Category Archives: Seller Information

What is a Home Equity Loan?

“As Spring approaches you might be looking into a larger home project, that could cost several thousands of dollars.  A Home Equity Loan might be a good answer for how to pay for it.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Here’s What You Need to Know about Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan allows homeowners to borrow against the equity they have in their home, or the difference between what they owe on their home and what their home is worth.

Home equity documents

So, you need some money – and a lot of it. Maybe you have medical bills to pay, or college tuition bills for your children. Maybe you need to update, renovate or make repairs to your home. Whatever the reason, you’ve been wondering whether a home equity loan is right for you. Such a loan could let you borrow a large amount of money, and because it would be secured by your home, it’d be easier to get than a personal loan.

But, before you call your mortgage broker, you need to know the ins and outs of these financial products. What are home equity loans, and how do they work? What are the pros, cons and alternatives? And what are the best ways to protect yourself and your family when you take out a home equity loan? Read on to learn the answers to these questions, and more.

What is a Home Equity Loan?

A home equity loan is basically a type of mortgage. Like the mortgage you took out when you purchased your home, a home equity loan is secured by the home itself.

Homeowners can and do use home equity loans to fund repairs, updates, renovations and improvements to the home. If you use a home equity loan to fund certain home improvements, you may be able to deduct the interest from your taxes. However, once you have the money, you can do whatever you want with it – pay for your kids’ college, start a business, or buy a second property, for example.

How Do Home Equity Loans Work?

A home equity loan usually allows you to borrow between 80 to 85 percent of the difference between what you owe on your home and what it’s worth. For example, if your home is worth $300,000, and you owe $100,000, you should be able to borrow up to 80 to 85 percent of the difference – or about $160,000 to $170,000.

However, a home equity loan is a second mortgage, and it’s structured just like a purchase mortgage. You’ll have to put in an application and your lender will assess your ability to repay the loan. You’ll pay closing costs, and your home will secure the loan. You’ll make monthly payments over a fixed number of years, but your interest rate should be fixed for the life of the loan. Home equity loans are amortized, which means that each payment will reduce both some of the interest and some of the principal of the loan.

Pros and Cons of Home Equity Loans

Home equity loan benefits

Like any other loan product, home equity loans have their pros and cons. It’s generally pretty easy to get a home equity loan, because they’re secured by your home. Interest rates are typically much, much lower than they are for credit cards, personal lines of credit and personal loans, and if you’re currently paying a low mortgage rate, you don’t have to jeopardize that with a cash-out refinance. Payments are the same every month, so they’re easy to fit into your budget, and closing a home equity loan is faster than a cash-out refinance.

However, home equity loans can be inflexible – you have to take a lump sum of money at once, which can be inconvenient if you need to use the cash incrementally, such as for college tuition payments or a renovation project. You’ll pay interest on the money even if you’re not currently using it. Home equity loans can also represent significant debt, and they come with closing costs and fees. Of course, because your home secures the loan, you could lose your house if you don’t pay it back.

Alternatives to Home Equity Loans

As an alternative to traditional home equity loans, many banks now offer home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs. Instead of receiving a lump sum in a specific amount, you can get approved for a maximum amount of available credit, and just borrow what you need against that amount. A HELOC offers more flexibility if you need to spend the money incrementally, or if you otherwise need to borrow multiple times. That way, you only pay interest on the money you actually spend. You may even be able to make smaller monthly payments in the beginning.

Cash-out refinances are another option for homeowners who find that their home is worth much more than they owe. This involves taking out a mortgage for more than you owe and pocketing the difference. It’s a good idea if you need a large sum of money for renovations, home improvements, college tuition, or other expenses, and it can be especially beneficial if you’re able to secure a lower mortgage rate.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family When Taking a Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan can be a wonderful tool, but a wise homeowner uses caution when wielding it. Just as with a mortgage, you should shop around for the best rates before choosing a lender.

Before you take out a home equity loan, make sure you understand the terms. Don’t borrow more than you can pay back, and don’t sign up for high monthly payments that are unsustainable. If you choose a HELOC instead of a home equity loan, be careful; some HELOCs require the borrower to borrow a minimum amount, whether they need it or not. Of course, you could still make such an arrangement work for you, as long as you have the discipline to pay back the difference between what you need and the minimum loan amount.

Most importantly, don’t treat your house like an ATM. It can be tempting, especially with a HELOC, to just keep borrowing money. Your home should be a means of building wealth, and continually borrowing against your home equity undermines that. Use your home equity in ways that can help you grow or protect yours and your family’s wealth (such as by funding improvements, renovations, repairs, or the purchase of more property) or your potential to create wealth (such as by funding higher education, or starting a business).

If you’re a homeowner, you could be sitting on a source of cash to cover major expenses in the form of your home’s equity. But, while home equity can be a great resource, it’s vital to know exactly what you’re getting into with a home equity loan, so that you don’t end up regretting a second mortgage.

