Monthly Newsletter

June 2017

Renovated RANCH Sells at Open House!

We recently renovated a terrific 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch in Fowlerville and are excited to announce it sold at the Open House above asking price!   We have the experience, resources and team in place to renovate, market and sell homes.  We know what needs to be done and how to do it for each property to maximize value.

The housing market in our area continues to do well and homes are in high demand.  If you've been thinking about listing your property, now is a great time!  Give me a call or email and we can discuss how we can put these services to work for you.

3 bedroom Ranch Renovation

This home received a complete update with all new laminate wood flooring throughout the first floor with premium 6" baseboard trim and carpet installed in the bedrooms.  The home was freshly painted in modern gray and white tones with upgraded LED lighting fixtures and new brushed chrome door fixtures and hinges throughout as well as new ceiling fans.




Open Concept Kitchen, Living Room & Dining

We enlarged the small window in the kitchen and added a snack bar, which transformed the kitchen, living, and dining room into open, modern, and multi-use spaces with abundant light. All new matching granite countertops, snack bar, and fireplace encasing complete the look.




Kitchen Transformation

The kitchen was renovated with all brand new ClearView 40" cabinets complete with soft close hinges and matching Whirlpool stainless steel appliances.  Lots of additional storage was created by upgrading the size of the cabinets combined with the large pantry creates.  Granite countertops and snack bar are highlighted with custom accent tile backsplash and modern lighting to create an open and highly functional space.




Mainfloor Master Suite

The main floor master bedroom and bathroom are spacious and comfortable with walk-in closet and ample storage.  The bathroom received a new double sink vanity with granite top and a custom walk-in tile shower with all new fixtures and glass doors in addition to a low flow toilet and modern lighting.




Additional Mainfloor Bedrooms, Bath & Office

The 2nd mainfloor bath was upgraded with a new vanity, shower fixtures, lighting and low-flow toilet.  The additional bedrooms and office space were given a modern makeover consistent with the other rooms maximizing their space and comfort.




Garage, Basement & Exterior

The large 2.5 car garage was freshly painted with an added pull down attic staircase for easy access to TONS of additional storage.  The Furnace and AC were serviced and updated in addition to the cleaning of the gas fireplace with the basement plumbed and ready for an additional bathroom.  The exterior vinyl siding was cleaned and fixed with updated painted brick, all new LED exterior lighting, new front and back exterior doors and landscaping updates.

CMA Home Value Report

Determining the value of your home is the first step and doesn't have to be complicated. Contact me for an in-depth Comparable Market Analysis to see an accurate assessment of your home's value and listing options.

In Michigan, RE/MAX sells more real estate than anyone else.  Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your home value and a customized marketing plan.
We’ll get you moving in no time.
Bill Harper, Realtor
RE/MAX Platinum
(734) 756-2001

Brighton & Ann Arbor Offices
Serving Livingston & Washtenaw County

April 2017

2017: Sellers Market Continues

March was the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases and was up 11% over last year. The demand for homes this spring continues to outpace supply creating a solid sellers market, especially in Livingston & Washtenaw Counties.  If you've been thinking about listing your property, now is a great time.

We're seeing record high home sales prices combined with record low inventory! Homes are selling faster and demand continues to grow.
Inventory remains the principal constraint on home sales.  Active inventory continues to decline, dropping 17% from this time last year.

Spring Clean-Up Season is Here! 

These simple maintenance tips for your property can help prepare your home for spring and summer while providing the important opportunity to stop damage before it takes hold and prevent unexpected (and expensive!) repairs.  With extensive homeowner and property management experience I'm available to advise on interior and exterior renovations for your property and help connect you with qualified assistance.

