Which Updates Should You Make?

What updates should I make before putting my home on the market? How do I decide what updates will yield a profit?

About 28 years ago, the world was introduced to the Internet for the first time. From that day forward, buyers have become increasingly busy. As a result, unless you’re the Property Brothers or Joanna and Chip Gaines, most buyers simply have no interest in taking on someone else’s project. Buyers, instead, are looking to move into a house that is aesthetically pleasing and neutral in tone. This allows them to set down their purple sofa and mauve love seat until they get around to personalizing the residence – usually during the first January after they’ve purchased…

This post was provided courtesy of the Mark Siwiec Team.  Please click here to read the rest of the article on Mark’s blog.

Add Value to Your Home with Spring Cleaning

It may be surprising, but a clean and decluttered home can have a huge impact on a potential buyer’s impression of the home and help them envision it as their own. In addition, a clean home improves your mood and helps you feel more productive.

Clean Up the Yard

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression, so make the most of your home’s first impression by cleaning up the yard.

  1. Clear away fall and winter debris such as fallen branches and leaves; pick up and put away toys and other items that are not lawn ornaments.
  2. Be sure that all walkways are clear and easy to navigate along.
    • If you have broken or misaligned steps, consider hiring a professional to fix them.
  3. Clean the gutters, or hire a professional the clean them; when gutters are clogged, they can overflow and cause water damage to the exterior of your home. If they overflow into a window, the water damage can extend into the interior, as well.
  4. Treat your lawn to a spa day: feed it, weed it, give it moss treatment, and mow it on a dry day. When you know it’s going to rain, or shortly after rain, apply fertilizers for best results.

Clean Up the Exterior Walls of the House

Over the course of a year, a lot of dirt, muck, and grit can collect on the exterior walls of a home—not to mention moss, mold, and mildew growth along brick walls.

  1. On a warm, dry day, wash away the dirt on the exterior walls of your home. Take care not to damage any surfaces, let water get underneath the siding, or dislodge any bricks.
  2. If it looks like there is water damage on the outside of your home, call a professional.
  3. Take the chance to clean the outside of your windows as well, and check for any damage to them. Cracked panes should be replaced and peeling windowsills should be tended to, as well.
    • Peeling windowsills are a great opportunity (after removing the old paint) to repaint them with a refreshing new color. Not sure what color to pick? Our Painting Joy Into Your Home: How Colors Influence Your Mood blog post can give you an idea on what might be the best color, depending on what effect you want to achieve.
    • Once you’re back inside, wipe the inside of the windows down and clear away any cobwebs.

Clean Up the Garden

If you have a garden with clearly defined borders, be sure to freshen those borders up. In addition, give your garden some attention and care:

  1. Fork the soil around plants to introduce fresh air and reveal any pests or weeds
  2. Remove weeds and other unwanted plants
  3. Add mulch to control additional weeds or refresh existing mulch
  4. Check to see if any bricks or stones have become misaligned and realign them
  5. To help your plants grow and add nutrients to the soil, add compost or other organic matter

If you don’t have a garden but would like to increase the curb appeal of your home by adding some plants, try adding flower pots or hanging plants outside!

  1. Check that the flowers and plants won’t be at risk of dying from a last frost before adding the pots or hanging plants outdoors.
  2. If you want to grow the plants from seeds, consider starting them indoors to avoid losing them to hungry birds or animals before they’ve had the chance to sprout. Otherwise, pick potted flowers and plants you like from your local garden center.
  3. Arrange the potted flowers and hanging plants how you like: on your front porch, flanking your front door, along your walkway, or even in your back garden. The options are endless!

Last but not least, if you have a fence, inspect it for any damage.

  1. Ensure that all gates are properly attached and that locks function smoothly.
  2. Fill in any holes animals may have dug underneath the fence. If you have a dog that keeps digging a hole to escape, bury a toy, or pursuing some other destructive behavior, you may want to check with your local dog academy to see whether training can correct the behavior.
  3. Check for loose boards, rusted wires, damaged bricks or stones, etc. and repair the fence accordingly. If you don’t know how to maintain your fence and find that a section has decayed, call a professional.
  4. If you want to give your yard a fresh look, consider painting your fence a new color, adding flowers along the boundaries, or adding climbing plants to transform your fence into a garden wonderland. Check with your local garden center first on which climbing plants would be best.
    • Beware: climbing plants require a certain amount of maintenance and care to keep them from becoming unruly and overtaking your yard. If they attach to a tree, they can cause serious damage.

