Dealing with Toy Clutter

If you have children in your home, you understand how serenity and order can quickly descend into chaos and untidiness. While they’re such a blessing, children, younger ones especially, have a way of cluttering up the home without much problem. While we can demonstrate to them the value of tidying up (my mother taught my children the “Clean Up” song, made famous by a certain purple dinosaur), it’s also important to help them realize they might not need all the stuff they accumulate. What’s more, a large portion of this stuff, from infancy to early adolescence, is most likely toys.

Here are 4 strategies for dealing with toy clutter to help you maintain sanity and enhance your child’s environment as well as their health:

Step 1 – Let the purge begin

Everything has its place and this is an important first principle in dealing with any clutter. What’s that place for your child’s toys? Keep in mind, this is also an end goal too. It’s helpful if you assess what types of things your child has in their room, play area, etc. and determine what they need. What they don’t need should be discarded (meaning trashed or donated). Are there toys that are broken or never get played with? Would your kids even notice if particular toys went missing? You shouldn’t be sentimental about their toys, if they aren’t. I know this is easier said than done, because who wants to part with that Mickey Mouse stuffed animal with a missing arm, the one which your child always had by their side.

So detachment is part of this strategy, for sure, but we also should have an understanding of the toys our children have outgrown. When we begin to parse out their collection of stuff, we need to consider the age-appropriateness of each item. This will help us determine what our family has graduated from and the process hopefully would be easier at that point.

Step 2 – Involve your children

Incorporating your child into this decision making process can be beneficial as well. Certainly, you’ll want to keep the age of the child(ren) in mind and their demeanor in how they might handle ditching some of their possessions. Furthermore, as the old adage goes, less is more, and it might serve our children well to remember this. Maybe this goes without saying, but it’s easier to tackle organizing a room when there’s less in need of organization.

Be cautious of decision fatigue and how your kids could respond to being involved in making choices on what will stay and what will go. Furthermore, while you want to empower your children to make their own decisions about certain things, you want to avoid polling them about every preference they might have. This can be a recipe for disaster. Therefore, it might be wise to involve your child(ren) in this operation, but simplifying it as much as possible could be to your advantage.

Step 3 – Donations and rotations accepted

Including our kids in the process of donating those items they’re parting ways with is a game-changer. They further grasp what it means to share, especially with those who are less fortunate. Donating toys is a great way to spare the landfill of more garbage and if you’ve ever watched movies from the Toy Story saga, you know the toys appreciate it too.

Another classic move that gives new life to your child’s toys is keeping them in “rotation.” This tactic works well as your kid will have a different experience with their toys as you rotate them in and out of their world. The moments away from certain toys can reinvigorate playtime as they become reunited with them time and time again.

4 Strategies For Dealing With Toy Clutter

Step 4 – Organize and categorize

Once you’ve successfully decluttered and paired down the number of toys, you can begin to revisit those questions you’ve been pondering – Where do you want to store the toys? Do you have designated play areas in mind? Maybe their destinations will remain the same, as you’re only cleaning and organizing those areas. That’s perfectly fine as well.

There are all sorts of organizational systems of cubbies, shelving and the like, if you would prefer to go that route, but it can get costly. Keeping it simple might be best. There are affordable storage tubs or bins, which stack well and can work depending on your situation. Take a glance at some of these options as well. The sky’s the limit, really. You can get adventurous and deploy decorative baskets or create a theme in a bedroom or playroom. Don’t forget under the bed too! If you’re looking for space in a family room or living room that can both subtly store as well as hide the toys in plain sight, seek out multi-functional furniture or fabric/basket bin storage. We love toy chests and Little Colorado has some stunning options to explore, if you’re interested in pursuing that route. Maybe get a little crazy and invest in an art cart with wheels!

 

Once you’ve made a plan and you’ve committed to following through with it, you’ll witness the benefits that result from those changes you’ve made to your child’s room and the house in general. Decluttering always has a two-fold purpose: It’s vital for your mental health and it boosts efficiency. These strategies can serve as a framework beyond “toys” and “play.” Regardless, they’ll help our families live healthier and more productive lives.

 

For more information about decluttering or prepping your home for sale, click here.

When it comes to moving, you have two options: Do-it-yourself (DIY) or hire professionals. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh them before making that final decision. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of DIY moving.

Pros of DIY Moving

One of the main benefits of DIY moving is cost savings. Hiring professional movers can be expensive, especially if you have many possessions or are moving long-distance. By rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself, you can save a significant amount of money. Maybe this is the third or fourth time you’re moving, and you’re practically a pro at this point.

Another perk of DIY moving is the control you have over the process. You can pack your belongings the way you want, especially over time (in most instances) and handle them with care. Depending on the nature of the transaction and timeline of the parties involved, you can also choose the most convenient time for the move and have flexibility in the schedule.

Cons of DIY Moving

One of the biggest drawbacks of DIY moving is the physical labor involved. Moving heavy furniture and boxes can be exhausting and time-consuming. It requires strength and stamina, while the risk of injury is a possibility as well. Furthermore, if you’re not physically capable or have health issues, DIY moving may not be an option at all.