Our Top 7 Clean-Ups

  • Service AC Units & Dehumidifiers
  • Wash & Repair Windows & Screens
  • Power Washing & Exterior Paint
  • Staining & Painting Decks & Porches
  • Gutter Maintenance
  • Ensure Good Drainage & Soil Slope
  • Clear Foundation Vents
Lakefront Vacation Rentals

Vacation Rentals

Select summer dates available at Harper's Guest House and Angler's Cove.  Both cottages are on the Halfmoon Chain of Lakes in the center of the Pinckney Recreation Area and offer 1000's of 

Keep Reading


CMA Home Value Report

Determining the value of your home is the first step and doesn't have to be complicated. Contact me for an in-depth Comparable Market Analysis to see an accurate assessment of your home's value and listing options.

In Michigan, RE/MAX sells more real estate than anyone else.  Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your home value and a customized marketing plan.
We’ll get you moving in no time.

February 2017

Home Transformation!
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Our team renovated this 3 bdrm ranch
in 90 days and sold it in less than a week!

Selling your home doesn't have to be complicated!  We offer services to buy, sell, renovate and market homes.  Our tools, experience, and knowledge of the market make every step easier.  Contact us today to discuss your home value, interior and exterior renovation options, and a customized marketing plan.
The fully remodeled kitchen has brand new 40" custom kitchen cabinets with soft close doors and drawers, new high definition counter top with snack bar and tile back-splash, all new stainless appliances including 36" stainless refrigerator, stove/oven, dishwasher and built in microwave.

Two full bathrooms both have new vanities and new fixtures.  There is premium vinyl plank flooring in the living room, kitchen and baths and new carpet in the bedrooms.  All new exterior doors including door-wall to deck.  100% LED lighting and fresh paint in and out.

The full basement includes a new furnace and central air, laundry and full bath with easy access shower.  The property sits on a good sized fenced back yard with plenty of room to add a garage.
See Home Listing with All Photos
pre LR
The original property was in need of extensive repairs and updates inside and out.
Our renovations included updated flooring, carpet, closets, doors, fixtures and paint throughout entire home.  The first floor bathroom was completely updated.
The basement was fully cleaned out and updated with a full bathroom installed.
The home exterior received a massive overhaul with new gutters, fresh paint, all new exterior doors including sliding back wall-door to deck and yard cleanup.


November 2016

November 2016 Newsletter
Cold Weather Home Improvements:
Windows & Doors
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A relatively simple home improvement project with a good return on investment for homeowners and sellers is a new front door.  This issue covers various types of exterior doors, and discusses window lingo too!  Our team is currently renovating a home that will require 3 new exterior doors and a combination of window repair and replacement, all well worth the investment.
Front Doors
Good looks and value - what's not to love? Not only does replacing your front entry door kick up your curb appeal, it's a solid investment with a consistent return on investment in a home's re-sale value and reduction in energy bills.

How do you know which door is right for you? Make your decision by comparing the three main materials available for exterior doors: wood, fiberglass, and steel.


Wood is considered the go-to choice for high-end projects with its luxe look and substantial weight. If your home calls for a stunning entry statement with a handcrafted touch, wood may be the best material for you.

Wood is usually the most expensive choice of the three and requires the most maintenance. Wood doors should be repainted or refinished every year or two to prevent splitting and warping.

To better evaluate the energy efficiency of a door you can look for the Energy Star label as efficiency is often less in wood doors.


Fiberglass doors come in an immense variety of styles, many of which accurately mimic the look of real wood. Fiberglass requires minimal upkeep and is considered the most energy efficient option.

Fiberglass doesn’t expand or contract appreciably as the weather changes. Therefore, in a reasonably protected location, a fiberglass entry door can go for years without needing a paint or stain touch-up and can last 15 to 20 years. Although it feels light to the touch, fiberglass has a very stout coating and its foam core offers considerable insulation.


Steel offers minimal maintenance at a lower cost. Steel offers the strongest barrier, energy efficiency and weather resistance.  Unfortunately steel's typical life span under duress is shorter than both fiberglass and wood and damage can be difficult and expensive to repair.

