Ways You Can Protect Your Local Birds At Home

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Want to make your home a little greener and support conservation? Us too! Always. One part of the world that sometimes we don’t always consider are our feathered friends, birds. They are in need of protection like so many other species and are occasionally or sometimes often threatened with survival of their kind.

Each and every one of us can do a little bit to protect them, and the rewards are a magical space full of beautiful colors of life and lightness. Birds! Here’s how you can create a space they love.


We Can All Take Care Of Birds At Home, Here’s How

There are a lot of ways that we can take care of birds in our landscaping and homes, but the main thing is to make it a peaceful and plentiful space for them. By the way, there are also great ways to protect bees and butterflies such as sticking to planting native grasses and flowers in your yard and away from areas that pets can get to.

Back to the birds, here are some ways that everyone can make sure to keep birds in mind who need our protection when it comes to simple ideas for the home:

  • Add fresh, clean water to your yard in various different places
  • Keep food in quiet areas in various feeders where birds will feel safe (as they are vulnerable when eating)
  • Add shrubs, hedges or bushes to your yard (these add privacy and safety zones for birds)
  • Place birdhouses in strategic locations to allow for nesting (ps, check out this amazing collection)


Bird Conservation Helps the Local Ecosystem

Birds are essential to the local ecosystem and as with all species of the planet, their natural habitat is continuously diminishing and lowering in quality. Conservation is therefore essential. Have you seen this video from Google Earth showing development globally? It’s affecting the bird population everywhere. If you can implement the steps in your own home to provide a haven for them, you will actually be adding to the natural spaces they have available. If we all did it together… whoa!


Plus, They Are A Stress-Reliever And Wonderful Addition to Your Home

Hummingbirds and birds of all species stopping to get a drink outside your window, or hanging out as you lounge on the patio, it’s a great feeling of peacefulness. Birds add wonder and appeal to your outdoor spaces if you have created a calm enough zen where they like to hang out. And, if they have enough supplies to make it a watering hole and snack spot, you can help provide them a safe haven.

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Our awesome client with broker Kimberly McAleenan (left) presenting the donation

Inspired by the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (A Note From Us)

Through rigorous scientific monitoring of birds throughout the annual cycle, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is able to help protect native bird species across the Rockies, Great Plains, Mexico and beyond. They achieve this through partnership and education. As a partner, Conscious Real Estate was able to see how impactful this organization is on the environment and bird species in our area.

As a conscious real estate agency, we donate 10% from each home purchase to a nonprofit of our clients’ choice. As a result, we get introduced to so many unique and important causes like this one. It was awesome getting to learn about bird conservation and being about to integrate some practices at home is such a great takeaway. Thank you guys! – Conscious Real Estate

Just Moved In? Tips for Meeting the Neighbors (Without Coming Off Creepy…)


1. Sit on the Front Porch

Sitting on the front porch or gardening in the front lawn can open the opportunity to have discussions with your neighbors that aren’t forced. A simple wave and friendly smile can go a long ways. Don’t hide, get out there! Your neighbors who will be walking their dogs, picking up their kids from school or just taking a stroll will be happy to see new neighbors in clear view when they first move in. Everyone is always curious about new neighbors and putting yourself out there can avoid nosy ones later – the ones who are wondering, “Just what are they up to?”

 2. Go to the Block Party

Neighbors having a shindig down the street? Grab an appetizer or beers and head over! It’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be more people just like you, feeling a little awkward, yet wanting to get in good with the neighbors. Bring a yummy treat and you can’t really go wrong. Warning: Do not get drunk and do something stupid, unless you want to regret it later. Remember, this is your first impression, and they are important. We recommend going a little after the party has started, or right when it has first begun, and leaving well before its over. Make your presence known, stay awhile, but not too long. It’s good to leave them just a taste and not overstay your welcome unless you want to have VERY close relationships with your neighbors, get involved with gossip or somehow get dragged into some neighborhood committee (unless you want to of course!).

 3. Join NextDoor.com

Another “new-fangled” way to get in touch with your neighbors is to join the social community NextDoor.com. It is similar to Craigslist in that people announce sales, ask for referrals, post government information and events, but it loses the creepy-factor because you can only join if you actually live in the neighborhood. To sign-up, go to NextDoor.com and fill out the application form. After that, they will mail a postcard to your home with a special code on it. Once received, follow the instructions and enter your code on the site. Once verified, you will get access to all neighborhood goings on such as playdates and happenings. You can adjust the frequency and type of notifications you get in the account settings section.

