|Sunday, 01 February 2009|
SEVEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR HOUSE IN 2009
We don't normally think about our house talking to us. But the truth is that we live there, and there is truth in the saying: "the home is where the heart is."
So may I suggest that it's time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your house and ask what you might do to help during this time of economic uncertainty? I believe that your house would probably give you an answer similar to the one my house gave me last week.
Here, straight from the rafters, is a list of seven things you can do to help your house during the coming year:
* Refinance your home loan and lock in a low fixed rate for as long as
you can. I know we talked about this last week, but it's so important
that you shed any adjustable mortgage while you have the chance, and
the whole transaction can be accomplished for almost nothing, if you
And while your house is handing out advice, it would advise that you stick with local lenders, avoiding the internet. Times like these see internet based companies disappear overnight, leaving you with nothing more than a busy signal and a "dot com" that no longer works. Instead, shop local.
* Obtain, review and understand your property tax options for 2009.
Now is the time to call your county tax commissioner and find out the deadlines for your particular county. Talk to local real estate agents about all sales in your neighborhood during 2008, especially the foreclosures and distressed sales, if there were any.
No matter what the proposed valuation from the county is, it's worth a postage stamp to file a protest based on the recent decline of property values in your neighborhood. Most counties are over-valuing now due to failure of owners to protest, and it's easy to do. The county will even assist you in filling out the papers. And it could save you a chunk of money for years to come.
* Cut shrubs and bushes down to below window levels and back away from the foundation of your house. Over the years, your shrubs have taken over, and it makes your house look messy and unkempt. Don't be afraid to use a heavy hand when you chop - chances are very good it will all grow back. If in doubt, call your county agent for free advice.
* Clean out your basement. I know you have been planning to do this since you moved in, but what else can you do in February anyway. It's cold and dark outside, and your house will feel better if you can just get that junk to the street. And when you are done, have a handyman add a few of those fluorescent shop lights so you can see the effects of your hard work!
* Keep your gutters clean and clear of debris.
I drove by a house recently in a very nice neighborhood, and I will swear there was a five foot pine tree growing in the gutter directly above the front door. It was actually quite handsome, except that it wasn't supposed to be there.
Nothing looks sillier than a line of uninvited seedlings protruding from the gutter above your house. Now is the time to tackle this chore: the leaves are all on the ground. Furthermore, a clogged gutter can easily become a moisture problem when water backs up into places it's not welcome.
* Paint one room a new fresh color.
Go to your local super hardware store and attend a free wall painting clinic. They have a whole new category of brushes and applicators that make painting a lot easier than it was years ago. And if you do the work yourself, the whole thing can be done for less than a hundred bucks or so.
Painting just one room will add a fresh clean scent to the whole house, almost in anticipation of spring. And if you pick a bright color, it might even improve your family's disposition.
As a side benefit, once you see how easy it is to paint the one room you picked, you may decide to go ahead next month and paint the rest of the interior. Hey, you already bought the brushes! And finally
* Replace your kitchen countertops.
I saved this one for last because it may cost you some serious money, depending on the material you select and what work needs to be done in preparation. But the secret is that there are companies that specialize in covering over existing countertops with a beautiful and durable surface. And it costs just a fraction of what you might pay for a custom new installation.
I have seen counter overlays that were indistinguishable from solid granite, and the cost difference was significant. And with the money you saved in material cost, consider a new sink and faucet. This addition will truly add sparkle to your old lackluster kitchen.
NEXT WEEK: New ideas from the International Builders Show