Home Improvements Inspecting a Home Preparing Your Home for Sale

Green Home Improvements Take Root with the Right Buyer

Taking steps, no matter how small, toward a sustainable lifestyle can feel incredibly gratifying – which is probably why we’ve seen such large growth in sustainability movements in recent years. Whether you want to eat, dress or commute more sustainably, there’s an abundance of information out there on what kinds of positive changes you can make.

In this article, we’ll be looking at eco-friendly upgrades and changes you can make within your home, not only to become more energy-efficient and sustainable, but also to hopefully save you some money long-term.

Energy-Efficient Lighting

When it comes to going green, turning off the lights when you exit a room is an age-old piece of advice, but there are other lighting-related methods to conserve energy and maintain a well-lit household.

Energy-Efficient Windows

When we think of windows and sustainability, the first thought that probably comes to mind is natural lighting. And while it’s true that windows are a great asset for lighting up your home during the daytime, certain upgrades can be a smart investment and result in even more energy-efficiency (and therefore, more savings in your pocket!).

If you have the means and are interested in upgrading your home, consider installing smart windows. This sophisticated tech may be an intimidating investment at a price range of $50 – $100 per square foot – contrary to standard windows, will run you more around $10 – $15 per square foot – but the reflective glass in smart windows can cut your energy consumption down by about 12%.

Smart windows change color according to the amount of sunlight on a given day, acting as their own kind of blinds. This feature will help keep your home cool during hot summer days and let in more sunlight on colder ones, ultimately cutting down your energy costs.

However, as such a big investment smart windows really only make sense if you’re confident that the house you’re in is a long-term home. If you’re planning on moving or downsizing in the near future, you may want to try out smaller changes to make your home more eco-friendly.

One of those changes can be something as simple as replacing or updating your window seals. Making sure that unwanted air isn’t getting in or out of your home will help streamline your home’s heating and cooling and should still help out with overall energy efficiency.

Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Perhaps one of the easiest and smartest ways to go green in your home is by simply switching out your lightbulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs not only have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent, but they can also cut down energy consumption by 25% up to a drastic 80%.

So, the next time your lamp burns out and you need a replacement, keep an eye out for these energy-efficient bulbs:

– Halogen incandescent

– Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

– Light emitting diodes (LEDs)

Natural Lighting

We’ve discussed several methods beyond natural lighting to improve your home’s sustainability, but at the end of the day, natural lighting is still a key component to cutting down on artificial light and saving energy.

For those rooms without windows – typically bathrooms – skylights are a great option for making the most out of the daylight. Similar to any major installation, skylights will run you a pretty penny upfront but can save you loads in electrical over time.

Most skylight installations average $1,500 – $2,500, though the price is dependent upon what kind of skylight would suit your home and your individual preferences.

Consider Solar Panels

If you’re really looking to go all-in on the sustainable home movement, solar panels can be a great start. Although they’ll cost you a hefty $13,000 – $22,000 on average, solar panels have been shown to increase the value of homes in addition to saving you money long-term.

However, before making the investment it’s important to research and learn if solar panels are an option well-suited for your home. Typically, these fixtures are only worth the money if you’re living in a sunnier climate where you can generate enough electricity to justify the upfront costs.

Additionally, depending on the size and structure of your home, solar panels could just be difficult to install. It would be best to contact a specialized solar panel installation company and have a professional come out to audit your home to give you an estimate specifically for your house and its location.

Eco-Friendly Bathroom Updates

With all of the energy and water consumption that occurs in a bathroom, some small changes can make a huge difference. Let’s take a look at some easy tweaks you can make toward sustainability.

Water-Saving Shower Head

Low-flow shower heads are a great way to reduce water waste in your home – particularly heated water, which is a costly energy expense in many households. For the most efficiency, you’ll want to look for shower heads that have a water flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm or gallons per minute.

Low-Flow Toilet

Of all the eco-friendly changes in this article, low-flow toilets are perhaps the most polarizing. They do after all, have a reputation for being pricey and worst of all, low performance. Less water must mean that low flow toilets can’t flush as powerfully, right?

Wrong. Although these are the most common misconceptions that mar the low-flow toilet’s image, recent models are actually given Maximum Performance ratings, or MaPs, to evaluate the effectiveness of an individual model.