 4. Walk the Dog

Similarly to hanging out on the front porch, walking your dog is a fantastic way to meet your neighbors. In fact, your dog might try to meet them before you, running up to them with a big wet kiss or happy tail wag. Usually, most people are happy to see dogs, but make sure to hold their leash tight until giving the okay. People do not like their space invaded and want to be sure your dog is nice first before petting. This can open up such questions as, “What breed is your pup? How old is she? Have you just moved in?”, etc. If they have dogs too, and you hit it off, offer to go on your next stroll together and pick a time and day. Voila! Friend made. If you find out on your walk that they are not your cup of tea, let them know at the end of the walk that you enjoyed their time, but you are sad because given your schedule of just moving in, it’s likely that most of your time will be taken up with work/school/mother-in-law visiting/household projects/etc. Then, always give them a smile and a wave when you see them next.

5. Bring Over a Basket of Goodies, Flowers or Just Leave a Note

This one’s a classic. Everybody loves gifts and cards. These days, baked goods or homemade snacks may be looked at with suspicion or not eaten if you are still considered a “stranger”, so it’s best to go with wrapped items if you go that route. Flower baskets left on a door with a note are a fantastic way to say hello. Plus, if you are an introvert, this way offers you an avenue to say hello without actually saying hello. Next time you talk, all they have to usually say is “thank you” and all you usually have to say is “of course!” and tell them a bit about where you came from, what you do and what your family is all about (kids ages, etc.). A note can have the same effect if written with kindness, although flowers or a gift add a special touch.

6. Look for a Meetup Group

Another way to find neighbors with similar interests is to look for Meetup groups that suit your fancy. Love crafting? Have small kids? Love hiking? There is a Meetup group for almost every hobby. Simply look on the website, join, mark your calendar, and go! Not every group is the perfect fit for you, so it might be good to tell the host that you are new in town and trying out lots of things so that they don’t pressure you to be exclusive, giving you more time to check it all out. And, if you love it, well, you just found a weekly or monthly activity and a whole bunch of new friends.

7. Hold a Yard Sale

You might have thought you needed every single thing you packed for your move, but upon unpacking, you might discover that not everything fits perfectly or that you just have too much. Holding a yard sale can invite the neighbors to you and maybe even make you a little cash.

8. Start a Free Little Library

Free Little Libraries are always a magnet for good will. If you check out their website, you can learn all about how to build and get your free little library officially commissioned. They are adorable and neighbors can participate by lending and loaning books. Include titles that are non-controversial to start and include some kids books of all ages. You will immediately get a good impression (so long as the one you build is classy and keeps with the neighborhood vibe) and neighbors will appreciate that you are open to sharing with them in a literary way.

9. Go to a Town Hall Meeting

You can find out about town hall meetings from the newspaper, online and in forums like NextDoor.com. Attending meetings about current events affecting your neighborhood allows you to get an inside peek into the happenings around you. And, it allows you to be introduced to your neighborhood “movers and shakers.” If you lean toward politics and getting involved, this can be a great way to break into an influential group of neighbors.

10. Visit Your Local Shops and Tell the Cashiers That You Just Moved In

Shop owners, bartenders and baristas meet and talk to lots of people during their day. Through this interaction, they are privy to current events, people and tips on the best spots to visit in town. Be friendly and tell them you are new in town. Next thing you know, you will likely be pointed in the direction of something awesome to check out.


Alright…now that you’ve gotten your tips, it’s ready set go time. See which ones work for you and if there’s one we missed, feel free to send us your idea right here.


Plants That Thrive in Hot, Arid Climates (Welcome to Colorado!)


Water is a precious resource, we all know that for a fact. In Colorado, you will typically see either long periods of dryness, or downpour after downpour.

If you’re used to some of the more delicate flower breeds like petunias, you will likely be in for a surprise when you find out that no matter the amount of sprinkling, watering and raining, your gorgeous flowers have shriveled up to the point of no return.