7 Home Renovation Trends Worth the Money

“Recently attended the ‘Remodeling and Garden Show’ and saw a number of ideas that are right in line with these trends.  Many of these were really not that expensive when you look at the return.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – Dc Metro Realty Team 


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Get a Head Start on Planning Your Garden, Even if it’s Snowing

“It may seem premature, but now is a perfect time to start planning on what you are going to do this Spring.  You don’t even have to go outside!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Dealing with Mold and Mildew in the Bathroom

“Mold and Mildew are common occurrences from time to time.  However, you can get rid of it and take steps to prevent it in the future.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

How to Get Rid of Mold in Showers — and Everywhere Else in Your Bathrooms!

What is mold? And why is it in your bathroom? Mold and mildew are enemies that constantly need to be kept under control. AHS is here to help get your bathroom mold problem under control.

girl looking at black mold in bathroom tile

Mold and mildew are enemies that constantly need to be kept under control. The presence of mold can cause health problems, including coughing, skin and eye irritation, and serious lung infections in people that have breathing problems or other chronic illnesses. Some level of mold is always around in your house, due to the outside mold spores coming and going. But if you discover mold in areas with moisture, warmth and darkness — like your shower — there are things you can do to keep that shower mold (and bathtub mold) under control. Let’s look into ways to control and prevent mold in bathrooms.

What is mold?

We hear a lot about mold these days. But what is mold? It’s not a plant or an animal; rather, it’s a type of fungi. Mold spores are very small and light, and they actually float in the air. This is what allows them to spread and be inhaled. All molds, including the dreaded toxic black mold (in bathrooms and other areas of your house), can feed on organic building materials found in your house if they have been exposed to the right environmental conditions: moisture, warmth and darkness. What are some common spaces with these conditions? Attics, basements and crawl spaces, to name a few, especially if there are roof leaks or leaking water and drain pipes. The showers and tubs in your bathrooms also provide what mold needs to grow, when the conditions are right. There’s, off course, moisture from the water you use to bathe and shower, not to mention the warmth –– unless you’re into cold showers –– and subdued lighting. In a nutshell, your home could easily make for a “home sweet home” for mold.

Why do we have mold issues these days?

As homes and buildings are being designed and built for more energy efficiency, they are more airtight. This traps the warm, moist air inside. Without proper ventilation, mold could likely be a problem.

How do you get rid of mold?

Although mold can grow in virtually any conducive conditions, it especially loves to grow in the grout of the shower, which is porous and holds moisture longer than the tile, as well as around the shower drain. The same goes for bathtubs and sinks.

The first thing you want to do when it comes to knowing how to get rid of mold in showers and other bathroom areas? Assess the damage. If your mold problem covers less than 10 square feet, you should be able to handle it on your own. (If it’s a larger area, you need to call a professional as soon as possible.) And if the grout around your shower, tub and sinks is compromised — that is, broken, cracked, missing sections, overrun with mold, etc. — you’ll need to remove it and recaulk after the mold is removed.

Next, gather these supplies:

  • Product(s) that claim to kill mold: bleach, white vinegar and many other commercial cleaners
  • Baking soda
  • Nylon brush, toothbrush or sponge with a scrub pad on one side
  • Large bowl or plastic bucket (if you are mixing your own solution)
  • Spray bottle (if you are mixing your own solution)
  • Dry towel or paper towels
  • Caulk (if necessary)

American Home Shield® Insight: If you are planning on using bleach or a commercial cleaner, open a window or run the ventilation fan. You should also wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from fumes. Likewise, never mix bleach with other cleaners.

Now, let’s get to the cleaning:

  1. Scrub –  Before using chemicals, you might try just scrubbing with a damp sponge. If there isn’t much mold there, this might be the ticket.
  2. Mix –  Otherwise, mix a solution of one part bleach to two parts warm water, and fill your spray bottle with it, if you aren’t using a pre-mixed commercial cleaner. If you are using a commercial cleaner, be sure to follow the instructions on the container. Looking for a non-bleach and non-commercial alternative? Try white vinegar –– either straight or diluted with water.
  3. Spray –  Spray generous amounts of your cleaning solution on the areas of visible mold, and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  4. Scrub again –  Scrub the areas with the nylon brush, toothbrush or sponge.
  5. Rinse –  Rinse the areas with warm water from another spray bottle, a very wet cloth or from the shower head or faucet.
  6. Paste –  For tough areas, make a paste of baking soda and warm water. Apply the paste and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes.
  7. Scrub again –  Like before, scrub the areas with the cleaning utensil and rinse them clean with clean water.
  8. Dry –  Dry all surfaces with a dry towel or paper towels.
  9. Caulk – If you had to remove your caulk before cleaning, now’s the time to recaulk. Pay special attention to the instructions on the caulk tube about how long you must wait before you can use your shower, tub, etc., again.

