Top Warning Signs When Buying a Fixer-Upper Home

With the sheer number of television shows dedicated to home renovation and flipping houses, it’s no wonder that more and more people are interested in purchasing a fixer-upper themselves. In many cases, buying a house that needs a lot of work and a big investment can pay off in a short time—but all buyers, no matter how experienced they are, take a big risk when they sign on the dotted line.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a fixer-upper either to live in or to renovate it and put it on the market, read these warning signs and make sure the house you’re eyeing is free from any major defects before you take the plunge.

 

Hazardous materials and building supplies

Hazardous materials and building supplies

Many older homes contain both asbestos and lead paint, which are known to have the potential to cause serious health problems in people who are exposed to those substances. Removing these substances—particularly asbestos—can be very expensive and time-consuming and requires the services of qualified professionals. Before you purchase a fixer-upper, make sure that these renovations are within your budget if the home is known to have hazardous materials in its structure.

Water damage

Water damage

Water damage in homes can range in severity for minor pipe leaks to full-blown flooded basements or bathrooms. Use your best judgment when purchasing a home with water damage, but note that flooded basements can require expensive renovations and may be susceptible to more flood damage in the future. In addition, you should also consider having wood frames and floorboards throughout the home inspected if the flood damage occurred on the main floor or second floor, as the water damage can cause the wood to rot and become a potentially dangerous hazard.

Structural problems

Structural problems

A house with structural problems is a house you should probably avoid—unless you’re willing to shell out major money to fix it. Structural issues mean a house is literally on its way toward completely collapsing or falling over, making it both extremely dangerous and a candidate for condemnation. In addition, unless you get an absolute steal on the asking price, you’ll be unlikely to recoup the money you put into fixing a home’s foundation and structure. Common signs of structural problems including cracks in the brick exterior and parts of the home that aren’t level, especially in the corners.

Roof damage

Roof damage

Repairing and replacing a roof is pretty standard for most fixer-upper homes, but before you dive in, it’s important to check just how damaged the roof actually is. If the damage is limited to the shingles or tiles, it shouldn’t be an issue to replace them all with newer materials that are better designed to withstand the elements. However, if the damage goes beyond the roof itself and has entered the attic, insulation, and walls, the problem cost of fixing it may increase significantly.

Electrical issues

Electrical issues

Neither you nor your potential buyers will be interested in living in a home without reliable electricity and power in every room and every outlet. Unfortunately, older homes and homes in dire need of repair often have outdated and even broken electrical systems and wiring. Before you purchase a fixer-upper with wiring issues, make sure you know what type of work needs to be done. If the wiring is several decades old, it may need to be completely replaced, but homes with newer installations may only need repairs in certain rooms or on certain outlets.

Heating and central air

Heating and central air

Unless the home you’re looking at is located in a perfect climate where the weather is never hot or cold, you need reliable air conditioning. Like wiring issues, older homes often have significant issues with their HVAC, furnace, or central air units—and replacing those isn’t cheap. Before singing on the dotted line, do your best to find out the exact age of the unit and whether it’s feasible to apply a quick fix to any issues or whether you need to install a brand new system.

Unattractive lawn and landscaping

Unattractive lawn and landscaping

Whipping a lawn into shape can range from a simple weekend project to something that takes weeks or longer—especially if you want to add an outdoor entertaining area. One major factor to consider when landscaping a barren and ugly lawn is whether it has a tendency to flood or if there any harmful/toxic chemicals that get into the soil due to runoff. A beaten-down lawn with otherwise healthy soil and no major issues lurking underneath the bare patches shouldn’t dissuade you from making an investment, but a lawn that needs to be completely dug up just to get to the root of the issues should be a big red flag.

Outdated or drafty doors and windows

Outdated or drafty doors and windows

No matter how many coats of paint you put on a home’s exterior, it still won’t live up to its curbside potential if the doors and windows are cracked, fogged, warped, or just plain unappealing. Replacing all outside doors and windows is a major budgetary concern for fixer-upper homes, as you may be able to hold off on replacing certain smaller or less prominent windows, such as those in bathrooms or those on the back side of the home. However, the upfront cost of replacing aging doors and windows with more energy-efficient models can be a big selling point for your home and save you or your prospective buyer big money down the road.

