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December
27


 

From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home's maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family ... and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1 You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It's applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.

Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months. 

Inside

  • Maintain Heating System
    Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer's instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.
  • Tune Up Generator
    If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it's working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.
  • Prevent Frozen Pipes
    Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you're away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

Outside

  • Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
    Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.
  • Remove Window Screens
    Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.
  • Service Snowblower
    Don't wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.
  • Stock Up on Ice Melt
    Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.
  • Watch Out for Ice Dams
    Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.14
  • Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
    Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.15

 Spring

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

Inside

  • Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
    Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.
  • Shut Down Heating System
    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer's instructions for proper procedures.
  • Tune Up A/C
    If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance.2
  • Check Plumbing
    It's a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it's working properly.3
  • Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer's recommendation.4

Outside

  • Inspect Perimeter of Home
    Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.
  • Clean Home's Exterior
    Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home's facade, it's generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts
    Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.6
  • Rake Leaves
    Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.

  • Seed or Sod Lawn
    If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8
     
  • Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
    While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don't plan to seed or sod in the spring.
  • Plant Flowers
    After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It's also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.

  • Mulch Beds
    A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9

  • Fertilize Lawn
    Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10
  • Tune Up Lawn Mower
    Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11

  • Inspect Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, check that it's working properly and make repairs as needed.
  • Check the Deck
    If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.
  • Prepare Pool
    If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

Summer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

Inside

  • Adjust Ceiling Fans
    Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.  
  • Clean A/C Filters
    Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you're running your air conditioner often. 
  • Clear Dryer Vent
    Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.
  • Check Weather Stripping
    If you're running your air conditioner in the summer, you'll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

Outside

  • Mow Lawn Regularly
    Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.
  • Water Early in the Morning
    Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.
  • Weed Weekly
    To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home's valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.
  • Exterminate Pests
    Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.

Fall

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

Inside

  • Have Heater Serviced
    To ensure safety and efficiency, it's a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.
  • Shut Down A/C for the Winter
    If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it's properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.
     
  • Inspect Chimney
    Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.
  • Seal Windows and Doors
    Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.
  • Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it's time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer's recommendation.3

Outside

  • Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
    Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It's also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.
  • Rake or Mow Leaves
    Once the leaves start falling, it's time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Apply Fall Fertilizer
    If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13
  • Inspect Gutters and Roof
    Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.
  • Shut Down Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.
  • Close Pool
    If you have a pool, it's time to clean and close it up before the winter.

    While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home's maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

    Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

    Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

    Sources:

    1. HouseLogic.com –
      https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/
    2. Home Advisor –
      https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/
    3. Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating –
      http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/
    4. Allstate Insurance Blog –
      https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/
    5. Houzz –
      https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house
    6. Angie's List –
      https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm
    7. Angie's List –
      https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm
    8. HGTV –
      http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures
    9. This Old House –
      https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching
    10. Lowes –
      https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project
    11. The New York Times –
      https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
    12. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine –
      https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/
    13. The Spruce –
      https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976
    14. This Old House –
      https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams
    15. Houzz –
      https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

     

    December
    5

    You don't have to break the bank to celebrate the holidays in style—even in this season of inflation. Prices may be higher on everything from food to gifts to decorations, but there are still plenty of opportunities to eke out extra savings.

    For example, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can save a couple of hundred dollars a year just by sealing your home and boosting its insulation.1 Other small fixes—such as swapping old light bulbs for LEDs and plugging electronics into a powerstrip—can boost your yearly savings enough to pay off some of your holiday budgets.

