Maintaining your Heating and Cooling Systems

Living in Prescott with a climate where we often use both our air conditioning and heat in the winter and summer months, we need to make sure we’re taking good care of these systems in order to make them last long and work to the best of their abilities (no one wants a broken heating system in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, or an air conditioning system breaking down when it’s 100 degrees outside).

Because of this, it’s a good idea to hire an HVAC company to inspect and do maintenance on your systems about twice a year. They’ll do things like inspect and clean the wiring and mechanisms of the air conditioner and furnace, as well as other maintenance tasks that are a bit more challenging for the average homeowner.

However, aside from bringing in a professional, there are even more things you can do as a homeowner throughout the year to prolong the life and increase the efficiency of your systems. While some of these things you should do immediately, other tasks only need to be done seasonally or even just once a year.

Here are 10 things to do to maintain your systems well:

  1. Buy a better filter if you haven’t already.The new high-efficiency pleated filters have an electrostatic charge that work like a magnet to grab the tiniest particles — even those that carry bacteria.
  2. Replace the filter at least every 90 days.But check it monthly. If it looks dark and clogged, go ahead and change it. If you have pets, you’ll probably need to change every month.
  3. Make sure there’s at least two feet of clearancearound outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  4. Remove debris,such as leaves, pollen, and twigs weekly during spring, summer, and fall from top and sides of outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Don’t allow the lawn mower to discharge grass clippings onto the unit.
  5. Monthly, inspect insulation on refrigerant linesleading into house. Replace if missing or damaged.
  6. Make sure unit is level.Annually, ensure that outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps are on firm and level ground or pads.
  7. Stave off clogs.Annually, pour a cup of bleach mixed with water down the air-conditioner condensate drain to prevent buildup of mold and algae, which can cause a clog.
  8. Shut off the water supply to the furnace humidifierin summer. In fall (or when you anticipate turning on the heat), replace the humidifier wick filter, set the humidistat to between 35% and 40% relative humidity, and turn on the water supply.
  9. Never close more than 20% of a home’s registersto avoid placing unnecessary strain on the HVAC system.
  10. Replace the battery in your home’s carbon monoxide detector annually.

 

Which to Buy: Townhome or Condo?

Whether it’s your first time buying or you just want to purchase something smaller, townhouses and condos are both great options. Check out the differences between the two to help aid you in your search!

Condominiums

Condominiums are similar to apartments in that you purchase an individual unit inside of a larger building, but not the property it sits on. This generally includes access to the building’s amenities, such as the clubhouse, pool, and gym. However, condo owners are not responsible for the upkeep and repair of these common areas. Because of the number of shared spaces, living in a condo often allows for meeting new people and building a strong sense of community. There is a fairly similar vetting process for loan approval as for a full-sized home; however, the lender will also look at the health of the condo association.

Townhouses

Those who purchase a townhome are generally purchasing the complete unit, both inside and out, including the land it sits on. This might also include the driveway, yard, or roof. Traditionally, these units are two- or three-stories tall and may also include common areas like pools and parks. Townhome owners pay a fee to a homeowners association every month and the loan process is the same as buying a full-sized home.

Which is the best choice?

Both townhomes and condos offer less maintenance than a traditional home and generally offer great shared areas. Your decision ultimately comes down to you and your family’s needs and wants seeing as townhomes generally tend to be larger. Things you’ll want to take into consideration include location, lifestyle, family growth, and price. Another thing to consider is investment. Later on down the road once your family grows out of the condo or townhome, these properties can make great rentals. Checking on the HOA’s rules with renting is a good idea if this is something you’re interested in when buying.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

A holiday full of good food, good people, and good laughs, we are excited to get into full swing of this holiday about giving thanks.

Perhaps you spend the holiday with friends, family, watching football, or on vacation, but no matter how you celebrate the holiday, let’s remember to give thanks for all we’ve been blessed with. Food on our plates, a roof over our heads, and all those we love around us – these are just a few of the things we here at the Kathleen Yamauchi Group are thankful for.

Whether your life is going great, or you’re having some struggles right now, we pray you still have many things to be thankful for as well.

From all of us at the Kathleen Yamauchi Group Real Estate, we want to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We pray you have an amazing and blessed time with your loved ones, eat all the good food, and have the best Thanksgiving Holiday yet.

Ready or not, Thanksgiving is on Thursday and we’re here to help!

Below is a list of all the things you may need to purchase at the grocery store so you don’t forget anything! Cooked and basted turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green beans, honeyed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and the list could literally go on and on! Is anyone else’s mouth watering? Courtesy of our friends at Lawyer’s Title, they have thought of everything you could ever possibly need to buy at the store so you won’t have one single staple Thanksgiving dish or food missing from your feast.