Window Installation
Window's are a top priority for homeowners & buyers and year round

Repairing Vs. Replacing Windows

If you window's have become drafty, do not properly seal or have sticking frames, that can also mean skyrocketing energy bills. Energy-efficient windows can be a great improvement, and while you can recover the majority of that cost upon re-sale or in savings over the years, replacement can be very expensive.  In many cases you can get the same energy savings by investing in insulation, sealing air leaks, and repairing your windows, instead of replacing.

What Your Return on Investment Will Be?

Window replacement is one of the top home remodeling projects in terms of investment return and homeowner satisfaction for both aesthetics and practicality, in addition to potential tax credits for qualifying new installations.  Replacing windows can offer increased curb appeal, lower maintenance, improved home security and reduced sound transmission.

The range for energy-efficient window pricing is wide, typically, windows at the low end of the price spectrum are less energy-efficient.  While you’re also likely to see modest savings on your energy bill, those savings can vary widely by climate, local energy costs, and the efficiency of both the windows purchased and the windows being replaced.

Improving the energy-efficiency of existing windows

Maintaining and caring for original windows can be relatively inexpensive, easy and they are many people considered older windows more durable.  You can improve the energy-efficiency of existing windows by adding storm windows, replacing glazing, caulking and weatherstripping to reduce air leakage and improve comfort. 

Rejuvenate Storm Windows: If you have old storm windows stacked in the garage rafters, reglaze and repaint them, and put them up every fall. Storm windows not only cut drafts, they insulate.

Replace Loose or Missing Glazing: The glazing putty that seals window panes can crack and fall out with time. Doing a great job of glazing takes practice, but even a mediocre job will do a lot to eliminate leaks.

The Language of Windows

Glazing is simply the glass used in the window. The number of layers of glazing (single, double, or triple) doesn’t necessarily equal greater efficiency; the presence or absence of the other items in this list affects a window’s total energy performance. Glazing coatings can substantially affect a window’s U-factor, or degree of insulation against the outdoors.

Low-E stands for low emissivity, the window’s ability to reflect rather than absorb heat when coated with a thin metallic substance. Low-E coatings add up to 10% to the price of a window.  If your windows are in relatively good shape but you’d like better insulation, you can buy and apply Low-E films to your windows. They’re effective, but not as much as those put between glazing layers during manufacturing.

Gas Fills typically consist of argon or krypton gas sandwiched between glazing layers to improve insulation and slow heat transfer.
Spacers separate sheets of glass in a window to improve insulating quality; the design and material are important to prevent condensation and heat loss.

Frame Materials  include vinyl, wood, aluminum, fiberglass, or a combination of those. They each have different strengths: Vinyl windows are good insulators and are easy to maintain but contract and expand with temperature changes, affecting the window’s air leakage; wood offers a classic look but is similarly affected by moisture changes and needs regular maintenance; fiberglass is very stable and low-maintenance but can be expensive; and aluminum is lightweight, stable, and a good sound proofer but is a rapid conductor of heat, making it a drain on energy-efficiency.

CMA - Comparative Market Analysis

If you're ever interested in an accurate assessment of your homes value, I'm happy to help.  To get us started I will prepare for you what is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of your home. I can show you comparable home sales in our local area, displaying both the original asking price and the final sales price as well as what is currently listed for sale.  Other things that can factor into the CMA are supply and demand, craftsmanship, and the amenities of your home.

The demand for homes continues to exceed supply, creating a consistent seller's market.  If you've been considering selling your home, now is a terrific time to put your house on the market.


October 2016 - Top Kitchen Renovation and Updates

October 2016 Newsletter
Top Kitchen Renovation and Updates
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Tips for Investing in a Kitchen Remodel, Renovation or Update

From a full kitchen remodel to simple updates you can see an instant increase the value of your home with an extremely high rate of return upon resale.
Fall Leaves Front Yard

Now that the housing market is back, home improvements are, too. And they’re paying off better than in years past. 

Today’s home improvement trends show that we like our houses to work harder and smarter for the money we spend maintaining and improving their value.We no longer want bigger; instead, we want space that’s flexible, offers double-duty uses, and embraces energy efficiency and low maintenance exteriors.

