house in the wrong state could be a worse idea than foregoing the photography altogether!

Make sure you understand how you are allowed to use your real estate photos! Your photographer will be happy to talk real estate image rights over with you to make sure everyone is on the same page.


What if I decide to take the photos myself?

Though a professional will give you the best results, it is possible to take listing photos on your own if the budget is tight. Start by treating your photoshoot like you would a showing:

  • Open your curtains to let in lots of light…unless there is something unsightly outside the window that might turn buyers off. 
  • Close your toilet lids, cabinets, and shower curtains. It just looks nicer.
  • Move your cars before taking the exterior shots so they aren’t blocking the driveway.
  • Don’t spend too much time on arty details. Buyers would rather get an idea of the scale of your rooms and the flow of the property.
  • Put away any personal items. This is important for your privacy, but also because too many personal touches make it hard for buyers to picture themselves living in the space.
  • Watch out for your own reflection! Stand to the side of mirrors and other reflective surfaces as you shoot.

It’s best to use a DSLR or mirrorless to take listing photos, leaving your smartphone as a last resort. Consider renting a wide-angle lens (24mm or wider is ideal) if you don’t want to buy one, although there are several affordable third-party options on Amazon. 

You will most likely need an off-camera flash. Your camera’s built-in pop-up flash will create distracting flares and unflattering lighting. An off-camera flash can be mounted on top of your camera and pointed at the ceiling to “bounce” softer, more even lighting down into the room.


If you must shoot with a smartphone:

Stand as far back as you can to get as much of each room as possible. Look for free apps that will help you “stitch” multiple photos together to get more of the room in one shot. If the images turn out on the dark side, you may be able to boost the exposure in your smartphone’s native photo editor.


If your homemade listing photos are too big:

You may have trouble uploading photos to the web because the file size is too large. If you are comfortable using a photo editor, open the image sizing options (or in Lightroom, the Export options). Save images for web at 72dpi. Make sure they are JPEG files and not RAW, TIFF, or PNG files. 1000px for the longest side is usually a safe bet.

If photo editing software is a little further than you want to go, you can use a site like TinyJPG. There you can automatically compress your image to a useable size with a simple drag and drop. 

Whether you go with a professional or take the shots yourself, real estate photography is an important step toward listing your property. It will generate interest, show off can’t-miss features, and encourage buyers to schedule a showing and see the place in person.

Your realtor will help you along the way. They likely know which local photographers do great work and can help you get in contact. A realtor can also give you any pointers you need as you stage your property and get it ready for its close up. Then, all you have to do is get your photos uploaded, make the listing official, and sit back and wait for the showing requests to start rolling in.



RoofingSellersTips April 17, 2023


Now that the snow has finally started to melt and the sun is showing its face again, you may be seeing your home with fresh eyes for the first time in quite a while. This is a time of year when many homeowners become aware of roofing issues that may have escaped their notice over the long winter.


Have those shingles always looked a little uneven? 


And what are all those little granules coming out of the downspout over there?


If you’re wondering whether a total roof replacement is needed or if you just need a roof repair, here are some signs that will give you a good idea.



Drooping and sagging


The good news: minor sagging can be fixable when it is the result of small design flaws in the framing or too many layers of shingles. So it’s possible a roofing professional will be able to address the issue without giving you an entirely new roof. This is not an issue to put off, though. The sooner you take action, the better your chances. 


The bad news: major roof drooping, sagging and waviness are strong indicators that your roof is at the end of its lifespan—especially if it’s starting to show its age in other ways too. It could also be a warning sign of rot caused by moisture, which could lead to big problems if left unchecked.





Knowing when to replace your roof is a delicate process. You don’t want to pay for an overhaul if there are still a few years left in it, but you don’t want to wait for a major issue either. The materials that make up your roof will help to give you a rough idea:


  • Wood shingles can last up to thirty years if they are being regularly inspected.
  • Asphalt shingles, the most common roofing materials, can last anywhere from fifteen to thirty years.
  • Architectural shingles are thicker and sometimes more aesthetically pleasing than other asphalt shingles, and often have a longer lifespan as well. They can last for twenty-five to thirty years.
  • Clay tiles can last fifty years, which makes them well worth the higher investment you or the previous owner made on the front end.
  • Metal roofing can vary depending on the type and thickness of the metal used. Lifespans range from a mere twenty years up to seventy or more!
  • Slate can last over a hundred years if the rafters are strong enough to support them.


