Welcome to the Brittany Allen Group's Tips, Tricks, & Ideas about Home Ownership as well as everything about the Wilmington NC area!

 

The home buying and selling process can be stressful. We have several tips to help make your experience go a little smoother. You'll also find lots of information about the Wilmington North Carolina area, straight from a local :)

Have a question, feedback, or anything else to add? Tag us on Facebook at #BrittanyAllenGroup and we will answer it here!

 

June 18, 2019

Energy Saving Tips That Will Lower Your Bills

 

Temperatures are rising which means that your utility bills are likely on the rise too. With the average American spending around $200 a month on energy, most are looking for a way to decrease those prices in any way they can. Just not using air conditioning is an unrealistic option, so there are other updates and changes you can make to save money and still stay cool this summer.

FIND AN ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME

If you are on the hunt for a new home this summer, think ahead and make energy efficiency a priority in your home search. Keep square footage to the minimum you think you will need - the more unnecessary space, the more space you'll be cooling (or heating this winter). Certain home features, like sun rooms and high ceilings, also contribute to unnecessary space or space that heats quicker than normal. 

CHECK YOUR APPLIANCES

While newer appliances are easily labeled with their estimated yearly cost by Energy Guide, older appliances aren't as easy to determine. Using the Department of Energy's online appliance energy calculator, you can decide if investing in newer appliances with a lower operating cost could save you money in the long run. You can also have an HVAC professional check your equipment to ensure it is the appropriate size for your home. Having a system that is too large or too small can create unnecessary costs.

QUICK FIXES

Replacing appliances and equipment can be a large up-front cost, so if you're looking to start saving now, even small amounts, quick fixes are your best choice. Some options include using cold water for laundry, changing the direction of your ceiling fan, and using energy-efficient light bulbs. Check your doors for sealing issues and replace weather stripping if necessary to prevent drafts.

FIND AN EXPERT

If you want more guidance on how to save energy, you can contact your local utility company. Many provide free energy audits and can offer professional advice on ways to lower your energy use and save you money. 

Posted in Tip of the month
May 22, 2019

Repairs To Make Before Selling Your Home

So you’re ready to put your home on the market and to you, everything looks great. Unfortunately, much of the wear and tear on your home becomes unnoticeable when it is something you see everyday. While you may not think about the one light switch that doesn’t work or the chipping paint in the guest bedroom, now is the time to take a step back and look at your home with fresh eyes. When you decide to sell your home, the first thing you should do is make any repairs you can to save yourself money in the long run. Here are a few repairs to cross off so you can get the best deal for your home!

1. Paint Your Walls

Re-painting the rooms that need a fresh face is the cheapest way to update the appearance of your home. Consider using light, neutral colors to appeal to a broader group of buyers. If the room is too dark or has chipped or dirty paint, make it look brand new with a coat of paint. 

2. Make Minor Kitchen Repairs

Even if your kitchen isn’t large and spacious, a full renovation might not make sense financially. If your agent doesn’t advise you towards a renovation, consider making minor repairs instead. Paint what needs painted and install new fixtures where necessary. If your appliances aren’t operating properly or are in awful shape, you will need to replace them.

3. Update Your Bathroom

The first priority is making sure your bathroom looks clean. If the toilet looks old, replace the seat to give it a fresh new appearance. Replace any tiles that may be missing, clean the grout, and remove old wallpaper that may still remain. This is a room you should consider painting if need be to make it appear bright and clean.

4. Fix The Exterior

The outside of your home is the first thing buyers will see, so it is important that it looks good. Touch up the yard with sod as needed, remove any junk that may be in the yard, and make sure your fencing doesn’t have any missing parts or boards. Mow your grass and consider renting a power washer to make your siding look brand new. 

5. Maximize Lighting

The goal is to maximize light so you can maximize the appearance of space. Light does a great job of making rooms look larger than they are. Update your fixtures, ensure that your windows appear clean and new, and add mirrors across from light sources to reflect even more light. 

