Category: Buying + Selling + Looking

a family sitting in living room surrounded by moving boxes – packing tips

8 Super Simple & Really Necessary Packing Tips and Tricks

Are you excited for your new home? More importantly, are you packed? Moving from one place to another and taking all your worldly possessions with you is an incredibly difficult process. We all know not everything will make it from your current home to your new one (that ugly vase just happened to fall off the truck), but to help your keepsakes make the precarious journey, our experts put together these super simple and totally necessary packing tips and tricks!

Tip #1 – Make sure to leave enough time to pack. 

…you already haven’t, have you? If that’s the case, skip to tip #1.5.

For the three people still reading, time is super important to help lighten the load. There are some things you definitely want to take with you, but then there are old clothes, furniture, maybe even appliances that you’ll want to donate or toss. Take this time to go through your things and decide what’s going to the new house, what’s going in the garbage, and what’s going to be donated.

Tip #1.5 – If you don’t have time and you can budget it, consider temporary storage where you can later look through your things and decide what to keep, sell, or donate.

Tip #2 – Plan.

a couple surrounded by moving boxes, looking a tablet
Do you know your budget?

You’ll need to make a budget. Moving is expensive and not just because you’ve made the most expensive purchase you may ever make in your life. Between the boxes, bubble wrap, tape, plastic bags, markers for labels, actual labels, etc. – the cost can get quite high, and that’s not even mentioning renting a truck. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to hire professional movers, which can bust some budgets.

Don’t forget to create a checklist of what you need to do before moving day, on moving day, and after moving day. You may want to keep this digitally, like in the notes section of your phone, as you’ll continuously update it until you’re in your new space.

Tip #3 – Use sturdy boxes.

Soft or not properly taped boxes can lead to damaged items, including essentials such as plates, cups, computer screens, and even your not-so-favorite vase. Make sure to use boxes that won’t break and don’t overload boxes, too. Even the sturdiest box will still break when filled with rocks (or an entire rock collection).

Also, don’t be afraid to place smaller boxes, filled with items such as jewelry, in larger boxes to keep your possessions organized.

Tip #4 – Label, label, and oh yes, label some more.

a woman labeling a box - packing tips
Labels are a homeowner’s best friend.

A box without a label is a box for the attic, and you may not see those contents until you move again. That’s why it’s extremely important to label a box with exactly what’s in it – T-shirts, sandals, ugly vase, potato peeler, dishes, earrings, etc.

Also, never write “miscellaneous” on a label. You will not remember what is in that box, and if you place something important in a miscellaneous box, you risk losing it to the attic.

Finally, consider taking a picture of the boxes once they are packed, so you can refresh your memory if you need to locate a certain ugly vase.

Tip #5 – Use your towels and linens to protect fragile items.

The last time Content Writer Susie and her family moved, they used paper towels and bubble wrap to protect fragile or sharp items. While you’ll undoubtedly need those supplies, you can also use your towels, sheets, and even T-shirts to protect your sharp or fragile items. Just make sure to secure sharp items, so they can’t harm anyone in transit (or after).

Tip #6 – Pack purposefully.

boxes with open tops in a living room - packing tips
Pack smart.
  • Keep items from the same room together.
  • Use what you already have. In the kitchen, pots with lids can also hold silverware and other cooking utensils. (Tape the lids!) Use laundry baskets to transport small appliances or knickknacks. Use toilet paper rolls to hold charging cords.
  • Use suitcases to move heavy, non-fragile items, since you can simply roll your suitcase out of your home.
  • Remove light bulbs from your lamps!
  • Pack the items you don’t use every day first.
  • Pack a bag for yourself, including medicines, clothing, charging cords, toiletries, etc.
  • Make sure to create a few boxes of “essentials.” These boxes should include silverware, sheets and blankets for beds, bath towels, cleaning supplies, etc. These items you will need to use immediately, so keep them close. (Label!)
  • Similarly, keep tools and a first-aid kit handy!

No matter what you do, just make sure you’re completely packed before moving day!

Tip #7 – In the week leading up to the Big Day –

Set aside some time to eat all the perishable food that can’t come with you. If you have other food items, either donate them to a local foodbank or enjoy!

Also, take care of the last few furniture pieces, especially if they need to be dissembled. Make sure to take pictures before you take them apart to use as a guide. Use plastic bags to hold all the screws and hardware and attach them to the item!