If you know that your roof is starting to near the end of its lifespan and you are starting to notice warning signs, it may be time to look at a roof replacement.



Moss and algae


Plant life may be picturesque on a forest floor, but it should never be allowed to grow on your roof. Moss and algae are synonymous with moisture, which is the last thing you want leaching through your shingles!


A small amount of growth may be no cause for concern if you address it right away. Scraping it by hand and washing away excess with a garden hose is the gentlest route. You can also try a moss control powder made from zinc sulfate. Once you’ve cleared the existing moss, keep branches trimmed away from your roof and regularly clean your gutters to keep it at bay. If moss is a big concern for you, there are zinc strips that you can apply to your roof each year to help with the problem.


In some cases, too much moss and/or algae means a full roof replacement. Roots may have made their way between shingles, causing buckling, loosening, and maybe even leaking. Be sure to discuss options with your local roofing professional to see how you can keep your new roof plant free.



Isolated damage


Don’t worry if you have a couple of missing shingles or even a small leak. It’s not uncommon to need minor repairs after a big storm or a run in with falling branches! If your roof is still relatively young, these repairs are short work for a roofing professional. The most important thing is to call before these small issues grow into something more serious! 


If your flashing is showing wear (that’s the material sealing the openings in your roof around chimneys, gutters, etc.) it may be a matter of simply replacing your tar flashing with an updated metal flashing system.


A see-through attic


If you can see daylight streaming through the roof in your attic, it is rarely a good sign—particularly with asphalt shingles. If light can make it through, so can moisture. This does, however, make it easier to identify problem spots, which is always a good thing! As with the other issues on this list, if you are seeing light in an isolated spot, it may mean you just need a quick roof repair. If your attic is starting to remind you of disco night at the bowling alley, you may want to budget for a roof replacement.



Rogue shingle granules


If you’re finding more shingle granules than usual in your gutters or downspout, it could be an early sign that a roof replacement is in your future. Older roofs tend to shed more granules as they age. You can also look at the shingles themselves to see if the coloring has started to look inconsistent. If your roof is getting on in years and there’s evidence that the shingles are starting to wear thin, you may want to call a local roofing professional to come out and inspect it.


In fact, whether you think you need a quick and painless repair or are worried you’re headed for an entirely new roof, it’s always helpful to get a professional opinion. When it comes to your roof, it’s not just a matter of curb appeal; it’s about keeping your home safe, dry, and structurally sound. The superficial things you’ve noticed may be warning signs of a less obvious problem, or you might be pleasantly surprised at what can be fixed with the right knowledge and tools! 




LocalSellersTips April 17, 2023


Looking to buy or sell a home on a budget? Your first thought may be to cut out the REALTOR® and go it alone with a FSBO, or For Sale by Owner. After all, these days you can find anything you need to know on the internet, right? Not exactly.


Look at it this way: If you wanted to know where something was in a store, you’d ask an associate. If you had questions while shopping online, you’d probably use that handy customer service chat feature. So why would you try to navigate one of the biggest investments of your life without a professional backing you up? There are a lot of things REALTORS® offer that a FSBO experience just can’t. You may even find that using a REALTOR® turns out to be more cost efficient in the end! From an easier overall experience to inside info you can’t find on Trulia or Zillow, here are six things your REALTOR® brings to the table that you won’t get with a FSBO. 


1. Convenience

Buying—or selling—a house is a lot more time consuming than most people realize. When you’re selling, there’s a lot of invisible work to do on the front end. When buying, it’s important to make sure your ducks are in a row financially before you start seeing properties in person. Buyers will have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of potential properties to sift through. Sellers have to organize showings and escort interested parties around while answering their questions. Your REALTOR® can not only narrow down your search to properties that fit your needs but research comparable sales (or comps). This will make sure the price is right before you get in too deep. They can also facilitate showings so you aren’t tied to the phone.