Although houses are trending smaller, kitchens are getting bigger, and homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project. And with good reason: Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.  

A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs will be seen immediately in the increased value the project brings to your home and can be recovered at the home’s resale, even if that sale doesn’t happen immediately.

Tips and Tricks for a Smooth and Budget Friendly Renovation

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem will be minimized. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment. 

Study your existing kitchen: How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway. To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height, too.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; counter heights that can adjust up or down; a wall oven instead of a range: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Keep the same footprint: Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.  So if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors.


Budget Kitchen Remodeling

Can't afford an entire kitchen remodel in one fell swoop?  You can complete the work in budget-saving stages (and still cook dinner during the down time).
  • Start with a complete design plan that is comprehensive and detailed using your existing walls and kitchen configuration to keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact.
  • Cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen remodel.  To reduce costs stock cabinets offer great options, as well as refacing or repainting what is currently installed.
  •  Appliances can be upgrading as budgets permit over time or if buying new keep the same size to fit with your cabinets.
  • Countertops, flooring Fixtures, and lighting can all be upgraded fairly easily as your budget allows.

5 Kitchen Cabinet Updates for Under $100

You don’t have to spend a lot to rejuvenate tired cabinets and brighten your entire kitchen.  Cabinets arguably take up the most real estate in your kitchen.  They're also among the most expensive feature to replace in the kitchen. So that's where these inexpensive cosmetic miracles fit in.

  • Update Hardware
  • Fresh Paint
  • Crown Molding 
  • Task Lighting
  • Add Glass Inserts

CMA - Comparative Market Analysis

If you're ever interested in an accurate assessment of your homes value, I'm happy to help.  To get us started I will prepare for you what is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of your home. I can show you comparable home sales in our local area, displaying both the original asking price and the final sales price as well as what is currently listed for sale.  Other things that can factor into the CMA are supply and demand, craftsmanship, and the amenities of your home.

The demand for homes continues to exceed supply, creating a consistent seller's market.  If you've been considering selling your home, now is a terrific time to put your house on the market.


September 2016 - Early Fall Maintenance Tips for Your Home & Yard
September 2016 Newsletter
Early Fall Maintenance Tips for Your Home & Yard
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Fall Leaves Front Yard

Early Fall Maintenance Tips for your Home and Yard

Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.

The way your house looks from the street, attractively landscaped and well-maintained, can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell.  And just as important, like any home improvement, it enhances qualify of life year-round.

Home Exterior Fall Maintenance Guide

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home's systems running properly.   Keep your Midwestern home free from damage by preparing for the constant cycle of freezing and thawing that occurs throughout fall and winter.

Fall maintenance projects can keep your home in peak condition through the winter

Clean your Gutters

In the Midwest, this task is especially crucial because of freezing and thawing. “After a snowfall it’s typical for the sun to come out just long enough to melt the snow on your roof, which then drips into the gutters,” Lesh says. “But the water freezes before it’s all drained.” If your gutters are clogged with debris, standing water freezes and forces its way up under the roof shingles or into the eaves, which introduces moisture that can eventually rot the roof decking. Trapped ice and frozen debris can also bend your gutters so that they don’t drain well, or even pull them away from the house.

Scrape, Prime, and Paint

Lesh recommends painting wood surfaces early in the fall before the weather gets too cold and before winter’s moisture has a chance to do any damage. Scrape peeling paint even if you can’t get to the painting this season—water actually sheds better off bare wood than wood with peeling paint attached, which traps moisture.

