Frequently Asked Questions
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Your home is your most valued asset. This section of ERA Buying and Selling Answers is made up of the most frequently asked questions about maintaining that asset. If your questions don't seem to be answered here, please Contact ERA American Realty and we would be happy to help you.
Can proper maintenance increase the value of my home?
Yes. There's no question that careful maintenance can pay off when it's time to sell your home. As we explained in the SELLING section of our site, a neat, well-maintained house can be expected to generate more traffic, and quite possibly a faster sale for a better price, than a comparable house in less desirable condition. The same goes for home improvements, even minor ones like minor kitchen remodeling or new bathroom wall coverings.
Even if you're not planning on moving in the foreseeable future, keeping up with routine maintenance will pay big dividends in the long run. For one thing, it will save you considerable time, trouble and expense when you are finally ready to sell. And for another, it's certain to make home ownership a more rewarding, worry-free experience for you and your family.
Best of all, home maintenance doesn't have to cost a lot, in terms of time or money. Even if you're not a weekend do-it-yourselfer, there are steps you can take right now to keep your home in top shape, inside and out.
What are some home maintenance steps I can do myself?
You can get more enjoyment in your home and save money along the way, just by making a quick inspection every few months. This "TLC" list includes some important safety, economy, and comfort considerations that you shouldn't overlook.
- Make sure handrails and posts on stairways are secure. Replace when necessary with inexpensive bracket hardware.
- Test all household alarms, especially smoke alarms; change batteries frequently. And don't forget the doorbell!
- Make sure drains are running smoothly. Check traps and basement waste pipes, then check the main water line and shutoff.
- Inspect the basement for any damp spots, especially in corners. If you catch these areas early, a little waterproofing compound will usually do the trick.
- Wrap your cold-water pipes with foam rubber insulation. It prevents pipe "sweating" in the summer and freezing in the winter.
- Keep gutters sloped toward the downspout, and keep them free of leaves and twigs.
- Keep basement windows in good order. Consider window-well covers to keep out leaves and rain.
- Flashing is where a roof or wall meets a chimney or skylight. Check the seals in these areas to see if they're secure.
- Replace individual shingles when worn or loose.
- Use wire screening to keep insects and birds from nesting in roof ventilation areas.
- Lubricate garage door hardware and hinges.
- Fill and seal driveway cracks when necessary.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BE PREPARED!
Make sure that everyone in the house, including children who are old enough to be left alone, know where to find the following:
- The closest fire extinguisher, and how to use it.
- Fuse box or main circuit breaker, and how it works.
- Main gas shut off valve, and how to turn it off.
- Main water shut off valve, and how to turn it off.
- Emergency services contact numbers (fire, police, ambulance) in your area.
How can I increase the energy-efficiency of my home without spending a fortune?
Making your home more comfortable and efficient doesn't have to take a great deal of time and money. For a good start toward saving on your home heating, cooling, and other energy bills, here are five easy steps you can take:
Keep your thermostat set around 78 degrees in the summer, 68 degrees in the winter. By avoiding constant adjustments you can stabilize your energy bills.
SAVINGS: You'll stay comfortable year round, and your heating/cooling bills won't make you uncomfortable, either.
Dripping bathroom faucets and leaky shower heads are obvious waste culprits. Fortunately, they're easy to fix with a self-help book. Toilet tank water-savers can mean significant dollar savings, too.
SAVINGS: An average family can save about 20,000 gallons of fresh water a year with a few easy bathroom fix-ups.
Compact fluorescent lighting costs more than you're used to paying for the standard incandescent bulbs, but fluorescents last more than 10 times longer (over 5 years in many cases) and use just a quarter of the electricity.
SAVINGS: Over its lifetime each compact fluorescent bulb will save you $40-$60 on your electric bill.
Fireplaces can be a big energy leak. Check dampers and screens to make sure warm air isn't escaping when the fireplace isn't in use. Consider installing an energy-saving firebox to help circulate heat. If the fireplace is just for decoration, cover the chimney.
SAVINGS: An energy-efficient fireplace can be an economical and cozy source of supplemental heat.
Help your home systems and appliances do their jobs by keeping filters clean and operating parts oiled. Clean air conditioning filters and wall units each year. Change furnace filters frequently, and keep your furnace motor oiled. A professional inspection once a year will keep things running smoothly.
SAVINGS: Doing the little things adds up to lower electric bills and fewer appliance replacement costs.
Have your water heater checked and serviced regularly -- neglect can lead to flooding and problems with other appliances.
What's one sure way to keep my home energy bills under control?
Without a doubt, insulating your home is your best protection against high heating and cooling bills. It's also the best way to keep your home comfortable in every season.
Start with any unfinished attics and crawl spaces - that's where you'll notice savings of heat and money. Then consider adding insulation to the ceilings and walls between your living space and an unheated basement and garage.
Finally, don't forget that windows and doors can be some of your home's biggest energy wasters. Check weather-stripping, replace broken parts, and use storm windows and doors to stay draft-free.
What kind of insulation do I need?
The main considerations when selecting insulation for your home are ease of installation, cost and durability. Because there are several different materials and forms to choose from (blanket, board, loose, etc.), it's best to talk with a building professional or salesperson to determine your particular needs.
Is it worth the money to call a professional just to handle maintenance?
When everything in your home seems to be running fine, it's very tempting just to let maintenance go until next year. Do your best to overcome that temptation!
Get into the habit of sticking to a regular schedule of maintenance for the systems and equipment in your home. You'll catch most little problems before they get big, and that can add up to enormous equipment and energy savings. Of course, the added benefit is the peace of mind that comes with being sure that everything in your home is running the way it was meant to.
If your home is covered by an ERA Home Protection Plan and you need assistance, you simply follow service instructions included in your warranty contract. And if you have any questions, or need professional repair service, help is available to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
What maintenance records do I need to keep?For easy reference in case of a repair or maintenance question, it's a good idea to keep a record of the brand, model number, and serial number of your major appliances and systems. Your records should also show the equipment installation dates (when known), as well as performance checks and service calls. Keeping these records can help you keep your home running smoothly the way checking your odometer can help you keep your car in top shape.