Monday, January 29, 2018

What is going on in my neighborhood?

Light it up - Home Lighting Matters

Light has a powerful influence over the way your home feels to you and how others perceive your space when they come to visit. It can affect how you use different areas, too. If you’re looking for a quick and relatively inexpensive way to give your home an attitude overhaul, consider relighting the place. You’ve got tons of fixture options available to help you create the exact look you’re going for without having to close rooms off to let the paint dry or the tile set.
So, how will you light up your life?

The First Order of Business: Choose a Theme

There’s nothing more jarring to a visitor or potential buyer (when you’re ready to sell down the road) than to be constantly confronted by spaces that are incongruent. When your living room has an island paradise theme, as implied in part by your banana-leaf ceiling fan, and your kitchen is all retro diner, with sleek stainless steel track lighting, it’s a huge shock to the system.
Before you buy anything lighting-related, have a plan. Decide what color your fixtures will be, and, really, what the overall look of your home will be as you slowly make it your own, and stick to it. That’s not to say that you can’t tweak things here and there, but if you don’t have a plan on a big project like this, you’ll just end up with a mess. You can play it safe and select standard fixtures, all in polished nickel, or you can be bold and choose fixtures that may fall out of fashion, like shiny brass Sputnik chandeliers. As long as you’re consistent, it’ll be ok in the end.
There’s one exception to this rule. Bedrooms are not generally considered to be public spaces in the home, and thus most people don’t subconsciously expect them to adhere to the overarching design theme. If Bobby wants a ceiling fan in his room that has airplanes on it, go for it. You can always replace it before you resell your home.

The Light Layering Two-Step

In most modern homes, you walk into a room and you’re greeted by one weak light coming from the center of the ceiling. This infirm little bulb is trying very hard to pull the weight of several light fixtures and lamps that should be in the room, but it just can’t cut the mustard.
Since homes are generally shown during the day, with the benefit of natural light, both home builders and remodelers often give little thought to the lighting in a house they have for sale. Often homeowners are guilty of this, too.
As a result, when you move in, you may suddenly find that your airy, bright space is actually a dark, cave-like alley where you could as easily be mugged as find a safe place to sleep. This isn’t good, you need more light! Part of the problem is that the one sluggish fixture needs a team to back it up. One light bulb simply isn’t enough, that’s why most interior design experts recommend light layering.
There are three main components to light layering. Your space may not need them all, so feel free to toss out what doesn’t work. They are:
Ambient lighting. This sort of lighting is what that tiny light in the center of the room is trying to be. Ideally, ambient lighting provides a comfortable level of brightness for the entire room. At minimum, you’ll want a multi-bulb central fixture, be that a chandelier or ceiling fan, but some people also incorporate recessed lighting or track lights as well.
Task lighting. You’ll see a lot of task lighting in well-lit kitchens and other work spaces. That under cabinet lighting you were admiring at the home improvement store is a good example of task lighting. It can be any sort of light that’s placed in such a way to make performing a task easier. Just make sure that when you place said task lighting, it doesn’t increase the shadow or create glare.
Accent lighting. Does your house have some really cool stuff in it? Well, this is where you can use lighting to really point it out. You can use accent lighting to highlight artwork, draw the eye to interesting architectural features or simply influence where visitors look around the room. To be most effective, accent lighting should shine three times brighter on the focal point than the general room light.

Small Changes, But High Praise

Simply making small lighting changes can completely change the way your home looks, from top to bottom. Your paint may even be a slightly different shade when it’s all said and done! So many homeowners don’t take advantage of this one simple investment that can give their home such a big boost. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid to tackle the job themselves, but they don’t really know who to call, either.
But you do, don’t you? You already have the name of a recommended pro from HomeKeepr. After all, if your Realtor is willing to stake their reputation on an Electrician’s work, they’re probably someone you can trust. Go pick out your new light fixtures and get ready to have a home that’s perfectly yours. Let your HomeKeepr recommended Electrician do the rest.

More growth on the horizon for Clark County

More growth on the horizon for Clark County: For many, living in Clark County today can be either good or frustrating: there are a lot of new jobs out there, people and developers are flocking to the area, and housing remains scarce.

