Ready to Make Some Home Improvements?

May is National Home Improvement Month and chances are that you are thinking of tackling some home improvement projects all on your own. Many homeowners want to take on home projects to add value or simply make it their own.  If you are one of the growing number of American homeowners that are rolling up their sleeves, our hats are off to you. Go for it.

You can save a lot of money by putting on your DIY (Do It Yourself) hat and putting some sweat equity into your home. However, the downside is that, if you don’t know what you are doing, you could end up with less than perfect work or even cause damage to your home. So, how do you know which jobs you can do yourself and which projects are better given to someone that knows what they are doing? Here are a few questions to ask before you start swinging that sledge hammer.

Do you have the skills required to do the work?

Many jobs seem deceptively simple until you get into the project and find that you don’t know how to finish the job. When this happens, you end up needing to call in a professional to finish the job or much worse, undo the damage you caused and start all over again. If you wanted to DIY in order to save money, you might end up costing yourself a lot of extra money instead.

For example, you might feel comfortable replacing a light switch or installing a ceiling fan. However, do you have the skills needed to take on plumbing jobs?

If you don’t know where to start on a project, call in a friend or family member that knows what they are doing and get their advice. Remember those YouTube videos? They really are great for small projects.

Do you have the right tools?

Nothing makes a project go easier than having the right tool for the job. For instance, do you want to refinish those wonderful oak floors that were a big selling feature for your home? You probably don’t have a big floor sander lying around in your garage. You should plan on renting the tools and equipment that you don’t own or can’t borrow from your friends and neighbors. Be sure that you have the skills and knowledge required to safely operate the tools.

Does the job require a permit?

If the work requires that you seek a permit, this might be a big sign that you should hire a professional. Permit jobs often require inspections and advanced skills. A professional will know how to handle the permit process as well as how to complete the job safely and with the quality you want.

Do you have the time and energy?

You have the skills and knowledge you need. You have the tools required to do the job. Are your ready to finish the job?

Let’s say that you want to do a bathroom make over. You have the skills to paint walls, replace the cabinets, install a new sink, and re-tile the shower area. Great! However, are you willing to live with the mess and can you do without the bathroom for the three or four of weekends it might take you to finish the job on your own? If not, tap your pool of friends and ask them to help. Your project will go faster, and you will have a great time getting it finished.

Are there some jobs that you should never do on your own?

There sure are.

  • You don’t want to get involved with hazardous materials like asbestos or lead paint. Leave those to professionals.
  • You should never work on your home’s gas system. Call your gas company instead.
  • You should be very cautious of working on your roof.
  • If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t work with electricity.

Here are some final thoughts about DIY projects for you to consider.

DIY home improvement projects can be rewarding. You feel good about doing the job on your own. You can save money and you can make your home look and feel just the way you want. You might even be able to add value to your home. Our advice is to be honest with yourself. Don’t start projects that you are not qualified to complete safely or that you can’t do well. Otherwise, go ahead and get to work.  Flex your home improvement muscles. You just might be surprised at what you can do on your own.

No Emergency Savings

According to a recent survey by NeighborWorks America, more than a quarter of American consumers have no emergency savings fund. If you are one of those 25%, you probably feel like you are living one disaster away from a financial crisis. What happens when the car breaks down or you have a health emergency? Without an emergency savings fund, you might not be able to cover the bill from your regular pay check.

Not having emergency savings is a very big problem for homeowners living on the financial edge. When the furnace goes out in a rental property, all you have to do is call the landlord and they are responsible for fixing the problem…at no cost to you. However, if you are a homeowner, you don’t have that same luxury. When you own your home and something breaks, you are the one that has to pay for repairs.

Most financial experts recommend that you have 3 to 6 months of expenses sitting in your emergency fund. With that amount of savings, you can weather storms like job or income loss or a health crisis. An emergency fund on that scale can cover many home repairs. Don’t have that kind of emergency savings? Start small and save what you can. Even just $1,000 can make modest repairs to your car and your home.

Start Saving Now

Want to start an emergency savings fund? Go over your budget and decide how much you can afford to save and make saving automatic. That means having the money deducted right out of your paycheck and deposited into a savings account specifically set up for emergencies.


Time to Tune up Your Lawn Mower

You knew it was going to happen. Warm weather, sunshine, and rain are working their magic on your lawn and the grass is growing like crazy. Whether you like it or not, you are going to have to start mowing soon.

Before you fill your lawn mower with gas and begin pulling on that handle, you should probably give the mower a tune up. It’s not that difficult, even for first timers.

  1. Safety First: Before you start to work on your lawn mower, disconnect and remove the spark plug. You won’t be able to accidentally start the mower and you will probably want to replace the spark plug anyways.
  2. Change the Oil: Tip the mower over and drain the oil into a container for later disposal. Refill the mower with the oil specified in your owner’s manual.
  3. Air Filter: Clean or replace the mower’s air filter.
  4. Sharpen the Blade: If the blade has nicks, replace the blade. A dull blade can tear the grass instead of cutting it; leading to browning of the grass.
  5. Eliminate Squeaks: Be sure to lubricate the mower’s moving parts like the wheel bearings. Your owner’s manual will show you which parts need to be lubricated.
  6. Reinstall the Spark Plug: When you are finished, replace or re-install the spark plug.

Regular maintenance of your lawn mower will ensure that the mower operates at peak performance and will last for years to come. Happy mowing!


How to Shovel Your Driveway

Is the Housing Crisis Over?

Unemployment figures are down, home values are on the rise, and the economy is generally moving in the right direction. However, many people are still feeling the effects of the home crisis. Unfortunately, this means they are struggling to pay their mortgages or their home is under water (they owe more than the home is worth). In short, many Ohioans are still looking for a way out. Maybe the better question would be – is the housing crisis over for you?

Ohio housing values increased by 3.1% in 2015 according to However, in Montgomery County (-1.8%) and Dayton, Ohio (-1%) housing values decreased during the same time period. Couple that with the fact that some people are back to work but just not making the money they used to due to smaller wages, no overtime or reduced work hours, and it’s understandable that some homeowners in the Miami Valley are still struggling.

However, there are ways to get your mortgage under control. The government programs, HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) and HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program), have been renewed and will be available through December 31, 2016. Let’s take a look at each program and learn how it may help you.


A loan modification process, HAMP works well if you are behind on your mortgage and have an unaffordable monthly payment that exceeds 31% of your gross monthly income.  Through the HAMP process your current servicer can modify the interest rate and/or term and/or defer a portion of the principal balance. This process leads to a reduced monthly payment for you.


A refinance process, HARP creates a new mortgage. You must be current on your mortgage with limited credit concerns. HARP is unique in refinance products as it allows for a new loan even if you owe more on your home than it is worth. Your loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Your loan also must have originated prior to May 31, 2009. This refinance process can help you lower your monthly payment or reduce your term so you are able to grow equity more rapidly.

You can check to see if you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan on these two websites:

Fannie Mae:

Freddie Mac:


If you are still living with the housing crisis, you probably have lots of questions about HAMP and HARP. Could you qualify for mortgage assistance? Is HAMP or HARP a good idea for you? Are there other options if you do not qualify for HAMP or HARP? Can you get help if you can no longer afford to stay in your home?


All of these questions and more can be answered at the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton by a trusted Homeownership Advisor. Make an appointment to meet with a Homeownership Advisor and get the information you need to make the best decision for you. This program is grant funded and there is no fee for the homeowner. You can schedule your appointment online or you can call 937-853-1600.