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At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series #4

by Judy Gull

Greetings! Welcome to part 4 of my Fall checklist series for homeowners! We  will focus on weatherizing your attic and basement. Did you know that up to 90% of your home’s heat loss can occur through the roof if your attic is not properly insulated? Weatherizing your attic correctly can cut 10 to 30 percent off your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And while you might not want to spend the money (or the time) to do the work, keep in mind that the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit up to a maximum of $1,500 on weatherization materials.

In the attic
Some simple rules apply when you weatherize your attic. For example, never using duct tape on ducts. Also be aware that if your attic insulation is wet or you find mold, you should hire a professional to do the job.

Click here for the PDF Guide from the Department of Energy: A DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE TO SEALING AND INSULATING WITH ENERGY STAR®

Any visible narrow gaps that are less than ½” wide can be sealed with caulking. There are many factors such as depth of the gap and material that will determine which type of caulking should be used, ask the experts at your local home improvement store. Gaps around chimneys, lights, etc.  should be fixed by a professional to avoid fire hazards.

Visible gaps that are more than 2 inches wide can be closed up with wood or metal flashing. Follow with caulking around the seams and small gaps. You can use water based expandable sealant, but keep in mind that it WILL expand a few times in volume. If you use too much, you could possibly cause damage to vent pipes and even structural damage. Safety first; make sure to wear gloves and a mask for safety when applying any insulation, sealant or caulking.

Attic ducts that are not insulated can lose up to 40% of a heating or cooling system’s energy. Hire a professional to do the job or insulate with special insulation with a minimum R-6 rating. There are many websites online offering specific how-do instructions as well.

One of the most obvious and yet overlooked areas is the door or hatch to your attic. This is a direct access point for heat to escape from your living areas. You can insulate this yourself by making a “cover” to place on the back/upper side from rigid foam panels and construction adhesive. You can also add weather stripping.

Closets: In the main living areas of your home, be aware of dropped ceilings above closets, showers and cabinets. Make sure the spaces are enclosed & sealed.

Basement or crawlspace
Start by locating any accessible heating or air conditioning ducts, then seal and insulate around them. Also check around plumbing and electrical penetrations. You can reduce what you spend for hot water by simply insulation the pipes. Check to see if water pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are great candidates for insulation. You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power. Pipe insulation is often R-3 or, for batt styles that you wrap around, a stronger R-7.

Seal up any gaps that allow cold air to rise from the basement or crawl space into your living space above. Caulk gaps between the foundation walls and basement floor. You can seal also where the wood framing sits atop the foundation’s rim to stop frigid outside air from getting in.

Basement windows are another common area for heat loss. Check the frames for any gaps or holes and seal with caulk.

According to the U. S. Department of Energy, simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year. That means it pays to take the time to inspect your home. Whether you choose to hire a professional or do it yourself, will be well worth your time.

Hope to hear from you next week when I focus on weatherizing your home’s doors and windows.

Browse my website for more homeowner's tips

 

At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series #3

by Judy Gull

Greetings and welcome to part 3 of my Fall Checklist Series for homeowners. Proper maintenance of your roof and gutters in the fall may help prevent damage to your home, both inside and out. Below are my tips for Gutter and Roof autumn upkeep.

GUTTERS
Cleaning the gutters outside your home is an important part of home maintenance. Over time, organic material can collect and create a perfect place for plants and even small trees to take root. This buildup of organic material can create a lot of homeowner headaches. It can also lead to costly home repairs, with damage to the house, roof, foundation and even the driveway and sidewalk.

Rainwater that is not directed away from the house by an open downspout can seep underneath the house and accumulate around the foundation, weakening it and leading to cracks. Did you know that clogged gutters are the number one cause of basement water leaks? Damage to siding and windows can occur when water that spills over the edges of blocked gutters runs down the side of the house. Blockage to gutters can damage your roof by acting like a wick, bringing water from the bottom of the gutter up to rot the fascia. Left unchecked, the damage can extend to the roof sheathing and even the rafters. Cosmetically, overflowing water that hits the ground can splash dirt, debris and mud against the lower portion of the siding.

In the winter months, gutters blocked with debris can create ice dams, which block the flow of melting ice and snow. The water will work its way back to the roof, causing damage to the roof, shingles and leaks inside your home.