Monday, January 22, 2018

New home construction rises in 2017, closes year on positive note

New home construction rises in 2017, closes year on positive note: From the looks of it, 2017 ended up being a pretty decent year for new home construction. On Thursday, the Census Bureau and HUD provided a look at the December data on new home construction, and the report shows that building permits, housing starts, and housing completions all increased in 2017.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe: WiFi Security for Beginners

Every morning, you ask your digital assistant for the news and weather while you’re getting ready for work. From there, you check the traffic with your smartphone, strap on your smartwatch, set some mood music for your pet for the day, have your digital assistant set your home’s thermostat to “away” mode and head out to the garage. You open your smart garage door before you realize you forgot to turn on your security system — but that’s not a problem, you have an app for that.
All of this technology touch seems perfectly normal these days. Absolutely everyone has a WiFi network at home to feed all of these neat tools that we collectively call the Internet of Things (IoT). Unfortunately, not everyone has a very secure WiFi network, which opens up IoT devices, computers and the network itself to attacks by nefarious types who would use them for tasks you probably didn’t have in mind.
Before you catch Alexa trying to order a DIY rocket kit from Acme without your authorization, let’s go through some basics of WiFi security to keep your home network and IoT devices protected.

Types of WiFI Security

There are basically four types of security you’ll find in a wireless router, some are much better at protecting you and your devices than others. As with anything to do with technology, the more modern protocols are going to be better at protecting you than older ones, so if your router is more than a couple of years old it might be time to consider an upgrade. Check this list to see if it has an appropriately secure protocol available first, though:
WEP. Wired Equivalent Privacy is a protocol reaching back to 1999. It was essentially the first wireless security type, so if this is the only option you’ve got available on your router, get yourself to Best Buy. This router cannot deal with modern challenges, bottom line. You might as well not have any internet security.
WPA. WiFi Protected Access was created in 2003 as a response to the many problems with WEP. A new security standard known as Temporal Key Integrity Protocol was developed that was much stronger than the encryption used with WEP, but it still used a similar implementation, so was problematic.
WPA2. WPA2 is an upgrade to WPA that was introduced in 2004. This upgraded version of WPA switched to a security protocol based on the US Government’s preferred choice of encryption known as the Advanced Encryption Standard. WPA2 is still the gold standard for home WiFi security, though older computers may not be able to utilize it. If your system or router is rated for 802.11g or less, you should consider an upgrade.
WPS. WiFi Protected Setup was supposed to make adding a device to a WPA2 network easier by granting people in physical proximity to the router the ability to just push a button and enter an 8-digit PIN to connect. Unfortunately, a well-known hack has been developed and distributed widely in the recent past, turning WPS into a very vulnerable convenience.
As of the writing of this article, most experts recommend that your router be secured using WPA2 with WPS disabled. This combination will give you the most bang for your security buck, keeping as many problems at bay as is possible with WiFi security protocols alone.

More Ways to Secure Your Network

Using the right security protocol is just the first step to protecting your WiFi network. There are lots of practical ways to keep yourself safe, too. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Change the name of your router. Your router came with a unique name called the Service Set Identifier (SSID). It might be random numbers and letters, or it might be something more readable like “Bob’s Network.” Your job is to name it something that doesn’t give away your location, but is also memorable so you know which network is yours. For example, if you’re a DC comic fan, you might name yours “SpiderLan.”
2. Also, change that router password. Never leave the default password on your router, especially if that password is blank! All anyone would need to do to access the settings is park close to your house and point their phone at it, then you’re in big trouble. Again, choose a password that’s secure, but memorable. Use numbers, letters and special characters. Short sentences can be good if you’ve got a poor memory, “N33d_M0ar_B33s!” is a surprisingly secure choice.
3. Remember to check for updates to your router’s software. Occasionally, your router’s manufacturer will push updates to the software that controls your hardware. Update this device as often as possible, it’ll give you the best security available.
4. Setup a secondary network. A lot of modern routers allow for a secondary network with a different SSID and password than the main network. This is a great way to give guests access to your network without compromising your data, as well as the ideal solution to IoT devices that may be less secure. When Alexa is on her own network, hackers can’t ask her how much money is in your bank account or where the nearest ATM for your bank is located.
5. Remember, no one is giving away free money. Last, but not least, remember that Nigerian princes and foreign lotteries just begging to give you cash are, sadly, just dreams we all wish were true. Get to know what scammy emails look like, never click on email attachments that seem a little weird and always ask yourself “Do I know this person and would they send me a thing like this?” You can lock your network down as hard as you want, but if you let a hacker in your front door, all your effort will be for nothing.

