How to Choose and Keep a Long-Lasting Roof

Built to last from extremely durable materials, your home’s roof probably receives scant attention – until there’s a problem.

It’s best not to wait until water pours through the ceiling to educate yourself about roofing essentials. For first-time and long-time homeowners alike, this guide is key to researching a roof replacement and extending its lifespan through proper maintenance.

Material matters

The right roofing material should be both complementary to your home’s architectural style and appropriately suited to your climate. Selecting the best material is the first step to ensuring a long life and sidestepping costly repairs down the road.

  • Asphalt shingles are durable, easy to install, available in a variety of colors, the least-expensive roofing option – and, unsurprisingly, the most commonly used material in the U.S. Some even incorporate zinc or copper granules to prevent algae growth, which can be a problem in more humid climates. An asphalt roof typically will last about 25 years or more.
    Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

    Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

  • Wood shingles and shakes remain a centuries-old popular choice in the Pacific Northwest and Western U.S. regions. While shingles are uniformly machine-sawed, handmade shakes offer a more rustic exterior. Although a factory-applied treatment can make the wood fire-resistant, some municipal fire codes still forbid use of this material. Twice as pricey as asphalt, a wood roof also has a life expectancy of 25 years.
  • Tile, clay, and cement are extremely durable, fire-resistant roofing materials. Most often seen covering the tops of Spanish-style homes in the Southwest, they are also expensive – at least triple the cost of asphalt. Expect any of these sturdy materials to last 50 to 100 years, however.
    Courtesy of Sennikoff Architects.

    Courtesy of Sennikoff Architects.

  • Slate is heavy, natural stone that is among the most durable of all roofing materials, lasting 100 years or more. This also makes it the most expensive, costing 12 to 20 times the price of asphalt.
  • Aluminum, steel, and copper boast many advantages: durability, light weight, weather resistance, and fire resistance. Popular for flat or low-slope roofs, they can be pressed or molded to simulate other types of roof coverings, including shingles and tile. Metal roofing costs about the same as tile, clay, or cement, and will last about 35 years.

    Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

  • Synthetic, polymer, or composite roofing materials simulate various traditional roof coverings, such as slate or wood. These man-made options tend to be lightweight, durable, and comparable in price to asphalt. With minimal maintenance, they can last up to 50 years.

Installation extras

Whatever material you choose, you’ll also want to install a few safeguards to avoid potential damage-inducing problems.

One of the most critical factors in ensuring the longevity of a roof is proper ventilation. Without it, heat and moisture can build up under the roofing, causing structural damage or rot. Installing louvers, roof vents, and soffit vents may help prevent these issues.

Another disaster to avoid: leaks. Flashing, a metal sheathing material, will go underneath your roofing of choice at the points where different materials meet, like around a masonry chimney, skylights, or vents. Double-down on leak prevention by making certain that the joints are staggered and materials overlap adequately.

Maintenance musts

Considering your area’s climate when you’re picking out a new roof won’t be the last time you think about the weather in regard to your structure.

The elements directly affect the performance and lifespan of any roof. Rain water can seep underneath roofing materials and cause the underlying roof deck to rot. Come winter, ice dams along the roof overhang prevent proper drainage into the gutter and can lead to leaks. Even strong winds can lift the edges of roofing materials and actually break off shingles.

If you haven’t already, start a regular inspection – annually and after every major storm – to catch small problems before they turn into big headaches. When surveying, watch out for the following warning signs:

  • Any shingles that don’t lie flat against the roof. Cracked, curling, damaged, or buckling shingles are sure signs that repairs are in order.
  • Droopy, sagging areas of the roof. This could indicate moisture damage or rot in the underlying decking, which may need to be replaced to prevent further damage.
  • Shingle granules in the gutters and downspouts. A roof that is losing a lot of granules may be at the end of its useful life.

Fortunately, a few damaged shingles or a small leak isn’t necessarily a cause for sleepless nights. A roof that was properly installed within the past 15 or 20 years may simply need some repairs, rather than a full replacement. When in doubt, contact a licensed roofing contractor to get a professional opinion.