In the summer, the water that pools from blocked gutters provides a perfect breeding ground for pests such as termites and mosquitos. It also harbors mold and mildew.

There are many companies in the area that offer gutter cleaning services. Contact me if you'd like any references. You can also do it yourself, but make sure to do so safely. At a minimum, wear heavy work gloves and eye protection and make sure your ladder does not rest directly on the gutters as this can damage them. Gutters can have very sharp edges inside so be vigilant when reaching your hands inside. Remove twigs and leaves, but make sure to not use anything that will cut or damage the gutter. For caked on dirt, wetting it down will make it easier to remove. You can use water to check and unclog downspouts, but be gentle as they’re not built to withstand high water pressure. When you’re done cleaning, use the hose to flush the gutters. This is a good time to check for any leaks in the gutter system.

ROOFS
Do a thorough inspection of your roof. Look up from the ground to see if there are any warping or other visible issues. On the roof itself, check for any worn or damaged shingles or tiles. These should be replaced before the cold weather arrives. Inspect for algae growth and also check the flashing to ensure that no water from melting snow and ice can enter your home. Tree branches hanging over the roof can be trimmed and now is a good time to clean off any leaves or twigs that may have fallen since your last maintenance check. Examine your chimney and chimney flashing. Do you have a rain cap installed? Also, consider installing protective screens around the chimney cap to prevent birds, animals and debris from falling into the flue during the cold season.

While you can do roof repairs and maintenance yourself, hiring a professional to do the job may be the safest choice. Contact me and I'll get a roofer to call you back today!

Come back next week to read part 4 of my series on weatherizing your home.

I welcome your feedback on this article.

See more tips at "For Sellers".

 

At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series #2

by Judy Gull

2 must-do home projects experts recommend for fall

1. Keep out fall pests. Crickets, centipedes, cockroaches, ants, and other insects are intensifying their search for food, water, and a warm place to stay as the temperatures drop. Unless you want to volunteer your home as an insect sanctuary, follow the advice of the specialists at the University of Nebraska. They highly recommend that you control the leaf litter and dying vegetation around your home, inspect the walls for cracks and caulk around doors and windows to close off possible entryways for insects.

2. Upgrade attic insulation.  Could you pick out the most suitable type of attic insulation in a lineup? More importantly do you know what kind of attic insulation you now have in your home? Unfortunately the answers to both questions are most likely "no,", visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star website for information on the recommended levels of insulation broken down by state and even county. Make your winter warmer without spending more money because of not enough insulation. (Another bit of advice: while you are checking out the insulation, look for evidence of pest invasions, rot, and obstructed air vents.)

Let my expertise in staging help you get your home ready for sale this Fall. For recommendations or comments on the above, email me at: Judy@JudyGull.com

 

At Home with Judy....Fall Checklist Series

by Judy Gull

Welcome to part 1 of my Autumn checklist series for homeowners! Let's start with fall maintenance for furnaces and fireplaces.

Fall Furnace Maintenance

Have your furnace inspected and cleaned

It’s a good idea to have your furnace inspected and cleaned each year before the start of winter. You can compare having your furnace cleaned to changing the oil in your automobile. If you skip a few cleanings, you might not notice the impact right away, but it will affect the performance and longevity of your furnace. Much like your vehicle, a furnace is a significant financial investment and it pays to maintain it properly. It’s best to find a reputable specialist to do the job. The inspection may include checking the belts, pilot light, fan bearings and motor as well as cleaning the flue outlets if your furnace runs on oil or gas.

Clean or replace your furnace filters and registers

Cleaning or replacing the filter is essential to not only keeping your furnace efficient but it will help the life of your furnace as well. Typically, disposable filters should be changed once every 3 months. This will not only increase the productivity of your furnace, it can significantly help with indoor allergens.

Dust that gathers on registers and ducts acts as insulation and wastes heat. Use your vacuum to clean registers regularly. Also be sure to remove any dust, litter or lint from around the furnace housing itself.

Fall Fireplace Maintenance

Have your Fireplace and Chimney cleaned

During the winter months, in many areas, chimney fires are the #1 cause of house fires. Chimney fires damage chimneys, spread fires to other areas of the home and cause millions of dollars in property damage annually.