Let’s avoid that for you this year (or if you are new or planning to move to Denver soon), and go over how to garden in Colorado. Which plants will endure?

There are many plants that thrive from little to no water and come up every year, leaving you with little to do each summer but enjoy the fruits of your labor (from last year!).

Here is a comprehensive list of some of our favorite Colorado-loving perennials and a little about each one to make your garden a success this year:

  • Dianthus


Dianthus flowers are fragrant and come in several color varieties including pink, red and white. They have notched petals and are beautiful for cutting and arranging in a vase. They are even deer resistant.

The best time to plant Dianthus is in the Spring or Fall about 6 – 12 inches apart. After the first frost, cut the stems to about 1 – 2 inches above ground. Stake the stems when they first begin to grow as these can be very tall plants.

Dianthus multiply easily, so every 3 – 4 years, you can take the plants, divide them up and replant them for even more coverage.

  • Rocky Mountain Penstemon


Rocky Mountain Penstemon.JPG


This plant is a relative of the evergreen and appears as a small bush with purple flowers. It grows best in drained soil (think: dry) and can handle high altitudes and plenty of direct, brutal sun.

Rocky Mountain Penstemons also attract bumblebees, making your garden an attractive spot for them to pollinate and maintain an insect ecosystem, which is great for the environment and creates a safe haven for them.

The purple flowers are exquisite. Tall and straights, they bloom consistently and add height to your landscaping. They are also native to the region, providing a stable and natural addition to the area’s flora.

  • Liatris


Liatris varieties are one of the easiest plants to grow in the Colorado area. They are able to withstand the blazing sun without much water, for long periods of time.

They are a prairie wildflower that grows somewhat in the shape of a small bush with leaves and greens at the bottom and pinkish/purple “paintbrush” appearing blooms.

Liatris can grow from 1 – 5 feet tall depending on how close they are to other plants or obstructions and how much (or too much) nutrients they receive, so to get to their full growth, plant your seeds a bit further apart, at about 12 – 15 inches.

  • Rocky Mountain Columbine

Rocky Mountain Columbine.jpg

It’s not surprising that the Colorado State Flower, the Rocky Mountain Columbine, would make this list. It has been a favorite of Colorado residents for over a century, voted into “statehood recognition status” in 1891 by local school children.

While most plants on this list can grow in full sun in arid conditions, the Columbine is just slightly more delicate and should be planted in partial shade. They are a hardy perennial, however, so they can withstand more sun and less water than the average flower.

Fertilization is a good idea for Columbines and can help them be most vibrant. And, make sure you do not overwater as they thrive in well-drained soil.

Columbines are resistant to insects and diseases and will grow all season long, making them a perfect staple to your Colorado garden.

  • Poppy Mallow

Poppy Mallow.jpg


Poppies are beautiful plants that come in a variety of colors, including the most well-known orange colored variety. In Colorado, you will find orange and a magenta variety, among others with speciality growers and seasoned landscapers.

Poppy Mallows (and poppies in general) require a different method of planting than many other flower varieties. The best time to plant the seeds is in the fall, or even in the winter. Winter? Yes. Poppies need a period of “stratification” or “period of exposure to cold” before they will germinate. Make sure you plant in bright, bright sun as they absolutely love it.

They do have a short bloom season, so these are often planted with other annuals and perennials for variety in color once the poppy blooms have faded. They are a great accent and do very well in Colorado climates, coming back year after year to make your garden the envy of your new neighborhood.

Want more? Check out these local resources.

Now that you know to avoid the tempting displays at the local shopping centers, make sure to check out a local gardener for these and many more Colorado-happy varieties of plants. A great idea is to create a Pinterest board of the flowers that do well here and bring your phone to the market. Show the pictures and names and get the info you need from experienced “bloomers.”

Another way is to check out this guide from 5280 (one of our local Denver magazines). It goes into not only the perennial flowers mentioned here, but also great annuals that do well, vegetables that will make it, and herbs that will season your dishes and grow naturally well in our local conditions.

And, if that’s not enough, geek out on Plant Select’s comprehensive “e-guide” here that breaks it all down for you.

Ready to start planting the seeds in your Colorado move?