Also, don’t forget to clean your appliances. You should do this whether you’re taking them with you or leaving them behind.

Tip #8 – Load your truck carefully.

a couple moving a couch - packing tips
Lift with your knees, not your back!

Heavy items on the bottom, fragile and light items on the top. Be wary of what could shift in transit, and of course, if that ugly vase somehow fell on the way to your new house, well… accidents do happen.

Take care of your new home

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Get it today!

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a home inspector looks at an electrical panel and makes notes in his notebook

What You Need to Know about Home Inspections from a Master Inspector

You’ve found your dream home. It’s in the neighborhood you wanted and has that open-concept kitchen you can’t seem to forget. You can’t wait to close and move in, but before you do that, you need to know more about the home. That’s where a home inspection can help.

We recently welcomed Alan Grubb, a Certified Master Inspector for 4U Inspection Services, to the vipHome Podcast. Watch now (or read below!) to learn everything you need to know about home inspections.

What is a home inspection?

“A home inspection is basically a professional consulting service, and we determine the present condition of any of the home’s major systems,” says Grubb, who serves on the board of Maryland Association of Home Inspectors. “It’s all based on a visual inspection.”

A home inspector examines the structure, mechanical parts, and systems of the home, including the roof, driveway, the plumbing and electrical systems, HVAC, chimneys, garage doors, and installed kitchen appliances. An inspector can check to see if these items are functioning properly and when they approximately were installed.

close up on a dishwasher rack with utensils
A home inspector can tell you the approximate age of your appliances.

A good home inspector is trained to see warning signs of damage or disrepair. For example, if a home inspector finds moisture somewhere it shouldn’t be, they may advise a home buyer to request a plumbing contractor examine the area to see if there is water damage.

“We’re going to recommend when we see issues or concerns that indicate that there may be further problems, which may require specialized attention,” says Grubb.

Does a homeowner need to make repairs after a home inspection?

a person paints the ceiling of a garage
A home buyer may request repairs after a home inspection.

A buyer may request repairs or try to negotiate a lower price for the house, but Grubb explains most home inspectors separate the report into a few different segments – maintenance items, repair items, and safety concerns.

A repair item is an appliance that is not functioning as intended. This indicates a problem that probably needs to be repaired. A maintenance item may need to be fixed later, but it’s not an immediate concern. A safety concern may need to be repaired prior to taking occupancy of the home, such as a loose stair rail that can create a fall hazard for children.

Safety issues are anything extreme, such as a gas leak or electrical hazard. “Anything that extreme – we’re not only going to put it on the report,” says Grubb. “We’re going to call the gas company.”

When is a home inspection needed?

a woman and a man dressed in business suits shake hands over a table
A home buyer generally requests a home inspection before closing.

“Most of the time, an inspection is done when you’re getting ready to purchase a home,” says Grubb. “Because it’s new to you, you need that third eye on the inspection.”

When homeowners fall in love with a home, they can lose objectivity. A third-party inspector can provide perspective to buyers by illuminating parts of the home that could haunt them after purchase.

Most home buyers work with real estate agents, and the real estate contract usually allows the buyers between seven and 14 days to complete a professional home inspection.

“If you’re in the height of the season, plan on at least four or five days out,” recommends Grubb. “Normally, we can book within two or three days.”

a handyman changes an air filter on an HVAC unit
A home inspector will look at your large appliances.

Grubb has noticed a trend where home sellers acquire a pre-listing inspection. Instead of waiting for a home buyer to discover issues in the home, a seller can use the inspection report to know which items to fix before ever putting the home on the market.

“This can shorten the negotiation time,” says Grubb, “and if you can get three bids for the projects and save money – that’s great.”

But Grubb does not recommend a home buyer using a pre-listing inspection report as the final inspection.

“Always do your own inspection,” says Grubb. “Inspectors are all different. Some see things that others don’t, and maybe something broke after the previous inspector completed their report.”

How long does it take to get a home inspection report?

a white, clean kitchen with new stainless steel appliances
Some inspectors can complete a report within a day, sometimes sooner.

The home inspection process varies depending on how an inspector completes the report as well as legal obligations.

“From the time I complete the inspection, I have seven days to present your report in Maryland,” says Grubb. “However, if I told any real estate agent it was going to take me seven days to do that report, I would get no business at all.”

a person paints the ceiling of a garage
Technology facilitates a faster turnaround time.