6. Ensure Functionality

Potential buyers are going to want everything to work. Do a full walk through of your home, checking all light switches, doorknobs, and locks. Repair or replace anything that doesn't work as it should. The less issues that arise during the buyer's home inspection, the better chance of you maximizing your profit during the sale. 

Posted in Repairs
May 16, 2019

5 Ways To Fill The Space Above Your Bed

Even if you have a beautiful headboard, the space above your bed can seem empty if left untouched. This space can be tricky to decorate, but that doesn’t mean you should leave it blank. There are plenty of ways to spruce up that space without much work. Here are 5 ways to make the best of that negative space!

1. Add a Set of Shelves

Even if you don’t need the extra storage space, you can use shelves to add small decor that is unique to you. Your favorite books, small planters, or even picture frames are a great way to personalize the shelves.

2. Wallpaper the Wall

If you're worried about adding anything above your bed, consider creating an accent wall with floral wallpaper. Many places sell peel and stick paper so if you decide you don't love the style or you're renting and cannot make a permanent change, you can still try out wallpaper.

3. Make the Room Look Bigger With Mirrors

The best way to make a room look bigger is to strategically place mirrors across from open windows or sources of light. You can also place 2 small mirrors alongside a large central mirror if your bed isn't across from a light source. This will also make your room appear larger while filling empty space.

4. Consider a Tasteful Tapestry or Wall Hanging

Tapestries aren't just for college dorm rooms. If you aren't ready to add shelving fixtures but want something a little more than wallpaper, consider adding a pop of color with a tapestry or a statement yarn wall hanging. 

5. Create a Gallery Wall

Whether it is gridded and organized or statement and staggered, a gallery wall is the perfect way to add a little more 'you' to your bedroom. Frame your favorite family photos or the landscape photos from your favorite vacation. 

Posted in Tip of the month
May 8, 2019

The Best Indoor Trees For Your Home

Artificial plants may never die, but having live plants in your home will make your home look and feel better. Nothing brings life into a home better than well-maintained greenery.  Most indoor trees are easy to take care of and only need adequate water and a spot where they'll get enough light. You can fill your home with trees or just add enough to a room to beautify empty space. Here are the best indoor plants to add life and coziness to your home. 

1. Fiddle Leaf Fig

You probably have a friend who has a Fiddle Leaf Fig tree in their home right now, and for good reason. They only need regular watering and indirect light, and are the perfect size to add a touch of greenery to a room. Be sure not to overwater this tree, as it will drop leaves quickly.

2. Weeping Fig

This tree is one of the most popular indoor trees. It has slightly arching branches and can fill out quite well if taken care of. Like the Fiddle Leaf, it prefers indirect light but it doesn't like cold drafts or hot, dry air. This tree is best kept away from doors and A/C vents. The Weeping Fig is known to shed less than a quarter of its leaves in the fall and sprout them again in the spring, so keep that in mind when buying one.

3. Areca Palm

If you want to add a beachy vibe to your home, this feathery palm will do just that. It thrives in bright spaces and can grow up to 10 inches in a year, reaching 6-7 feet indoors. In the spring and summer, the Areca Palm likes light, constant moisture. During the winter months, it works best to let it dry out a bit between waterings. 

4. Rubber Tree

The Rubber Tree is one of the easiest to grow indoors. If you want a darker-colored plant, consider this tree that only requires moderate light. Occasional pruning will help the tree look its best, but be sure to wear gardening gloves to keep the sap off of your fingers. 

5. Ponytail Palm

If remembering to water plants isn't your forte, this is the plant for you. The Ponytail Palm stores moisture in its base so it will be just fine if you forget a week or two of watering. The plant has long, strappy leaves that add the perfect touch to a contemporary room. It prefers indirect, bright light and is slow-growing.

6. Lacy Leaf Philodendron

If you're looking for an easy plant that will live long, this is the one for you. With massive glossy leaves, this philodendron can grow up to 6 feet wide, so keep this one in mind if you have a large space to fill. This plant only needs watered when the soil becomes dry and requires moderate light.