Contact us here to get sent free listings exactly in your price range, neighborhood, style and size. It’s so easy and better than browsing because these days, you can’t really trust what’s online commercially, but you can trust the National Association of Realtors, which has the only truly up-to-date listings in the area. The Association stands behind honesty and accountability in real estate and it’s the only system we us. Just click here to send us a note on what you’re looking for and we’ll get you all set up.


10 Ways to Build Equity in Your Home

Home finances and residential equity symbol as a bird nest shaped as a family house with a gold egg inside as a metaphor for financial security planning and investing in real estate for retirement freedom.

1. Rising home prices – when home prices rise, you will gain equity simply because your home will be worth more. For example, if your home is currently worth $250,000, if it rises to $300,000 in five years, you’ll have $50,000 more equity. Unfortunately, the opposite can also occur.

2. Falling mortgage balance – as you pay off your mortgage each month, you pay a portion of interest and a portion of principal (assuming it’s not an interest-only home loan). Every time you make your mortgage payment you’ll gain some home equity.

3. Larger mortgage payments – if you make larger payments each month, with the extra portion going toward principal, you will pay off your mortgage faster and gain home equity a lot quicker.  (Stop to consider your long-term investment goals before doing this.  Oftentimes, if you put your money into a different investment vehicle like a mutual fund, you would receive larger returns from the mutual fund than you would from putting more money toward your mortgage.)

4. Biweekly mortgage payments – you can go with a biweekly mortgage payment, where you make 26 payments throughout the year. This will shave down your mortgage term, save you a ton in interest, and help you build home equity a lot faster.

5. Shorten your mortgage term – you can refinance into a shorter-term mortgage with a lower mortgage rate, such as a 15-year fixed, which will increase the size of your payments, but build equity much faster than a traditional 30-year mortgage.

6. Avoid refinancing – conversely, if you don’t refinance and pull cash out, you’ll retain all the equity in your home. During home value growth periods, many homeowners refinanced over and over until they sucked their equity dry – then when prices drop, as they tend to with any market, these homeowners found themselves upside down on their mortgages.

7. Home improvements – if you make smart home improvements, where the expected value exceeds the cost, you’ll increase your home equity by having a home that’s worth more. While it’s seemingly completely played out, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances still draw buyers in, and you can sell for more.  Or if you like to go the Conscious Group route – eco-friendly home upgrades can build equity, save you money on your energy bills, and make your home more attractive to future buyers.

8. Maintenance – keep your home in tip-top shape and you will be rewarded when it comes time to sell. If you can unload it for more as a result, you’ve essentially created more equity in your home.

9. Curb appeal – same goes for staging. Make your home look good when you list it and there’s a better chance it’ll sell, and sell for more. Simple things can make a big difference, such as new paint, carpet, bright lighting, cleanliness, plants, flowers, etc.

10. Bigger down payment – you can make a larger down payment when you purchase your home to automatically acquire home equity. While this may seem like you’re putting money in an illiquid investment, more equity means a lower loan-to-value ratio, which equates to a lower interest rate and easier-to-obtain financing. Over time, that lower rate will mean less interest paid and more equity accrued.

If you’re ready to refinance, Conscious Real Estate works with a great lender we can recommend, so give us a call!

7 Mistakes Home Sellers Make – What NOT to do when selling your home

3D render Depicting Declining Property Prices

1)  Home sellers want to put the home on the market before it’s ready.  Sellers become impatient, OR procrastinate and push themselves too close to the moving deadline without getting the pre-sale work done. So they list their home with the horrible carpet or they are painting it while it goes on the market. Presentation is everything — so get the work done before marketing the property.  Every realtor has had a buyer refuse to purchase a home because they didn’t like the paint, even though it’s a super easy fix!

 2)  Home Sellers over-improve the home for the neighborhood. This happens with additions, bump outs, and upgrades that make the home stick out from among its competitors so much that it’s an anomaly, instead of a nice addition to the community.  In less desirable neighborhoods, most buyers won’t care about the custom kitchen and hottub.  They want the desirable location, and will install their own features.

 3)  Home Sellers want to price the home based on what they wish to net. This pricing strategy usually ends in failure. Sellers can control the asking price, but they cannot control the sale price. The market does. It doesn’t matter what the seller wants, the price is determined by the black-and-white, matter-of-fact reality of the market.