Secure Your WiFi Network to Protect Your Smart Home

There’s no feeling like knowing you’re doing all you can to keep your home safe. After all, you’d never post a giant sign saying “thieves, there’s gold in here!” and then leave your front door unlocked. Your smart home is no different when it comes to digital criminals. There’s lots of valuable data to be had that could result in identity theft, or even old-fashioned theft, so the stakes are quite high.
If you’re not confident in your WiFi security skills, don’t worry. HomeKeepr has you covered. Just open your app and search for the pros you need. Even if there aren’t any listed today, you can request a recommendation from your professional network and quickly get connected to a Smart Home pro in your area.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What is happening in your local market ? Portland? Lake Oswego? Tigard?

Waterproofing Your Basement: The Basics

You bought your house because of the beautiful yard, the unbelievable hearth in the den, the two generous bathrooms and, of course, the enormous basement. You had big plans for that basement — it was going to be a home theater with a pool room, all very posh, but the first melt of winter had other ideas. Was that a little bit of water you saw on the floor? Maybe it was just a shadow. Or maybe it was water… are your dreams destined to be dashed to the ground?
Not necessarily. There are many ways to cure water in a basement, we’ll walk through some of the most universally effective options.

How Does Water Get Into a Basement?

So, there’s a prevalent myth among homeowners that wet basements are wet because they’ve been built near or below the water table. This literally makes no sense because that would have meant that the basement would have originally been poured underwater or into a muck-filled hole. That’s just not how basements are built. They’re formed and poured onto a dry surface that allows the material to dry and harden quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it is chemistry.
There are actually three common ways that water tends to enter a basement, any or all of which merit investigation. Those causes are:
  • – Leaky basement windows
  • – Appliances or plumbing that’s leaking
  • – Poor drainage around the house
Each of these causes is curable, depending on how much work you’re willing to put into the effort. There isn’t room in this blog to give an exhaustive tutorial, but we’ll give you enough info to get started so you’ll know enough to gather the materials and assistance you need.

Curing Wet Basement Syndrome

Because most basement wetness comes from one of the three sources listed above, it’s going to take some detective work to find it. This can be an absolutely aggravating process, especially if it’s only wet during certain times of the year or after particular types of weather. The good news is that a lot of the fixes that work for basement wetness are useful maintenance for your house as a whole anyway. If you go ahead and do these things and they don’t cure your basement, they were probably good for some other problem you didn’t realize you had.
Let’s talk wet basement cures!
Water Source: Poor Drainage
At the end of the day, a lot of your basement woes will be cured if you check the drainage situation around your house. First, the grade. Does the ground around your house create a sort of bank that diverts water back toward your foundation? Is it just totally flat? Ideally, you want a grade that slopes away from the foundation at a rate of six inches of drop for every 10 feet of run. That’s about a five percent slope. If you don’t have a five percent slope, you can create one with fill dirt, a rake and several weekends’ worth of labor, or a tractor if you have one available.
The second part of regrading is correcting the problems that caused the ponding effect around the foundation to begin with. Maybe you don’t have gutters and you really need them. Perhaps you have gutters, but they’re not really doing their jobs because they’ve not been maintained and they’re full of leaves and other debris. Clean them out and extend the downspouts as far away from your house as possible. You can purchase flexible plastic diverter extensions that make it easier to move water from your roof to exactly where you want it for a song at any hardware store.
Some professional contractors may suggest a French drain when this situation occurs. The truth is that often, French drains are overkill or simply can’t be expected to function properly due to the soil type in your area. They can clog easily, again, depending on the soil type, and then you have a very costly pipe full of mud buried next to your basement. Do all you can to improve the drainage around your home first, long before you consider the headache, expense and gamble that is a French drain.
Water Source: Leaky Windows
This sort of goes with the poor drainage, but if your windows are down in a well, it doesn’t really matter how good your drainage is, they probably need additional attention. If you can pinpoint the leaky window, great! But it’s pretty likely that if one is leaking, they’re all at risk. Check all the windows to assess their general condition. Basement windows are so often neglected, it’s not even funny. If they’re all in generally good shape, grab some caulk designed for either bathroom use or basement use and a putty knife and get to work.
Go ahead and remove the old caulk completely. Clean the windows well so the new caulk will stick. Apply that caulk as liberally as you can without making a huge mess. Go all the way around the window, don’t skimp. Once you’ve done that, go outside and repeat the process. For windows inside wells, head out to the hardware store and grab some basement window well covers that fit your well. They should slightly overhang the well, so that water is diverted away from the well.
Water Source: Leaky Appliances or Plumbing
If you corrected your drainage and you fixed your basement windows and there’s still suspicious water on your basement floor, it’s probably coming from inside the house. This is a game of cat and mouse that can drive you absolutely up the wall. Some common causes of mystery leaks can include:
  • – Backed up HVAC condensation lines
  • – Leaking overhead plumbing
  • – Faulty water heaters
Once you locate the culprit, you can finally correct the problem, or call in a pro to do it for you, depending on the nature of the issue. For example, if your leak is actually a drain line that’s improperly installed and is backing up during showers, this might necessitate a plumber. If it’s just a backed up condensation line, you can probably handle cleaning that out yourself.