Seal the Deal

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.
Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

More Common Tasks

  • Inspect the Roof
  • Ready the Fireplace
  • Seal the Driveway
  • Cover A/C Units
  • Replace Furnace Filters
  • Winterize Outdoor Faucets

Fall Landscaping Ideas:
How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter

Fall landscaping chores are your last chance to prepare your property for winter, and to protect that curb appeal you’ve worked so hard to create. So pull on some gloves, grab your tools, and get ready to mulch, prune, and plant before snow and frozen ground turn the lights out on your landscaping.
Early fall is a great time to invest in your landscape for both immediate enjoyment and in preparation for the following growing season

Lawn Care

The best time to patch bare or thin spots is when the hot, dry days of summer have given way to cooler temps. Follow these simple steps:

  • Remove any dead grass.
  • Break up the soil with a garden trowel.
  • Add an inch of compost and work it into the soil.
  • Add grass seed that’s designed for shade or full sun, depending. Spread the seed evenly across the bare patch.
  • Use a hard-tooth rake to work the seed into the soil to a depth of about half an inch.
  • Sprinkle grass clippings over the patch to help prevent the soil from drying out.
  • Water the area; you’ll want to keep the patch moist, so lightly water once a day until the seed germinates and the new grass gets about one inch tall.


Spring may be special, but fall is fine for planting with distinct planting benefits. Autumn's cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. The soil is still warm, allowing roots to grow until the ground freezes. In spring, plants don't grow until the soil warms up.  The window for fall planting ends about six weeks before your area gets hit with a hard frost, usually September or October. Here's a little fall planting inspiration...

  • Spring Bulbs
  • Pansies & Mums
  • Cool Season Vegetables
  • Turn Grass
  • Tree's & Shrubs
  • Perennials

Remove the Dead and Dying

Fall isn’t the time to prune, because that encourages growth when healthy plants should remain dormant. But don’t shelve your shears and loppers yet. Fall is the time to neaten your landscaping before putting it to bed for the winter. 

  • Remove dead annuals.
  • Deadhead spent blooms, and cut back dead and desiccated ornamental grasses and perennials.
  • Lightly prune dead and dying branches from shrubs and trees. Carefully remove dried blossoms from hydrangea, but don’t remove dead-looking stalks, where new buds will form in spring.
  • After the first frost, cut back tea roses to about a third of their height.
  • Tree's & Shrubs - make sure limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

Spread Mulch!

“Fall mulching is better for the plants than spring mulching,” says Dan Taft, owner of The Cutting Edge in Chantilly, Va. “It helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during a cold and dry winter.”

Garden Mulch Guide

Garden mulch is a must: Tuck it around plants and mulch suppresses weeds, conserves moisture, and prevents erosion.  The only tricky part about mulching is picking the right type for your garden.  Here’s a guide to popular mulches that will keep your garden looking great and growing well.

Nature’s mulch

Organic mulches not only cover garden soil, they become garden soil, eventually feeding the plants they protect. The downside: you must re-mulch every spring and, preferably, in late fall to protect plants from a deep freeze.

Shredded hardwood: This mulch contains shredded bark and wood, decomposes quickly, and provides an attractive ground cover. It’s great at keeping down weeds, and making the ones that do pop up easy to pluck. You can buy it as natural color or dyed in brown, black, and red.

Shredded hardwood bark: Consistent color and size makes this the most popular mulch to lay around foundation plants. It has an earthy smell and decomposes quickly, so it must be replenished at least annually.

Wood chips/nuggets: Great around trees and shrubs, and creates a lovely home forworms, nature’s soil tillers that reduce compaction. Chips are good at retaining water, but bad at decomposing, so don’t use them in flower beds and vegetable gardens.

Rock: Spread rock mulch over landscape paper in plant-free areas, such as paths or around fountains. It won’t blow away or decompose, so this mulch will last almost forever -- which it should, because it’s expensive.

Shredded leaves: This waste-not mulching uses autumn leaves to protect plants all year long. You can mulch leaves by running them through a shredder to produce a uniform and handsome mulch that quickly decomposes. Or just rake the leaves into plant beds and kill two gardening chores with one stroke.

Pine needles: Pine needles are handsome, smell great, and lower soil pH. Gather needles from under your evergreens and lightly spread them around acid-loving shrubs, like azaleas.