Another disadvantage is the lack of professional expertise and equipment. Moving professionals have the experience and knowledge to handle fragile items and navigate through difficult spaces (or at least reputable ones should!). This is what movers do, year-round. They also have the right tools and equipment to make the process more efficient. Without these, you may risk damaging your belongings or injuring yourself.

DIY moving can be a cost-effective and flexible option for those who are physically capable and have the time and energy to handle the procedure. However, it’s important to consider the physical labor involved and the lack of professional expertise and equipment. For a smoother and less stressful experience, hiring professionals may be worth the investment.

Hiring Professionals

One popular option that many people consider is hiring professionals to handle their move. While this may come with a cost, there are several advantages that make it a popular choice. 

Pros of Hiring Professionals

One of the main advantages of hiring professionals for your move is the access to their professional expertise and experience. Professional movers have the knowledge and skills to handle fragile items, navigate through difficult spaces, and ensure that your belongings are transported safely. They are trained in proper packing and loading techniques, and can efficiently handle the logistics of the entire operation. The keyword there is trained. By opting for professionals, you can have peace of mind knowing that your move is in capable hands.

Another benefit of hiring professionals is the time and energy savings it affords. Moving can be an exhausting and time-consuming process, especially if you have a lot of possessions or are moving over a great distance. Though, moving over short distances can be tiresome too. By hiring professionals, you can focus on other important tasks related to your move, such as setting up utilities or transferring your address, while leaving the “heavy lifting” to the movers. This is sure to reduce stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Keep in mind however, that not all moving companies are created equal. While some may pack up your items, others may not. Realistically, it’s best to have everything boxed up and ready to be carried out the door by the time the moving company arrives. Additionally, it’s vitally important to ask key questions before hiring a moving company to ensure you’re on the same page.

Cons of Hiring Professionals

One of the drawbacks of hiring professionals is the cost involved. Professional movers can be expensive, especially if you own a larger home or are moving over a significant distance. The cost will depend on factors such as the square footage of your home, the distance of your move and the services you require. It’s important to consider your budget and weigh the cost against the benefits provided by moving professionals.

Another potential deterrent is the lack of control over the process. When you hire professionals, you’re relying on them to handle your things and ensure their safe arrival at their new destination. While even the most esteemed moving companies take great care in their work, there’s always a risk of damage or loss. It’s important to do your research and choose a trusted and dependable moving company to minimize this risk. Do you need moving insurance? Though most moving companies are insured, this would be something to look into as well. You might need to protect various items over and above what the mover’s insurance policy would cover.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re taking the move upon yourself or hiring a moving company, decluttering is essential. “Decluttering is key when selling your home,” expresses Christina M. Keller, REALTOR® with Realty Network Group. “Before the home goes on the market, a homeowner needs to begin cleaning and eliminating waste. Buyers need a clear vision of how their possessions will fill the space. Removing excess furnishings enables them to image the home as their own, without distractions. After an agreement is made between the parties, the seller can use the moving process as another time to organize and prioritize what makes the move and what gets purged.”

Hiring professionals for your move can offer several conveniences, including professional expertise, time and energy savings in addition to peace of mind. However, it’s important to consider the associated costs and potential lack of control over this operation. Ultimately, the decision between DIY moving and hiring professional movers will depend on your specific needs, budget and preferences.

 

Here are two other articles you might find helpful:

Moving and downsizing when a pet is involved.

Launching a new business from home while moving.

Advantages

There are several advantages that a home warranty can provide to a seller. First, a home warranty affords added peace of mind to potential buyers, as it assures them that major appliances and systems in the house are protected. This can make the home more appealing and increase its market value. What a home warranty cost a seller? On the surface, home warranty benefits for sellers are typically at lower cost, because of various limitations in coverage. Yet coverage is an affordable alternative for homeowners, who are looking for their home to stand out from the field of competition. A one-year policy for single-family properties is roughly $500-$600, but varies from company to company, and could include additional add-ons at the request of the homeowner. Usually, sellers have the ability to be covered while their home is listed, even if it’s for a limited time for minimal cost. Often the coverage will include a period of time while the home is on the market, but in a sense, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the buyer settles on the home. The homebuyer and seller can always negotiate prior to entering into an agreement, but if the listing was marketed as including a warranty for the buyer, the cost of the policy would usually be deducted from seller proceeds on the sale of their home. Though there is a cost to the seller, it generally isn’t an upfront cost, which is appealing to many who deploy this tactic. Additionally, as implied above, a warranty can act as a selling point, giving the seller a competitive edge in a crowded real estate market. It can demonstrate that the seller is confident in the condition of the home and is willing to stand behind it. Of course, in a seller’s market, warranties are seldom employed, because there’s less incentive to stand out from other listings when buyer activity is high. Yet, in these instances, home warranties can still play an active role. They give sellers more negotiating power and should anything break before the closing, there’s an added protection in place. By investing in a home warranty, the seller can avoid potential disputes or costly repairs that may arise during the transaction, ensuring a smoother ride for both parties. Overall, purchasing a warranty can be a smart move for sellers (albeit, it’s not for every situation) , providing an extra layer of protection and enhancing the attractiveness of their property.