2. Connections


Professional networks are strong in real estate. A good REALTOR® will be able to recommend local bankers, inspectors, contractors, real estate photographers, cleaning companies…the list goes on and on. It’s also highly likely that they will be familiar with other REALTORS® in the area, which helps with organizing showings, writing or responding to counteroffers, and more. An established REALTOR® will already have a platform, as well, which makes it easier to get the word out on a property you want to sell. Their website and social media already have followers who pop in specifically to see what’s on the market.


REALTORS® also have access to properties you won’t find on websites like Trulia, Zillow, and They can use the MLS to see properties your internet search won’t bring up, and possibly find more detailed information about properties you like. The MLS is more accurate and reliable than generic listing sites, and it can’t be accessed by just anyone.


3. Expertise

Realtors in Ohio are required to complete thirty hours of professional development coursework every three years, so they are well versed on developments in the real estate industry. They know their area like the back of their hand and can point out pitfalls, alternatives, and bonuses that may never have occurred to you alone. In addition, they are used to the complex paperwork and legal requirements you’ll need to navigate. Multi-page purchase agreements, addendums, and the many rules that go along with them are not to be taken lightly. Your REALTOR® will be able to walk you through these documents so that you not only do them correctly, but understand what they mean.


4. Loyalty

Your REALTOR® stays with you throughout the process. For sellers, they start with helping you stage the property, advertise it, and find the offer that will give you the best ultimate outcome. A buyer’s agent will answer your questions about the properties you see, help you strategize and write a strong offer, and possibly sit in on inspections. It is their fiduciary duty to put the client’s needs first. That means it’s not only in their best interest to keep you happy, but it’s their legal responsibility to keep your private information confidential. There’s no guarantee of confidentiality when it comes to a FSBO!


We can even take it a step further. Flag City REALTORS® (and many other brokerages and agents nationwide) are heavily involved in consumer rights at the local and national levels. They dedicate their time, and in some cases, their own money, to promoting fair public policies related to homeownership, regardless of which side of the aisle a political candidate sits on. That means that even after—and well before—your closing documents are signed, your REALTOR® should be working toward a better and fairer homeowning experience for you.


5. Perspective

When it comes to real estate, and home buying in particular, buyers and sellers sometimes need help to stay objective. There may be a lot of emotion tied to this decision, but a REALTOR® can offer perspective, especially during negotiations.


As a buyer, you’re probably thinking mostly of your “wants” and your “don’t wants,” but your REALTOR® is looking at the property as a whole. They know to look into things like school zones, flood zones, noise pollution, and HOA requirements, in addition to basics like the number of bedrooms or the size of the yard. Sellers, on the other hand, may not have a good idea of what will appeal to the market. Seller’s agents are skilled at adding curb appeal and can give you pointers on staging the property to its best advantage.


6. Possibly, a better deal!



If you are a seller planning to go the FSBO route to save money, you could end up doing just the opposite. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has found that FSBO homes actually tend to sell for significantly less than their agent-assisted counterparts.


Buyers trying to save a dime should still consider a REALTOR® as well. In addition to having a savvy negotiator in your corner, it’s important to remember that, technically, a buyer’s agent doesn’t cost you a thing. Under normal circumstances, your buyer’s agent will be compensated by the seller. They share the commission the seller pays to the listing agent.


Most people who consider diving into real estate without a REALTOR® do so because they hope to save a little money during an already expensive process. However, using a REALTOR® could actually save money in the long run, and the benefits they offer are well worthwhile. Want to talk with one from our qualified team? You can get started here today!



SpringTips April 17, 2023


For many households, spring cleaning is a ritual that marks the beginning of the warm weather months—and a fresh start after a winter holed up inside. You may be planning on cleaning out your closets, scrubbing out a few forgotten corners, and finally organizing the garage this year…but there are a few important spring maintenance tasks you may not have on your list. (Or maybe they are on your list, but always somehow land at the bottom.)