Major renovation costs

Major renovation costs

Some homes are built using floor-plans that simply aren’t in demand in 2015. Long, narrow hallways, confined spaces, sectioned-off kitchens, and cramped bathrooms are all relics of a home design era from decades ago, but they’re common in many fixer-upper homes. In many cases, it can be difficult to sell a fixer-upper no matter how much work you put into it if the floorplan is simply unappealing to buyers. Always factor in the cost of completely renovating the interior of the home. Knocking down walls, expanding bedrooms and bathrooms, renovating the kitchen, and converting an unused bedroom into an office or man cave can quickly add a major bullet point to the home’s appeal, but you should always make sure you’ll be in good shape to recoup the cost once the work is finished.

How to Handle Tough Cleaning Jobs around Your Home

While most messes around the home can be cleaned with nothing more than a sponge, a mop, and some elbow grease, there are a handful of cleaning jobs that require a bit more planning and care. And although there’s a huge industry that specializes in cleaning tough jobs that many homeowners don’t think they’re capable of completing on their own, the fact is almost all messes and stains are treatable at home with the right approach and the right tools.

Check out the list below to find out how to tackle some of the toughest and most common messes you’ll face as a homeowner.

cleaning couch cushions

Couch cushions

From the time you pick it out until the time you’re ready to replace it, you know that your couch has a limited lifespan. Eventually, the springs will start to sag, the fabric will become frayed, and the couch will lose its support and become downright uncomfortable to sit on.

However, stained or dingy couch cushions don’t have to be the death knell of your sofa. If its overall structure is still solid but it’s starting to look a little drab, a little TLC may be all it needs to look its best once again.

To start, use a vacuum cleaner and brush attachment to remove as much dirt, dust, pet hair, and other debris as possible from every cushion. Then spot clean any stains using a mild detergent and warm water. Make sure you follow the instructions on the sofa for specific cleaning directions.

For more difficult stains or discolorations, remove each cushion cover and turn it inside out before placing it in the washing machine. If your cushions aren’t removable or aren’t washing machine safe, consider renting a steam upholstery cleaner instead. Be sure to let each cushion completely dry before replacing them on the couch.

cleaning mattress and box springs

Mattress and box springs

Mattresses are designed to last around eight to 10 years, so if yours is looking a little rough around the edges before it’s time to replace it, consider giving it a good cleaning instead.

Over time, mattresses pick up enormous amounts of dirt, dust, and dead skin cells that can shorten their lifespan and trigger symptoms in allergy sufferers. To combat this, you should take a multi-pronged approach when it comes to cleaning your mattress.

First, strip the bed and remove all sheets, pillows, and mattress covers. With the bare mattress exposed, use a vacuum cleaner and a brush or upholstery attachment and run it over every surface of the mattress multiple times. This will help remove accumulated skin cells, dirt, and dust from the top of the mattress and its inner grooves.

Next, coat the mattress with a fine layer of baking soda and rub it in with a gentle brush to absorb any surface stains and moisture from sweat or humidity. Allow the baking soda to sit on the surface of the mattress for around half an hour, then vacuum it again.

Finally, spot treat any noticeable stains or discolorations using a paste of ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 tbsp. each of liquid dish soap and table salt. Rub this mixture deeply into every stain or discoloration and allow it to dry before scraping any excess residue off with a clean rag or wash cloth. Take care to not drench your mattress or allow too much water to soak through, as this can damage it or cause it to smell like mildew.

cleaning your refrigerator

Refrigerator

Ah, refrigerators. They’re one of the most treasured appliances in the Western world, as they store our favorite treats and keep fresh for long periods of time. Unfortunately, they also have a tendency to quickly become disgusting messes that at best smell unpleasant and at worst put you and your family at risk of getting a foodborne illness.