After the Puddles Dry Out

Once you finally find the source of your basement’s leak and fix it, you can feel free to dream big again. But, remember that your basement is still a basement and you should always go with materials that can withstand water, just in case you spring another leak down the road. Tile and stained cement are both popular flooring choices and completely waterproof. You may need to get a little more creative if you have interior walls that you want to cover, but even tiling a few inches up the base of the wall can help protect any bathroom-safe wallboard from potential moisture issues.
Then again, maybe creating your dream basement is a project you’re not really ready to DIY just yet. In that case, go ahead and log in to HomeKeepr and ask your Realtor to recommend a general contractor. Your new contractor will be able to get you started in the right direction, including helping you select the best materials for your basement entertainment zone. While your GC is working in your basement, why not check out our maintenance list for late winter and early spring? It’s free and after you read it, you’ll know exactly what needs to be addressed around the house before the weather starts to warm up.

Friday, January 5, 2018

You’re a hom

You’re a homeowner now, you can kiss bland uniformity goodbye the moment you turn your apartment keys over to your now former landlord. The world is your canvas — at least, that part of the world that you now are obligated to pay a monthly mortgage payment on — and you’re the artist that’ll mold it into a shape that tantalizes and delights the senses.
You may have big dreams for that new home, but cool your jets. This is a time for careful consideration, not for hastily scribbled modern design notes on cocktail napkins. Although there are certainly changes you can make that will update or upgrade your new home, there are others that can potentially devastate its value. This is no small thing.
If you thought that ugly entryway light fixture was a real turn-off, just read on to learn about things potential buyers will find extremely unappealing down the road.

There’s Good, There’s Bad and There’s Ugly

Every homeowner will leave a mark on the homes they own, this is an inevitable fact of life. The only question you need to ask yourself is if your mark will be a good one. Will you be the homeowner who planted the gorgeous maple tree that eventually turns into a beloved climbing tree or are you the one that glued neon green shag carpet to the hardwood floors?
We’ve made a short list of some of the most dramatic ways to destroy your home’s value without even trying all that hard so you can, hopefully, avoid these problems when you go to sell. Now, this is an important point to note: if you’re in your forever home, go hog wild. If you don’t need to sell that puppy ever, feel free to do whatever thrills you. Just be aware that your outlandish choices could prevent things like refinances and even reverse mortgages down the road.
Having made those disclosures, let’s talk about home value destroying projects!