Posted in Planting
April 24, 2019

Make Laundry Day Easier

Laundry doesn't exactly make the top of the list when it comes to enjoyable chores. Unfortunately, it is one of the chores that we can't really get rid of. Instead of dreading laundry day, try these tips to help you manage your load and make the most of your time. Before you know it, you may even look forward to laundry - or at least be able to enjoy the extra time you'll save!

1. Schedule Laundry-Type Days

Instead of saving one day to do all of your laundry, break up your laundry by type and assign a day to that type. You can have towels on Monday, bedding on Tuesday, and so on.

2. Learn to Multitask

Laundry can take up a great deal of unnecessary time if not done correctly. Rather than waiting for laundry to finish to do other tasks, use breaks between those other tasks to work on your laundry load. For example, once you’ve put dinner in the oven, start a new load. Once you’ve finished another task and a have a few free minutes, use that time to fold laundry. This way you are multitasking and using your time more efficiently. 

3. Carefully Pre-Sort Your Laundry

Pre-sorting your laundry will save you the time that is often wasted digging through your baskets to find what can be washed together. Be sure to carefully pre-sort, so you can avoid ruining any clothing.

4. Service Your Dryer

Cleaning out your lint trap after each cycle will not only reduce a fire risk, but it will also help your dryer run more efficiently. 

5. Avoid Machine Issues

Being proactive is much easier than dealing with the consequences of a dryer issue. Instead of having to worry about cleaning melted wax or pen stains out of your dryer, make it a routine to check pockets before every load. It is much easier to take an extra minute to double check than scrub out whatever may stain an entire load of laundry. 

6. Get Rid of Wrinkles

Instead of worrying about taking the time to steam your clothing, do so while they’re in the dryer. If you add a few ice cubes into a light load of clothing while your dryer is on the highest heat setting, the ice will melt and produce steam. 

7. Declutter Your Closet

While this may not be the first thing you think of when trying to make laundry day easier, decluttering your closet can make a huge difference in how much laundry you will actually need to do overall. Clothing we don't love tends to end up tossed on the floor and washed again and again without ever being worn out of the front door. Get rid of that extra clutter and make your load smaller!

Posted in Cleaning
April 8, 2019

What You Save By Getting Ride of Excess Stuff Before You Move

If you’re getting ready to move, whether you are trying to sell your home or you’ve already purchased a new one, one of the first things that tends to cause stress in the process is the fear of packing all of your stuff. Whether you’ve been in your current space for a few months or several years, you’ve probably accumulated plenty of things you use and love, and even more items you haven’t touched since you brought them home. Now is the perfect time to purge those items and start fresh in your new home with intentional decor and less clutter. Here are some of the things you’ll save when you let go:

Save Time 

Instead of waiting until you’re ready to move, start sorting through your items now. Sell, donate, or trash the items that you’ve decided don’t have a place in your future home. When you’re ready to pack up for your move, you’ll save so much time because you’ll have less to pack (and unpack). 

Save Money 

Maybe some of the stuff you’re considering letting go of is worth something. If that is the case, consider having a garage sale or selling your clothes to resale boutiques in your area. Donate or dispose of whatever you don’t sell. Not only can you make money, but you can save money by moving less stuff. You may be able to fit what you love into a smaller moving truck if you get rid of those items that have gone unused for years! 

Save Energy 

Sometimes items can take up a great deal of emotional energy. It is often in our nature to cling to things that may have meant something in our past, but have no place in our future. Get rid of that baggage and create an intentional environment with positive energy in your new home. 

Save Space 

Instead of taking the clutter from your current place into your new home, save space by getting rid of it now. Open spaces in your new home will bring you peace of mind and joy. 

If you've done all this saving and you're ready to save even more on a new home, give us a call, 910-679-6525!

Posted in Organizing
April 2, 2019

What Your Carpet Is Hiding From You

 

How many carpeted rooms in your home appear clean at a glance? Even if you think they all look clean, those carpets may not be very sanitary. Spring is here which means if you have snow, it has likely started to melt - exposing dirt and pollen that can now be easily tracked into your house.  Carpets trap dust and odors and can attract mold when they absorb moisture. So often, we forget what our carpet could be hiding because it just doesn't look dirty. You want to make your carpet last as long as possible, and the only way to ensure that is by keeping your carpets cleaned and sanitized. Here are some steps to take to keep that carpet in the best shape possible, and as clean as ever.