Common Misconceptions

Here are a few myths about home warranties. One misconception is that a home warranty is the same as homeowners insurance. While both can provide protection for your home, they cover different things. Homeowners insurance typically covers damage from natural disasters, fire, theft and liability, while a home warranty covers the repair or replacement of major systems and appliances due to normal wear and tear. There’s a big distinction there, and one that should be made. Next, some have the idea that the cost of basic warranty coverage can be quite expensive, but most enrollment for a year is only a few hundred dollars depending on the square footage and location of the home. Always do your homework, check with various providers and get quotes in order to keep costs reasonably low. Another myth is that home warranties are unnecessary. Some homeowners may believe that their new appliances or systems won’t have issues, so they view the warranty as wasted money. However, even new items can develop unexpected problems (they’re called lemons), and a home warranty can provide peace of mind and financial protection. Furthermore, if you’re improperly using or not caring for your home’s systems or appliances, a warranty won’t do you much good. Homeowners are personally responsible for properly maintaining their systems and appliances. Any intentional damage caused to a system or appliance will not be covered. Any neglect shown to a home’s system or appliance will also meet the same fate. Additionally, some people wrongly assume that all repairs and replacements will be fully covered by a home warranty. It’s essential to understand the terms and conditions of your warranty, as there are often limitations, deductibles and exclusions. Finally, there is a misconception that home warranties are only valuable for older homes. While it’s true that older homes are more prone to issues with systems and appliances, a home warranty can benefit homes of any age. It’s important to separate fact from fiction when considering a warranty to ensure you make an informed decision.

Maximize Your Home Warranty

In order to get the most out of a home warranty you have to understand the coverage and limitations before making any claims. This includes knowing what is covered, the dollar limits, and any deductibles or service fees. This is a critical step and the reason we suggest that you understand your terms and conditions well. If a repair person needs to come to the property, you should have an understanding of what repairs are covered and an idea of what questions to ask the service technician. Obviously, you’ll also want to be on site when the repair tech arrives. Keep in mind that maintaining regular and proper maintenance of the home’s systems and appliances can increase the chances of a successful claim. Moreover, it’s important to keep documentation of any repairs or maintenance done on the covered items. Finally, homeowners should familiarize themselves with the claims process and promptly report any issues as soon as they arise. Being proactive and responsive when dealing with repairs can ensure a smooth and efficient resolution. If an appliance fails, best practice is to contact the warranty company directly and right away. Normally, it isn’t best to send for your own repair person, at least without first reporting it to your warranty provider. While you may be able to hire your own contractor or technician, and it doesn’t hurt to ask, often you’ll need to rely on the services of a repair person endorsed by the warranty provider. By maximizing knowledge and taking necessary steps at the appropriate times, homeowners can make the most of their home warranty and enjoy the benefits it provides.

For more information about home warranty coverage and to find a warranty that’s right for you and your home, click here.

Homeownership isn’t for everyone! I know that can sound downright strange coming from a real estate firm. Yes, we are in the business of selling homes. We’re in the business of connecting buyers and sellers. We’re a company that’s predicated upon building and nurturing relationships with our clients, our agents, lenders, appraisers, inspectors and other professionals. Yet, while owning a home is typically seen as a sound investment, there are situations when it may not be financially advantageous to buy one.

For example, you might not want to own a home if there’s uncertainty about your future or your job security, as committing to a mortgage could prove burdensome, if income becomes unstable. Another factor to consider is if you’re carrying high levels of debt. If you’re in a financial deficit, it may be more feasible to rent and focus on paying off obligations before taking on the additional financial responsibility of a home. Paying down/off higher-interest debts can raise your credit score as well, which will help you achieve a better mortgage rate for your next home purchase. Additionally, if you plan to relocate frequently due to work or personal reasons, the costs associated with buying, selling and moving can make renting a more favorable option as well. Ultimately, the decision to buy a home should be carefully weighed against all personal satisfaction with your current residence, financial position and job situation.

On the other hand, if you are a property owner, welcome to the wonderful world of ownership (and maybe lower taxable income too). With that being said, did you know, there are ways that you can increase or likewise decrease the value of your home? And this can happen even over short timeframes.

Increase Your Home’s Value

Increasing the value of your home in less than one year can be achieved through different ways. One effective method is to focus on curb appeal by enhancing the aesthetics of the exterior. This can be done by maintaining a well-manicured lawn, planting flowers and shrubs, and adding a fresh coat of paint to the front door (choose that color wisely!). Upgrades to your home’s exterior can be relatively affordable. This is the one area where sellers can give themselves a boost when debuting their home for sale. Another approach is to update key areas in the house such as the kitchen or bathroom, as these rooms often have a significant impact on the overall value of the home. Maybe it’s time that your kitchen finally got a face-lift. The condition of the kitchen and the bathrooms are often the hinge on what buyers tend to gravitate towards or away from when engaged in their search. The kitchen, like the main living area, is a frequently visited room, and as such, potential buyers are looking for modern beauty and convenience here, when possible. Additionally, improving energy efficiency by installing energy-saving appliances/lighting, improving insulation and opting for eco-friendly materials can boost the value of your home too. Smart home technology has been one of the safest investments in recent years. The ability to adjust the temperature, security or lighting in your home from a distance is a real game-changer. There’s a certain peace-of-mind in this sector of home improvement and unfortunately for some sellers, this is a must-have for a handful of buyers.