The payoff is also well worth it in terms of saving water and the planet – low-flow toilets can cut your water usage anywhere from 20% – 60% annually. Replacing even just one low-efficiency toilet in your home can make a huge difference.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Improvements

Another room which eats up a lot of water and energy is the hub of the house: the kitchen. Upgrading your appliances and faucets is a great way to streamline your home’s energy usage.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

The same way you might want to consider updating your shower head or windows, an upgrade to your kitchen appliances can help you save energy without sacrificing quality. Energy Star certified appliances abide by strict EPA guidelines and are more eco-friendly than standard appliances due to their energy-efficiency.

Whether you’re looking for a new refrigerator, dishwasher or even an energy-efficient air purifier, Energy Star appliances will have you covered.

Low-Flow Faucets

Just like swapping out your shower head can save you an abundance of water each year, a low-flow kitchen faucet is also a sustainable home improvement to reduce your water waste. You can typically purchase quality, low-flow fixtures for as little as $10 – $25 from your local home improvement store and reap water savings of up to 60%.

Energy-Efficient Heating And Cooling

Heating and cooling accounts for a large quantity of energy consumption in most homes. Here are some different ways you can scale that consumption down.

Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats have risen in popularity in recent years and for good reason. With their scheduled temperature settings, these smart thermostats can adjust to your schedule in order to increase energy savings. A programmable schedule may pull back on AC while you’re out of the house or adjust temperatures when you’re asleep.

You can also always manually adjust your home’s temperature to best fit your comfort level, but for those of us who spend a good chunk of time away from home, a programmable thermostat could be a smart and simple way to save money on heating and cooling.

Ceiling Fans

If you’re interested in updating your ceiling fans or making the switch to a greener fixture, Energy Star also carries various residential ceiling fan models – all of which meet the EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency.

Upgrade Doors

When it comes to increasing the value of your home, you probably know the importance of an attractive front door. Not only can a new front door increase curb appeal, but the right one can also be much more energy-efficient.

The same way that you want your windows to have reliable seals, you want your front door to as well. Energy Star-certified doors come with tight fitting seals, usually installed with magnet strips to create a seal that cuts down on air leakage around the edges.

Add Extra Layer Of Insulation In The Attic

Your attic is the easiest place to install more insulation – not only because it’s typically the most accessible, but also because you don’t even have to use the same insulation that’s originally installed. Ensuring that your attic has well-distributed insulation can improve the energy-efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling, and in turn, your own comfort.

The Bottom Line

No matter how many changes you can or can’t make to your home, it’s important to remember that there is no one right way to be sustainable. Any small changes you can make are a great step toward helping our planet and can make a difference.

Blog Preparing Your Home for Sale Selling a Home

10 Low-Cost Ideas To Help You Sell Your Home

For many homeowners, the inability to afford an expensive remodel or update interferes with listing their home confidently, or even at all. But it’s not always the major renovations which catch buyers’ attention – the finer details can be equally important. Consider this list of affordable tips to sell your home before hanging up your for-sale sign.

1.    Improve Your Curb Appeal

They don’t call it “curb appeal” for nothing. Simply improving the functionality and look of your home’s exterior and landscaping can serve as a great first impression for potential home buyers.

Make sure your gutters are up to snuff by checking for loose parts or clogs. You also want to be sure there are no broken or missing flashing materials, which help prevent leaks behind your gutters. Check that your garage door is in working condition and that none of your home’s window shutters are crooked or dangling. Lastly, mowing the grass and trimming up your hedges are other easy ways to spruce up your yard.

Estimated Costs

Completely replacing your home’s gutters can be expensive, so you’ll want to replace parts if possible. A 10-foot gutter starts at around $6, with downspouts starting closer to $8.

Garage doors can cost as much as $1,000 on the high end, but you can get a decorative garage door hardware kit for as little as $19. And if you or a loved one are particularly handy, much of the mechanics behind fixing a garage door can quickly be DIY’d.

2.    Make That Front Door (And Doorbell) Stand Out

When it comes to life and open houses, we all know that first impressions matter. Although many of us don’t always enter our homes through the front door, prospective buyers will.