1. Vacuum Weekly

Make a habit of vacuuming once a week, even twice a week in high traffic areas. While it is easy to rush through vacuuming, try taking it slowly to ensure your vacuum is pulling up as much dirt and dust as possible.

2. Use Door Mats

Door mats can help reduce the amount of dirt and dust being brought into your home in the first place. Use both indoor and outdoor mats and be sure to clean them when you vacuum each week. 

3. No Shoes, No Problem

It probably isn’t hard to believe that 80% of the dirt in your house is carried inside on people’s shoes. Ensuring that your family members and guests remove their shoes before entering your home will help to greatly reduce the amount of dirt and dust.

4. Treat Spots and Spills ASAP

To avoid permanent damage, make sure you are always cleaning up messes as soon as they happen. It can be easy to quickly wipe up a spill without really cleaning it, but spot treating to remove any residual mess is the best choice. It is much harder to remove a stain once it has set!

5. Vacuum Under Furniture & Rugs

It is easy to forget about the dirt and dust that collects under rugs and furniture. Aim to clean in those hidden spots monthly or bi-monthly.

6. Deep-Clean Your Carpets

If you don’t own a carpet steam cleaner, consider renting one for a deep-clean twice a year. The high-powered water extraction system will clean, disinfect, and sanitize your rugs and carpets to remove anything that regular vacuuming leaves behind. 

Keeping your carpet clean is a great investment for your home. By following these steps, you can prevent the need for carpet replacement for many years to come. 

Posted in Tip of the month
March 25, 2019

How To Save Up For A House

Are you thinking about buying a home and just don’t know where to start? Before you even begin looking at homes, consider how much you may need to save to make the process as smooth as possible for you, especially in the long run. While there are situations where you don’t need a large down payment for a home, having one can save you money down the road. 

Saving for a down payment is slightly different than other large savings, like retirement. With those savings, you can set aside smaller amounts or invest the money. Because you will need your down payment sooner rather than later, those saving methods won’t be beneficial to you. Here are some steps to take to save up for your dream home!

1. Determine How Much You Need

There is a general rule of thumb in real estate, the rule of 28, that says your maximum mortgage payment should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. Sitting down with a mortgage lender will help you find out how much of a mortgage you qualify for based on that income. They will be able to tell you the recommended amount needed for a 20% down payment. Whether or not that is a requirement, a 20% down payment can get you a great price deal and reduce your monthly mortgage rate. 

2. Decide When You Want To Buy

The next step will be deciding when you want to buy. This will give you either a monthly or annual goal of how much money you need to be setting aside to reach that down payment goal.

3. Choose A Savings Plan

It it usually best to avoid stocks or other risky investments when it comes to saving for a home. Consider opening a regular savings account specifically for your down payment, and make sure it is an account you use for deposit-only purposes until you’re ready to make your down payment.

4. Check Your Budget

Saving a few dollars here and there can be easy, but saving thousands of dollars may take a little more practice. First, consider cutting back on your expenses. Check your budget for things you can go without. This may be difficult, but think about what you are saving up for! If you have the chance to earn additional income, devote that extra cash directly to your savings account. These saving strategies will not only help you to buy your new home, but can create life-long habits to help you continue to save money down the road.

5. Consider An Automated Savings Plan

Even after you have adjusted your budget, pulling that money out of your checking account and putting it into a savings isn’t always easy. Once you’ve determined how much of your budget will be going into savings, consider adding a savings plan to your bank account so that the money will automatically be sent to your savings. This can remove the temptation of spending what may look like extra money in your account and ensuring that it goes where it needs to. 

6. Save Your Big Deposits

Have you received a large sum of money lately? Maybe you just got married, or got a bonus at work, or that tax-return was especially big this year. Instead of spending that cash, deposit it directly into your savings account. This can reduce your savings timeframe and might have you ready to buy sooner than you thought.