Grass clippings: If you mow your lawn, you’ve got nitrogen-rich mulch that quickly decomposes and nourishes plants. Let clippings dry in the sun before lightly spreading them in your garden.

Straw: Often used to mulch newly seeded lawns, straw mulch forms a loose layer of protection against soil erosion. It’s inexpensive garden mulch that you can work into the soil in September, where it decomposes and feeds your plants throughout the year. Warning: Don’t confuse straw with hay; put hay on your garden and you’ll likely pluck hay seeds and weeds all summer.


How to Mulch

Anyone can learn how to mulch and prolong the life of their landscaping. Mulching your garden is a great way to retain moisture and keep down weeds.  Ideally you should blanket your garden beds at least twice a year -- in early spring and late fall.

  • Pile on 2 to 4 inches of mulch.  If several inches have built up, add only 1 inch as top dressing.  Too much mulch can trap moisture and cause rot, or prevent water from reaching roots.
  • Never pile mulch next to a tree or shrub trunk! This can cause wood rot and foster insect and fungus problems.
  • Get rid of weeds first by putting down a pre-emergent herbicide, newspaper, or landscaping paper before mulching.
  • Spread mulch by hand or use a pitchfork to give the beds a neat and finished look.

How to Mulch Leaves: Cheap Mulch for your Landscaping
Now that your trees are bare, make the most of those fallen leaves. Here are a few ways to recycle leaves to protect and feed your landscaping all winter.

Autumn leaves are a low-cost mulch that insulate roots from frigid temperatures and hold moisture in the ground, which is vital to plant health in winter.  After you’ve removed dead blooms or rotting vegetables, rake or blow leaves into garden beds, and mound them around the base of shrubs and trees. To quicken decomposition and feed plants all winter, run leaves through a shredder or run over them with a mower.

CMA - Comparative Market Analysis

If you're ever interested in an accurate assessment of your homes value, I'm happy to help.  To get us started I will prepare for you what is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of your home. I can show you comparable home sales in our local area, displaying both the original asking price and the final sales price as well as what is currently listed for sale.  Other things that can factor into the CMA are supply and demand, craftsmanship, and the amenities of your home.

The demand for homes continues to exceed supply, creating a consistent seller's market.  If you've been considering selling your home, now is a terrific time to put your house on the market.


August 2016 Newsletter - Backyard Summer!  Decks & Patios


August 2016 Newsletter
Backyard Summer!  Decks & Patios
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Summer Housing Market Updates

Boosted by a greater share of sales to first-time buyers not seen in nearly four years, existing-home sales maintained their upward trajectory in June and increased for the fourth consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

In the Midwest, total existing-home sales jumped 3.8% from June 2015 and remain at their highest annual pace since February 2007!   The median price in the Midwest was $199,900, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.

Backyard Summer! Decks & Patios

Evaluate your home for a deck of patio addition or upgrade by understanding costs, the shape of your property, and variables such as sun and shade.  Planning a successful deck or patio requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should -- or shouldn't -- include.
Adding a deck to your home is one of the most worthwhile of all home improvement projects and is considered such a good investment because it increases living area at a minimal cost per square foot and is an asset when you sell your home.

Deciding on the Site and Size

Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better. 

Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day -- having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.


Think Local

To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.” 

Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn't built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’"

If you love the great outdoors, you’re not alone. Outdoor living is one of the fastest-growing segments of the remodeling market.  In addition to helping expand usable square footage, patios add to the salability and curb appeal of your property.

Study your lot

Get to know the characteristics of your yard. Watch patterns of light throughout the day to determine patio sites best suited for most shade, sun, or a combination of both. Also consider convenient access to the house, especially from the kitchen or family room, for seamless entertaining and maximum usage.

Evaluate locations that offer privacy from neighbors. Also determine a realistic size for a patio. Estimate the number of people you typically entertain and make sure there is enough space for them to maneuver.

Envision furniture and other future amenities, such as grills and service bars. Be careful not to skimp. A 12x12-foot patio should be roomy enough for a dining table and chairs for six people, with plenty of room for a 42-inch wide grill, according to David McCullough, a landscape architect in San Diego.