Relax! April is Stress Awareness Month

Believe it or not, the average stress level of Americans has dropped since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). But, we here at Howard Hanna Insurance Services understand if you don’t exactly feel that way. It’s a good thing, then, that Stress Awareness Month is here.

Reducing your stress is well worth your while. If you don’t know where to start, tese tips from the Mayo Clinic and WebMD will get you headed in the right direction:

Make stress management a goal. Simply saying, “I want to reduce stress” isn’t enough. You’ve got to learn to identify problems and implement solutions, which takes work.

Identify your triggers. What situations cause you to experience stress? Work? Relationships? Money? Don’t overlook everyday tasks, such as commuting, or even positive events, such as starting a new job.

Consider strategies to deal with those specific triggers. For example, creating a budget plan or talking to a financial adviser could help ease your worries about finances. Changing your hours at work could potentially improve your commute.

Practice relaxation techniques and live a healthy lifestyle. Here are just a few tools that people use to help alleviate stress:

Deep breathing, yoga or tai chi
Meditation and guided imagery — imagining yourself in a place of relaxation
Writing or talking to someone about your feelings
Exercise (even simple stretching or housework) and outdoor recreation

Art and other creative projects
Ask for help. Many people you know have probably experienced similar stresses to your own. Find out how they have solved problems and relieved stress. And, if they are still having trouble, you can work on managing issues together.

April is a great time to try to reduce stress and live a healthier life. So, what are you waiting for? Remember, when you make stress management a bigger part of your life, you leave less room for the stress itself.

5 Ways to Stop Pests This Spring

Spring is right around the corner, and with the warmer weather come bugs and pests of all kinds. Let Howard Hanna help you to pest-proof your home this spring with these suggestions.

Keep lids on trash cans. Food attracts insects and other pests, so as you go through your checklist of spring cleaning tasks, make sure this one is at the top of the list. Examine your outdoor trash cans to ensure that lids are tight fitting. You may also want to consider using garbage bags because it adds an extra layer of protection against creepy crawlers.

Keep your kitchen clean and tidy. Food is like a gourmet bug buffet, making the kitchen and pantry a hotspot. Use glass, plastic or sealable containers for storing products such as cereal. Remember, even random crumbs leftover from last night’s dinner may be enough to attract pests. Take out the trash frequently and promptly, and don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter!

Screen your windows. With the warmer weather, it’s nice to open the windows and have the fresh air flowing! But, your window can be a door welcoming bugs into your home. Inspect your windows and doors to ensure that they’re in good working order. Then, fix any rips or tears that could let pests inside. If you have a patio door, invest in a sliding screen to make it harder for the bugs to come in and make your home theirs, too.

Don’t forget your lawn! Take a tour of your front and back yards to see where problem areas might be. First, clean gutters as they can become a breeding ground for bugs. Second, trim hedges which, if left unkempt, can become a highway for pests to travel easily from outdoors to indoors. Third, clean and tidy up your lawn! Move firewood away from the home, and pick up fallen fruits or nuts.

Check the exterior. Bugs can sneak into the home via openings or cracks and holes in the foundation. Look for any problem areas, and seal any cracks that you may find. By doing this, you’ll prevent them from getting in through the exterior. You may also want to do this check multiple times a year.

Incorporate these recommendations into your spring cleaning routine, and you’ll keep the bugs at bay this year and in the future!

Spring Into Open Houses

Spring is (finally) here! Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and homes are open for viewing! Spring is a wonderful time of the year, especially for attending open houses. Here’s why you should go to an open house in spring!

With spring comes warmer weather and a colorful world. Attending an open house in spring allows you to view the community and the home’s surrounding landscape in full bloom. The warmer weather also mean no snow coverage, which could hide structural issues to the home or property.

Spring cleaning means you get to see the home in tip-top shape! Sellers will most likely clean to take away the grime and dullness of winter and make their home sparkle and shine before showing it. This can allow you to view the home in a similar condition to what it would be like before moving in.

