We may be in the deep South, but the hand of winter is on the way, evidenced this past week by fall foliage and chilly nights. And while the responsibilities of homeownership constitute a year-round list of activities, fall is a particularly important time in the life of residential property.
Five chores make the list of “very important.”
1. Keep your gutters clean: Ever since I fell off a ladder a few years ago, my better half has has forbidden my participation in the ritual of gutter cleaning, which is an almost never-ending battle between the trees and humankind. But if you don’t keep your gutters free of obstructions, the water can easily back-up and cause decay and rot of the adjacent wood surfaces, known as fascia boards. Once water penetrates the fascia, it can travel into the interior of your house and drain in through the ceilings. If you are fortunate enough to have leaf-free gutters and they actually work, go directly to chore #2.
2. Test your smoke detectors: In my opinion, no other single device in your home carries the same level of importance as your smoke detectors. You should already have at least one detector on the ceiling of each habitable level of your home, and preferably more on bedroom levels. Vacuum each detector to remove any dust, and push the test button on each unit to make sure ti is functioning properly. And please, never simply remove a failing battery to silence a chirping device unless you replace the battery at the same time.
3. Ready your furnace: Your heating system bears a major responsibility for keeping your home comfortable this winter, so do everything you can now to help it do its job. First, change your filter. In a perfect world, you would replace soiled filters on a monthly basis, but quarterly is probably a more realistic goal in our busy world. In any case, do it now. If your unit is older or you have had problems in the past, it’s probably a good idea to ask a HVAC technician to provide a pre-season tune-up for under a hundred bucks.
4. Insulate doors and windows: Check weatherstripping around all windows and doors for air leaks, and look for any holes in your home’s “thermal envelope.” You might even consider replacing old leaky windows with thermal pane insulated glass windows. Yes, it’s expensive, but replacement windows and doors can have a dramatic impact on your utility bills, both summer and winter. The side benefit is you’ll feel more comfortable year-round, so it’s probably worth thinking about.
5. Prepare for property tax season: Starting in January, every Georgia homeowner will have the opportunity to file a Property Tax Return, asking the local Tax Assessor to consider a lowered valuation for purposes of ad valorem taxation. Now is a great time to be gathering up information about homes in your neighborhood that may have sold earlier in this year. In my opinion, the sooner you are able to file your Property Tax Return in 2015, the more likely it is that the county appraisers will have time to reconsider your tax bill. We’ll revisit this particular subject as we approach the new year.
I know this is not a comprehensive list of fall chores, but at least it’s a good start. If you have suggestions I may have overlooked, please let me know. I can be reached through my website at Money99.com.
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John Adams is a real estate broker, investor, and author. He answers real estate questions every Sunday at 3 p.m. on WGKA-AM (920). He welcomes your comments at Money99.com, where you will find an expanded version of this column.