Lastly, consider your lot’s grade and how best to deal with any slope issues. Sometimes adding steps leading to a flatter, lower level is a less expensive alternative than re-grading or adding fill. Building two smaller patios rather than one larger expanse can keep costs for contouring your yard to a minimum.


Check neighborhood restrictions and permits

Become familiar with current setback requirements, zoning concerns, neighborhood covenants, homeowner association CC&R’s (codes, covenants, and restrictions), and local building regulations and permits. These are available by visiting your city’s local planning department or website.

“When evaluating your yard, take into account any possible obstructions,” notes Chris Fenmore, principal with Southern California-based Garden Studio Landscape Design. “This may include existing or old irrigation or drainage lines, or live electrical, gas, and sewer lines. If needing to navigate over these, it's important to hire a professional.

Deck & Patio Maintenance

Annual deck & patio maintenance will forestall repairs, protect your investment, and boost your enjoyment of your outdoor space.  Because they are exposed to the elements all year round, it’s a good idea to establish a routine of upkeep that’ll protect your deck or patio and help keep everything safe, sound, and looking great while prevent expensive repairs.

Washing Your Deck

An unwashed deck is an invitation to mold and mildew, which can cause rot. Choose a cloudy day when the decking is cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner.

Water toy #1: A Pressure Washer

If you don’t have a pressure washer in your tool shed, you’re missing out. They blast away dirt mostly without harsh chemicals, which is good for your deck, patio, plants, pets and environment.

Standard Washing Techniques:

  • Wood deck: Use a paint roller, a garden sprayer, or a stiff-bristled brush broom to apply the cleaner. Don’t let it pool. Don’t let the deck dry until you’ve scrubbed it clean. Then let it soak according to manufacturer’s instructions (usually about 10 minutes). Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Composite deck: Scrub with a soft brush. Do not use a pressure washer -- it can permanently damage the decking and will void any warranty. Remove rust and leaf stains with a deck brightener containing oxalic acid.
  • Vinyl deck: Scrub in a circular motion using a stiff broom, then rinse thoroughly.
Washing Patio PaversScrub with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water), which will get rid of stains. More stubborn stains may require treatment with muriatic acid, which is best left to professionals. To prevent future stains, lay outdoor mats on stain-prone areas, like under the grill or patio table. 

Sealing Your Wood Deck

It's recomended to wait two days for your wood deck to dry before sealing.  Finish options include:
  • Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
  • Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight (ultraviolet or UV light)
  • Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
  •  Solid stain and opaque color that seal weathering damage and completely cover the grain

Expect to reapply clear sealers and toners annually. Reapply stain finishes as needed (every other year is a good routine) using the same or a slightly darker color. Be sure to wear gloves, a safety mask, and eye protection when applying stain and sealers. 

1. Choose a two-day period when you’ll have clear skies and moderate temperatures. 

2. Lightly sand the deck. Use a pole sander equipped with 80-grit paper to remove any furriness caused by washing.

3. Replace any missing or popped nails and screws. Replace protruding nails with deck screws slightly longer than the nail. If a nail only slightly protrudes, you may do more harm than good trying to pull it out. Pound it home.

4. Apply the sealer or stain. Use a roller to apply the sealer to the decking, covering three or four boards at a time. Use brushes and small rollers for railings, planters, and benches. Don’t let the sealant dry or puddle. Two thin coats is better than one thick one. 


Inspect & Repair

  • Look for signs of rot
  • Inspect the ledger
  • Check remaining joists, posts, and beams
  • Check for cracks or rotten decking boards
  • Check the railing

Preventive Measures

  • Trim nearby bushes and trees. They need to be at least 12 inches from the deck to slow mold, moss, and rot.
  • Don’t let leaves and other debris pile up in corners.
  • Move planters, chairs, and tables occasionally to avoid discoloring the decking. Keep nearby gutters and downspouts in good repair.