 4)  Home Sellers may hire an agent based on non-business factors. Make sure you’re hiring a professional with a proven track record or at least is genuinely passionate to help you!  It might be nice to hand over your largest asset to your nephew who just got his license, but make sure his employing broker works closely with him to keep your deal from going south.

 5)  Home Sellers become emotionally involved in the sale of their home. This is one of the biggest challenges home sellers face when putting their house on the market. Once you decide to sell your house, it’s no longer your home, but a commodity. It needs to be prepared as a commodity, marketed as a commodity, and priced as a commodity. It doesn’t matter what you “want,” only what the market can bear on pricing. People are going to come in to kick the tires, so to speak, and you can’t take it personally if they don’t appreciate the charms that you have enjoyed in your home.

 6)  Home Sellers try to cover up problems, or not disclose them. Most states have a property disclosure/disclaimer form — use it wisely. Just because you disclaim doesn’t mean you cannot be sued for the leaky basement or the problematic plumbing system that’s discovered 30 days after settlement.

 7)  Home Sellers fail to get their ducks in a row before trying to sell. This could involve financing issues, not reading the fine print on your current mortgage to ensure no pre-payment penalties, not investigating their local market, etc.  If your local market is dictating lower home prices, then lower the price early, not later — it will cost you more. 

Avoid these seller mistakes and many others by choosing to work with a Conscious Real Estate agent when you sell your home. To contact one of our agents, call 303-908-9873 or email our owner, Allison Parks, at allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

How To Make Money By Renting Your Home on Airbnb and VRBO

concept of making money from a house

Renting out a home may not be desirable for everyone, but homeowners can supplement their income by renting their home or a room in their home on the popular vacation websites, Airbnb and VRBO.  I first learned of these sites when a friend decided to try Airbnb in New York City as an alternative to a hotel room.  A decent hotel room in New York can easily cost at least $300, while she found a room in someone’s home for $100.  She said the homeowner made her a lovely breakfast and showed her some fun places around the neighborhood, making it a better experience than what she would have had in a hotel.

At Airbnb, trustworthiness and customer satisfaction are highly valued and maintained through a 24/7 call line and review postings.  Vanessa Grout, a contributor to Forbes, writes that the popularity and feedback of this service has led her to believe using Airbnb to earn extra revenue for her second home is a great idea.  Also, if you can only rent a room in your home, Airbnb has a feature where you can market the room to people who share the same interests as you, so you could choose to rent your home to hockey fans or people who practice yoga!

So, how could this work for you?  If you purchased a mountain property in a desirable destination as an additional home, you could rent it out when you are not using it to generate additional income.  If you own a home in Denver and travel often, you could make money by renting your home while you are away.  Or, if you simply don’t want a full-time roommate, but have a spare bedroom, you could rent your bedroom part-time for additional income.  Clients in Boulder and Fort Collins have told me that they have no problem renting their homes to the parents of students during graduation week, so they leave town and have their vacations paid for!

Be aware:  Controversy has begun in New York, Miami, and Chicago, with complaints that people offering their homes on Airbnb are pulling revenue away from hotels and not complying with tax and zoning regulations.  A few Airbnb users have been hit with fines in New York.  Thus far, similar problems have not arisen with Airbnb and VRBO users in Colorado.

A Few Tips For Renting Your Home on Airbnb: 

Get insured.  Airbnb provides up to $1,000,000 of insurance coverage to its homeowners for loss or damage due to theft or vandalism caused by an Airbnb guest – this does not take the place of homeowners or renters insurance. Review your policy with your insurance carrier to make sure you have adequate coverage. It would also be sensible to secure valuables in a safe and store clothing in a separate locked closet.

Find long-term guests. Set a minimum stay of two or three nights. One night is just not enough. You don’t want to be a hotelier, deal with transients, or frequent key coordination.

Leave instructions. Leave a detailed list of instructions for your guests. You’ll receive many fewer questions during the course of their visit. Guests need to understand things like how to turn on the television, pool heater, alarm system, or any other tricky device.  Also provide a list of safety instructions and useful telephone numbers.