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How to Choose and Keep a Long-Lasting Roof was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home


Choose Adventure With Alternative Senior Living Arrangements

Big life changes happen, and fluctuations in your retirement income may call for downsizing. But if assisted living isn’t for you, where will you head next?

There are more options than just moving into a small apartment by yourself. Nontraditional senior living arrangements are on the rise, and more seniors are choosing to live in RVs, houseboats, and tiny homes.

Living with roommates

Have you ever watched an episode of “The Golden Girls” and dreamed of having fun roommates of your own? Retirement is your opportunity to make it happen and reap the benefits.

  • Have fun with shared interests. The best roommates are those who are also your friends. If you like to do the same things, you will always have someone to do them with.
  • Cut your bills in half. The best part about having a roommate is the reduced living expenses. You’ll cut utility and maintenance costs in half – or save even more if you have multiple roommates.
  • Be close to help in an emergency. Unlike living alone, you’ll always have someone around if you need medical assistance. Let your roommates know if you have any medical conditions. They can be lifesavers.
  • Create a sense of community. With shared household tasks and responsibilities, you’ll create a small community with your roommates. The more everyone pitches in, the more tight-knit your community will be.

RV living

Why choose just one place to live? Living in a recreational vehicle means living untethered. You’ll love the adventure and freedom that comes with living anywhere you want, with no schedule to keep.

  • Take the grand American tour. With an RV, you will never have to worry about going through airport security or fitting all your belongings in your suitcase. You can travel the country on your own terms by bringing your home with you.
  • Join a community of like-minded individuals. As you travel, you’ll meet people you may not have come across otherwise. It’s easy to make new friends while warming your hands over the fire or walking your dog. And if you don’t like your neighbors, you can move!
  • Save money with a lower cost of living. RV living isn’t free, but it costs much less than owning a house. Say goodbye to that mortgage.
  • Visit distant relatives. Haven’t seen your grandchildren in a year because of travel expenses? With an RV, it’s only a matter of driving in the right direction.

Houseboat living

Want to fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping against your boat? Or wake up and jump straight into a kayak? Then houseboat living may be just for you.

  • Travel the nation’s rivers. When you call the wide-open lakes and rivers your home, there is always somewhere new to go. America’s Great Loop is a connecting waterway that goes straight through America’s heartland, from Canada to Florida. You have the whole length of it to explore.
  • Relish the joys of no yard and no neighbors. While your houseboat may need maintenance from time to time, living on a houseboat means saying goodbye to mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. The best part? No one can build anything to block your amazing views.
  • Appreciate the wildlife and scenery. Wake up to golden skies and enjoy sherbet sunsets from your deck. Deer, dolphins, otters, turtles, and moose can all be everyday visitors depending on where you decide to go.
  • Forget property taxes. Some states require personal taxes, but boats aren’t considered real property like homes. You won’t have to pay property taxes if you live on a houseboat.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Tiny home living

In recent years there has been a tiny home movement, especially among seniors. Tiny homes are generally 400 square feet or less, and can be on either wheels or foundations. Retirement is the perfect time to downsize and save money – why not take it to the extreme?

  • Simplify your life. In a tiny home, you don’t have room for lots of stuff. You can stop worrying about material things and start enjoying the great outdoors. You will find you come to care about experiences more than belongings.
  • Help the environment. A tiny home means you will conserve resources with your small living space and reduced carbon footprint.
  • Cut your cost of living. Your utilities, taxes, and maintenance costs will decrease when your home is less than 400 square feet. You may find you have extra spending cash to pursue new hobbies.
  • Enjoy having less to clean and maintain. When you don’t have 2,000 square feet to clean, you will have much more time to pursue activities you enjoy. Never spend a whole weekend cleaning your garage again.

