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Posted by Sears Real Estate on 11/13/2017

Fireplaces can serve as a focal point in a room, provide a source of heat and add to the comfort of your home. They can also help you to save on energy costs. There’s so many different kinds of fireplaces that you can either install or find in a home. If you’re shopping for a home, you may want a home with a built-in fireplace. You don’t necessarily need one to get all of the benefits that a fireplace can provide. There’s different types of fireplaces that are made to suit the many different needs of homeowners. Here, we’ll show you some different kinds of fireplaces along with their pros and cons. 


Wood Fireplaces 


The most commonly thought of fireplace is the wood-burning fireplace. This will be built-in to your home, or you can install them in your home to use as a heat source. You may even install a wood stove in the upstairs part of your home and another in the downstairs in order to keep an even heat throughout the home. In some homes, however, just one wood stove is enough to heat the entire house! 


This type of fireplace requires maintaining from time-to-time including cleaning the chimney. You’ll also need to clean out ash from the inside of the fireplace. The material that’s being burned- wood, needs to be stored somewhere. Rain and inclement weather can cause a problem, as you’ll need to dry the wood some before it can be burned effectively. You’ll need a screen to protect you and your family from the ash and embers that may be blown around form the inside of the fireplace while it’s burning wood. These fireplaces are advantageous for a classic look and feel but can often be a pain to clean.   


Gas Fireplaces 


If your home is fitted with a gas fireplace, you’re lucky because these types of fireplaces are cleaner and provide a more even heat source. Gas fireplaces, true to their name, burn gas instead of wood. A vented gas fireplace will look very similar to that of a wood- burning fireplace. There is a firebox present in the chimney that allows for ventilation with these types of heating sources. You can use a variety of things to give the appearance that you are “burning” them in a gas fireplace. This includes beads that will bring flames up and ceramic logs that appear just like the logs that would be present in a wood-burning fireplace. You can even easily convert a gas burning fireplace to a wood burning one. This is, if you seem miss cleaning up all of the ash that they create!   


Direct Vent Fireplaces


These fireplaces don’t require a chimney. They draw in outside air and feed off a gas line that’s attached through the wall. The flame of these fireplaces is secured behind a piece of glass. The big advantage to these kinds of fireplaces is that they emit a large amount of heat and don’t lose much heat in the process, since there’s no chimney to lose air through.  


Faux Fireplaces

If you choose, there’s a variety of options that you have in getting a fireplace that doesn’t actually create a flame at all. These fireplaces are typically run on electricity and give the same effect of a fireplace but are much easier to install anywhere in your home. Consider these if you really would like a fireplace without the hassle!





Posted by Sears Real Estate on 11/6/2017

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and floods do not occur where you live every day. Yet, these natural disasters do happen, often catching homeowners and their family members by surprise. Storing the right tools and resources at your home that you may need should natural disasters strike could impact your ability to survive these events. Knowing what to do during an emergency can also reduce the amount of exposure that you and your family have to dangerous elements like smoke, rushing water and unstable foundations. Details Are Essential When Dealing With Natural Disasters As a homeowner, one of the first things that you’ll want to do is to take pictures of your home. Walk through each room of your house, taking pictures of the furniture, walls, flooring and other valuable items like jewelry, computers and wide screen televisions. These pictures can help your case when you file an insurance claim. Regarding insurance claims, at least once a year, review your insurance coverage packages. Look over your homeowners insurance and auto, health and life insurance policies. If you recently had a child, have you added your child to applicable insurance policies? Do the limits on your homeowners insurance cover the costs of your entire house and all goods inside your home? Keep critical documents like mortgage papers, insurance policies, retirement packages, wills and birth certificates at home inside safe deposit boxes or fire retardant safes. You could even keep a copy of critical documents in a post office box or a bank safe deposit box. For easy retrieval, consider adding names and telephone numbers of insurance representatives in your cell phone contact lists. Identify emergency exits at your home. Educate your entire family on the emergency exits and when they should be used. For example, you might use your front and back doors as emergency exits in the event of a fire and your attic window as an emergency exit in the event of a flood. Make sure that you have a ladder in the attic, so your relatives can escape. If one emergency exit is blocked during natural disasters, have a second (and potentially a third) emergency exit established. Practice evacuating your home. Try to simulate an actual emergency when you practice evacuating your home with your family. Incorporate Relatives In Your Home Natural Disasters Plan Let two to three relatives who do not live at your house know about your emergency plan. Make sure that these relatives have your current email addresses and telephone numbers, including numbers to land line and cell phone devices. Consider giving your email addresses and telephone numbers to a neighbor that you trust. Stock non-perishable foods like canned goods and bottled water at your house and in your vehicles. Replace these items to ensure that they remain fresh. Other items to stock at home and in your vehicles include prescriptions, vitamins, a first aid kit, a can opener, matches, an extra pair of clothes, two or more flashlights, batteries, a battery operated radio, towels and blankets. Replace batteries so that they stay ready to power up equipment. Keep matches in a concealed container to avoid getting the matches wet. During earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, stay clear of windows and objects that could easily break or be lifted into the air. At the onset of any emergency, call 911 and provide your street address and details about the event, how many people are at your house and the condition of occupants. Listen to weather reports and start preparing to respond to natural disasters early. To avoid getting trapped should objects move during disasters, clear walkways inside and outside your home. Keep two or more people aware of your whereabouts.