Saving up for a home isn't always easy, but it is always worth it! When you are ready to buy, give us a call and we will get you that home you've been dreaming of! 

Posted in Tip of the month
March 11, 2019

Add A Spring Touch To Your Home

 

Even if the weather isn’t cooperating quite yet - spring is on the way! Cheering up your home with some spring decor is the perfect way to prepare for warmer days and more sunshine. Here are some options to prepare your home for the next season!

ADD AN HERB GARDEN

While they may not last outdoors with the sporadic weather of spring, bringing potted herbs into your home and letting them soak up sunlight in a kitchen window is the perfect way to add life to your home and have access to fresh herbs while you’re cooking. 

THINK SPRING 

If you are all about DIY-ing, creating simple decorations can add a pop of seasonal color to your home. Take that pair of rain boots you don’t wear anymore and turn them into planters - add bright floral arrangements and use your new decor item as an inviting piece by your front door.

POPS OF COLOR

Neutral and sleek is all the rage right now, but adding a pop of color in your normal decor can add a cheerful touch to your home. Swap out your kitchen napkins or tablecloth with something a little bit more colorful, like soft blues or pinks. Small changes can do enough to make your home feel different without being overwhelming.

FLORALS ARE ALWAYS THE ANSWER

Whether or not you already include florals in your home decor, take the time to swap out or add something new that feels like spring. While fresh flowers are a great choice, consider picking up some faux florals for the majority of your decor and saving the fresh flowers for a centerpiece. Don’t be afraid to add pops of color, specifically yellows and pinks, to create a focal point for the room. 

TOUCH UP TIME

Is there a room in your home that is just feeling drab? Maybe it is dark and uninviting, or maybe it has white walls that have started to fade. While you are spring cleaning, consider adding a fresh coat of paint to a place in your home that needs a boost of light. Spring is all about being fresh and new, so your home should feel that way too!

Posted in Spring
March 7, 2019

First-Time Buyer Advice

If you’ve never purchased a house before, you may have no idea where to begin when preparing to become a homeowner. You may be on the fence about buying, or you may feel like you are ready to buy a home today. Either way, these tips can help anyone feel a little more prepared for their first home purchase!

MONEY IS KEY

It is easy to begin scrolling through beautiful homes on the market without considering your budget. Sale postings can be all over your social media feeds, tempting you to just take a peek. While looking can be fun and exciting, you should prepare financially before you start eyeing any homes. It is much better to know what your price range is so you don’t fall in love with a house you just can’t afford (for now!)

MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE

While you need to be realistic and recognize that you likely are not going to find a home with every single thing you wish to have in a house, making a list of the things that are a priority for you (room count, big backyard, master walk-in closet, etc.) will help you to make sure you’re only looking at houses that will fit your wants and needs.

PHOTOS DON’T TELL THE WHOLE PICTURE

It is easy to fall in love with a home after seeing the listing photos. These perfectly lit, well-staged photos show off houses in their best light, but that doesn’t mean you are getting the whole story. Listing photos are a great place to start, as they will help you to narrow down your options. Unfortunately, there are home traits that may not be portrayed well in photos, whether it be low ceilings, a drafty build, or anything in between.  Once you’ve made a short list of the homes that appear to be a fit for you, always do a home tour

THAT GUT-FEELING

If you walk into a house and it feels like home, trust your gut. There is no better way to know if you should buy a home than seeing how you feel when you walk through the front door. Your home purchase will probably be one of, if not the largest, purchase you’ve made in your life so far. Pictures can only do so much, and nothing can help you decide whether or not a house is made for you better than getting inside it!

NOTHING ELSE WILL DO

Do you get upset at the thought of losing the house you just toured to someone else? Does it already feel like home when you are inside? These are two signs that you have found the home for you! If you see a home and are ready to stop looking at others, you are one step closer to buying a home you will love.

THE BEST AGENT

Finding a great real estate agent is going to be the part that ties everything together. A quality agent will help you find homes within your budget that possess your must-have items and they’ll offer you guidance through every step of the process. 

If you’re looking for a real estate agent to help you find and buy your first dream home, call us today!!