While it’s best to spot clean spills and messes as they happen inside your refrigerator, that’s not always possible—and it’s not 100 percent effective at keeping the fridge spotless anyway. To truly deep clean your fridge, you need to remove every item and work from the top down.

If your fridge needs some serious cleaning that might take a while, consider briefly unplugging it to reduce energy waste. You can also remove the shelves one at a time to clean without leaving the door open.

With the shelves and drawers removed, place them in the sink in warm, soapy water and allow them to soak for several minutes. This will help loosen any hardened stains or spills and make it much easier to wipe them clean. If your sink isn’t big enough to accommodate the shelves and drawers, consider washing them outdoors or even in your bathtub.

Next, wipe down every inch of exposed surface inside your fridge using a sponge and a multipurpose cleaner. Wipe away any excess cleaning fluid with a paper towel or clean sponge.

With the inside cleaned, dry off the shelves and drawers and place them back inside the fridge. Make sure they are completely dry before they go back inside, as any remaining moisture could attract bacteria or even mold in the future.

Finally, wipe down the outside of the fridge, paying special attention to the handles for the freezer and the main compartment. If your fridge has an automatic ice or water dispenser, clean the water nozzle and all components, as dirt and dust can buildup in those areas.

Must-Have Plants for Your Garden

One of the biggest perks of the spring and summer seasons is enjoying the fruits of your labor if you plant and maintain a garden. Having a garden requires a fair amount of upkeep, but those hours are well-spent, as it not only adds beauty to your home’s outdoor areas, but it can also provide you and your family with delicious fruits and vegetables throughout most of the year.

If you already have a garden or are thinking about planting one on your property, consider adding some of these plants to your plot to get fresh produce on a regular basis without making a trip to the grocery store.

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomato plants are one of the most popular and common additions to home gardens for good reason—they’re easy to grow and produce a delicious fruit that is extremely versatile as an ingredient, a snack, and a topping for sandwiches and burgers. Some of the best varieties to grow include “Better Boy,” Celebrity,” and “Brandywine,” as all three produce disease-resistant, juicy, and sweet fruits that taste great in the spring and summer.

You also may want to add small fruit-sized tomatoes for even easier snacking and to easily toss into salads without any required cutting or chopping. Bite-size tomatoes come in several different varieties and colors, with some of the most popular seed types including “Yellow Pear,” “Super Sweet 100,” and “Juliet.”

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Adding just a few cucumber plants to your garden will provide your family with a huge harvest of a tasty vegetable that can be eaten as a snack, as part of an appetizer plate, or in salads. Cucumbers are easy to grow and thrive well in a variety of conditions, including dry heat in the summertime. In fact, they tend to grow so easily that they can quickly overtake your garden. Wrangle their vines by using a post or trellis to keep the plant growth under control.

Some of the most popular seed types for cucumber plants include “Marketmore 76” and “Salad Bush.” Late spring is the best time to plant cucumbers, so take advantage of this window of opportunity to enjoy their delicious fruits in just a few months’ time.

 

Basil

Basil

An extremely versatile and common herb, basil is an ingredient found in a huge variety of popular recipes and meals. It’s commonly added to sauces and soups to create a spicy and tangy flavor and can change an ordinary recipe into something truly memorable. Basil also happens to be one of the easiest plants to grow in a garden and is perfect for amateur or beginner gardeners.

Because basil plants are relatively small and won’t take up much room in your garden, experiment with several different varieties to find a flavor you like. Popular seed types include “Genovese,” “Sweet Thai,” a seed that produces an authentic Thai flavor, and “Mrs. Burn’ Lemon,” a seed that produces a sweet and tangy lemon basil flavor.

Beans

Beans

Beans are another easy-to-grow plant that thrive in just about any garden with minimal interference. Some of the best beans to add to your garden include navy beans, great northern beans, and kidney beans due to their flavor and nutritional value.

When growing beans, place them in containers and space them at least four inches apart. Harvesting beans at the right time requires practice and experience, and is best done when the pods have completely dried on the vine. Make sure that the pods are light brown—then, let the beans sit out for a few days to completely dry before storing them in a cool and dry place.