Posted by Sears Real Estate on 10/30/2017

Renting a studio apartment is a great way to save for a down payment on a new house. Studio apartment living has additional benefits that you might want to take advantage of. But, first you may have to get accustomed to living in a smaller space.

Making the shift

If you’re transitioning from living in a college dorm to a studio apartment, the size adjustment should be simple. In fact, you may hardly notice the change. Moving into a studio apartment from a full size house is another story.

The average size of a studio apartment depends on where the apartment is located. In New York, the average size of a studio apartment is about 550 square feet. In Chicago, a studio apartment runs between 400 to 500 square feet. A studio apartment can be less than 400 square feet in other cities. Location also has a significant impact on the monthly rent that you’d pay for a studio apartment.

Ways that you can save by living in a studio apartment

Using New York as an example, you could pay more than $2,300 for a 550 square foot studio apartment in a hot spot like Manhattan. Shop around. Don’t assume that because the unit is small that the rent will also be small. Wherever you rent, you should pay less than you would pay for a standard one or two bedroom apartment.

Although a studio apartment is small, there’s enough room to fit a sofa bed, one tall dresser, a television stand and a television and a stereo. The apartment probably won’t have a kitchen. Pay attention to the layout. You’ll get more for your money if the layout is completely open except for the bathroom. More ways to save while renting a studio apartment include:

  • Buy food that doesn’t require cooking.Fortunately, a lot of healthy foods do not have to be cooked, so this could motivate you to develop a more healthy diet. Avoid eating out to save on food expenses.
  • Wear clothes that are a part of your current wardrobe. To save on space, you won’t be able to buy lots of clothes and shoes,another motive to save money for a down payment on a new house.
  • Get outdoors. Hang out with family and friends at great outdoor spots like free outdoor concerts, sports competitions and outdoor festivals and cultural events. Being outdoors can keep you from feeling like you’re confined to a small space.
  • Take advantage of living in a smaller space to focus on your career. You could use the time that you spend at your studio apartment, to start a business. Put a portion of these earnings toward your down payment.
  • Get exercise. Instead of taking the bus or train to work, if you live close enough, bike or walk to and from work. Deposit the money that you save on transportation toward your down payment.

Starting small could yield big results, especially as it relates to buying a house. If you rent a studio apartment at a reasonable price, you could use the money that you save on the difference in the rent versus what you would pay for a one or two bedroom apartment or a condo as a down payment on a new house. Rent a studio apartment and you could also adjust to living on your own for the first time, especially if you’re a recent high school or college graduate.




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Posted by Sears Real Estate on 10/23/2017