“While the REALTOR® is fiddling with the lockbox, trying to get the door open, the buyer is standing there looking around,” says stager and interior designer Deborah Goode of A Goode Start Decorating and Home Staging in Annapolis, Maryland.

So be sure to update your home’s front door and walkway by fixing any cracks or peeling with spackle and a fresh coat of paint. You should also double check that your front door’s locks and doorbell are all in working order so that your home seems move-in ready.

Estimated Costs

Exterior paints typically start at $30 per gallon and doorbells are $10 and up.

3.    Evaluate Every Entrance

As important as your front door is, it’s not the only one that will get the once-over.

“Doors offer a huge bang for the buck visually,” says Chris Neumann, director of operations for Pyramid Builders in Annapolis. Neumann suggests that homeowners consider updating their interior doors, or at the least, replace their door hinges and knobs. “And replace any junky bi-folds with double-swing or heavier solid-core doors,” he adds.

Estimated Costs

Bronze door hinges can cost $3; solid-core, unfinished pine interior doors start at $99.

4.    Look Down

As buyers walk in and remove their shoes or wipe their feet, their eyes will be drawn to your home’s flooring. While blemishes such as stained carpets, raggedy rugs and scratched floors could be enough to put off a potential buyer, they’re easy fixes that you can tackle before an open house.

Estimated Costs

Carpet steamers can be rented starting at just $60, and while the price of area rugs varies greatly, your local hardware or furniture store will most likely carry them starting at around $100.

5.    Select The Right Scent

If you’ve ever wandered around the candle aisle at the grocery store, then you know how compelling or comforting different scents can be. Be sure to eliminate any nose agitators and avoid the dreaded question: “What is that smell?”

If you have any pets, make sure that their necessities are clean – for cats this means clean litter boxes. For any small caged animals, such as hamsters or guinea pigs, this means clean cages. And if you’re living in your home during the selling process, make sure that your pets are bathed before any showings – just to ensure that potential buyers won’t mistakenly associate your home with a wet dog smell or any other unsavory odor.

You should also clean out your refrigerator – people may be nosy! – and banish the kids’ stinky sports equipment to the basement or garage.

Once you’ve gotten rid of any potential for house stink, choose a scent to you love to use throughout your home. Whether you use a candle, room spray or plug-in, just be sure not to go overboard combining different scents or by using too much fragrance.

Estimated Cost

Scented candles can cost $10; plug-in odor eliminators start at $17.

6.   Quick-Clean And Spot Treat

Walls are an excellent canvas, but they also clearly display age, dirt, indifference, even foundation issues. Fix any scuff marks, nail holes and paint cracks. “Remove all peeling wallpaper and repaint in neutrals to maximize the natural light,” says interior designer Jana Abel, president of J. Abel Interiors in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Estimated Cost

Spackling paste starts at $18; interior paint costs $28 a gallon and up.

7.    Have A Place For Everything

When it comes to showings or open houses, potential buyers are there to look at your home and imagine what it’d be like living there – which can be hard with clutter reminding them of the current homeowners. “I always advise my clients to take out at least a third of what they have in closets,” Goode says. Make sure anything that’s not on display — shoes, coats, papers, pots, pans — is tucked away and neatly organized.

Estimated Cost

Attractive bins and baskets cost $20 and up; basic shelving systems start at $200.

8.    Check Your Drawers

The same way you wouldn’t want to get caught with an ill-working doorbell or garage door, you don’t want a potential buyer opening a cabinet or drawer and having it stick or get jammed. So, if you have a lopsided utensil drawer that you’ve learned to live with, just know that it’s something your buyers might not be able to.

Although new cabinetry can be pricey, simply fix any bent drawer tracks and slides, or replace dangling pulls and tighten screws and handles.

Estimated Costs

Basic rail-drawer-track kits start at $3; decorative cabinet knobs start at $4 each.

9.    Make Your Appliances Shine

While it may seem like a no-brainer to clean your home before welcoming people over, the kitchen is a space which oftentimes gets overlooked. Remember to scrub down your refrigerator, microwave, oven, stovetop, sink, and any other appliance included in the sale of your home. Buyers will want shiny new appliances, not evidence of last week’s tuna casserole.

Estimated Cost

Most cleaning products start at $4; elbow grease is free.