If you have other questions about valuation or selling, in general, click here.

Negatively Impacting Your Home’s Value

On the flip side, there are several actions that can quickly diminish the value of your home. For one, neglecting maintenance and repairs is one of the easiest ways to decrease value. This includes ignoring necessary fixes like leaking roofs, faulty plumbing or electrical issues. If homeowners avoid addressing a major issue, it could balloon into something intolerable. Water is a good example of this. A water dilemma, left to its own devices, could become a big financial headache for owners of a property. Another pitfall you might want to evade is engaging in excessive customization that may not appeal to the general public, such as unconventional color choices or highly specific themed rooms. Lime green or Pepto-Bismol pink, anyone? Or think solarium or home theater. While you might love those colors or while these might be intriguing rooms, a real hub for excitement in a home, they’re not for everyone. In fact, there’s a segment of homebuyers who would never have a use for either color or room. Lastly, failing to maintain an overall clean and tidy household, including proper hygiene and cleanliness, can also reduce the overall value of your home or at least its perceived value. Many of the buyers we work with are thankful for their ability to rely on their five senses during their home search. Sight and smell are as important as any and they can single-handedly make buyers do an about-face upon entering a residence.

There are also some pretty strange elements which can impact your home’s worth. Some of them might catch you off guard.

 

As you examine your property, probing the aspects you can – remember, you’re probably not a licensed home inspector. Take note of what requires your attention and make a plan based upon that, calling upon professionals when needed. Pinpoint areas where updating will raise the value of your home. Maintenance, repairs and upgrades will positively affect the valuation of your property as well as your confidence as a homeowner.

In the realm of home maintenance and improvement, finding a dependable handyman or contractor is akin to striking gold. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or a room in need of a fresh coat of paint, the right handyman can solve problems quickly and efficiently. So, how do you go about identifying this person who will be an asset to your home maintenance efforts? These eight essential steps serve as your roadmap for discovering the handyman who can proficiently deal with your home repair necessities.

Investigate Their Online Persona

Before you even consider hiring a handyman, it’s crucial to investigate their online reputation. Go beyond the first page of search results; dig deep into their social media accounts, check for news articles and look into forums. There’s a treasure trove of information out there and what you find could be the difference between hiring a reliable professional and wasting your money on subpar service.

Embrace Digital Organization

Before the hammer hits the nail, it’s essential to get your ducks in a row. Utilize digital tools to compile, organize and archive all essential documents related to your repair or renovation project. This organizational step helps prevent costly misunderstandings and delays. If you’re looking for a tool to combine your files, plenty of online resources can help you merge PDFs, images and text documents into one organized, easily searchable file.

Don’t Skip the Reference Check

Asking for references should never be an optional step. Reach out to their past clients to get first-hand reviews of the handyman’s work. This will offer you an unfiltered lens into what it’s like to work with them, from punctuality and communication skills to quality of work and cleanup etiquette.

Insist on a Written Financial Plan

Once you’ve done your preliminary research, make sure to ask the right questions (you can find some similar questions you can tailor to contractors in this post). Next, make sure you get a detailed quote in writing. This estimate should break down labor costs, material expenses and provide an approximate timeline for project completion. Not only does this document protect you from surprise charges, but it also serves as a reference point for both parties throughout the process.

Clarify the Timetable

A vague schedule can be the Achilles’ heel of any home improvement project, causing unnecessary delays and stress. To avoid this, insist on a well-defined timeline from your handyman that includes specific milestones and deadlines. A genuinely professional handyman should readily provide such a schedule, demonstrating their commitment to punctuality and efficiency. This approach not only keeps everyone on the same page, but also serves as a mechanism for accountability. By securing a detailed timetable, you pave the way for your project to progress smoothly, free from unwarranted hold-ups.

Cross-Check Credentials

Before any work commences, it’s essential to verify that your prospective handyman possesses all the required licenses and certifications. This not only assures you of their capability but also confirms that they comply with industry standards and legal mandates. These certifications serve as a benchmark, providing evidence of the handyman’s proficiency and expertise. Though Pennsylvania doesn’t have the best safety measures in place to protect customers, skipping this step could risk legal complications that may halt your improvement project.

Discuss Cleanup Services

Post-project cleanup should be a part of your agreement. A truly professional handyman will ensure the work site is as clean as it was before the project started. Clarify what the cleanup process entails, whether it’s removing debris, wiping down surfaces, or even restoring furniture to its original position.

Think Twice About Low Bids

While the allure of a cost-effective option is undoubtedly tempting, it’s crucial to proceed with caution. A lowball offer from contractors can be a red flag, signaling the use of inferior materials or a lack of professional experience. Employing corner-cutting techniques is another downside that may be hidden behind a low quote. Unfortunately, opting for such a low-cost solution could result in future expenses, including costly repairs or even a complete project redo.