So, print off this list, do your grocery shopping, and get ready for Thanksgiving because it’s only three days away! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, we are thankful for you!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last week we talked all about how to build good credit from having both no credit and bad credit.

SO, naturally, now we are going to talk about how Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner! This is a day where people both spend and save a ton of money on their holiday shopping.

Black Friday used to just be on one day… Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving to be specific. However, that soon became not soon enough for many stores and consumers, and now Black “Friday” often begins in stores on Thursday night, the night of Thanksgiving!

Black Friday signifies the first day of the traditional Christmas shopping season in the United States and is a day that stores offer up special discounted deals in order to sell more merchandise. This day has caused much pandemonium in the past with deals too good to be true. People go as far as to camp outside of stores and wait in massive lines that extend around store corners just so they can get into the store first and grab all the Black Friday gifts they’ve eyed in the sales catalog.

The event has caused chaos to the point where there are mobs of people all pushing to get into the store first causing shoving and injuries that land people in the ER! When it comes to sales, people do not mess around! Once that half-priced 60” TV is gone, it’s gone, so one can understand the urgency to grab yours before they’ve all been taken.

This Holiday shopping extravaganza has now been extended past Black Friday too! Perhaps becoming just as big as Black Friday, if not bigger, is Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving promoted by online retailers who sell their merchandise at exceptional discounts comparable to Black Friday deals. The best part about Cyber Monday is all your shopping is done online, so you don’t even need to leave your home!

When researching what some of the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals were going to be this year, it seemed as though the best deals will be taking place at affordable retail stores like Walmart and Target. Big screen TVs, tablets, phones, smart watches, video game consoles, Bluetooth speakers and headphones, laptops, smart watches, and more. Nearly anything technological you could name seems to be being sold at an incredible discount this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, whether you normally partake in these days as part of your holiday season or not, it might be worth taking a look at the sales ads.

All that being said, it is good to remember, and remind ourselves, that this holiday season isn’t about buying new toys and receiving all the things on our Christmas lists. The true meaning of the holidays is to give and give thanks. To be with loved ones and friends, and tell them how much we care for them. To be thankful for all that we have and are blessed with, not focus on what more we can attain. We pray your holiday season is filled with good food, good conversation filled with laughter and joy, and good time spent with those you cherish most.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Black Friday and Cyber Monday hunting!

How to Build Good Credit

Last week we posted a blog about why first-time home buyers are struggling to purchase. One of the main reasons was having bad credit. So, we wanted to touch on this subject further and find some ways the experts say you can build good credit.

Believe it or not, bad credit doesn’t always mean having made poor financial decisions. For a lot of people, they have bad credit because they have NO credit. They have avoided debt like the plague, having been instructed by parents and elders to not get themselves into debt. Ironically, it turns out that some debt is good. Why? Because it helps you build credit, and without credit, you can’t make any large purchase from a car to a house, or even a little “purchase” such as getting a credit card. One might stop there and ask, “Wait, how can I build credit if I can’t even get a credit card?”

According to thebalance.com, “having good credit means you’ve demonstrated that you can handle credit responsibly – that you’ve managed your credit obligations and have paid on time.” So, like we said, the first step in doing this is to first get credit (assuming you don’t already have credit). Here’s some ways to do this:

  • Apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card requires you to make a security deposit against the credit limit before you can be approved for the credit card. The security deposit is used as collateral for the amount you charge on the card, which makes credit card issuers more likely to approve your credit card because there is less credit risk.
  • Get a retail store credit card. These are easier to get because the store will most likely have less strict credit requirements. However, beware because retail credit cards typically have low credit limits and high interest rates, and they can only be used at a specific store. So, if you choose this route, get a card at a store you frequent often, like Target, and remember you’re getting the card to build GOOD credit, not go on a shopping spree and get into bad debt.
  • Get a co-signer for a credit card or loan. This is when you get someone with good credit to co-sign on a credit card or loan in order to help you qualify. A co-signer would share liability on the card with you, which means that if you failed to make payments, it wouldn’t just affect your credit, but the co-signers as well. As long as you are reliable, then you’ll soon build enough credit to qualify for a loan or credit card on your own.
  • Make Your Payments on Time. Late payments are a huge factor on your credit score, if not the biggest of all. In order to build a good credit score, you need to make all your debt payments on time. The more on-time payments you have, the more your credit score will improve.
  • Watch How Much You Borrow. Just because you have a higher credit limit, doesn’t mean you need to spend all the way up to it. A good rule of thumb is to never borrow more than you can actually afford to pay each month. Not only does this make you look financially responsible to creditors and lenders, it also helps you not get yourself into any real debt. This same principle could be said for loans. No matter what a lender might say you qualify for, be careful not to take out more than you can afford to repay, otherwise you’ll dig yourself into a hole of debt that is hard to climb back out of.