Grubb cites technology as helping to expedite reporting. Grubb and his team can generally turn around a home inspection report the same day or within 12 hours. Some inspectors even do it on site.

“Our company is a little bit particular in how we present things,” says Grubb, “so we will actually review it with the client right there on site. When you leave the home, you know exactly what’s going on with it.”

How do I find a good home inspector?

a home professional in a hat turning down the heat on a hot water heater
Recommendations, reviews, and websites can help!

Grubb recommends that buyers listen to their agent’s suggestions but also advises to read online reviews.

“If you look at the reviews, you have a good idea of the customer experience,” says Grubb. “Also, look at their website. It’ll give you an idea of their professional experience.”

Your home inspector should also be a member of one of the two major home inspection organizations in the US – The American Society of Home Inspectors and The International Association of Home Inspectors. This will help you know that your home inspector is well trained.

a house all lit up at twilight
Make sure your inspection is valid.

“There’s also certain states, Maryland included, that require a home inspector to be licensed,” says Grubb. “You can go on the state website and type in the inspector’s name to find out if his license is valid.”

This is important when buying a home as a non-licensed home inspectors’ report in Maryland is invalid and not permissible for a real estate contract.

Buyers should also talk to their inspector beforehand to ask the frequently asked questions – the steps to getting the report, the turnaround time, and if they can be on site for the home inspection.

Grubb wants the home buyers, especially first-time home buyers, on hand, so they understand the report when they receive it.

“I want to walk you through the home,” says Grubb. “I want you to see what I’m seeing and teach you about what I’m seeing.”

(This is helpful to provide homeowners with the knowledge they need to prevent damage and injury in their new home, such as the location of the water shut-off valve and the breaker box.)

What about virtual inspections?

a person talks to another person via FaceTime on a cell phone
Home buyers no longer have to be onsite for the inspection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some home inspectors completed virtual inspections. This meant only the home inspector was inside the home and walked the home buyers through the process via video call.

“We were able to give buyers the same information,” says Grubb. “It was live, and they could ask questions. They just weren’t there physically.”

In fact, the process has worked so well that clients have requested 4U Inspection Services to keep the virtual option.

“We’re in an area where there’s a lot of military, a lot of government workers,” says Grubb. “Sometimes they can’t be here for the home inspection, so real estate agents love that we can show a client the home inspection without them flying from California, New York, wherever, to be there for a three-and-a-half-hour home inspection.”

When do you pay for a home inspection?

a person signs a clipboard for a home inspection report
The person who pays for the report owns the report.

The report belongs to the person who hired the home inspector and paid for the report. In a real estate deal, the home inspector completes the report and sends it to the client. The buying agent will generally get the report as well, and the buyer and agent discuss what they want fixed in the home prior to closing. If the buyer desires repairs to be made, then the buyer’s agent will forward the report to the selling agent, along with their repair request.

“Every once in a while, we’ll get the selling agent that wants to reuse the report on the next buyer,” says Grubb.

Unfortunately, many issues can arise in the home after the original inspection report has completed, especially if it’s occupied. As mentioned earlier –

“You should always have your own inspection done,” advises Grubb.

How much does a home inspection cost?

There are two different formulas that inspectors use when setting prices. Most inspectors use a square footage measurement, based upon time.

“If I inspect a thousand square foot home, then the price will reflect the time I spent there,” says Grubb.

However, there might be some add-ons that raise the cost of a home inspection, such as an apartment over a garage.

a person talks to another person via FaceTime on a cell phone
A room over the garage increases the cost of a home inspection report.

The other formula is based on percentage and is less frequently used.

“It usually comes into play in larger metropolitan areas where you have a small building that takes a lot of time and traffic. If a home is selling for $500,000, the cost might be one percent of the asking price.”

While the price varies from region to region – a homeowner in northern states and metropolitan areas can expect to pay a bit more – it’s important to remember that certified home inspectors are professionals.

“We have training,” says Grubb. “We are licensed. We attend continuing education courses. We’re professionals, so we have to charge a professional fee.”

Once you’re in your new home –

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Download the app today!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Simply download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Get it today!

Learn More

a blue, two-level home with a well-manicured garden in front

The Ins and Outs of Home Warranties & Why You Need One

A few days before Christmas, your furnace gives out. You’re hosting the winter festivities this year, and it’s freezing outside. Without heat, it’ll soon be freezing inside as well. What do you do?

