New Year’s Resolutions For Homeowners and Home Buyers

Start The New Year Off With These Tips

It’s that time of year again, time to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you are a dedicated individual and have no problem sticking to your goals. Maybe you’re like many others and can’t even remember your plans by the time February rolls around.

I myself have learned to set honest and attainable goals and spend a fair amount of time thinking about the upcoming year. Several of my goals for 2021 revolve around my house and maintenance/repair projects I have planned. Making my list has been the inspiration for this month’s Blog Post; New Year’s Resolutions For Homeowners. (or future homeowners :-))

Being involved in real estate in an area that is both a tourist destination and a perfect spot for retirement or a second home has given me a unique perspective on the important focal points.

The list below can help you get ready to sell your home, educate you to be a better buyer if you’re home shopping, and help you save money no matter what your plans are this year.

With the real estate market making normal corrections over the last few years, home prices are once again in-line with local values and consumer demand. In a nutshell, we are back to buying property at “fair-market” prices. In addition to the easing of financing guidelines and low mortgage rates, owning a vacation home is now “back on the table” to a wider range of prospective buyers. Factor in the explosion of vacation rental opportunities such as VRBO, Airbnb, and more, cash flowing a vacation home is easier than ever.

1. Don’t Put Off Home Repairs

This is such an important point to focus on I can’t stress it enough. If you plan to sell your home here on Hilton Head anytime soon, you want to make sure your property is in tip top shape. If you’re staying put, don’t let small things turn into costly repairs.

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The first step in getting a home ready to list is to make sure all of the basic maintenance items are done. Almost every buyer will get a home inspection and a report that comes back with a laundry list of items can sour buyers towards your property.

Home repairs are vital not just for those planning to sell this year. Did you know the American Psychological Association has found that putting off repairs and renovations at home can actually make us feel depressed.

A home that feels like it’s falling apart or where “everything is broken” can add a significant amount of pressure to your stress level.  How many times have you walked past that broken switch plate? How about that hole in the drywall behind the door knob?

These little things can add up to not only a headache, but can actually make your home feel tired and worn out. One of the easiest ways to tackle the projects before they pile up is to create a maintenance calendar. Make a list of all the items that need attention and put them down on a calendar. Breaking out the projects throughout the year will make them more manageable.

2. Save Energy

If you spend anytime online or read any home improvement magazines, this topic is always front and center – and with good reason! Cutting energy use is one of the quickest ways to save money every month while also being good for the environment!  

However, what many of these articles fail to mention is that cutting your energy footprint is easier said than done. Once you do the simple things like LED bulbs, sealing doors and windows, and insulting your water heater, you have to really do some research to make additional gains in this category.

Here are some quick ways to save energy in your home. Swap out your old thermostats for wifi enabled smart thermostats. The new breed of programmable thermostats make it much easier to customize your heating and cooling giving you the ability to fine tune the temp inside your home throughout the year.

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Blinds and shades will make a huge impact in keeping your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. All those big beautiful windows look amazing, but they can be costly when it comes to energy efficiency.

An additional step is to have windows professionally tinted. Window film adds another level of protection from UV rays while still allowing the warming rays of sun to enter your home.

Don’t overlook the outside. There are steps you can take to save money here, too. One of the biggest culprits of wastefulness I see around the neighborhood are broken sprinkler heads.

A properly maintained irrigation system is very inexpensive to run, even in the hotter months here on Hilton Head. But, a sprinkler head that’s been hit by the lawn mower can quickly turn into a geyser that can waste as much as 20 gallons per minute, sometimes unbeknownst to the homeowner if the irrigation is set to go on at 5:00am.

It only takes a few minutes to turn on your irrigation and inspect the system. Besides broken sprinkler heads and leaks, make sure your lawn and vegetation is getting even coverage. Underwatering your lawn or shrubs can lead to costly replacement.

3. Make Your Home More Functional

This is another area that could fill pages and pages, but there are several things you can do to make life easier and make your home more appealing to buyers. Closets are the perfect place to start. A well organized closet makes wardrobe management a breeze.

Investing in closet shelving systems can maximize space, help preserve clothing, and can make small closets look bigger. We’ve talked about decluttering and getting rid of seldom used items before, but this is especially important when you’re trying to free up closet and storage space.

Do you have a home office or work space that’s a disaster area? Mail, bills, paperwork, kids’ art projects, and old newspapers or magazines can quickly envelop your desk or storage bins and make you look like a mad scientist or worse…a hoarder!

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Clearing paper clutter can be a challenge and it’s tough to know what to keep and what to chuck. When it comes to expenses and financial statements, check with your accountant on how many years to keep. For bills, consider signing up for paperless accounts or scan past bills with simple apps that turn your cellphone camera into a document organizer. (This can also help with Hurricane Prep).

Having a clean work area can help you be more productive and also helps potential buyers envision themselves using the space.

Simple organization can also be carried out with draws and cabinets in the kitchen. If a full blown kitchen remodel isn’t in the cards right now, you can maximize the space you have with any number of kitchen organizers such as adding pull out recycling cans in the pantry, adding a sliding shelf to a lower cabinet, or installing slim racks and shelves on the inside of cabinet doors.

4. Get A Financial Check Up

Your finances encompass several categories, but specifically we are talking about Home Finances. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate your current mortgage. Could you get a lower rate? Can you pay additional principal? Or, for potential buyers, are you in a good financial position to get a mortgage?

If you plan on buying a home or vacation property this year, make sure your personal balance sheet is in order to avoid surprises and disappointments later. A great way to begin is to find a local mortgage lender (in your potential purchase market) and start working early on. Your Realtor will be able to recommend a few lenders with good track records.

It’s not just your mortgage or potential mortgage you need to work on. Take a look at your existing home expenses; could you be saving money there? Do you really need 343 cable channels? Are there monthly services you pay for but don’t really need or could do yourself?

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A quick way to asses the situation is to take all your monthly bills, both paperless and hardcopy, and categorize them into Necessary, Convenience, and Luxury. This will help you see if there is anything that can be cut. If buying a home is in the future, this exercise also helps you prepare for the mortgage application process and can significantly lower your debt ratio.

5. Get Involved

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with our Homeowners Association or Property Board, but this could be the year to make a difference. Tired of ridiculous HOA rules or parking  violations when you have company over? Has your plantation had a recent special assessment?

Maybe it’s time to step up and be a board member for your development. I have found when a few normal people can get elected to the HOA it fosters other sane neighbors to get on board and make a real difference. Yes, it’s a time commitment, but you could reap huge rewards. A well run HOA can actually raise property values and entice people to move into the neighborhood.

6. Make Your Home More Entertaining

I am sure you have promised to spend more time with family and friends in the past and maybe that’s even one of your resolutions for 2018. How about making it easier to entertain in your home?

I know the feeling! You want to have friends and family over, but then when you look around, it seems like such a chore to get ready. Perhaps, you feel the house isn’t just right for “party central.”

Updating a few spots in your home might make you feel more like inviting people over. No need for a full remodel, just freshening up the family room or living room could give you the “new feeling” you’ve been looking for.

Adding plants, new accent pieces, or painting a new color is all it takes to make your living space feel complete and inspire you to have a party. A few other ways you can add charm quickly is with a new area rug, rearranging furniture, adding artwork, or removing the television.

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Lastly, let 2021 be the year you finally buy that second home you’ve been talking about. There has never been a better time to move to the Lowcountry than right now. Banking guidelines have finally been easing which makes second home and vacation properties easier to finance.

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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