 

Choosing the right handyman or contractor extends beyond simple considerations of cost or availability. It involves diligent research, open communication and a keen awareness of all the elements that contribute to a successful home improvement venture. By following these eight critical steps outlined above, you’re doing more than just securing a handyman’s services. You’re actively participating in an informed decision-making process that prioritizes quality and reliability. In essence, you’re making a calculated investment in both your home’s upkeep and its long-term value.

 

[This content is compliments of Fix It Dads.]

When looking for a new apartment, home or condo/townhome to lease, there are several red flags that might disqualify it from consideration. Does one of these eliminate it from your list? Perhaps not, but when a few of them converge, you should probably look elsewhere. Here are 10 common problems that could make an apartment unsuitable for tenancy:

Persistent pest infestations

Apartments plagued with pests like cockroaches, silverfish or rodents can be a nightmare to live in and are a clear sign of poor maintenance. When viewing a property it’s important to keep your eyes out for nesting materials that rodents might make use of, such as insulation, cotton, shreds of paper, etc. If you discover dead insects of the same species around window sills and door frames, there might be an insect problem on site. Other signs to watch out for include mouse tracks and/or droppings as well as evidence of wood damage (holes and hollow-sounding wooden surfaces).

Safety concerns

Issues like faulty wiring, non-functioning smoke detectors or inadequate security measures pose significant safety risks and should not be ignored. As we like to remind tenants or prospective buyers, we’re not home inspectors nor do we pretty to play one, but sometimes there are clearly visible signs like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors missing their covers and/or batteries. Another suspicious sight is when an apartment is dotted with exposed wires.

Water damage and leaks

In real estate, we say water is usually our biggest headache. It certainly has the potential to be. Apartments with water stains, musty smells or visible signs of leaks indicate potential mold growth, structural issues and water damage that can affect your health and belongings. Let your nose be your guide as you preview a home. Are there any distinct odors you notice? Does the air in certain rooms or the basement appear to be filled with more moisture? Water can pose a real threat to those occupying a home, so it’s important to stay alert to potential water issues.

Inadequate heating or cooling systems

Apartments lacking proper HVAC systems or with dysfunctional heating or air conditioning units can make living conditions uncomfortable and unpleasant. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, there are winters that can be harsh and quite cold. If the heating system doesn’t appear to have been serviced in some time or looks rundown, the system might not be efficient and the cold months could be somewhat unbearable.

Excessive noise levels

If an apartment is situated in a noisy neighborhood near busy roads, bars or construction sites and doesn’t provide soundproofing measures, it could disrupt your peace and quality of life. We always recommend that our clients, whether they be homebuyers or tenants, visit the neighborhood they’re considering at various points throughout the day (and at night too!). They’ll want to have a good understanding of the traffic situation, both in-person and vehicle traffic. Some of our clients aren’t disturbed by noise, but others find any elevation to be upsetting.

Insufficient storage space

Lack of adequate storage within an apartment can make it challenging to organize belongings and may lead to a cluttered living space. Certain clients or families have a lot of stuff and would rather not rent out a self-storage unit if they don’t need to. Small room sizes, lack of closets or a suitable basement/attic space can really put the damper on attracting tenants who need space for their possessions.

Damaged or worn-out amenities

If shared amenities like elevators, laundry facilities or parking areas are poorly maintained or in constant need of repair, it can cause inconvenience and frustration. In some of our buildings that serve condominums, the condition of amenities can be a game-changer. Even HOAs can play a role in this facet of the rental market. Some people depend on these and are willing to pay for these services, but if these amenities appear to be on the fritz, they would be better resuming their search elsewhere.

Poor management and communication

Frequent communication gaps, unresponsive management or unaddressed tenant concerns indicate a lack of professionalism and may lead to ongoing issues. In our business, a breakdown in communication helps no one. When miscommunication occurs, chances are good if something becomes an issue, it probably snow-balled into something much bigger. Responsive landlords, tenants and agents help to address any potential issues before they might get out of hand.

Accessibility issues

For individuals with mobility challenges, apartments that lack proper wheelchair accessibility features or have many flights of stairs can be impractical or even unsafe. Renters with disability issues can ask for a more accessible unit or request that accommodations be made to their unit. These accommodations should be reasonable and the renter, in most cases, would both cover the cost for the modifications as well as restoring the space to its prior state before those alterations were made. It’s important to know what your rights are as a tenant, if you have accessibility problems and require support.

Unreliable or absent maintenance services

If the apartment complex fails to provide timely maintenance or lacks a dedicated team, it can result in prolonged inconvenience and compromised living conditions. The landlord should be handling any maintenance required on their property, while keeping in mind — great tenants are hard to find. If they notify the landlord of a legitimate, ongoing issue, the owner should be prompt in resolving the matter.

Considering these ten problems can help tenants avoid potential frustrations as they seek safe environments to live.