These are just some of the main ways to help you build good credit, but there are so much more! If you’re still wanting to learn more about how to build your credit, you can do some research online, or visit your bank today to get some tips and tricks from the horses mouth.

What To Do With All Those Fallen Leaves

As much as we love this Autumn season, if you rent or own a home, odds are you’re either buried in fallen leaves, or about to be.

Who doesn’t love the trees as they change from bright greens to yellows, oranges and reds? However, what you might not love is when all those leaves vacate the trees and relocate themselves all around your yard. Clogging gutters, covering walkways, and decomposing to look not so nice anymore, the leaves can quickly become a nuisance.

So, what can one do? Well, here are some tips and tricks on ways to deal with all those fallen leaves this year.

Use a Lawn Mower: If the majority of the fallen leaves are on your lawn (or you could even rake them onto your lawn), one option is to mow them. Just like grass, the leaves will get chopped up and sucked into the collection bag, making it easy for you to toss them in the trash. Not to mention, any tiny ground up pieces left over make for an amazing mulch on your lawn.

Use a Vacuum: This is probably the easiest option for collecting all those pesky leaves, or least laborious aside from hiring someone else to do the job. Using a leaf vacuum, you can suck up all the fallen leaves and along with other tree debris such as pine cones, and then just empty them into the trash. Done!

Use a Leaf Blower: If you have a smaller yard, simply raking the leaves is probably your best bet, but if you have a large yard with a lot of large trees, then a leaf blower is a good option for you.

Turn the Leaves into Mulch: As mentioned above, chopped leaves make for a great mulch. Spread them over your shrubs and garden to help preserve moisture and insulate your plants during the cooler weather. They also make for a good weed suppressant and help with the spreading of weeds.

Use a Tarp: If you aren’t concerned about any grass or lawn underneath, laying a tarp down under your larger trees is a good option as well. Once the leaves fall, all you have to do is pick up the tarp and empty it into the trash. Super easy!

Have Fun!: One last option (and definitely our favorite) is to make this a fun family time! Maybe instead of the above options, with your family you rake the leaves into a huge pile for jumping and playing in. Break out some hot cocoa or cider while you’re at it and enjoy the fall weather with those you love most!

How to Cut Costs When Moving

As we get ready for the Holidays, cutting costs wherever we can is probably something that is on all of our minds. This is especially true if you’re in the middle of a move, or about to move.

If you’ve ever moved before in your adult life, you know that it can get really expensive really fast. So, in a time when you’re trying to save money for Thanksgiving and Christmas,  and all the gifts and travel costs that come with it, how can you minimize your moving costs?

Well, we’ve got some tips to help you do just that! Brought to you by our friends over at A & C Brothers Moving and Storage, here is some of their expert advice on how to best cut costs during your next move.

Here’s How You Can Cut Costs When Moving

Regardless of whether you’re just moving to the next town or all the way across the country, moving between homes can be a pretty expensive process. Despite the unavoidable expenses, though, it’s not impossible to move on a budget. From collecting boxes to hiring moving services, there are smart ways to keep your costs down when moving.

These tips will require plenty of extra work from you, but they’ll help you relocate successfully without breaking the bank.

Get rid of stuff you don’t need.

Most people are guilty of wanting to keep stuff they hardly use or probably won’t use anymore. Unless the items hold great sentimental value for you, now should be the perfect time to get rid of them.

When we say rid, we don’t mean throwing them in the trash. You can either arrange a garage sale, give them away, or donate them to charity. Surely, you can find a good use for the extra money you’ll earn at the garage sale. The possible tax deduction from donating your stuff isn’t so bad either.

By purging your stuff, you’ll have lesser things to pack and worry about. More importantly, you’ll end up with lower mover’s fees because there’s fewer stuff to move on the big day.

Use Improvised moving supplies.

You may not notice it, but moving supplies can eat up a good chunk of your moving budget. The great news is, it’s relatively easy to cut costs on moving supplies if you plan things ahead of time.

For starters, you can collect boxes from friends and family instead of buying them. If you can’t have them for free, try purchasing some from your neighborhood grocery stores. Don’t get brand new moving boxes, if possible. They’re quite expensive for something that you might end up using just the one time.