5 Products to Save Money on Your Energy Bill

Energy saving lamp with green seedling on white

1)  To uncover insulation-poor spots in your home that leak heat in the chilly winter months, a spot infrared thermometer will be your new best friend.  Aim this $30 gadget at a bit of wall or ceiling to locate cold patches that could use extra insulation or caulking.  Before these were around, you would have to call a professional to perform an energy audit on your home (which could cost hundreds of dollars), but now you can take matters into your own hands.

2)  Your electricity bill probably jumps in the summer months due to air conditioning. What you may not have considered is how effective ceiling fans are as an alternative to the AC. Unlike regular fans, their raised and central position allows them to circulate air and cool an entire room, and a typical ceiling fan uses about the same amount of power as a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. Even if you already have an AC for unbearably hot days, you can also purchase an Energy Star-rated ceiling fan, for energy savings all year round.

3)   Low-e (low-emissivity) windows are windows where the glass has been treated with a special metallic coating that allows them to be more insulating, therefore, much more energy-efficient, reducing the amount of mechanical heating and cooling that you need. In order to improve the thermal efficiency of the window, a thin layer of coating is applied to the glass’ surface, resulting in glass that cuts back the amount of UV and infrared radiation that is able to shine into your home in the hot summer months, and also allowing less radiant heat to escape through your windows during the winter months. Many low-e windows are Energy Star qualified and can lower your monthly electricity bill up to 15%. Almost every window size and shape today comes in a low-e version and these products can also make your home more comfortable in the winter by keep drafts at bay and keep your furniture from fading due to sunlight since they reflect the long-wave light rays that carry UV.

4)  Large windows are considered a plus for their ability to help light your home, but they do have a downside – they allow heat to escape in the winter, while excess heat builds up in the summer from solar radiation. Excess solar radiation in the summer drastically increases your need for AC, and by default, cranks up the numbers on your monthly electricity bill. Installing Low-e windows is one viable option to prevent excess solar heat gain, but if you’re looking for a less resource-intensive fix, cellular shades are relatively inexpensive and you can install them yourself. Also called honeycomb blinds, cellular shades are made up of two layers of fabric that are joined together at the seams so that when the shade is pulled down, excess solar radiation is shut out, and pockets of air are created to insulate your room. The soft, double-layered fabric keeps too much heat from coming in while still allowing daylight. They also help keep your space warm by preventing heat from escaping through your windows on chilly winter nights.

5)   Energy-saving products don’t have to be high-tech or costly. Case in point: draft guards are as elementary as they are effective. Draft protectors slip right under your doors and (as their name implies) prevent air from passing under them, ensuring that you’re only paying to heat or cool the rooms that you intend to.

Create Natural Light in Your Home with Solar Tubes


Solar tubes, also called SolaTubes and light tubes, are an attractive and energy-efficient way to bring natural light into your home.  These are great for homes in historic Denver neighborhoods, as many of the homes were built very close together and don’t get much light.  Our older homes also usually have attics and solar tubes are literally a tube that goes through the attic.

A tube lined with highly reflective material leads the light rays through a building, starting from an entrance-point located on its roof or one of its outer walls.  The entrance point usually comprises a dome, which has the function of collecting and reflecting as much sunlight as possible into the tube.

Solar light pipes, compared to conventional skylights and other windows, offer better heat insulation properties and more flexibility for use in inner rooms, but less visual contact with the external environment.  Solar tubes are also considerably cheaper than skylights.  They can also be helpful for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder by bringing more natural daylight into the environment.  A home with good lighting also will have an increased value and sell more quickly.

If you are savvy enough to install your own solar tube, you can purchase one for under $200.  To have it installed might cost closer to $500, depending on which company you choose.

Insulating Your Water Heater

A boiler water heater, water droplet, and a flame.

Water-heater efficiency is a boring topic, but water heating is  actually the second largest energy expense in your home, accounting for around 18% of your energy bill.  If your water heater is older and less efficient, you can consider getting a newer model, using less hot water, turning down the thermostat on your water heater, OR you can insulate your water heater and hot water pipes.

Insulating your water heater will cost around $30 – you can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $20.  This will save you $20-45 annually on energy bills, so you should get your return on your insulation investment in about a year.