10. Finish With Some Finishes

Bathroom gut jobs can be pricey, but replacing finishing elements such as faucets, showerheads, towel racks and toilet paper holders can significantly brighten a room. “If you have polished chrome faucets or shower valves, you can pick up any chrome accessories and they will match, unlike satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze,” says Abel. New shower curtains, hand towels and bathmats will also help the room look updated and clean, she adds.

Estimated Cost

Showerheads can cost $40 and up; bath towels start at $10; faucets are $70 and up.


How Can I Sell My House Fast?

This day and age, most home buying business occurs online. So, make a good and lasting impression by posting high-quality photos of a clean and depersonalized home.

Also be sure to take photos during the daytime, when lighting is the brightest and most natural, and consider borrowing a friend’s DSLR camera or even hiring a photographer for those sharp and professional looking photos. Check out our article on real estate photography for more tips on how to stand out in the online market.

Should I Stage My House?

While home staging is usually advantageous for selling your home, it’s not always a necessity. Check out our article on home staging to see what works for you.

Buying a Home Inspecting a Home

When to Have an Inspection Done

Congratulations! Your offer has been accepted and you’re well on your way to becoming a proud homeowner. But don’t get ahead of yourself with celebrating because now it’s time for the next step in the homebuying process: home inspections.

What Is A Home Inspection?

Simply put, home inspections are a visual assessment of your home’s structural integrity and mechanical systems. Home inspections are conducted by objective third-party professionals with vast knowledge on home conditions. Your home inspector will typically evaluate things like your home’s foundation, plumbing, electrical and occasionally your home’s exterior.

Do I Need A Home Inspection?

Although home inspections are usually optional, they are a highly recommended step in the homebuying process – and for good reason. Home inspections are a great way to learn all about a home’s performance and any potential work or repairs that need to be done.

While you can typically DIY a home inspection for any obvious issues – such as leaky pipes, cracked drywall, or a large tree too close to your foundation – it can be risky to forgo an official home inspection. They oftentimes reveal problem areas or parts of the home which will require some TLC. Additionally, home inspections can give you a better idea regarding the maintenance required for the property’s upkeep.

So, before you write off this step and fully commit to your dream home, keep in mind that home inspections will only help you make well-informed decisions about what could be the largest purchase of your life.

What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Home inspections are usually purely visual – meaning, anything that isn’t readily accessible to your inspector probably won’t be evaluated during the inspection. Depending on your home, that can take attics, septic tanks, and some mechanical systems off the table.

Home inspectors also rarely comment on issues of aesthetic, unless they pose an immediate problem. For example, home inspectors won’t care about a water stain, unless that stain points to a larger issue with your home’s plumbing.

Other key things most home inspectors look at are:

  • Structural issues
  • Roofing damage
  • Electrical or plumbing problems
  • Pest infestation
  • HVAC issues
  • Water damage
  • General safety hazards

What you can expect to learn from home inspectors includes the lifespan of any major appliances or equipment, in addition to recommendations for any repairs or replacements that should be made.

How Much Do Home Inspections Cost?

Although the current market greatly influences the cost of having a home inspection done, the nationwide average for home inspections is $300 – $500. This figure is dependent on the size, location, and age of your home.

The cost of a home inspection also doesn’t include the price of any second opinions prompted by your inspector. For example, sometimes a home inspector will advise that you get a quote from a contractor or other home professional. Depending on who you contact, that quote could also cost you a bit more.

Who Pays For Home Inspections?

Generally, the buyer is responsible for bearing the cost of a home inspection. Buyers usually get professional inspections after there are under contract to buy a property and inspections open the door for further negotiations.

How Long Do Home Inspections Take?

Since it’s usually advised that you be present during the inspection process, it only makes sense to wonder how much of your day will be taken up by a home inspection. Home inspections typically last 2 – 3 hours as they are a head-to-toe inspection of your home.

But before the time commitment turns you off, home inspections are usually very hands-on and engaging. You should accompany your inspector throughout the walk-through assessment, and a good inspector will explain their observations to you in addition to answering your questions or concerns.

How Should I Choose A Home Inspector?

As in any other job field, home inspectors aren’t all created equally. In order to find a good inspector, consider checking out your local Better Business Bureau or utilize the American Society of Home Inspectors’ Find An Inspector resource.