As you figure out your next move, think about what truly gives you joy. Do you prefer moving around the country, seeing your grandchildren and family as you please? Or does designing your new tiny home appeal to you?

These alternative living arrangements are cost-effective and the perfect opportunity for a change of pace. Now is your chance to change your life and do what makes you happy – traditional home or not.


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Choose Adventure With Alternative Senior Living Arrangements was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Choose a Property Manager for Your Rental Home

You would never turn your home over to a stranger, so choosing a property manager shouldn’t be any different – finding one you trust is vital. 

“You are entrusting probably one of the biggest investments you’ll make into the hands of someone else, so you want to make sure you feel confident that they’ll handle things the way you want them to,” says Grace Langham, CEO of Nest DC, an award-winning boutique property management firm in Washington, D.C.

Dependability and trustworthiness are two key points all homeowners should keep in mind when assigning their home or condo to the loving care of a third party. But before handing over the keys, consider these six other factors to help you find the right property manager.


With so many players involved – owner, tenant, and manager – communication is critical. Some owners prefer lots of updates, while others want few. Regardless of your desired amount of communication, the quality of it is crucial.

A property manager’s availability and response rate get to the very heart of their job. In your initial contact, look for clues about their speed, courtesy, and availability.

“Once signed on, a good manager will do what it takes to keep you in the loop, whether you prefer emails, phone calls, or texts,” Langham says.


When it comes to renters, a property manager’s duty is twofold: Find quality residents, and ensure they are treated fairly.

Happy renters often stay in a residence longer, and are more reasonable when things break. That said, finding good residents requires legwork.

“Bad tenants can be one of the most costly things for an owner,” says Nathan Miller, president and founder of Rentec Direct, a property management software company.

Evictions are expensive, especially when owners are forced to forgo several months’ rent, and damage can be costly. That’s why running a credit check and performing a background screening for criminal and eviction reports are musts, according to Miller.


Property management fees tend to be fairly standard, Miller says – usually between seven to 15 percent of a month’s rent, but most often around 10 percent. Sometimes, a condo may cost slightly less than a stand-alone house because there’s less home and yard to maintain.

The owner is also on the hook for maintenance costs, and often pays a finder or leasing fee – up to a full month’s rent – when a new resident moves in  Ask if you will still be charged, even if the unit stands empty.

Some property managers also charge a lease renewal fee and sometimes tack on a project management fee when dealing with excessive bureaucracy or paperwork, such as insurance claims. Verify the fee structure and services provided before signing any contract.

House visits and other specs

When it comes to inspections, a property manager should be proactive. That means taking a peek at your property no less than once (and maybe even twice) a year to ensure that everything is in good shape.

Such time-consuming tasks mean it’s important for a property manager to maintain a reasonable caseload. Miller says his ideal property manager oversees between 500 to 1,000 properties. “Once they get above that size and they’re managing many, many thousands of units, you’ll lose the personal touch,” he says.

Finally, you want to find a property manager that specializes in a type of unit: single-family homes, apartment complexes, or high-end houses, for example.

Earning potential

To maximize a home’s earning potential, property managers should know how to deftly market a unit so that it doesn’t stay empty long. This includes everything from posting it on well-known rental websites to taking quality photos that make it pop.

Miller says the property manager should also ensure a home is leased at market rent, and analyze that rate semiannually. You want to know you’re not being shorted income by charging too little.


Finally, the proper software can indicate that a management firm has what it takes to succeed. “We’re lucky to be a company that’s eight years old,” Langham says. “We started with all this technology that’s really friendly to the millennial generation, which is a lot of the renter base.”

Collecting rent and submitting maintenance requests via an online interface makes interactions between all parties a breeze, meaning owners and tenants can move on with their busy lives. After all, at the end of the day, that’s what having a property manager is all about.

Get more tips for managing your rental property


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How to Choose a Property Manager for Your Rental Home was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Choose the Perfect Mattress

If you wake up achy every morning or have trouble going to sleep at night, an uncomfortable mattress may be the culprit. Think back to how it felt when you first bought it. How long ago was that? Shopping for this kind of big-ticket purchase requires some thought and planning. Don’t order a mattress online or through Craigslist. That just not the most strategic plan.