    And thanks to a pandemic-era boom in online shopping, it is easier than ever to find deals on new and pre-owned furniture, thrifted gifts, DIY decor, and more. Even secondhand stalwarts like Goodwill have joined the digital fray, making it a cinch to score gently-used treasures at extra-low prices.2

    You won't be the only one bargain-hunting your way to a more financially-stable New Year. Multiple surveys have found that inflation is not only chilling people's spending, it's also prompting shoppers to search for better deals and creative ways to reduce their bills.3

    Here are some strategies you can use to boost your holiday budget by trimming household expenses:

    1. Hunt for Deals on Groceries

    If you're finding it harder than it used to be to serve your family dinner on a budget, you're not alone. With the U.S. food-at-home index (a measure of grocery price inflation) at a 43-year high, many families are struggling to control costs on food staples, such as meat, dairy, produce, and grains.4

    That's made pulling off holiday gatherings especially stressful lately. But don't despair: Even with inflation, retailers are still giving motivated shoppers plenty of opportunities to whittle down their bills.

    The key is to pay attention to the cost of each item on your shopping list—not just the most expensive—and look for easy swaps and discounts. For example, try buying non-perishable items in bulk, especially when they're on sale, and only in-season produce. Or trade name-brand goods for less expensive options from a store's private label. As you tap into your inner bargain hunter, you could be surprised by what you save when you're more mindful of your selections.

    And unlike in the old days, you no longer have to clip your way through paper flyers to snag a bargain. Instead, you can save both time and money by scouting for deals online, digitally clipping coupons, and earning cash back through special apps and browsers. For example, coupon aggregation sites, like Coupons.com, and shopping apps—such as Checkout 51 and Ibotta—make it easy to score discounts and cashback on a variety of purchases, including groceries.

    Also, check to see if your neighborhood grocer posts their weekly flyers online. If you're hosting a holiday party, the markdowns you find can help you narrow your food and recipe choices, based on what's currently on sale.

    2. Prep Your Home for Holiday Guests With Pre-Owned Finds

    You don't have to sacrifice style for the sake of preserving your holiday budget either. If you're expecting company this year and would like to add some festive flair to your home, you can do so inexpensively—especially if you're willing to decorate with items that are secondhand.

    Thrifting is back in vogue, with an increasing number of shoppers preferring pre-owned furniture and home goods. A recent study found that the "re-commerce" market grew almost 15% last year, which was twice the pace of general retail.5 Plus, buying used isn't just a great way to save money, it also helps the environment by keeping reusable items out of landfills.

    Fortunately, it's become easier to score secondhand deals online. For example, you can scout consumer marketplaces on Facebook, Craigslist, and OfferUp. Or you can take advantage of neighborhood freecycles and "Buy Nothing" groups. And a number of thrift shops now have e-commerce sites, including major chains, like Goodwill.

    If you're handy with a paintbrush or have some basic carpentry skills, you can also modernize some of your existing furniture by upcycling it yourself. Or, if you enjoy crafting, search through your own recycling or sewing bin for raw materials to make one-of-a-kind decorations.

    Don't stress yourself out, though, if you don't have the time or money to dress your home the way you hoped. "A house doesn't have to be perfect or completely done for it to feel festive or inviting," designer Justina Blakeney noted in an interview with the Washington Post. "These are family and friends, and they are not judging you."6 

    3. Forgo Major Renovations in Favor of DIY Home Improvements

    Holidays are always a tricky time to undergo big renovations. But with ongoing worker and material shortages, now is an especially bad time to commit. Inflated costs can add thousands to your reno budget –—and unnecessary stress to your holiday.

    Instead of suffering through an ill-timed remodel, you're better off saving this time of year for simpler, less expensive projects you can do yourself.

    One winter-perfect upgrade to consider: Build a DIY fire pit so that you and your guests can roast marshmallows and relax in the cozy comfort of your backyard. You can also add some extra ambiance by hanging energy-efficient LED outdoor string lights that change from white to colorful. These are festive enough for the holidays, but also versatile enough to use year-round.

    Or, if you'd rather curl up by an indoor fire, channel your DIY energy into a fireplace upgrade. Adding a wooden beam to the top of your mantel can add an extra layer of coziness. Alternatively, re-tiling or painting your fireplace surround can lend contemporary flair.

    Just be sure to stick to DIY projects that you know you can do a quality job on—especially if your changes will be difficult to reverse. Feel free to reach out for a free assessment to find out how your planned renovations could impact your home's resale value. 

