A college friend of mine almost lost her home. True story. What happened? The dryer lint caught on fire in the exhaust duct. Here's how you can keep your home safe:
Dryers require regular simple maintenance to keep working safely & efficiently.
To avoid potential fire hazards and having to do costly repairs to your appliances.
It goes without saying that you should clean your lint screen after every load of laundry. Keeping the filter clear will shorten the drying cycle, save you money, and prevent any potential fire hazards. It is also a good practice to regularly, but at least twice a year, remove the lint that accumulates at the bottom of the housing that holds your lint screen. You can generally use a vacuum cleaner's flat attachment to reach down in the housing to suck out anything that has accumulated in there. Finally, you should be cleaning out your dryer's exhaust duct using a dryer duct cleaning brush (it's a stiff bristled circular brush with a flexible handle that you can buy at most hardware stores) at least twice a year. The exhaust duct vents your dryers exhaust to the outside of your house and can become a fire hazard if not kept clear. Consider doing this more often (say monthly) if you do heavy amounts of laundry on a consistent basis. Many service providers sell regular service plans to handle this for you, so consider signing up for one.
Most people think that if they created a revocable living trust, that the process of settling their affairs won't require the services of an attorney. However, in my experience, this assumption is true for only a handful of trusts. Here's a list of things to keep in mind if you find yourself the successor trustee, settling your family's trust.
Was the Trust Fully Funded?
One of the most important aspects of having a living trust work as expected is to ensure that it is fully funded with all of the Trustmaker's assets prior to death. If, at the time the Trustmaker dies, anything of even limited value is left out of the trust, a probate administration may be required.
Was the Trustmaker Married?
If the living trust contains follow on AB or ABC Trusts, the successor trustee and surviving spouse should meet with an attorney to ensure those follow on trusts are funded correctly. Also, any federal or state estate tax returns need to be prepared and filed, sometimes even if no tax is due.
Will the Beneficiaries of the Trust Receive their Inheritance in another trust?
If there are no issues that need to be addressed by a trust attorney, such as paying estate taxes, getting tax releases, dealing with debt or deciding what to do with retirement accounts, then all parties may be able to settle the trust without an attorney. If there are issues such as the above, or if any of the beneficiaries will receive their inheritance in a trust, then it's best to discuss how the new trust will be funded, the tax returns and how each trust should be handled with a reputable attorney.
Will the Estate Owe Federal, State or Inheritance Taxes?
If the Trustmaker lived in or owned real estate in one of the jurisdictions or states that collects inheritance taxes, the successor trustee should work with a trust attorney to make sure all tax returns are filed and taxes paid, else the successor trustee could be stuck paying taxes out of personal assets.
Is a Business Involved?
Even if the Trustmaker made an exit plan for a business, the successor trustee will need to work with a trust attorney to implement the exit plan. Without an exit plan, an attorney would be needed to deal with the legal aspects of the business.
Is there contention among Beneficiaries?
If beneficiaries hire their own attorney to represent their interests, the successor trustee would want to hire a trust attorney to settle the trust.
Are there Retirement Accounts Involved?
If ether the trust is the beneficiary of a retirement account such as a 401K or IRA, then an attorney would be needed to ensure distributions are handled correctly and tax consequences minimized.
In conclusion, as a successor trustee, you may wish to at least consult with a reputable estate attorney to understand your family's living trust situation.
Note - the foregoing should not be construed as legal advice. Contact Avanti for a list of local, reputable attorneys in the Grass Valley area.
Deciding you’re ready to buy a house is a big moment in your life, whether it’s a first time purchase or you’re snatching up yet another investment property. The home buying process is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined, as well as very real financial risks.
That’s why there are so many pieces of advice about when to buy a house. The truth is that there’s no one answer for anyone. Because market conditions can vary dramatically, there’s no way to safely predict if or when the neighborhood you’re looking at will be ripe for the picking. These are the times when having a really knowledgeable Realtor comes in handy.
Today’s Real Estate Market: An Overview
You should have some idea of what you’re walking into before you jump in the real estate market. Sometimes, there’s way too much supply (too many houses for sale) and not enough buyers — this is a “buyer’s market,” and that’s who has the upper hand in negotiations. Sometimes there are too many buyers and not enough supply — a “seller’s market.” Often, there are roughly balanced parts supply and buyers, which makes for a very healthy and predictable market.
We’re not in a healthy and predictable market at the national level. There are currently way too many buyers who want to buy at any price and not nearly enough new homes being built, nor are there enough existing homes to meet demand. Generally, this would push prices up. However, since interest rates are increasing, some buyers are starting to get squeezed out of the market entirely, which should be pushing prices back down, but doesn’t seem to be.
What we seem to have right now, as of the writing of this blog, is a market that’s sort of stalling. Normally, the summer is the craziest time of the year for Realtors — no one wants to pull their kid out of school mid-year to move across the city. And although many Realtors are reporting that they have plenty of potential, well-qualified buyers, they’re fighting over scraps as the supply continues to shrink.