Heather A. Luklanchuk, REALTOR®
Realty Network Group

Packing your whole life up into a large truck might be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in your lifetime. I mean after you’ve put all that effort into getting your home ready to market, dealt with your fair share of stress while your REALTOR® worked their magic, isn’t the “delight of moving” the next logical step towards sanity? Gearing up for the task of shipping some of your priceless belongings with a group of total strangers is completely normal.

All kidding aside, moving from one residence to another is daunting and has been known to rattle some sellers as they seek to begin a new chapter of their lives. It could be the mental energy we commit to those things, such as moving, which tends to drain us and in some cases, leave us feeling a little desperate. Quite honestly, this is why it’s critical whenever we’re faced with such a task as this, we unplug from our negative past experiences and truly take time to prepare for the move.

You can also find a helpful moving checklist on page eight of our homebuyer’s guide. In this post, we’re covering four ways moving is made easier. Having said that, we in no way want to make light of the experience. I, for one, don’t love the idea of packing up a room into boxes and then unpacking them on the other side, but I’ve always been able to deal with it in a healthy manner. We hope you can too and we feel confident these four tips as well as our checklist will help you navigate your way into your new home with minimal anxiety.

Give Yourself Time

Preparation is important whether you’re buying or selling a home. In fact, we advise many of our clients to give themselves extra time when they’re thinking about a life change. Big decisions can take time, especially getting used to them. Sellers who need to make repairs to their house, should factor in more time than they think to complete those jobs. Heck, even if a professional is making the repairs/updates, you’ll want to pack in additional time. The same can be said for those who are confronted with the challenge of moving.

Moving for some is excruciating, like on the level of public speaking bad. Yet, if you give yourself extra time in anticipation of unforeseen issues arising in the process, you’ll be much better equipped to handle them and stay calm. Our advice is you don’t procrastinate throughout the moving process. Whether you’re moving out of an apartment or a home, whether you’re the buyer or seller, once that switch is activated and your life is headed in another direction, act.

Gather Intel

For some, changing scenery is welcomed, for others there’s apprehension. Whatever flavor the move provides, it’s important you eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. Chances are you’ll erase some of that stress, if you gather information on your new town or neighborhood before setting down new roots. What is your new city/neighborhood like? What places would you like to visit after your move? What are some of the activities you’d like to do once you get settled? The more comfortable you are with your new surroundings ahead of time, the easier this transition will be. Those who put the effort in from day one, are better suited to handle the curveballs which may come their way. Learn all aspects of your particular process – mentally prep yourself.

Moving apps, like Sortly and Updater, have helped others organize their thoughts and well as their possessions. They could potentially aid you as well.

Hire A Reputable Mover

Not in all situations, but many moving endeavors do require the assistance of a moving company. Someone once said: “you never know how much you accumulate until you move” [author unknown]. Boy, isn’t that the truth! If you do need to choose a professional moving company, do your due diligence and research which options are best for you and your circumstances as well as your timetable. Prior to contacting movers on the phone, it’s important to make a list of five or more and read testimonials from other buyers and sellers who faced a similar task of having to hire one. What are the good and bad stories people are sharing? Make sure to do your homework and investigate registries like Angi, NextDoor, Yelp, Google, Facebook and others.

After you whittle your list down, make sure to compile a list of questions you’ll want to ask each of the moving companies. Need help creating your own? This is a great place to start. And there may be other factors you’ll need to consider such as special services required like packing/storage services or budgetary concerns or how you want your valuables transported. For starters, you’ll want to ask each company stuff like if they have a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) registration number and how do they estimate costs for a particular job (binding estimates are usually better) and what fees are added on (hidden fees?) and what type of insurance they offer their customers.

Based upon this research and the responses to your questions, you’ll have a better idea of who you’d hire. Let’s face it, in real estate, banking, heck even cuisine, there are many choices… narrowing it down isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If one’s required, finding a reliable moving company should be at the top of your list. We hope these pointers provided you insight into making the right decision.

Soothe Thyself

Throughout the process of packing your life away and dealing with a real estate transaction, it’s vital to take care of yourself. This might sound puffed-up and maybe also a tad holistic, but stepping away from this process when it’s happening is healthy too. The self-care aspects shouldn’t be forgotten at this time. If you love to read first thing in the morning, then continue to do that even if you need to cut back slightly. If taking a walk in the evening in a park or on a trail is your thing, then keep walking. If working out a few times a week makes you feel better, gives you energy and relaxes your nerves, then by all means, do those burpees. If enjoying a glass of wine on your porch helps pacify your mind, then don’t let moving oust you from outdoor happiness.

If you have an area of your home where you and your family really take in life and the room acts like a sanctuary for you, don’t box that up until the last possible day.

Also, it’s important to keep ties to those you might be leaving behind, such as family, friends and neighbors. Set aside time to get together with neighbors and those in the community you’ve enjoyed getting to know, who you might not see again (depending on the distance of your move). Schedule your next return trip with family and friends, which will give you and them something to look forward to.

 

Moving is a trying time, yes, but there are methods we can take, which will help us deal with the challenges ahead. Stay focused on what matters, sure, but give yourself time and try not to beat yourself up when things go sideways. We’re here to help you throughout this process. Call one of our professionals should you want any assistance along the way.

