Category Archives: Inside

3 Tips to Cut Your Water Bill and “Save” Water

One of the best ways to get folks to participate in environmentally friendly activities is to show them how to save significant money while conserving. Here are three simple things you can do to drastically cut your water and sewer charges.

First: Stop letting water just run down the drain.  We are probably all familiar with the ads to turn off the water while brushing our teeth. What if we all stopped running water whenever we aren’t actively using it for something? Start paying attention to how often you turn it on and then do something else, like stand there and wait for it to get hot. Or just let it run while rinsing dishes in the sink. Try catching the “not hot enough” water in a pitcher and saving it to pour into your filter pitcher or for cooking or for making big ice cubes.

Second: Cut down the amount of water you use in the shower. For under $5.00 you can purchase a quick shut-off value that you install between the hose and the shower head. Then get in the shower and wet down, turn off the flow with the valve and lather up, turn the water back on and rinse off. The valve will more than pay for itself the first month, even if only one person is using it!

Third: Adjust the amount of water you use in the washer according to the size of the load. But ideally, try to limit your clothes washing to full loads only. Use your dishwasher when full and not on half loads. Believe it or not, manufacturers have said that it takes less water to load dishes, then run a “rinse only” cycle after a meal than to hand-rinse  before loading the dishes. When the washer is full, run your cycle.

By using even one of these tips you can have dollar savings, but if you use all three you should significantly cut your water usage and have significant savings in your bill. 

3 Ways to do a Property Inventory

It’s that time of year when those of us in the south are very aware of the tropics. Someplace nearby seems to always be having some property damage related to weather, usually flooding from too much rain or actual damage to homes from wind or wind-driven debris. I don’t know which is more of a hassle, cleaning up the place or dealing with the insurance appraiser. One thing that makes the latter much easier is to have an up-to-date Property Inventory.

A Property Inventory is a file that has photos of each and every item in you home (that you would want to have replaced or be compensated for) along with invoices, descriptions or appraisals or each item. There are three ways to do this. But the following procedure has to be done for all of them.

Pull out two large pieces of cloth (sheets or blankets), one in a light or white color and one dark. Use these as backgrounds so that the items are isolated for the photo. Take pictures of each item or set of items. A sofa is an item (and probably doesn’t need the background) and your silverware is a set of items. If you have a collection of artwork or collectibles, photograph each of them individually, because each item will have a different value. In the case of silverware or crystal, photograph the forks and knives separately because forks have a different value than knives. Just be sure the photo shows the number of the items.

Once you have this process down, you are ready to choose your method.

Method 1. After you photograph each item or set, print out the photos and attach them to the invoice, appraisal or written description of the item. Make a file folder of these photos and documentation and put the file in a safety deposit box.

Method 2. After you photograph each item or set, upload the photo to a photo sharing website online, such as Google Photos or Flickr. Scan copies of the invoices and appraisals or descriptions and then upload them to a file you create in Google Docs or some other cloud based program. When all the docs and invoices/appraisals/ descriptions are in, link the photo of the item or set directly to the written document. This actually costs you nothing and you will be able to access the information from anywhere in the world that you have a computer.

Method 3. Subscribe to a cloud based property file. I use HomeZada for my customers. The property inventory part of the program is free and the ease of use and peace of mind is fantastic.

The program comes with simple software that you download to your computer, and apps that each adult in the household can download to their phones. You don’t need to scan anything, just take photos of the documents and upload to the items preset in the program or that you have added yourself. Everything is sorted according to rooms, closets or garage/yard areas and you put all the photos you want, along with the receipts, appraisals and descriptions in the correct place without having to create documents yourself. If you need to make any kind of insurance report, it’s as simple as uploading to your insurance company from any computer or tablet.

HomeZada has tons of other features that are available to you with the premium package, but the home inventory portion is completely free. I do not get any compensation of any kind from this company. I just happen to think it is the best closing gift for my customers so I give a year of the premium plan to each of them following the closing.

What’s Trending in Homeownership.

In past centuries, change came but it came slowly. In this 21st century change is almost a daily occurrence. We humans weren’t actually designed to have so much change, but it’s happening, so we try to adapt.

Some of the changes that actually are taking place in homeownership include the trends toward “green” living, the trend toward minimalism and the continual advancement of technology. We’ll be exploring these trends in future posts so keep an eye out for them.

3 “Do Not Break” rules for decorating or landscaping

If it’s time to make some major changes in your living space, whether inside or outside the house, there are 3 basic rules that you should follow that will assure that you thoroughly enjoy the result AND do not destroy the essential value of your home.

1. Know your preferred style and stick with it.

There are 4 acknowledged fashion styles: the Classic, the Romantic, the Trendy and the Relaxed.  You probably already know what your style is, but how about your spouse or partner’s style?  If it’s different from yours, try to meld the two styles so both of you have the feel you can enjoy and be comfortable in.

2.  Whatever you decide to do, be sure it can be reversed easily if you should decide to sell the property.

Odd Update
Whose idea was this!

So you want to install a mosaic tile floor in the style of a Tuscan Villa.  It fits your fashion style and really sets the tone for the rest of the decor.  Or you set up a BMX track, complete with hills and valleys in the backyard, to give your kid a place to practice.  They each seemed like a good idea at the time, but if you want to sell the house, you will have to find a buyer who exactly matches your style. Because of that innovation and uniqueness, you will have shrunk your likely buyer pool and probably either increased the length of time to sell or decreased the final sale price.  And believe this:  it’s a lot more fun to create than it is to demolish!  Think this all the way through and see if you can find an alternative that is less trouble to undo.

3.  Don’t overimprove the property in relation to the rest of the neighborhood.

Big house, little house
Would you pay top dollar for either house?

You add an $80,000 update to a house that is currently valued at $120,000 and is located in a neighborhood of $100,000 homes.  Or you re-landscape with triple the plants, fountains and rockwork of any other property on the street.  Or you double the size of your house with a second floor addition, while all the neighbors are single story bungalows. The problem in all of these cases is that the property has been overdeveloped for the neighborhood in which they are located.  People who are willing to pay $200,000 for a home will want to be in a neighborhood of other $200,000 homes.  It will be extremely difficult, even in an appreciating market, to get your money out of these types of improvements.

What other points or tips do YOU think a homeowner should consider when planning a home or landscape renovation project?

Photo Credit for Odd Update:  George Eastman House

Photo Credit for Big House, Little House:  Daryl Mitchell