This year, we’ve got five often-overlooked spring maintenance tasks for you to put at the very top of your checklist. If you make these jobs a priority, they’ll make a big difference in keeping your home feeling clean and safe all year long. Stay with us all the way to the bottom for some bonus ideas you can read up on right here at!


Check out your garden hose and sprinkler system


Step one to keep any sprinkler system in top shape? Don’t use it too early! Remember that the ground where your system is buried may not be completely thawed, just because everything on the surface is. It’s a good idea to do a quick dig to make sure the soil is free of frost so you don’t damage your pipes by running water through them too soon.


Next, look for any debris like small rocks or dirt buildup that could affect the flow of water when you turn your system on. If any valves, nozzles, or sprinkler heads look damaged, now is the time to replace them! When you are ready to test the system, make sure the pressure is set to an acceptable range and open the main valve slowly to avoid an initial high-pressure surge that could damage your pipes and/or valves.


If you don’t have a sprinkler system, you probably still have a garden hose. Hopefully you emptied it and stored it inside over the winter, but if not, no problem! You can check now for any cracking or leaks and repair them with a patch kit. Ideally, you’ll store it out of direct sunlight during the warmer months to keep additional cracking to a minimum.


Give your windows a little extra attention


Window washing may already be on your list, but don’t forget to clean the window sills, tracks, and screens, as well. Aside from the nice appearance, clean tracks and sills may help keep pests away and discourage mold growth. And of course, screens do their job best when they are in good shape. 


To clean window and sliding door tracks:


  1. Vacuum out as much dry dirt and debris as you can
  2. Spray a cleaning solution and let it sit for a few minutes
  3. Use a small brush or sponge to clean out tough-to-reach spots
  4. Gently rinse the area, if needed, and wipe off the residue by hand with a cloth
  5. If you see any evidence of mold, call a professional!


To clean your screens:


  1. Remove them from the frame
  2. Use mild, soapy water and a cloth, sponge, or brush to gently scrub the screens
  3. Rinse your screens and dry them completely
  4. Replace the screens into your frames!


Clean out your major “cleaning” appliances


You may think your dish and clothes washers stay pretty clean because, well, that’s what they do. But these machines can actually get very dirty indeed, just from the sheer amount of use they get. Spring is the perfect time to give your major appliances a little TLC, so clean out your dishwasher filter, give the drain pump filter on your washing machine a good rinse, and do a deep clean of your dryer’s lint trap, exhaust hose, and outside vent.  


These chores take less time than you would think, and they help your appliances to run more efficiently and use less energy, possibly lowering your bills! In the case of your dryer, it can also avoid turning your home into a giant fire hazard. To get a full clean, wash out your machines with hot water and vinegar too or buy a dedicated cleaner to run through an empty cycle. 


Do some spring maintenance on your fireplace



Did you relax by a picturesque, roaring fire this winter? Then you’ll probably need to add your fireplace and chimney to the list. 


The fireplace is mostly a matter of elbow grease. If you choose to do it on your own, it can be a messy task, so lay out a covering and wear old clothes and a dust mask as you work! Wait until the fireplace is completely cooled after your last fire of the season and sweep the dust, soot, and ash into a bag or trash bin. Then use a brush attachment on your vacuum to remove any remaining bits from the corners and edges. Finish up with a deep scrub, but make sure you use a cleaning solution that’s suitable for your fireplace’s particular material.


Chimneys can be tricky—although you can maintain them yourself if you are comfortable. Regardless, they should be cleaned (or at least inspected) annually for safety.


Clear your gutters and downspouts


Clean gutters direct water away from your roof, house, and foundation. But unless they are cleared out during certain times of the year, leaves, dirt, and twigs can clog the system. That could lead to pooling and, eventually, water damage to your home. A good cleaning before the spring rains come in should keep everything flowing where it’s supposed to. 