If you need packing supplies to protect your fragile belongings, make use of common household materials like blankets, towels, clothes, and newspapers as alternatives. They’re just as effective, but they won’t cost you a single penny!

Hunt for reliable moving companies with great deals.

If you want to score a good deal, ask for quotes, and get as much information from different movers before making a decision. However, never hire a moving company just because they’re offering you the lowest price. You’ll want reliable movers who can move your belongings from your old house to the new one without even a scratch.

When looking for the right movers to hire, always check online reviews – both on their website and social media platforms. These sources should provide you valuable insight into their quality of moving services.

Avoid moving on busier days and months.

As with most things, timing is everything. The schedule of your move has a significant impact on how cheap or expensive your relocation could be. Moving on weekdays is generally cheaper than moving on weekends, while the spring and summer are the busiest and most expensive seasons to relocate.

Most moving companies offer discounts for moves scheduled during the slower months of the year. If saving money is what you’re really after, you might want to move during the fall season or early winter.

While it’s so much easier to pay and have other people take care of the entire moving process for you, this will cost you a fortune. Like we said, moving on a budget is possible, but it will require a lot of effort and planning on your part. Anything that you can do on your own saves you from paying other people to do it.

Good luck!

Things to Never do to Your Home

Whether you are going to be in your home for 10 years or for the rest of your life, you always need to be considering resale when deciding which home projects to tackle next. That being said, here are some things you should never do to your house, both to save yourself money while you live there, and also to make your house more appealing when it comes time to resell.

Get Rid of Your Only Tub: No matter how much you want a super dreamy walk-in shower, if it requires getting rid of your only bathtub, don’t do it. A home without a bathtub can be a huge turn-off for many buyers who like having that option or who have kids and need a bathtub for this purpose.

Leave Your Cabinet Doors on While Painting them: Painting cabinets has become very popular in recent years because it is a cheap way to update your kitchen/bathroom look without the huge price tag of replacing the cabinets. It’s something that isn’t that hard to do yet makes a big difference in appearance. However, if this is your next project, make sure you remove the cabinet doors and drawers when you do so. Take the doors off and paint them separately, don’t leave them on while you do this. It makes for a much cleaner look in the end.

Plant a Tree Close to the House: This seems like it would be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. If you’re wanting to plant a new little sapling in your yard, make sure you do so with ample space away from the home. Otherwise, in years to come, that tree will grow large and could cause issues from falling branches and roots that grow underneath the home, going into foundation and piping. If that’s the case, it could cost you big bucks to remedy if you’re still living in the home, or even be something buyers ask you to remedy before buying your home.

Cover Wallpaper with Water-based Paint: Wanting to get rid of that tacky 70s wallpaper to have a fresh and updated look? Well, in case you didn’t know, depending on the condition of the wallpaper, you can actually paint right over it instead of going through the agonizing trouble of removing it. However, don’t use water-based paint when you do this. Water-based paint can actually re-activate the wallpaper glue and cause it to peel. We’re thinking peeling painted wallpaper wasn’t the updated look you were going for? Instead, make sure you use oil-based primer, let it dry, and then you can apply a normal latex paint over that.

Paint Exterior Brick: Now, this one might have some mixed reviews as to whether or not this is okay to do, but if you’re planning on being in your home for a long time, painting the brick on the outside of your home might not be such a good idea. Painting brick can destroy the brick and mortar, which could go so far as to cause a crumbling foundation. When comparing those costs, it’s just not worth it. If you’re looking to up your curb appeal, perhaps paint the door or add some shutters instead.

Tear Out Character: While your home might have some little corky features you aren’t thrilled about such as custom millwork, tin ceiling tiles, stained glass windows, etc., don’t be too quick to rip these things out (unless of course they are beyond saving and in disrepair). These classic details give your home character that buyers love and appeal that is hard to come by these days.

These are just a few things you should probably re-consider doing to your home or look further into to make sure you do them properly, if they are things you’ve been considering doing.

There are so many cheap and fun ways to update your home these days. Things that make it homier for you, but also things that can add great re-sale value to your home in the long run. But, make sure you do your homework on these house projects first! Not all of them are created equal.

How to Sell Your Home This “Off” Season

Although we love the Fall season, in the Real Estate business, it does start a downturn in our industry. The market slows with less people out looking to buy a home as they prepare for the holiday season with their family. Even though Prescott has a great housing market, we are not immune to this slower season.

So, what can you as a seller do then to help sell your home if you are trying to sell during this time? Well, check out this great article below from HomeLight about just that. They have some great tips on things you can do to sell your home this season, as well as some great advice to help with this process as well.