Should You Be Trying to Buy Right Now?
Depending on who you are and where you are in your life journey, the competitive, weirdly stalled market we have this year may be as good a time as any for you to buy. Below is a brief breakdown of major buyer types and how the market could affect them if they were to buy today:
First time homebuyers. Jumping into the real estate market as a first timer is always a little terrifying, but the current market may give you a serious complex. If you’re buying a house to live in, not one that you expect will make you a bundle down the road, and your life is fairly settled, there’s no time like the present to go down the home purchase road. Just bear in mind that you will probably have to write several offers before you land that starter home — give yourself plenty of time for houses that will get away.
Maturing family. When you’re looking for that last house, the one you’re going to send your kids away to college from, the most important thing is finding a house that’s suitable for your family. There’s no time that’s better or worse for this purchase, especially if your plan is to hold it indefinitely. Sure, you may end up paying a little bit more now than you would have a couple of years ago, but the value you get from living in the house, as well as natural appreciation, generally ensure you come out a little bit ahead. It beats renting, anyway.
Empty nester. Aging in place is the thing these days, and for good reason. That just creates one big problem: not enough inventory that will accommodate mobility equipment like walkers and wheelchairs that you may ultimately need. Housing starts are really rising, though, so you might as well visit a few Open Houses to see if there’s a builder out there that you can picture building the home where you’ll retire. Although existing homes can work for your needs, new construction gives you the option to create an age in place friendly universal design from the foundation up.
Investor. Investors! You are literally the only group on this list that should be seriously concerned about the timing of your purchases. Since owner-occupied homes tend to be held for the long term, the risk to those buyers is minimal, but you’re looking to buy and almost immediately start making money.
Finding a good price on a listed home may be tricky right now, but switching gears to the building of new homes will introduce a lot of competition. Buying and holding properties as rentals could pay off, but only if you really buy them right. Now may not be a great time for you to buy if you have investments that are already paying for themselves. It would, however, be a pretty good time to unload properties that you’ve fully depreciated or those that just really don’t fit in with your portfolio.
When it comes down to it, the biggest factor you should be considering when purchasing real estate that you intend to occupy is whether or not you’re really ready for homeownership. A close second, of course, is whether or not you can really afford a house, but your Realtor and mortgage lender will help you with that part.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if today is a good day to buy, there’s no way to know what the market will look like in five to 10 years when you may want to buy again.
Let Your Realtor Be Your Guide… your Realtor is the best person to go to when it comes to the question of timing your real estate purchase. If they tell you to punch it, then all systems go.
Now that you’ve bought a home of your own, you might be thinking that you’re kind of good at handywork and you want to give flipping a go. It’s certainly one way to make money in today’s somewhat volatile market, provided you know what to look for in an optimally flippable property. Of course, the house that flips best in downtown Newark probably won’t be the same one that flips amazingly in Dallas, but there are some general things you can look for in a fantastically flippable house.
Five Focal Features of a Flippable FindBuying a flip should be a numbers game. You’re not buying your own place to make memories, you don’t have to live there, so the house that you have in mind for your first flip should be one that’s not needing too much repair work, but is seriously undervalued.
This happens frequently when an older person goes into a medical facility long-term or they pass away. It’s much more common for children that inherit a property to want to move it as quickly as they can, rather than fight over who gets to live in mom’s house. That’s why you’ll often see several promising properties in neighborhoods that are more than 30 years old — many of those owners bought when they were early to mid-career, all at the same time, and, well, time makes fools of us all.
Your ideal flip looks something like this:
It’s structurally sound. Unless you are absolutely stealing this property, there’s no substitution for structural soundness. You can’t flip a house that’s on a crumbling foundation. You can do a preliminary assessment yourself by carefully looking at the roofline. If it’s straight and sharp, the chances are good that the rest is, too, but don’t skip a professional structural inspection. If the roofline is wavy, the roof itself is cupped or it’s doing anything except being a good and proper roof, keep on looking.
The systems are solid. You can drop some serious money on updating or replacing electrical, HVAC, plumbing and roofing, so make sure that your flip has most of these in good, working order with long life expectancies. Your home inspector can give you an idea about how much time each should have remaining. Most flips can absorb one of these items, so don’t pass on a great deal just because it needs an electrical update — unless, of course, there are other big issues.
The house just doesn’t look like much. Even when the market is highly competitive, small changes can make all the difference. The plain little house tucked behind that bushy tree is not going to be on anybody’s short list, unless they’re looking to flip. Get a tree crew in there to groom or remove that monster, add some shutters in a contrasting color, dress up the landscaping with perennials and bam! Instant (almost) curb appeal.