After you empty any debris that has accumulated in the gutters, pour some water through the downspout to check for clogs. If the water doesn’t come out on the other side (or only trickles through), seal the top around your hose and turn it all the way on. The pressure should send your clog right out! If not, you can try removing it by hand or with a plumbing snake.


Want to know what else you can do?

These overlooked spring maintenance tasks may not be the first things you think of as a homeowner, but they’re an important part of keeping your home clean and safe throughout the year. For more spring upkeep ideas on your home, check out our guides to early spring lawn care, getting your air conditioner ready for action, and deciding whether your roof is due for a replacement or repair.


BuyersTips April 17, 2023


Buying a home can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be a challenging one. If you want to make sure the process goes smoothly, there are a few common mistakes you can avoid when buying a home, and we’ve got five big ones to share with you today! 


1. Skipping Preapproval

When you are in the market for a new home, getting preapproval from a mortgage lender is always a good idea. It gives you reasonable certainty about what you can afford, and it shows sellers that you are serious about buying.


Can you still get a mortgage if you find the perfect home before getting preapproval? Probably so (although it may not be as quick or easy). But the more important question is: If you find yourself in a multiple offer situation and you are the only buyer without a preapproval, what are your chances of the seller taking a gamble on your offer?


2. Going with Your First Mortgage Quote

Shopping around for a mortgage may seem like extra work on the front end, but it’s well worth it. Different lenders may have different interest rates, fees, discounts, and even closing costs. They may also offer different mortgage types. Some may have more competitive rates while others have flexible requirements. It is important to compare the terms and conditions of each offer before making a final decision. 


If worry over your credit score has you sticking with the first bank you looked at, you’ll be happy to know that as long as your applications fall within the same forty-five-day window, they all count as one credit inquiry. If you go to five different banks for a mortgage quote, the credit bureaus know you’re not likely to be buying five different houses.


Speaking of your credit score, make sure you request your free credit report for the year from all three major credit bureaus to ensure everything is correct. This information could affect the mortgage quote you receive, so you want it to be as accurate as possible!


3. Working Alone

A REALTOR® can help you find the perfect property for your needs and budget. The have access to MLS listings, which means they can show you houses that may not show up on online listing sites like Zillow, Trulia, or even They also have indispensable expertise and local connections that come in handy as you navigate the process of home buying. A REALTOR’S® commission is paid with proceeds deducted from the closing, with very few exceptions.


4. Not Knowing Your Own Budget

While a preapproval will give you a good idea of how much house you can reasonably afford, it’s still a good idea to take a long look at your finances before getting in over your head. Start with a mortgage affordability calculator (there are several good ones online). You want one that takes several factors into account:


  • Yearly household income
  • Debts
  • Monthly payments
  • Down payment
  • Loan term
  • An approximate credit score, and
  • Interest rate


You should be able to tinker with the loan factors to see what purchase amounts result in higher or lower monthly payments, how different down payments affect how much you can afford, and so on. Remember that a mortgage affordability calculator is a tool to get you in the right ballpark—it is not a replacement for professional advice.


As you budget, keep in mind that there are a lot of hidden costs when buying a home. Inspections, the appraisal, an earnest money deposit, ownership transfer fees, insurance, and more could catch you by surprise if you’re only taking the list price into account.. 


5. Making Big Purchases before Closing

It may be exciting to think about new furniture, appliances, and other things you’ll buy for your new home, but resist the urge to buy them before the home is actually yours. You want to keep your finances as stable as possible all the way up until the last i is dotted and the last t is crossed, as your mortgage lender will very likely check your credit just before closing to make absolutely sure nothing has changed in your financial situation.


That includes gift money well-meaning relatives may want to give you to help set up house. A lender may see this as proof that you can’t actually afford the home in question without help. 


Yes, this does apply even if you have been preapproved! Your lender is not locked into any kind of agreement with you when they give you preapproval, and they can still delay closing or deny your mortgage completely all the way up to closing if they have reason to believe your financial situation was misrepresented or has changed in some way. 


Looking for a trustworthy REALTOR® to help you start the home buying process? Our trusted agents have the expertise you need, and we love what we do! Contact us today to see what we can do for you.