 

Carrots

Carrots

Carrots are among the healthiest plants you can include in your garden. They’re packed with fiber, manganese, niacin, potassium, and a whole host of vitamins that might be missing from your diet. In addition, they tend to taste the best when freshly pulled from the ground—and that means you’ll likely never have carrots better than ones that you grow yourself.

Like beans, grow carrots in containers and keep the seeds at least two to three inches apart. Shorter varieties of carrots tend to do better in gardens—especially if you haven’t yet developed your green thumb—so look for seed types like “Thumbelina” and “Danver’s Half Long.” Avoid letting your carrots grow for too long, as they taste best when harvested at a smaller size.

 

Broccoli

Broccoli

Not to be outdone by the nutritional value of carrots, broccoli is one of the world’s most popular superfoods and is a staple of many home gardens for good reason. It’s high in essential nutrients like calcium, iron, and magnesium, and a single serving of raw broccoli provides well over a day’s requirement of vitamin C.

Growing broccoli is best accomplished with one plant per pot planted 12 to 16 inches deep. However, beware of pests that can damage your broccoli plants, including the cabbage worm. To avoid having your broccoli stolen by these pesky critters, keep a close eye on your plants and check for butterflies that hover near them. If you see them, you may have uninvited guests on your broccoli. Use a lightweight cloth to protect them and remove any pests with your hand before its time to harvest.

 

Peas

Peas

Many people develop a dislike for peas as children, but there’s a world of difference between peas that come from a can and peas that come from your own garden. Fresh peas straight from the vine are sweet and tender and highly nutritious to boot. Like broccoli and carrots, peas pack a punch when it comes to providing minerals and vitamins, and they make the perfect additions to meals for growing families.

When growing peas, separate the plants by at least two inches in a pot that’s 10 inches deep. It’s best to grow peas in the early spring after the last frost and during the late summer as the temperatures begin to drop, as the plant struggles to thrive in hot weather.

 

Spinach

Spinach

Whether it’s eaten as the primary ingredient in a salad or used to complement a meal, spinach has a huge variety of uses in your kitchen. Like every other plant on this list, it also tastes best when eaten fresh from a garden. Plant it as a hedge to encompass your garden in the late summer and harvest it in the fall for maximum freshness and taste. Some of the most popular varieties of spinach include “Olympia” and “Verdil.”

 

 

 

 

Spring Lawn Care Guide

Spring is well underway, and that means it’s time to start paying close attention to your lawn. While the best time to reseed your lawn is in the fall, there are many steps you can take right now to both get your lawn looking great and prepping it for an overhaul later in the year.

To get a head start on your perfect summer lawn and the fall seeding season, check out Blindster’s spring lawn care guide.

 

Bermuda-grass

 

Know your grass type

Before you begin working in your lawn, it’s important to know what type of grass you have.

  • Cool-season grasses typically have a moderate growth spurt in the spring and then go dormant during the hot summer months before having another big growth spurt in the fall. Common cool-season grasses include fescue, bluegrass, and rye. The goal for these types of grass during the spring is to make it as healthy as possible during its summer dormancy.
  • Warm-season grasses do well during the heat of the summer and go dormant in the winter. These grasses, which include Bermudagrass, St. Augustine, and centipede, begin slowly growing after the last frost of early spring and their growth gets kicked into high gear by midsummer when the temperatures are at their hottest. The goal for this type of grass is to make sure it reaches its full potential during the warm summer months and is primed for reseeding during the fall.
keep off the grass

Go easy on the grass

Spring is a vulnerable time for your lawn. As your grass awakens from its winter dormancy, it’s very fragile and can be damaged by hard raking and even foot traffic. Excess damage can even result in bald patches on your lawn as summer approaches.