Natural fireplaces or better known as wood burning fireplaces and chimneys should be checked and cleaned at least once per year. When wood burns, it produces creosote which builds up and collects inside your chimney. This buildup will reduce the draw of the fireplace and lessen its efficiency and cause smoke to channel back into your home. If the buildup is significant, it can catch on fire.

Gas fireplace chimneys should also be inspected and cleaned annually. Even though there will be no creosote as you’re not burning wood, bird nests or other blockages can still occur which prevent carbon monoxide from escaping the house. Chimney blockages can be very hard to detect with a gas fireplace. Unlike smoke with a wood burning fireplace, you cannot see or smell the carbon monoxide that would signal a blockage. Make sure you have CO detectors installed and that they are in working order.

It’s a great idea to have a professional clean your fireplaces and chimneys, but there are also DIY kits you can find at many hardware retailers.

Fire/Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

Fall is a great time to check the batteries in your Fire/Smoke alarms and CO detectors and make sure they’re in working order before the home heating season begins. If you haven't checked them yet, a good time to do it each fall is when Daylight Savings Time Ends the first weekend of November.

It’s common knowledge that home improvement is more than just a weekend pastime. Taking the time to update a home can dramatically increase its livability and value. However, many homeowners are hesitant to make changes; putting off new cabinets because they’re not sure about the material, or wanting to make their home more energy efficient but not sure where to start. Luckily the Greater La Crosse Home and Builders Show brings together seminars and exhibitors that can answer all your home renovation questions. Whether you want to remodel the kitchen or revamp your yard, this event is a great opportunity to meet area contractors in person and get all your home renovation questions answered. Event officials have gathered over 90 different local and national exhibitors and a great line-up of seminars.

One of the great things about the Greater La Crosse Home and Builders Show is that you can learn about a do-it-yourself home project from a seminar and meet local vendors who can set you up with all the tools and materials you need to begin. You can sit in on McKay Nursery’s “Low Maintenance and Edible Landscaping” seminar and then visit their booth for pricing information specific to your landscaping needs. Or, talk to the guys from Beyer Custom Cabinets, who’ve been in business since 1987, about replacing or resurfacing your current cabinetry. Not only will you receive expert advice on anything from tile-setting to roofing, you come away from the event with hundreds of ideas for your home.

This three-day event will be held in the ballroom and South Hall of the La Crosse Center off of Hwy 53. Admission is free for children under 12 and $5 for adults. With warmer weather just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start planning those home renovation projects and the experts at the Greater La Crosse Home and Builders Show are there to help.

Low Interest Rates and Low Prices Make a Great Time to Buy!

by Judy Gull

Foreclosures and falling prices combined with rock-bottom interest rates have turned many would-be home buyers into new home owners. According to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index hit home prices hit a new record level of affordability. Of all new and existing homes sold during the last three months of 2011, 75.9% could have been comfortably purchased by families earning the national median income of $64,200. It was the highest percentage recorded in the history of the index, and a big increase from 72.9% just three months earlier. And while it’s possible for home prices to continue to drop, it’s perhaps more likely that they will increase again as economic recovery reaches more sectors and more people realize that now is a great time to buy a home.

Another reason to start looking for homes sooner rather than later are low, low interest rates. According to housing analysts, interest rates are near a 50-year low! As of mid-May, 2011, 30-year fixed mortgage rates had fallen to 4.63% - the lowest rates of the year. According to USA Today, the last time average rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage were this low was during the 1970s when minimum wage in Wisconsin was less than $2 per hour!

With mortgage rates at this level it makes a lot of sense to stop waiting and start shopping for your first home. If your family has grown in the past couple years and you need more room, or even if the kids have left for college and you’re looking for something smaller or closer to work, these interest rates make it possible to find a new home better suited to the size of your family. Of course, with many people scrambling to find a place to rent, it follows that now is the best time to invest in rental properties. Why wait? Stop by our office today for more information about buying the home of your dreams for a lot less money than it may take before long.

Winter Rec-Fest in La Crosse

by Judy Gull

Winter in western Wisconsin means sub-freezing air temperatures, Arctic wind chill blasts and blizzards that have the power to shut down the entire region for days. The good folks who call this seasonally frozen tundra home need something to look forward to have fun and stave off cabin fever.