Downtown Living In Northeastern Pennsylvania

Downtown living is a different way of life, especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). Whether it’s Scranton or Wilkes-Barre, there are arguably more amenities at your fingertips and a different mode of going about your daily activities compared to other areas in the region. Downtown living provides residents options for how they conduct their affairs and how they interact with their community.

Downtown living in NEPA is often perceived as being in sharp contrast to the more rural lifestyle so many from our region experience regularly. Most of our school districts cater to children from bucolic areas. Heck, even some from our communities will joke about how traveling into downtown Scranton is like entering “the big city.” Yet, there are those who migrated in from major metropolitan cities. To them, Scranton is as miniature as you get for downtown living!

The Electric City, as Scranton is also known, once built upon the shoulders of coal-mining families, has evolved into something of legend. On November 30, 1886, the first streetcar system run entirely by electricity, made its debut in America in downtown Scranton. Where there were once strong ethnic concentrated centers of Irish, Italians, Polish, Germans, Jews throughout parts of the city, a melting pot has sprung up giving unique spins on the culture. This is evident in restaurants like Thai Rak Thai or even two in the north side: Casa Bella and Ipanema Grille. There’s a new-found sense of hope for a rebirth movement in this city.

The rebirth of a city plays a role in downtown living done right. Some of the essential features that make for great downtown living are walkable sections of town; commercial space that is of the mixed-used category; gathering spaces for recreation, education and entertainment; a successful residential component; and accessible/affordable parking. While these aren’t the only features that make a downtown thrive, they should be on everyone’s radar. We believe Scranton is building towards something spectacular. Obviously there’s still work to be done, but economic revitalization efforts have been undertaken by the city and organizations, such as Scranton Tomorrow. We simply can’t overstate how vital this volunteer-based organization has been in transforming downtown Scranton, especially in recent years.

Being a walkable community makes for great downtown living. Wide sidewalks, decorative courts/side-streets, greenspaces and removing graffiti/litter are ways to create pleasant spaces for pedestrians. Having a mixed-use mindset is also necessary for any new development and construction that takes place in the downtown area. Pedestrians want to be able to connect to the larger community, which surrounds them, and they want to feel welcomed as they venture around town. Community connection goes beyond commercial businesses. Connecting at events, drinking establishments, performing arts centers, fairs, movie theaters, parks, artisan markets, just to name a few is important for the creation of downtown living, which is a step above the rest. People want downtown living to be their city’s family room, especially in the later hours of the evening. Having affordable and convenient housing as well as parking are also what makes downtown living click.

Since COVID, we’ve experienced a trend in NEPA whenever possible where restaurants and pubs have provided more opportunities for patrons to enjoy food, drink and entertainment outside, in larger upgraded/converted spaces or in semi-covered areas, usually a back patio space or front of a building. Other accommodations have been made at hotels, convention centers, etc., but restaurants seem to have been the most creative to date.

A recent positive trend with respect to downtown living has been a decrease in vacant commercial space. When more businesses are leasing space or renting larger spaces, or when developers start thinking about catering to a person’s balanced lifestyle rather than only one of their aspects, everyone wins. In Scranton, one great example of a business who has done exactly this and has doubled-down on investing in the downtown area is Noteology. For downtown living to be done right, it’s all about a lived experience which is optimized and shared by residents and visitors to the city. Create a story and memories, then some of the first steps toward building a flourishing downtown are realized.

Successful downtowns don’t sprout up overnight. They take time, hard work, cooperation, great minds, forward-thinkers, patience and the like. To produce a “live-work-play” community in Scranton, or anywhere for that matter, takes these things in addition to the attributes described above.

 

* Image courtesy of Discover NEPA

 

Real Estate and Houses for Sale in Scranton, PA

Commercial Properties for Sale Near Scranton, PA

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Preparing Your Home For Winter

Alright, maybe summer is beginning to disappear. It’s never too early to prepare for the colder months ahead. On second thought, we suppose it could be, but autumn is the perfect time to tackle those jobs you’ve been putting off. Procrastination is never the solution, but everyone gets busy, especially once the school year ramps up again. A fall home checklist can appear bottomless and anything that’s overwhelming is often ignored. To prevent that from happening, we’ll keep these home hotspots short and sweet, so you can get back to watching football with family and friends!

There are two essential areas you’ll want to concentrate on this fall:

Heat

You need heat to cook those burgers and dogs at a tailgate party, as you watch linebackers bring it on opposing quarterbacks, but attention should likewise be directed toward your heating systems as cold weather approaches. You’ll want to have your fireplace(s) serviced, particularly if it’s wood-burning. Have a certified chimney inspector evaluate and clean your fireplace/stove(s) and chimney(s) throughout your entire home. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), each year in the home, there are close to 18,000 fires caused by wood-burning appliances in addition to almost 1,500 injuries and multiple casualties due to home heating equipment fires. These are preventable. It’s important to hire a reliable chimney service to assure there are no defects such as a cracked flue liner nor a build-up of creosote and soot.