If you’re like our Content Writer Susie, you jump onto your home warranty website and place a request for service. A home service professional arrives at the house on Christmas Eve to fix the heating system and saves the holiday – thanks to a home warranty.

Not sure if a home warranty is right for your house? We tackle the most frequently asked questions below to help you decide that yes, you probably should invest in home warranty coverage.

What is a home warranty?

a clean kitchen with stainless steel appliances and white cabinets
Kitchen appliances are generally covered in a home warranty.

A home warranty is a service contract that covers the cost of repairs and replacements of many appliances and the systems in your home. Though plans differ, most home warranties cover your heating, cooling, plumbing (hot water heater), and electrical systems. Some also include roof leaks and other structural damage. A majority of plans cover your everyday appliances, such as the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer.

You usually can purchase additional coverage that applies to a pool, spa, and more appliances.

How does a home warranty differ from homeowners insurance?

a stainless steel grill on a deck of a blue house
You can add a grill to your warranty if it’s not included.

Home warranties cover the wear and tear of your appliances and home systems. Homeowners insurance covers unexpected damages, usually from weather events or fire. If you have flood insurance and your home floods, then your insurance will cover the damage to your home, appliances, systems, etc.

However, if your refrigerator fan dies after eight years, then your home warranty will cover its replacement.

Essentially, a home warranty and a homeowners insurance policy complement each other and help to keep your home’s appliances and systems functioning.

Armadillo - Effortless Home Warranty

How does a home warranty work?

When your appliances or heating system stops working, you contact your home warranty company. A qualified contractor – either from the home warranty company or one contracted by the company – will be dispatched to your home to inspect, assess, and ultimately repair your appliance or system if possible.

A home warranty plan usually has a monthly cost with a service fee with every call. The cost to repair and replace parts are covered by the warranty company.

How long does a home warranty last?

Most home warranty service contracts last approximately 12 months and are renewed annually.

How much does a home warranty cost?

Prices vary from the type of plan to the number of appliances in your home to the different companies. Home warranty coverage can start on major appliances in your home for as little as $25, but others – like PSE&G – provide a la carte services. This allows you to choose which appliances and systems you want covered by their plans, including but not limited to HVAC systems, gas fireplaces, and even natural gas grill protection. These types of plans can range from $2.95 a month to almost $20, depending upon the service and appliance.

Some companies even offer money off and your first month free, depending upon the service you choose.

Service fees also vary from company to company, with some as little as $60 and others as much as $125.

Are home warranty plans worth it?

That’s a matter of opinion, but they provide peace of mind to homeowners who fear maintenance and repair costs. Plus, having a home warranty is generally financially beneficial. According to HomeAdvisor, the typical dishwasher repair ranges between $50 and $600. If you pay $75 a month and then $80 service fee for repair with your home warranty plan, you save money on any repairs over $155. Larger repairs, such as gas furnace repairs, can cost upwards of $1,200.

On a personal note – all but one of our team’s homeowners have some sort of home warranty.

Do I need a home warranty?

Most banks will not provide a mortgage to a buyer without insurance, but a home warranty is different. It’s not a requirement for home buying or selling.

After getting a home inspection, we suggest you assess the wear and tear on your “new” home appliances and systems, and decide what is financially beneficial for your family.

When should I get a home warranty plan?

two women sit at a desk while one of them signs paperwork
Most people purchase a warranty when buying a home.

You can purchase a home warranty at any time when you own a house. Many people buy them as part of their home purchase, while some builders provide a warranty, which generally covers structural defects such as drywall and roofs.

Whether you’re buying a new or “new” home, check to see if the purchase includes a home warranty and if so, what it entails.

Give your house a home

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Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The vipHome.app can help. In less than four minutes, be introduced to a new way to home. Download the app, register your home, and enjoy a simplified homeownership experience.

Download your new home app now!

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a couple sitting on the couch surrounded by boxes

10 Things to Do Immediately After You Buy a Home

Moving into a new home is exciting, but what do you do first? After unpacking your worldly possessions and setting up your Wi-Fi, here is a quick homeowner to-do list to check off the first year in your new home!

1. Upgrade your home security

You never know to whom the previous owner gave a key to the house. (Unfortunately, they may not remember either!) That’s why it’s imperative to change out the exterior locks immediately and consider installing a video doorbell! This device will notify you when neighbors come to welcome you to the neighborhood.