Winter Rec-Fest in La Crosse provides residents and visitors with the perfect avenue for winter fun. Beginning in mid-January and running to early February, Winter Rec-Fest offers a diverse selection of frigidly fun activities, all designed to make citizens and visitors of all ages and interests happy.

It’s all about fun at Winter Rec-Fest. Thumb your nose at Old Man Winter, pitch in $2 for an all-inclusive button and embrace the season by participating in one or all of the events and activities.

The events kick off with the city-wide Snowflake Medallion Hunt. Then, you’ll want to get all your friends together and join in one of the competitive team sports tournaments, such as the Frosty Feet Kickball Tournament, Co-Rec Snow Volleyball Tournament or the One-Pitch Snow Softball Tournament.

Delve Into New Fun for 2012

* More than 230 hopefuls entered the Button Design contest this year, establishing a new record in Winter Rec-Fest history.

* Just when you thought Friday Night Family Fun night at Forest Hills couldn’t get any more fun, Rec-Fest organizers found a way! They’ve added games for the kids, a torchlight hike, fireworks, a snowman-making contest and a snow sculpture-creating contest.

* This year you will get to enjoy games, movies and food at the Hood Park Skate Day.

* Events brought back by popular demand from last year’s Rec-Fest include the Chicken-Que, the Frosty Feet Kickball Tournament and the Curling Event.

You can purchase your official 26th Annual Winter Rec-Fest buttons at the Green Island Ice Arena, the Parks & Recreation Office in the La Crosse City Hall, the Southside Neighborhood Center and the Black River Neighborhood Center.

For more information, like a detailed listing of show times, and activity registration and participation requirements, all you have to do is surf over to www.cityoflacrosse.org or call 608-789-7533.

For a detailed schedule of events for the 26th Annual Winter Rec-Fest, which will run from Wednesday, January 18 to Wednesday, February 1, click right here.

Don't Miss Out on New Listings

by Judy Gull

Here’s one more reason (as if you needed another one!) to “See Judy Gull For ALL your Real Estate Needs.” Follow Judy and she will guide you through a free service that can get you into your dream home quickly.

Like many other worthwhile pursuits, house hunting hides a paradox within its intricate, labyrinthine processes and procedures. There are a lot of fairly obvious good things, such as picking out your favorite neighborhoods, popping in to some open houses and mentally decorating your future new home. However, one of the primary and reoccurring difficulties many house hunters run into is trying to keep up with all of the listings of new homes that hit the market in a timely fashion.

Not anymore – if you have an email address, you can use this system.

Judy’s new home listings system is not only free, but also incredibly easy to start. All you have to do is go to this website, enter your email address and some of the criteria you’re looking for in your new home and voila! You’re set.

Within your initial email message, you will see a listing of each and every one of the homes that match the criteria you entered for sale at that time. After that, you will receive a fresh email every morning with new home listings, as well as any changes in previously listed homes.

It is not just anxiety or paranoia to think that you will miss out on your perfect home if you do not take an active role in the hunt. This service provides you with this opportunity and all you have to do is fill out a short form.

If you are still apprehensive about giving your email address to a website, here are some factors that might ease your mind. First, you can discontinue the service at any time. And, Judy Gull will not sell your information to any other website or entity.

So, if you’re house hunting in the La Crosse, Holmen, Onalaska, West Salem and La Crescent areas, give Judy’s new home listings system a try. You have nothing to lose and your dream house to gain!

Making an Offer: The Basics

by Judy Gull

Real estate experts agree that knowing the basics of making an offer on a home is an extremely important tool for as a homebuyer. The first step is to understand your own position as a homebuyer. Are you pre-approved for a mortgage? Do you have to sell your current home before you can buy a new one? How much earnest money can you put down on a home? Are you an all-cash buyer? Can you afford the mortgage on a home?

By assessing your financial position and taking steps to ensure that you are in a position to make a strong offer, you will be equipped for success in this challenging process. In addition to understanding your current situation, it is also useful to find out as much information about the property you are interested in as possible. For instance, how long has it been on the market? Why is the home being sold – i.e. are the sellers under pressure to sell? Is the home part of an estate sale? What is the history of the home? What are the area’s comparable home values? The answers to these questions will help you determine how much flexibility you may have in making an offer, and whether that offer is likely to be accepted.