Want to use photos to showcase your home? Taking the right photos and cropping them effectively could help you accentuate your home's positives, and ultimately, increase your chances of generating significant interest in your residence. You don't need to be an expert photographer to photograph your residence effectively, either. In fact, here are three tips to help home sellers take great pictures of their residences quickly and effortlessly: 1. Take as many pictures as possible to get the perfect shot. Even novice photographers can avoid blurry pictures if they take a large variety of home photographs. Remember, there is strength in numbers, particularly when it comes to photographing your residence. And home sellers who take tens or even hundreds of photographs should be able to find pictures that highlight the quality and appearance of their residences. Don't forget that the pictures you take likely will be the first thing a homebuyer sees when he or she views your home's listing on the real estate market. As such, pay close attention to your photos and avoid using any that could provide a poor first impression. 2. Use lighting to your advantage. Dark, dreary photographs may leave a homebuyer confused, leading him or her to consider alternatives. Comparatively, home sellers who use plenty of lighting will make it easy for homebuyers to see exactly what their residences are all about. Lighting can help accentuate the beauty of your home's kitchen, bathroom or any other space. As a result, you should be unafraid to use lighting to highlight the value of your residence at all times. 3. Get feedback from a real estate agent. Photographs can serve as a valuable asset in your quest to find interested homebuyers. And with added support from a real estate agent, you'll be able to maximize the value of your photographs. A real estate professional can offer guidance and insights throughout the home selling process and ensure your photographs help you highlight your home to the right homebuyers consistently. Furthermore, this professional might be able to help you crop and edit photos as needed. Finding the right real estate agent is essential, as this professional will help you simplify the home selling process. For those who are fortunate enough to work with a qualified real estate expert, you'll be better equipped to promote your residence using high-quality images. How you photograph your home may seem like a minor consideration at first, but home sellers who dedicate plenty of time and resources to take outstanding pictures may benefit from an accelerated home selling process. Ideally, you'll want to do whatever you can to generate as much interest in your home as possible. And with the aforementioned photography tips, you'll be better equipped to grab images that showcase the true value of your home and will help your residence garner interest from large groups of homebuyers. Take advantage of first-rate pictures that illustrate various rooms in your home, and you'll be able to improve your chances of making your house attractive to homebuyers and selling your residence quickly.





Posted by Sears Real Estate on 10/16/2017

If money is tight right now, or if you're just trying to live frugally, there are a number of ways to save money without having to drastically change your lifestyle. One of the best way to save money is by going through all of your recurring bills to see where you can eliminate or reduce spending. In our age of user-friendly, advanced technology, there are more services available to us than ever before. You can call an Uber with one tap on your phone or order more laundry detergent by clicking the Amazon Dash button in your cabinet. With services this readily available to us, it's hard not to sign up. Read on to learn how to save some money on your monthly services without having to sacrifice too many of life's comforts.

Utilities

There are countless ways to save on water, heat, and electricity. Yes, you can turn down the heat in the winter time and take shorter showers, but there are less commonly known ways to save as well. For example:
  • Keep multiple electric-powered items plugged into one power-strip and power off the strip overnight. This will stop those items from consuming electricity in standby mode
  • Insulate your windows in the winter time by using caulking, weather stripping, and shrink wrap your windows with heat shrink film to keep the heat in
  • Some Saturday afternoon make a checklist of all of your home's lightbulbs. Then go out and replace them with energy efficient CFLs and LED bulbs
  • Hang clothes on the line in fair weather and wash your clothes in cold water; much of the energy consumed by washing clothes goes to heating the water up first

Monthly services

Remember when there were only a few good shows on TV and paying for cable was the only way to watch them? Now any given household can have Netflix, Amazon Streaming, HBO Go, and countless other monthly services for watching TV. To save on watching your favorite movies and television, try these tips:
  • Ditch Netflix DVD services or expensive premium cable channels and rent from your local library system. Through inter-library loans you can get the newest movies and TV shows shipped to your library for free
  • Cancel your cable bill and try a cheap service like Hulu. If you're worried about missing the news, use websites or news apps on your smart TV to keep up to date on the issues
  • Negotiate rates with your provider. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to learn about better options. Since many people are taking the internet-only approach, cable companies are desperate to maintain customers
Saving on telephone bills:
  • First, ditch the landline. You probably only get telemarketers calling there anyway; what do you have to lose?
  • Use a family plan and calculate your data usage. Make sure your family is on wifi whenever possible. You can save up to $30/month just by having a lower data plan
  • Negotiate with your provider. Reminding your provider that you have other options when it comes to cell phones can get you a better rate.
General tips and tricks:
  • If you have a student email address (.edu) this can be used to gain discounts from a number of monthly services
  • Ask your providers to apply promotions to your account. If you see that something you pay for is running a deal, call and ask if you can have the rate as well. You're a loyal customer after all
  • If you've built up good credit, look for lower interest rates online. There are apps and websites dedicated to finding you better deals