How do you prevent excess moisture in the future?

If you have an operable window in your bathroom, open it and leave it open for a while after showering. Note: This is not a solution, however, if the air outside is very hot and humid. The bathroom vent fan should also be running during baths and showers and for thirty minutes afterward. In addition, air conditioning systems reduce humidity. The goal for relative humidity in your house to keep mold at bay is 50 percent or less. If you struggle to reach that percentage, a dehumidifier will also do the trick. And, of course, wiping the surfaces down after using them will certainly help. Remember: Moisture is one of the top requirements for mold.

What does light have to do with mold?

Fortunately, light is one of our weapons against mold. Open those blinds. Replace heavy curtains with something more sheer. Let the light in. Many of our showers are at the end of a dead-end bathroom with no window. If this is the case, you may have to use artificial lighting, or consider putting in a skylight. Also, keep the shower doors open or shower curtains drawn back to allow light into the shower –– when you’re not using it, of course. Basically, try to avoid creating a dark environment for mold to thrive in.

How can you prevent mold from growing?

Once your bathroom is squeaky clean, keep it that way. Spray or wipe the shower and bathtub surfaces with a solution of white vinegar and a little water. You can add a drop or two of essential oils to lessen the vinegar smell, if you’d like. And if you want to keep mold from becoming your unwanted bathing partner, make sure you do this quick and easy chore at least once a week.

7 Important Repairs to Make Before Selling Your House

“If you want to help make your house sell quickly, these are several key items that you must address if you want to attract the best buyers.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team 


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Key Measurements to Make the Most of Your Bathroom

“Winter is a great time to be planning your renovations.  Here are some great tips if you’re looking to upgrade your bathroom.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

How to Care for Your Christmas Tree

“If you’ve put up a ‘Live Tree’ you want it to last as long as possible, and you don’t want a ton a needles to clean up during and after Christmas.  Read on for tips on how to care for your tree.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team 

A Fall Checklist of 10 Things You Gotta Do Before Winter Sets In

“Now that the weather is turning colder be sure that you are ready before the winter freeze.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

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When to Switch from Cooling to Heating

“It’s probably finally too cool to leave the A/C on, but is it cool enough to turn on the heat?  Read on to see what makes sense according the experts.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Originally posted by American Home Shield 

Turn on the heater or turn off the A/C? As summer becomes fall, temperatures fluctuate from hot to cold. Use these tips to keep heating and cooling costs in check!

Temperature changes outside

Whether you choose to describe it as being “up and down” or as “running hot and cold,” as a homeowner, you know that autumn weather can be unpredictable. Autumn temperatures that veer between extremes can make keeping your home comfortable a real challenge. As the season’s warm days turn into cool nights, how do you avoid running back and forth to adjust your thermostat — or even switching back and forth between your air conditioning and heating systems? Here are some tips to help when switching from cooling to heating as the seasons change.

  • Change your filters regularly. Your air conditioning system has gotten you through the worst of the summer, but September and early October can still be torrid. Don’t tax it any more than you have to. To keep your HVAC system running efficiently, change its filters regularly. Consider these general guidelines for filter changes.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and pets, change your filters every 30 to 45 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and only one pet, change your filters every 60 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people but no pets, change your filters every 90 days.
  • Get an automatic or programmable thermostat. If you don’t already own a programmable thermostat, hire a professional to install one. Set the baseline temperature within your home to ensure your preferred level of comfort, then back off that temperature setting by a few degrees, especially for those hours of the day when you aren’t actually at home. According to the United States Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year in energy usage (and on your utility bills) by making smart adjustments to your thermostat.
  • Pile on the cozy bedding.This may seem low-tech, but that’s just another way of saying it’s a tried-and-true solution. If your house feels a little too cool at night, snuggle up under an extra blanket or two until it’s time to turn on the heater full-time.
  • Have your heating system serviced.Before completely switching from cooling to heating, have a professional HVAC technician make sure your heating system is operating properly before the full blast of winter arrives. During this inspection, have the technician check for any signs of carbon monoxide leakage. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is potentially deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year nearly 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 4,000 Americans are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Make sure your home is sealed.Check around your windows and doors for drafts. If you feel air moving or a disparity in temperature in these areas, use caulk or weather stripping to block the exchange of air between the interior and exterior of your home. Improperly sealed homes can easily cause your energy bill to increase by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heaterYou can save between 3 and 5 percent in energy costs for every 10 degrees you lower the high-temperature setting on your water heater. Keep your hot water simmering at about 120 degrees and insulate your water heater and its exposed pipes to reduce heat loss.
  • Change out your light bulbs.As the days grow shorter and nights longer, replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED bulbs that use less energy and have a longer lifespan. Non-incandescent bulbs also give off less heat, meaning cooler temperatures inside a well-lit home during those days when winter still seems a long way off.