Gas fireplaces and furnaces should be evaluated yearly to ensure there’s proper venting and they’re operating well. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is failing to run their heating system until it’s so cold that it’s needed to keep everyone warm. Be proactive, so you’re not at the mercy of an HVAC repair person when the temperatures drop, your furnace is in need of rehabilitation and they have a long list of customers to attend to prior to your appointment.

If time permits, the homeowner should check the exterior seals around window frames and doors to make certain heat isn’t escaping from inside their home.

Water

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, water is the root of all evil when it comes to your dwelling or housing investments. Water has the potential to wreak havoc in your home and if you’re not cautious seemingly smaller issues can become big ones overnight. The two main areas you’ll want to give attention to are the roof and the foundation. Snow, rain and ice can penetrate your home through any vulnerable surface on the roof (i.e. missing or compromised shingles) or cracks in the foundation. Ice-wedging might too become a headache for some, but generally speaking looking for visible signs of damage is a critical first step. If you find any troublesome spots after you perform a site survey, make sure to contact a qualified professional who can mend the roof or foundation. If there’s extra time, you can inspect the grading around the premises to confirm water isn’t collecting near its foundation.

Downspouts and gutters should still be examined to ensure debris isn’t collecting, impeding water from the roof in any way. As previously mentioned, it’s imperative that water flows away from the house. Debris may or may not be found in the property’s gutters and this varies widely on the number and size of deciduous trees surrounding the home. Obviously, you or a professional gutter cleaner should patiently wait until a majority of the leaves have fallen from the trees.

Close any shut-off valves from inside the home, which attend to outside plumbing. Drain those lines. Turn off exterior spigots, drain/store all hoses that were being used and winterize piping exposed to the winter elements.

Check for any gaps about the home, notably those around pipes, where water may enter the property causing structural damage or the potential for mold.

 

There are numerous other things you can accomplish as you prep for the changing seasons, such as changing or cleaning your furnace filter, replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, reviewing with your family your emergency procedures, clearing your home of clutter, giving your hardwoods and carpeting a thorough, deep clean… the list goes on and on. Again, we wanted to keep it concise, focusing on heat and water.

Winter is coming! It’s not a stretch to say these tips are a Song of Ice and Fire. We have faith you can address these areas for the chillier months ahead. Sooner than later it will be time to bundle up and get your house in order – at least we hope in more order than King Viserys’ house is.

Holding On To Summer

Black-eyed Susans are in full bloom, raging across gardens and hillsides in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Chatter has begun about picking apples, not blueberries, from an orchard near you. Ritters, anyone? Sure, Dunkin Donuts is now showcasing its Blood Orange Refresher, claiming it’s their seasonal drink. Schools are reopening for the new academic year. Football has begun again! Did you catch yesterday’s Backyard Brawl thriller? The unofficial end to summer happens this Labor Day weekend. And yes, this morning was a little chilly, I must say, but I’m holding onto summer this year!

We lack the four seasons in our region, we really do. Spring, in recent years, is a mixture of winter slop and daffodils and crocuses refusing to make up their minds whether it’s time to sprout or not. Autumn seems hidden behind the winter breeze that kidnaps the summer heat. When summer finally gets into motion, department stores are cramming Halloween decor and Christmas lights into our shopping carts. Don’t get me wrong, fall is my favorite, absolute favorite season of the year. [I even purchased a case of Founders’ Oktoberfest a few days ago – shhhh!] I’m just not willing to surrender to autumn this year. I don’t care how many times you shout pumpkin spice!

Summer hasn’t made an exit yet. In fact, I had sand between my toes only days ago and a sunburn on my right arm.

Real estate may likewise side with my position. It appears, like me, it could be summer dreaming. Some of its optics exude traditional summer responses. More properties have gone under contract in August of this year as opposed to August of 2021 and the housing supply remains dismal, 1.65 months supply, last time I checked. Keep in mind, a balanced market with normal inventory levels produces a month’s supply between five and seven. Nevertheless, as much as I hate to admit it, our market’s leaves are changing color. Sold listings through last month, year-to-date, are down 6.4%. New listings, likewise, are down month-over-month, when compared to last August, by over 23%. Perhaps this market has had enough of the surge it experienced over the previous twenty-six months (give or take).

Could it be that homebuyers, much like blueberry-pickers of July and August, have had their fill? They’ve looked at the entire inventory (which hasn’t been much), they’re fatigued by record-setting inflation and mortgage rates that don’t look as appealing as they did this past January. Although there’s certainly an element of truth to these pressures, the strain has been on buyers for some time now, our market remains rather healthy. When will inventory increase and the market become more balanced? That’s really anyone’s guess at this point – industry experts have yet to nail that down. In spite of that, year-to-date, there’s been a 19.9% increase in homes sold this year opposed to only five years ago in 2017.

We’re looking forward to a change in season in real estate, after all buyers need reprieve too! But summer wants to stick around this year (it told me so). We hope you can enjoy the few remaining weeks of the season.

* statistics from the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® (August 2017 – August 2022)

 

Whatever season you find yourself in, make sure to use our “search by city” feature and discover all our area has to offer.