    4. Invest in Home Maintenance Projects That Cut Your Utility Bills

    You can save money by completing basic home maintenance tasks, such as swapping your furnace filter and updating your lightbulbs. But if you really want to lower your bills this winter, consider projects that make your home more energy efficient.

    According to the EPA, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated, which wastes energy and money.7 Luckily, there are plenty of DIY insulation projects that you can complete in just a few days. For example, the EPA offers guides on how to:

    • Insulate your attic or basement crawl space
    • Weatherstrip doors and windows
    • Seal areas around the house that may be leaking air, including electrical outlets and fireplaces

    The savings you get from these projects can really add up. The EPA estimates that sealing and insulating your ducts can make your HVAC system up to 20% more efficient.8 And thanks to new provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act, you can also save a bundle this year by investing in certain energy-efficient upgrades and claiming a tax credit.9 Be sure to check with us about any local rebates and incentives that may be available, too, before getting started on a project. 

    5. Use Expense Tracking to Boost Your Holiday Budget

     To avoid overextending yourself during the holidays (or anytime), one of the best things you can do is track your income and expenses. If your monthly budget is usually tight, you may need to make some adjustments to free up cash for holiday expenditures.

     For example, here's a sample budget worksheet. Start by adding in your expenses: Under the "Typical" column, you can list your standard expenses, and under the "Adjusted" column, list any areas where you could cut back on spending.

    Then consider how your standard wages may be adjusted this month by extra shifts, additional tips, or an end-of-year bonus. By decreasing your spending and/or increasing your income, you can build room in your budget for holiday gifts and gatherings.

    HOUSEHOLD BUDGET WORKSHEET

     

    Typical

    Adjusted

    Difference (+/-)

    HOUSING

    Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent

     

     

     

    Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)

     

     

     

    Phone, internet, cable

     

     

     

    Home maintenance and repairs

     

     

     

    FOOD

    Groceries

     

     

     

    Restaurants

     

     

     

    TRANSPORTATION

    Car payment/insurance

     

     

     

    Gas, maintenance, repairs

     

     

     

    OTHER

    Health insurance

     

     

     

    Clothing and personal care

     

     

     

    Childcare

     

     

     

    Entertainment

     

     

     

    Charitable contributions

     

     

     

    Savings, retirement, college fund

     

     

     

    INCOME

    Salary/wages

     

     

     

    Bonus, tips, other

     

     

     

    MONTHLY TOTALS

    Total Adjusted Income

     

    Total Adjusted Expenses

    -

    EXTRA SAVINGS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY BUDGET

     

    Feel free to use this worksheet as a template that you can personalize to your needs.

     WE'RE HERE TO HELP

     We would love to help you meet your financial goals now and in the year ahead. Whether you want to find lower-cost alternatives for home renovations, maintenance, or services, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals.

    And if you're saving up to buy a new home, we can help with that, too. This is the perfect time to score a great deal because only the most motivated homebuyers and sellers are active in the market right now. So reach out to schedule a free consultation. We can fill you in on some of the exciting programs and incentives we're seeing that help make homeownership more affordable.

    The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

    Sources:

    1. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/waysToSave#!card0-GW91
    2. USA Today - https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/retail/2022/10/05/goodwill-launches-online-store-goodwillfinds-website/8185084001/
    3. Retail Dive -
      https://www.retaildive.com/news/inflation-drives-shopping-changes-consumers-survey/629973/
    4. NBC News -
      https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/how-save-groceries-ncna1299053
    5. CNBC - ​​https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/14/secondhand-shopping-is-booming-heres-how-much-you-can-save.html
    6. Washington Post -
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/home/2021/11/09/holiday-entertaining-tips/
    7. S. Environmental Protection Agency - https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/seal_insulate/why_seal_and_insulate
    8. Energy Star -
      https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/waysToSave
    9. The White House -
      https://www.whitehouse.gov/cleanenergy/?utm_source=cleanenergy.gov