The spring season is a popular time for sellers to place their homes on the market, giving you the chance to see the biggest selection of homes at one time. A popular season means more potential buyers, so attending an open house early can give you the upper hand when bidding on a home.

Open houses are a fun way to see different homes and neighborhoods. Combine them with the great season of spring, and you have a recipe for an awesome experience! Take a look at Nothnagle’s open houses to start your visits today!

How Long House Appliances and Systems Typically Last

How Long House Appliances and Systems Typically Last

and the costs associated with replacing them

With home ownership comes not only great joy, but also great responsibility. When an appliance breaks, it is up to you, the homeowner, to ensure it is repaired or replaced. While the responsibility may seem daunting, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to mold your home into the perfect nesting place by choosing appliances that suit your needs.

However, most people don’t prepare for the inevitable failure of various appliances. According to Forbes, 63% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency and according to CreditDonkey, 26% of adults don’t have any savings set aside at all. To help stay ahead of the curve, here are some common household appliances and systems, how long they last, and what the average cost is to replace them.


Lifespan: 8 to 20+ years
Cost: $3,000 to $7,000+

There are many factors that contribute to the longevity of boilers: traditional gas boilers, while more expensive to fix due to the risk associated with carbon monoxide leaks, tend to last longer than their electric counterparts. Similarly, low-quality boilers, while cheaper to install and maintain, generally do not last as long as high-quality boilers. Here is a quick breakdown of the various types of boilers:

  • Electric boilers can last between 8 and 10 years
  • Gas boilers can last 10 to 15 years
  • High-quality boilers can last over 20 years

Many things can go wrong with a boiler from a carbon monoxide leak with a gas boiler (as mentioned above) to temperature control failure (water too hot or too cold) with an electric boiler. Despite what can go wrong with a boiler, they’re usually one of the most reliable appliances in a home. According to HomeAdvisor.com, boiler repairs average between $171 and $524 and common issues with the boiler system are usually not with the boiler itself but with the pipes that distribute the water or the radiators that heat various rooms. On the other hand, buying a new boiler, having the old one removed, and having the new one installed can cost as much as $10,000, although it usually averages between $3,000 and $7,000.


Lifespan: 13 to 19+ years
Cost: $800 to $9,000+

Depending on the model and brand, refrigerators can last anywhere from 13 years to 19 years or more. Single-door refrigerator units are likely to last the longest while side-by-side freezer and fridge models usually only last 14 years.

According to HomeAdvisor.com, if your refrigerator is less than 8 years old, it would be more cost effective to have it repaired than to buy a new one. A new refrigerator can cost $800 to $9,000 depending on the quality and brand, whereas repairs for a refrigerator can be as low as $200 to $400, with two to three hours of labor. Note that repairing an icemaker alone can cost $275 to $330, so if your refrigerator requires multiple costly repairs, it may be time to buy a new one.


Lifespan: 9 years
Cost: $50 to $300+

For the most part, microwaves are fairly stable products and last an average of 9 years. They’re also among the cheapest appliances to replace: a brand-new, low-end microwave from Target, Walmart, or even Home Depot averages $50. If you’re not picky, you can also get a used microwave for as low as $10.

According to HomeAdvisor, the cost to repair a microwave is typically $70 per hour of labor plus the cost of the replacement parts. On average, microwaves cost $100 to $250 to repair. If your microwave appears to work and is completely turned off, unplug it and try it with a different outlet before rushing to call for a repair. It may be that the circuit breaker was tripped for the room or the outlet is defective.


Lifespan: 13 to 15 years (gas range), 15 to 18 years (stovetop)
Cost: $350 to $2,000+

As with the boiler, gas stoves tend to last longer than electric stoves by 2 to 5 years. The range generally lasts 13 to 15 years, while the stovetop can keep functioning 15 years to 18 years. Be sure to check the burners regularly: a small gas leak can do serious damage.

Common problems with the gas range include a faulty oven, stuck oven door, damaged indicator light, broken burner, and so forth. Repair costs can range anywhere from $110 to $200 for a faulty igniter to over $260 for a broken control board. If you’re okay with a low-cost gas stove, then consider purchasing a new one when repair costs exceed $350.