However, early spring is still an excellent time to clean up any debris left over from the winter. Remove any fallen limbs to encourage grass growth in your yard and gently rake up any dead and excess leaves. If you have any leftover snow piles, spread them out evenly with a shovel to encourage faster melting. Large accumulations of snow can quickly kill grass and prevent it from growing during early spring.

weed control

Get serious about controlling weeds

While fall is the best time to reseed your lawn, spring is the best time to kill and prevent new weeds from growing. During early spring, many weeds have yet to emerge from the ground—making their roots highly susceptible to treatments.

All grass types benefit from preventative weed control, but be aware that an application in March or April should be followed up with another application in June or July, as most pre-emergency weed herbicides only last for around three months.

Bluegrass

Fertilize your lawn depending on the grass type

The type of grass in your lawn not only determines its growth rates and dates, but also dictates when and how much fertilizer you should use to maximize its growth and thickness.

  • Cool-season grasses should be fertilized lightly in the early spring if the lawn is in bad shape. Over-fertilizing cool-season grasses can provide a quick boost in the spring, but leaves them vulnerable to the elements during the summer. For best results, fertilize only spots of your lawn that desperately need help and save the rest of the work for the fall.
  • Warm-season grasses take much better to springtime work and should be fertilized as soon as your lawn begins to mature, thicken, and grow quickly and evenly. For most climates, this occurs in late April or early May.
Check your soil

Check your soil

If you’ve noticed that your grass isn’t growing the way you want it to or it tends to die without a reasonable explanation, you soil may be the culprit. Spring is the perfect time to test your soil and find out if it’s starving your grass of oxygen and nutrients. Acidic soil with a pH level below 6 can be treated at any point during the growing season with an application of lime—and the earlier in spring you apply it, the better the results will be.

Water your grass

Water your grass regularly

If you live in an area that doesn’t get much rainfall, it’s important to make sure that your grass gets plenty of water during the spring and especially during the months. Water your lawn at least once per week throughout the spring and summer to give it a good growth foundation. You can begin to taper off on regular watering once the fall arrives and the weather turns cooler.

Get insects and pests under control

Get insects and pests under control

Weeds aren’t the only thing that can harm your grass. Insects and small pests can also do a number on your lawn if not controlled quickly. Use the early spring growing season to inspect your lawn for any signs of infestation or rodent activity and take the proper measures to eliminate these pests from your lawn using the appropriate chemicals or traps.

lawn care equipment

Inspect and prepare your lawn care equipment

Once your lawn begins growing in the spring, you should be prepared to start cutting it at least twice a week to maintain a uniform appearance. That’s why it’s important to get a head start on the spring lawn care season by making sure your lawn care equipment is fully prepped and ready to go. Check your lawn mower for any possible grass clogs from the previous summer and check to see if the blade needs to be sharpened. You should also start it up before you need to mow to make sure it runs smoothly and easily.

Other equipment like weed eaters, aerators, and leaf blowers should also be inspected and tested before your first day working on the lawn during the spring.

mowing your lawn

Prepare a strategy for mowing your lawn

While mowing a lawn simply requires running a moving blade over it, mowing a lawn properly requires a bit more foresight and planning. To keep your lawn looking its best and remaining at peak health, always mow each strip of grass in opposite directions. That means if you start out mowing the edge of your yard north to south, change it up and go east to west the next time.

You should also mow your lawn in back and forth patterns to create a consistent and appealing look rather than mowing in a spiral. To mow around an obstacle like a tree or flower bed, mow around it twice and go the opposite direction on the second pass.

How to Find the Right Contractor for Your Home

While the DIY culture is growing and becoming more and more affordable for homeowners thanks to the Internet, there are some jobs that you simply don’t have the time, expertise, or energy to complete on your own. In those cases, it’s best to hire a contractor to do the work for you.

But which contractors are trustworthy, and how can you know the difference between an experienced craftsman and a scam artist who will damage your home and drain your bank account? Hiring a contractor isn’t a decision to take lightly, and that’s why Blindster created this list of the best way to research contractors in your area.

By following the tips below, you’ll have a much better chance of getting the work done correctly the first time while eliminating the need for pricing disputes, repairs, and even drawn-out legal battles.

Ask your friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations.

