From making homes more energy efficient to keeping up with repairs, here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for homeowners that agents can share with clients.

It’s the season for stock-taking and formulating New Year’s resolutions.

But why stop with professional and personal health and fitness goals? Here’s a list of the Top 10 Resolutions homeowners should be making for 2020.

1. Start small, go slow

Whether your clients are hitting the gym or tackling household tasks, jumping in hard and fast rarely works over the long term. Better to start with small tasks and build skill and endurance through consistent effort than burn out in January. This is as true for home maintenance as it is for exercise.

2. Build your skill set (and your kids’)

If your clients were fortunate, they learned basic household skills by helping their parents repair and update the family home. Unfortunately, that’s less common than it is used to be. Filling that gap now are home improvement store and community education classes and online tutorials. Encourage your clients to learn how to use a drill/driver and a paintbrush first. Wielding these two basic tools effectively can save them a ton of money over the years.

3. Stay on top of repairs

Most likely, your clients paid for inspections when they purchased their home. Many buyers seem to think the principal use for inspection reports is to wring price concessions from sellers. Instead, urge them to use those reports to plan maintenance jobs to tackle now and forecast future fixes. Handling issues before they become catastrophes makes for less stressful living. And there are probably pages of small repairs outlined in those reports that your clients can handle on their own, if they’re committed to building their DIY skills.

5. Respect water

Water-saving is a way of life in drought-plagued places like California. But crafting water wise lifestyles is a worthwhile goal even in rain-drenched states because clean water is becoming an increasingly expensive commodity. So, developing water saving strategies — even small ones like fixing drippy faucets — will benefit every homeowner now and in the future. Respecting water, however, goes beyond merely saving it. Water leaks can spawn mold in walls, breach ceilings and undermine foundations if repairs aren’t made right away. And savvy homeowners get that.

6. Go green(er)

Going solar and watching power bills drop in the process is a great long term goal. But it’s a big job. Your clients can make a difference to the environment — and decrease their utility bills — by going green in smaller, more immediate ways. They can create a recycling center under the kitchen sink, install solar lights along the front walk, switch LEDs for incandescent light bulbs, caulk cracks, beef up insulation, add weather stripping and make dozens of other small green improvements to their homes. None of these requires advanced DIY skills, and everyone in the family can help.

7. Amp up the curb appeal

Even if the house is close to perfect, there are almost always ways to improve curb appeal. And this is an area tailor made for DIY efforts, provided your clients have strong backs and/or green thumbs. Sticking with the “start small and build up” mantra, advise clients to change out dated front door hardware or create seating areas on the front porch. Painting and/or changing the color of the front door or trimming shrubs to frame the entry instead of obscuring it are relatively low-skill activities that will add to the home’s appearance.

Tread lightly with trends. Design-oriented TV shows, blogs and sites like Pinterest are addictive for homeowners. But, they deal in trends like sliding barn doors and gray everything everywhere. Encourage your clients to use trendy designs and colors in easy-to-change spots — pillows, throws, accent walls, and accessories — rather than permanent installations like tile tub surrounds and you’ll be doing them a huge favor.

8. Appreciate appreciation

Yes, homes should suit their owners and reflect their personalities and style. But homeowners should also be aware that their home represents a hardworking investment. Most people don’t pay cash for their homes, so their monetary investment in the property ranges from, say, three to 20 percent of the purchase price. That means, on the purchase of a $500,000 home, their cash investment is $15,000-100,000. If the home’s value increases five percent ($25,000), that’s a 25 to 167 percent payoff on their down payment. Homeowners generate those kinds of returns by keeping their property repaired and updated. Meanwhile, they get to live with and enjoy the upgrades they make.

9. Stay on top of property taxes & insurance bills

Mortgage-holders require home insurance, but smart homeowners keep insuring the property to protect their investment against casualty losses. And they keep property taxes current, as well. Overdue tax bills can result in a home being foreclosed and sold at auction to recover unpaid taxes. Even if the worst doesn’t happen, penalties on unpaid taxes can quickly reach serious levels. So, it never hurts to remind clients (say, in an email blast) when tax bills typically come due.

10. Be a neighbor who’s easy to love

The value of any home is affected in material ways by its immediate neighbors. So, encourage your clients to be the best neighbors ever. They can, at minimum, exchange phone numbers with the folks who live near them and participate in neighborhood watch activities. But, as the poet Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” So, tell your clients to keep party fences upright and well preserved and landscaping tidy and in good repair. Then — provided they wave at everyone and paint their homes in non-controversial colors — the neighbors will adore them, which is always a good thing.

May 2020 be a very happy and prosperous new year for us all and may the number of homeowners increase, here and everywhere.

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.

Are you ready for what the industry holds in 2020? Inman Connect New York is your key to unlocking opportunity in a changing market. At Connect you will gain insight into the future, discover new strategies and network with real estate’s best and brightest to accelerate your business. Create your 2020 success story at Inman Connect New York, January 28-31, 2019.

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