The Bottom Line

Home inspections are an important part of the home buying and selling process. They can help you get to know a home better before buying, or help you learn more about the value of your home.

For more FSBO tips, check out our blog here.

Preparing Your Home for Sale Pricing a Home for Sale Selling a Home Selling Process

How To Sell Your Home For Sale By Owner

Selling your home for sale by owner doesn’t need to be tricky. Here are the steps and tips for selling your home without a real estate agent.

How Do I Sell My House FSBO?

1. Understand FSBO Pros and Cons

Before venturing into the housing market on your own, you should understand what you might have to gain or lose from selling for sale by owner. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of FSBO:


  • Lower commission fees – For traditional real estate transactions, you’d need to pay both the seller’s and buyer’s agents commission. With FSBO transactions, you’ll only be responsible for paying the buyer’s agent, which can halve your buyer procurement fee.
  • Expertise – Who knows your home better than you, the homeowner? When it comes to selling prospective buyers on the best features your home has to offer or beloved spots in the neighborhood, no one can provide the inside scoop like you can.
  • Control – While some might find having the transactional responsibility of selling a house daunting, for others, having the final say is a huge plus. When you sell your home FSBO, you have the last word on the listing, sale, and of course – who gets your home.


  • Attachment issues – As much as your love for your home can help you pitch your neighborhood and property, it can also serve as a detriment if your rose-colored glasses get in the way. Say you’re set on certain decor for staging or unique design choices that others may not love the way you do – you could be driving away buyers with a bad first impression.
  • Lack of resources and know-how – Unless you’re a practicing real estate agent or you have close friends or family who are, chances are you won’t have access to the same resources that selling agents do. This can include marketing, preexisting networks and access to market data. As a non-agent, you’ll also lack the real estate knowledge that selling agents have on pricing strategy, legal, appraisals, lenders and more.
  • Time – FSBO is a huge time commitment and will practically serve as a second job. From repairs, home improvement projects and staging, to handling each and every transaction, if you think you’ll be spreading yourself thin trying to sell FSBO, it may not be the best idea.

2. Set A Fair Price

When it comes to pricing your home, it’s usually better to list too low rather than too high. Low prices will get you more offers, which can always be negotiated. Not to mention, more offers on your home will drive the price up.

But if you’re particularly concerned about listing at the perfect price range, consider conducting a comparative market analysis, or a CMA, to better understand how people with homes similar to your own priced their properties.

3. Prepare Your House

This includes everything from renovations and cleaning to relocating any pets and staging your house. Whether it’s for online photos or an open house, you’ll want to make sure your home is looking its very best. It’s also important to keep landscaping in mind to maximize curb appeal.

4. Invest In Marketing and Advertising

In our digital age, first impressions are everything – even online. So it may be a good idea to invest in a photographer or a good camera to capture high-quality photos of your home and yard for online listings.

You might also want to consider posting an ad to a neighborhood bulletin or newsletter, or buying some exposure on social media

5. Act Like A Professional

Some buyers are hesitant to work with FSBO sellers due to the risk of being met with a lack of professionalism or real estate etiquette – combat this by really adopting your role as a real estate agent. Be prompt with responding to calls and emails, be accommodating with your schedule and showings, and be open minded about your home and any criticisms or concerns buyers may have.

6. Ensure You Have Qualified Buyers

Real estate can put you in a vulnerable space: opening up your home to strangers. Be prepared and diligent in order to stay safe and protect your things – make sure to hide or store your valuables away from prying eyes, and make it known that you keep a detailed record of those who tour your home. This will discourage casual wanderers or anyone without the purest of intentions.

7. Hire A Real Estate Attorney

To be on the safe side, you’ll probably want to hire a real estate attorney to review all of your paperwork and documents. In some states, you may even be legally required to employ a real estate attorney.

8. Don’t Rule Out An Agent

Although you might be set on selling FSBO, make sure you only do so if it works best for you. If the cons far outweigh the pros or selling FSBO just doesn’t fit into your current lifestyle, hiring a real estate agent can be well worth the extra cash.

The Bottom Line

Selling your home for sale by owner can be challenging but not impossible. It all depends on your lifestyle, resources and will to get things done. We’re here to provide you all the tips and best practices for selling your home on your own.