Ask your friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations.

If you have a project in mind that someone in your social circle also completed on their home, ask which they contractor they used and if they’re happy with the results. Having a personal referral from someone you know and trust can go a long way when it comes to making you feel confident about putting your money into the hands of someone who can either transform your home or cause a new set of problem. When asking friends and family for recommendations, always phrase the question in terms of who they prefer rather than who you should avoid.

Read their reviews online.

Read their reviews online.

Most popular contractors are listed on websites with reviews of their work. Do your research and find out as much as you can about their work and how well it was received by their previous clients. If you find any negative reviews, it may be worthwhile to try and contact the person who left the review to get more information on exactly what went wrong. In many cases, contractors do extra work to fix any lingering issues after the review is originally posted—and that information may not make it back to the web. Finally, take both glowing reviews and highly negative reviews with a grain of salt and look deeper into with ratings in-between. Those are often more truthful and honest about the contractor’s abilities and expertise.

Search the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce for complaints.

Search the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce for complaints.

Sometimes contractors mess up so badly that their clients go far beyond leaving bad reviews—they file actual complaints against them. This generally occurs after very expensive mistakes or extremely time-consuming jobs that severely disrupt the lives of the homeowners. To avoid ending up in a similar situation, do your due diligence and search for their business name on the Better Business Bureau and any other local business agencies that keep records of official complaints.

Make sure they are fully licensed and have the required permits.

Make sure they are fully licensed and have the required permits.

Contractors often need a host of licenses and permits to work, but getting those documents can be expensive. Because of the added costs, some contractors forgo getting their licenses, meaning they miss out on regular training, testing, and education in their fields. In fact, some may be poorly qualified to do the work in the first place. Before hiring a contractor, contact your city or county government and get a list of all the required permits and licenses they’ll need to work on your home. Then ask to see copies of these documents before you sign any contracts agreeing to let them work on your home.

Verify that they are insured before proceeding.

Verify that they are insured before proceeding.

Making sure the potential contractor is fully insured and bonded is just as important as making sure they are licensed. Contractors without insurance pose huge risks to homeowners, as any major damage or injuries, that occur while on the premises of your property could come straight of your own wallet. With their insurance information in hand, make sure it’s with a legitimate company as well, as some may carry fraudulent or extremely basic coverage.

Meet with the contractor in person.

Meet with the contractor in person.

Depending on the size of the job needing to be completed in your home, the contractor you hire may be in your home for several hours per day for the next few weeks or even months. It’s important that you feel comfortable with his or her presence before the job begins. If possible, arrange a time to meet with the contractor in person to get a feel for them as a person and make sure that they will take the time to understand what you need and how you want the work done in your home.

Get quotes and price contracts as soon as possible.

Get quotes and price contracts as soon as possible.

After you’ve decided to hire a contractor, make sure that you first get a detailed estimate for the amount the work will cost—then get it in writing on a contractor and get both signatures on this document. Without an agreed upon price in writing and bound by signatures, contractors may change the scope of the work and the total price of the parts and labor halfway through the job, putting you at risk of going way over your original budget.

Stay in contact with the contractor and his crew as work begins.

Stay in contact with the contractor and his crew as work begins.

Just because construction has started on your home doesn’t mean you need to end communication with your contractor and his work crew. Check in with the crew at least once per day to find out if they’re run into any problems and take photographs along the way. Not only does documenting the work help you get a clear visual of how much your home changes, it can also come in handy if the contractor causes any damage to your home.

Keep in mind that you’re not obligated to keep the contractor if the work is unsatisfactory.

Keep in mind that you’re not obligated to keep the contractor if the work is unsatisfactory.

If you’re unhappy with the work that your contractor is doing on your home due to damage, neglect, or poor performance and he or she doesn’t seem to be improving or addressing any of the issues, it may be time to terminate their employment. Remember—because you’re paying them, you’re free to end the job at any time. However, make sure you have copies of anything the next contractor will need to complete the job, such as blueprints, design plans, and any other construction-related documents.