Washer & Dryer

Lifespan: 10 to 14 years (washer) and 10 to 13 years (dryer)
Cost: $350 to $1,000+ (washer),  $300 to $1,000+ (dryer), or $800 to $1,700+ (all-in-one washer/dryer combo)

While the clothes washing machine can last 10 to 14 years, the dryer usually lasts one year less at 10 to 13 years. The longevity of these two machines depends primarily on how frequently they are used. Washers that see more frequent use tend to wear out faster than those that are used less often.

Both front-loading washing machines and top-loading washing machines experience problems unique to their design; top-loading washers are prone to humidity and rust issues and lid switch failure ($140+ to fix), while front-loading washers have been known to develop leaky door gaskets ($200 to $300 to repair).

Dryers, on the other hand, can experience an array of issues depending on whether they’re gas or electric. Gas dryers cost less to power, but their ignition coil may need to be replaced at some point, and they can also have faulty igniters, flame sensors, thermal fuses, and gas valves. Sometimes the dryer belt needs to be replaced, other times it’s the dryer coil. If it costs more than $400 to repair the dryer, you can easily opt for replacement instead.

All-in-one washer and dryer combinations are a relatively new invention and come with their own problems. According to the article “How good are washer-dryer combos?” by Choice, these machines are “the least reliable laundry appliance and 22% of owners experienced a major problem with their machine.” That’s not to say they’re not a good solution for small homes that can’t easily accommodate a separate washer and dryer, but it’s something to consider for long-term investment.


Lifespan: 8 to 13 years
Cost: $400 to $700+

On average, dishwashers last 9 years. Some dishwashers last longer than others and can even make it 13 years, while others have a shorter lifespan. Unlike a clothes washer, it’s better to run the dishwasher frequently – even daily! – as doing so helps prevent mold and mildew from forming and keep the seals, gaskets, and hoses from dry-rotting. Although the dishwasher is meant to clean dishes, the less food that winds up in it, the better. Food debris can clog up the machine and increase the likelihood of mold forming. It’s also really gross to discover some several-weeks-old piece of food on your freshly cleaned dishes.

Some of the most common repairs for dishwashers include cleaning the drain pump ($100 to $300), and repairing the control board ($190+) or the water inlet valve ($160). Angie’s List recommends replacing the dishwasher if repair costs exceed half the cost of the original dishwasher.


Lifespan: 20 to 50+ years depending on material used
Cost: $150 to $700+ per square installed (depends on material selected, total square footage of roof, geographical location, and roofer; varies wildly)

How long roofing lasts is, like the boiler, dependent upon the material used. The following are just some common roofing materials and how many years they tend to last:

  • Asphalt shingles or composite roofs usually last 20 years.
  • Fiber cement shingles can last 25 years.
  • Wood shakes should last 30 years.
  • Tile roofs made of slate, copper, clay, concrete, or a terracotta can last up to 50 years.

Replacing a roof is costly, be it replacing part of it or the entire roof. Depending on your geographical location and available local roofers, the base amount charged for installation services can vary drastically. The material used adds to total cost of replacing the roof: composite roofs are cheaper, while tile roofs are more expensive. If you have a leaky roof, call a local contractor and ask for an inspection to see if you just need to have some repairs made or have the entire section replaced.

Keep Your Roof in Tip-Top Shape

In preparation for the year ahead, your roof is one of the most important areas to maintain.  Periodic roof maintenance helps prevent major issues that can lead to serious homeowner claims.

Check for damage to your roof and have a professional inspection, if necessary.

Go to the attic. If there is visible moisture or discoloration, your roof might be leaking.

Examine the paint on your siding and trim. If it is peeling, you might need new paint to protect against the effects of weather.

Check for leaks around window and door sills. Improving your seals can lower your energy bills.

Clean debris from gutters and downspouts, and make sure they’re draining away from the home.

Trim overhanging tree branches, untidy vegetation, and overgrown shrubs.

Winter weather often results in gradual damage that homeowners can miss if they aren’t looking closely.  This is particularly important to watch out for because homeowners policies do not provide coverage for wear and tear.  It’s well worth it to spend a little time on home maintenance this spring, so that a small roof issue doesn’t turn into a big roof issue!