4 Things That Can Lower Your Home’s Resell Value

Now that you own a house, people will be giving you all sorts of weird advice. You’re going to have to learn to tune it out, because generally, random people don’t know. Most people own two or three homes in their lives, which doesn’t give them a whole lot of experience with market values and making upgrades that will make a house really pop.
Realtors, general contractors and other home pros, on the other hand, make it their business to know what’s just in vogue and what’s a classic, evergreen sort of modification that will stand the test of time. These are the people to ask when you really need a second set of eyes.
But, before you even get that far, let’s count down some of the worst ideas for your new home.
#4 Really Personalizing the Place
Look, we know you’re eager to make your house your own. But step away from the lime green wallpaper and the orange tiles. Just for a minute. Think this through. Some buyers can see past over-personalization, others simply cannot. There’s a reason Realtors used to advise sellers to paint everything beige, it creates a blank pallet for a buyer to start from.
If you want to use quirky wallpaper, choose something that’s easy to remove when you go to sell. You may want to choose a tile that is mostly neutral and scatter those orange ones in just here and there like confetti. In short, tone it down a bit. However, feel free to paint to your heart’s desire — just plan to repaint before you put the house on the market.
When a buyer walks into your home, the first impression they have informs every other thought they have as they walk through. They’re simultaneously calculating two things in their heads: “How much can I afford to pay for this house?” and “How much will I have to pay to fix this place?” Each intolerable thing they encounter, like that orange tile, is another thing that goes in the repair budget. As it grows, the price they’re willing to pay shrinks.
Oh, you left the flamingo wallpaper in your bedroom? The repair budget’s getting pretty heavy. And these are just the immediately visible things, they haven’t yet gotten to the inspection period. The point here is: do you, but do it in a way that can be reversed before anyone shows the house.
#3. Converting the Garage to Anything Else
There’s a difference between using your garage as a gym and making it a gym permanently. When it’s a permanent gym, you can’t push some stuff out of the way and pull the car in real quick to get it out of the rain. In fact, you probably don’t even have a garage door anymore!
Many people have made this hasty decision, turning their garages into master suites, home gyms, playrooms and home offices, not considering the long term ramifications. Then, after dumping thousands of dollars into the project, they find out that it’s extremely difficult to resell their home.
No matter how professionally the conversion was done (and some are done very well), the buyer says to themselves, “Where am I going to stash my lawnmower?” Even if the yard’s a postage stamp, it’s a valid question.
Buyers come into a transaction with a certain set of expectations and, frankly, when they’re looking at houses in certain areas or certain prices that typically come with garages, it sort of breaks their brains to find one that doesn’t quite fit the model. That’s the beginning of the price chopping spiral. Eventually you’ll discount the house much more than you ever intended or just give up on selling and rent it out or not move at all.
#2. Tearing Down (Some) Walls
This one is actually not a hard and fast rule. There are sometimes walls that should come out. But don’t make this call without consulting with an architect or a general contractor because there are several things to consider, including the structural integrity and flow of the home.
The walls that you definitely should never tear out are the ones that reduce bathroom or bedroom number, unless you have something like five or more beds and three or more baths. At that point, you have a little wiggle room. As long as you maintain the American standard of a three bedroom, two bath home (or whatever is standard in your neighborhood), you’re probably ok.
However, turning a three bedroom home into a two bedroom home because you wanted to expand a bedroom is a value killer. If you think about it from a market perspective, it might make a bit more sense. A larger, or more mature, family is most likely to buy a three bedroom home. They’re going to have a bigger budget because there are two incomes, they need more partitioned spaces because there are possibly teenagers involved.
The same house with the same square footage, but with two bedrooms, is more likely to be shown to young families with small children, possibly only one income while one parent stays home to raise the toddlers, or even single people. Their budgets are smaller, which means that the two bedroom market simply doesn’t support the higher prices of the three bedroom market.
When your home is appraised, your appraiser will be pulling comparable homes based on things like neighborhood, square footage and numbers of bedrooms and baths. So, if the other two bedroom homes are selling for $30k less than three bedrooms, that means yours is going to appraise somewhere well below where you might expect, maybe even below what you paid for it.
Bottom line: Don’t knock out walls without professional consultations with your Realtor and an architect or general contractor at minimum so you can understand the full impact of this decision.
#1. Unprofessional DIY Repairs
There are two kinds of DIYers: those with significant trade experience and those without. If your main qualifications involve eighth grade shop class, you probably should not try to handle any big jobs on your own. Start small and work your way up, watch lots of YouTube videos, practice on test materials that don’t affect your home and for the sake of your house and your financial future, recognize and accept when you’re in over your head.
A home pro is often less expensive than you might imagine if you just call them in first. When they’re asked to clean up a bad repair and still make the original correction, it can cost a lot extra.
Finding these sorts of obvious DIY repairs in a home is a terrifying prospect for potential buyers. When they see them, they wonder what else you’ve tried to repair on your own. Did you rewire the electrical box? Is the house going to burn down in the night because you did something to the HVAC?
Because they don’t know you or your level of competency, they just see that one botched repair and hyperfocus on it until they either run away or submit an offer significantly lower than what you were expecting.

Protecting Your Home’s Value is Simple

It’s really quite simple to protect your home’s value, despite how this blog may make it sound. Just ask yourself two simple questions: “Can I really do this myself?” and “Is this decision one that will stand the test of time? If not, is it easy to undo?” When you’re not sure, just open HomeKeepr and find a pro who can help.
It’s always better to go into projects with your eyes wide open, even if the answer you get isn’t one you like. One simple click could save you tens of thousands of dollars down the line by preventing you from making a terrible decision that would have hurt your home’s value for years, or decades, to come.

Your Need to Know Guide to Buying a New Home

If you’ve been following along, you know that last time around we covered a lot of the important things you should be thinking about when b...