A written contract is essential for any real estate transaction, since oral offers are not legally binding. Your real estate contract must conform to local and state laws. Judy Gull can help you navigate this legal and financial terrain. In addition to ensuring that your contract follows standard procedures, Judy will verify that the contract reflects your desires as a buyer before presenting it to the seller’s agent or representative.

Your written contract will include specifics about the property itself, including its address, legal description, sale price, and title and deed information. In addition, the contract will include your terms and conditions: if it is all cash or subject to obtaining a mortgage; the target date for closing; the amount of earnest money deposit and how it will be returned to you should your offer be rejected; how real estate taxes, utilities, and other bills will be adjusted; who will pay the title insurance, survey, and inspections.

Once these provisions are laid out, Judy can advise you regarding any property disclosures that are required by law, as well as last-minute walk-throughs and other contingencies. The latter are critical components, as they are designed to protect you should issues and problems arise. For instance, one contingency would ensure that you won’t be bound by the contract if you are unable to obtain a loan. Another contingency would guarantee that a satisfactory home inspection is provided within a certain amount of time after the offer has been accepted.

Once your written offer is presented to the seller and the seller signs an acceptance, your contract will be legally binding. If the offer is rejected, however, the sellers cannot hold you legally responsible for the contract should they change their minds later on. Most likely, a seller may make a counter-offer, which may include changes in price, closing date, and other provisions. Judy can help you negotiate with the seller and can help determin how and if you should move forward in the sale. In the best case scenario, both parties will arrive at an agreement, and you will be the proud new owner of a home.

 

If you are thinking about buying La Crosse area real estate or selling a home in the La Crosse area, give us a call at 608-781-7714 or send us an email to explore your options and to find out when is the best time for you to make a move.

La Crosse River State Trail

by Judy Gull

La Crosse River State TrailLa Crosse River State Trail is a 21.5 trail along the La Crosse River, a tributary of the Mississippi River here in the La Crosse area. It is one of four state trails; the other three are The Great River, Elroy-Sparta, and the “400” state trail. Together, the state trails cover more than 100 miles.

La Crosse River State Trail links the Great River State Trail with the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. An active rail line runs parallel to a portion of the trail. The river trail was developed from abandoned railroad lines from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.

The trail’s countryside comprises prairies, wetlands, forests, streams, and farmlands. There are also a number of parks and campgrounds along the way. The trail itself is composed of packed limestone screenings and bridges. Bicyclists, hikers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the river trail from spring through fall, with snowmobiling and cross-country skiing popular in winter months. Guided prairie tours are available, and begin in Rockland.

La Crosse River State Trail connects the villages of Sparta, Rockland, Bangor, West Salem, and Onalaska, from east to west.

Sparta is known as the “Bicycling Capital of America” and Rockland is a small agricultural community.

Bangor was home to Winnebago Indians and later to Welsh residents. An inscribed sandstone cliff runs along Dutch Creek south of Bangor park.

West Salem’s historic locations include the Hamlin Homestead, which belonged to Hamlin Garland, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and the architecturally-significant Palmer-Gullickson Octagon Home.

Onalaska is surrounded by wooded bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River Valley in the Coulee Region, which is known as a “driftless area” from the time when glaciers bypassed the region. Lake Onalaska is a four-mile wide reservoir on the Mississippi River.

The villages that lie along La Crosse River State Trail have a number of amenities for trail trekkers, including bed and breakfasts, motels, bike repair and service shops, and restaurants and cafés.

There are more than 100 camping sites along the La Crosse River State Trail which include shaded areas, electrical hookups, sanitary stations, drinking water, hot showers, a camp store, fishing pond, playground, and canoe landing. Veterans’ Memorial County Park & Campground is located between Medary and West Salem. State trail passes and camping permits are available through Wisconsin State Park System.

Displaying blog entries 21-30 of 33

Contact Information

Photo of Judy Gull Real Estate
Judy Gull
RE/MAX First Choice
757 Sand Lake Road
Onalaska WI 54650
Direct: 608-781-7714
Fax: 608-783-4263