There are a lot of memorable cosmetic items. If you look at a house and your brain keeps trying to sort out what it is that you’re seeing, you might be in a fantastically flippable property. Bright green carpet, fuschia backsplashes, mirrors on the bathroom walls? Nailed it! These are often the real gems, provided that the cosmetic stuff is what’s scaring buyers away. That cosmetic stuff is a serious turn-off for so many people who can’t see beyond the ugly to that potential house under the surface. Obviously, that homeowner cared about their place or they’d not have added so many personal touches, so chances are good that you’ll find most everything that costs a lot to be in good working order.
It’s a fine representative of the overall neighborhood. Ok, so the walnut paneling and the bright orange carpet have to go, but in terms of the architectural style, size, age and general upkeep, a good flip is the one that looks like it fits into the neighborhood. Not too big, not too small, not too weird. Especially not too weird.
Ready to Start Flipping Houses? You’re Gonna Need Some Pros…Even the best flippers — especially the best flippers — have a team of experts at their disposal. Whether you’re acting as a general contractor or just directing the person who is, your main role is to pick out materials and coordinate the repairs to come. But don’t worry, you already have access to the best network of home pros in your area with Avanti's recommendations. Connect with the experts you need, any time, and make your first flip a total success.
Your new house has an awesome outdoor kitchen, or maybe you just had one installed, either way you’re all set to grill outside all summer (and maybe into the fall and winter, too). Have you stopped to consider all the things that it takes to keep an outdoor kitchen running smoothly? Remember there’s live electricity, gas lines, appliances and other things that are going to require regular effort.
An outdoor kitchen can be the best investment you’ve ever made, but you definitely should be considering how an outdoor kitchen is different from an indoor kitchen.
Outdoor Versus Indoor Kitchens: The Big DifferencesThere’s nothing wrong with an outdoor kitchen, they’re not inherently dangerous or troublesome, they’re just different than an indoor kitchen. Heck, some of the early pioneers had outdoor kitchens before it was cool. At the end of the day, though, the two are fairly different, so let’s take a look at the biggest stuff.
Exposure to the Elements
Your indoor kitchen is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit or so all the time, day in and day out. Depending on where you live, your outdoor kitchen could be exposed to some really extreme weather, swinging from below freezing in the winter to above 100 degrees F in the summer. It’s a lot for gaskets, plumbing and wiring to bear.
Maintenance and regular health checks are vital for your outdoor kitchen, otherwise you could have catastrophic failures without warning. In addition, ensure that all your outdoor kitchen components are approved for outdoor usage — if anything is not, replace it right away or plan for it to have a shortened lifespan.
Levels of Cleanliness
Look, no one is judging you here, but your outdoor kitchen is a lot dirtier than your indoor one. It’s partially because your indoor kitchen is inside, protected from blowing pollen, dust and the various types of insects and animals that happen to run around at night in your backyard. But, there’s also the fact that you neglect to clean your grill as often as you should and you leave the grease catch full.
You can’t keep an outdoor kitchen squeaky clean, but you should always, always, always clean that grill from top to bottom. Not only does grease left in the catcher underneath attract mammals that you’d not normally invite into your kitchen, but the dirtier the grill is, the worse it will perform when it’s time to cook.
Counters and Floors
Inside kitchens are pretty easy to maintain. You clean the tile, vinyl or hardwoods with a regular household floor cleaner and wipe the counters with a wet sponge. No problem! Your outside kitchen, as you may have guessed, is a bit more complicated. So many outside kitchens use stone like granite for counters because of this material’s ability to withstand heat and, of course, because they look amazing next to the pool. The “floor” of that kitchen is often concrete or stone. Not exactly the kind of thing you just mop and go with.
First, make sure your granite counters are sealed every three to five years to protect them from the worst the sun can deal out. Next, make sure you always sweep your patio clear of grass clippings, blown dirt and other plant materials to prevent weeds from popping up where they can find footing. Lastly, make sure to power wash that patio at least once a year to remove stains, grease and mildew.
WinterizingObviously, your indoor kitchen should need little to no winterizing since it’s both serviced by a modern heating system and protected from the cold by at least one wall and the insulation therein. Even in a very old house, the most you might need to do is turn on heat tape that’s wrapped around plumbing to prevent frozen pipes. Your outdoor kitchen, though, will need a lot of care ahead of the cold.
Remember to disconnect all your appliances from their various services. Turn the gas off to the grill, empty and disconnect the fridge, drain and winterize the water lines running to the sink. Cover your patio furniture or bring it inside. Cover the grill and other appliances, too, if your outdoor kitchen lacks a permanent roof (a sail or solar cloth isn’t the same thing). If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that only freezes once in a while, you can wait to disconnect everything until just before the storm comes, provided you’re still using the kitchen regularly.
Having an Outdoor Kitchen is Amazing……until something breaks or is severely damaged because of a lack of maintenance, that is. Keeping these items in mind can help extend your period of trouble-free enjoyment, but even the best kitchen will need to have a thorough professional inspection every now and again to remain reliable.