You may also want to add a few more smart home tech devices, such as motion-detection lights and cameras, and a smart lock! Also, don’t forget to check all the window locks. If you notice any of these are broken, get them fixed pronto. You never know how or why the lock broke, and we’ve all heard about The Watcher.

2. Complete routine home maintenance

a technician changing an air filter in a HVAC unit
Replace your air filters every three months.

If the previous owner didn’t keep a record of their home maintenance tasks in vipHomeLink, then there’s a good chance you don’t know when the last time the HVAC air filters were replaced. You probably don’t know when the last time the plumbing fixtures were checked for leaks or when the roof was repaired. You might even be in the dark about the last time they changed their light bulbs.

The best thing you can do to make sure your home and family are safe is to complete routine annual home maintenance tasks, including getting your HVAC serviced. The vipHome.app can help with tailored recommendations and personalized reminders! Download the app today to enjoy a simplified homeownership experience!

3. Plan for the future

You just made an extremely large purchase, perhaps the biggest you’ll ever make, but many homeowners, especially first-time home buyers, forget to put aside money for repairs. These costs can add up quickly.

We recommend saving 1%-4% of the purchase price of your home annually but check your home cheat sheet – also known as the home inspection report – to see if you should be saving a bit more for big upcoming repairs, like a new roof.

4. Do an extreme clean

If your new home is a new-to-you home, a lot of life has happened on those carpets and in that house that you don’t even know. Steam-cleaning carpets can help get rid of pet hair, smoke, spills, and stains. Doing a deep clean, whether you tackle the challenge yourself or hire a professional, allows you to start off on the cleanest and most hygienic foot.

You should also make sure to clean any appliances that were left by the sellers. While you might know where these have been, you don’t know what has been in them.

5. Find your boxes and valves

a long red handle on a pipe - water shut-off valve
Do you know where your shut-off valves are?

Believe me, finding a circuit breaker for the first time when the lights go out is not a fun experience. Instead, find your break box as soon as you’re in your new home and ensure that it’s labeled properly. If not, call a licensed professional to help light up your world and keep it that way.

Also, don’t forget to find your water shut-off valve, which can shut off the water coming into your home if you have a major leak. If you have gas in your home, you should also locate that shut-off. That’s extremely important for people in areas prone to earthquakes.

6. Test the waters

Leaks and plumbing issues can cause lots of damage very quickly. Listen for any running toilets, dripping water, or visible signs of water damage. To be on the safe side, you might want to hire a licensed plumber to do an inspection and ensure your plumbing system is working properly.

Don’t forget to test your tap water, too! Even if you have municipal water, your tap water can have contaminants, and if you have well water, you can find anything from arsenic to emerging PFAS chemicals in it.

7. Install a fire prevention starter pack

a homeowner installs a smoke detector in his foyer
Keep your family and home safe.

Before you spend your first night in your home, you should test all your detectors to make sure they’re in proper working order and positioned correctly. Smoke detectors should be in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector on each floor.

Also, don’t forget to create a new evacuation plan for your new home and test it with the entire family twice a year. This simple step can save your life.

8. Be ready for emergencies

We don’t like to think of worst-case scenarios, but it’s important to be prepared for them. Have a small first-aid kit, flashlights, potable water, blankets, the first season of Ted Lasso downloaded onto your phone — anything that would help you in an emergency. Also, don’t forget to prepare your appliances for stormy weather, as PSE&G shared with us! 

9. Embrace your energy-efficient side

a technician changing an air filter in a HVAC unit
Install a programmable thermostat.

New homes can also come with a lot of expenses. One simple way to save a bit of money is through energy efficiency. Simply using LED light bulbs instead of incandescent light bulbs can save a household up to $225 in energy costs per year!

Programmable thermostats (especially smart thermostats) can help you score significant savings on your heating and cooling bills, and if you’re getting new appliances for your new home, make sure to choose ENERGY-STAR models. These can save your household up to $450 on your yearly energy costs!

10. Use a home management app

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Download the app today!

Homeownership can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. vipHome.app was designed for busy homeowners who want to save time and money while increasing their home’s value and safety.

Prepare your home to help prevent damage and keep your family safe with our property-specific weather notifications. Use the app to start a home inventory as you unpack, store all your important home documents, and keep track of your maintenance in the home log.

In less than four minutes, enjoy a new way to manage your home. Download the app today!

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