1.) Turn off the water heater.  For electric heaters, turn off the breaker at the electric panel. For gas water heaters, turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position.
2.) Measure the height of the water heater and cut the blanket to fit if necessary.  Leave the top of the water heater open—it is important not to block the vent on top of a gas unit.
3.) Wrap the blanket around the water heater and temporarily tape it in place.  For ease of installation, position the blanket so that the ends do not come together over the access panels in the side of the tank. Some tanks have only one access panel.
4.) Using a marker, mark the areas where controls are so that you can cut them out.  For electric water heater units, there will be two panels on the side of the tank. For gas, you’ll need to mark an arch-shaped hole around the gas valves and burner. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the valve and burner areas below. Make the opening at least 1 inch wider than the valve and burner area. Also, mark the area where the pressure relief valve and pipe are. This will be a pipe that sticks out of the side of the water heater.
5.) Install the blanket.  Be careful to line up the cut out areas and then tape it in permanently in place.
6.) Turn the water heater back on.  Don’t set the thermostat above 130ºF on electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket – the wiring may overheat.

10 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

Small House on Stacks of Hundred Dollar Bills Isolated on a White Background.

Whether you want to sell your home now, or well… never, it is always a good idea to increase the value of your home.  Here are 10 smart ways to maintain and improve your home value.

1)  Let There Be Light – Lighting can enhance a home’s appeal in many ways.  Soft lighting brings warmth to empty spaces, while high wattage bulbs can make small spaces feel larger.  If your home doesn’t get enough light, solar tubes are an attractive and energy-efficient way to bring in natural light (and are much cheaper than skylights!)

2)  Don’t Procrastinate on Care and Maintenance – Before you undergo the costly vanity upgrades, like your new custom kitchen, do the necessary stuff first… like fixing leaks, insulating the attic, fixing problematic gutters, replacing old windows, and such.  I know it’s not fun, but these items will quickly increase the value of your home, as well as make it much easier to sell.

3)  Do Your Pruning and Landscaping – Unruly trees and bushes can block the front view of your home and if they can’t see it, they won’t buy it.  Landscaping does make a difference as well.  Often, spending a few hundred dollars can bring you much larger returns.  Not to mention, if you don’t maintain your large trees, fallen branches could cost a great deal in damages.

4)  Create Space – Open-floor plans and large spaces are quite popular these days and buyers want homes to “flow.”  So, check with a structural engineer and knock down that non-structural wall!

5)  Upgrade Your Front Entry – If your home does not have an overhang or awning over the front door, many buyers notice immediately.  No one wants to be in the rain while shuffling for their keys.

6)  Replace or Repair Your Flooring – Replacing the flooring will often pay returns during your home sale.  If replacement is not necessary, like in my home where Pottery Barn wishes they had my original hardwood floors, a few well-placed nails can help to eliminate squeaks.  It is also very worth it to replace broken tiles.

7)  Do Some Cheap and Easy Bath Upgrades – If you are ready to sell your home, but don’t want to do a costly bathroom overhaul, spend $500 on a bathroom facelift.  Remove rust stains, apply fresh caulk, update doorknobs and cabinet pulls, clean the grout… probably wouldn’t hurt to get a new toilet seat!

8)  Neutral Wall Colors – Most brokers recommend neutral wall colors.  I do if you already need to update your paint.  If your more colorful paint is fresh and you genuinely think there are many people who would appreciate it, go ahead and try to sell.  Before I was a realtor, I sold my home and my realtor recommended I repaint my walls neutral colors.  I did, and when I stopped by my former house several months later to see if the new owners had a piece of my mail, they had painted my living room almost the exact color that it was before I changed the paint to neutral!  On the flip side, most realtors have had buyers who didn’t want to purchase a home because of the paint color and they couldn’t visualize the home repainted.

9)  Eliminate “Potential Issues” – Have a friend come over and let you know everything that pops out about your home that could potentially be wrong, such as a broken step or way outdated wallpaper.  If buyers see too many issues that raise their eyebrows, they will be more hesitant to make an offer.

10)  Green, Green, Green – Green homes sell faster and for more money.  Make sure you have proper insulation.  If your heating, air conditioning, or water heater need to be replaced, new ones are often 30-40% more efficient, and even more so when you purchase ENERGY STAR appliances.  I always point it out to my clients when homes have new heaters and water heaters, because it is something they won’t have to worry about for a few years.