White Bed Frame


A mattress should provide you with good support, but also cradle you as you drift off into slumberland. Just like in the Goldilock’s fairy tale, you don’t want a bed that’s too soft or too hard. You’re looking for one that’s just right. The following tips will steer you down the right road to a better sleep-enhancing bed.

1. Decide to Replace

Unless you previously bought a top-of-the-line mattress, you should buy a new one every 8-10 years. If you have trouble sleeping or always wake up grumpy, consider getting a new bed sooner.

Uncomfortable Mattress

2. Set a Budget

Have a general idea of how much you want to spend, so you’re not lured to the most expensive model, but also so you don’t cut corners on a purchase so vital to your health. Look for sales and never pay full price. Negotiations are expected either for a discount, for the accessories the store throws in like sheets and pillows, or on delivery charges.

Budget for Mattress

3. Shop at a Specialty Store

Salespeople at mattress stores have more training in how to help customers and knowledge of their product than employees who happen to work in the bed section of a department store.

Mattress Salesman

4. Consider Different Types

Innerspring mattresses are comprised of coil springs with a material like latex or memory foam on top for comfort. These come in a variety of firmness. Memory foam beds have layers of different thicknesses of foam and contour to your body. Latex mattresses are made from rubber and give a firm, yet buoyant type of support.

Mattress Layers

5. Test the Possibilities

Spend 10-15 minutes lying down on potential mattresses in your normal sleep position. Bring your favorite pillow so you’re simulating sleep as much as possible.

Testing Mattress

6. Look for Neutral Alignment

Shop in pairs so your friend or family member can check and see if your spine curves while you’re lying on the bed. Strive for an almost neutral position. You don’t want your spine to sag while sleeping. That’s a recipe for a backache.

Mattress Alignment

7. Sleeping for Two

When you sleep in the same bed as your spouse or significant other, you want a mattress that each of you can adjust to their own level of firmness. Neither one of your should give up their comfort when deciding on a new bed.

Couple Testing Mattress

8. Ask About a Return Policy

You may not know for a few nights if you’ve made the right decision or not, so make sure you can return the mattress if you can’t adjust to it.

Mattress Store

9. Get a Warranty

A quality mattress should have at least a 10 year full replacement warranty.

10 Year Warranty

10. Inquire About Removal

If the store where you buy your new bed doesn’t offer old mattress removal, you’re going to have a hard time getting rid of it. You can’t just put it out on the street because dumping mattresses may be illegal in your state. A charitable organization may pick it up, but you’ll have to store it someplace until they do.

Mattress Removal
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How to Choose the Perfect Mattress was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Choose an Air Conditioner

Selecting the proper air conditioning system for your space involves weighing several factors: the type of room, its total cubic footage, the number of shutterstock_204630508people typically using the space, and the room’s exposure to sunlight.

A professional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist can help you evaluate your space and suggest the most suitable system from among these options:

  • Portable and window air conditioners. These units are commonly used for cooling single rooms. Popular for their affordability, portability, and versatility, they enclose a compressor, condenser, expansion valve or coil, evaporator, and cooling coil in a single box, which then fits on a windowsill or in a hole cut into the wall.
  • Central air conditioning systems. Efficient and effective for cooling entire homes, central AC typically includes a large, external condenser unit connected to an indoor air handling unit, which moves cool air in and warm air back out through a system of supply and return ducts. A drain pipe runs from the indoor unit to an outside gutter to carry away condensation.
  • Ductless air conditioners. Also known as mini-split, multi-split, or split-ductless systems, these work well to cool one or two rooms. Multiroom systems are available as well. Like central AC, these units have an outdoor condenser and an indoor air handling unit. Rather than being linked by ductwork, however, the two units are connected by a conduit that houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and condensate drain. These systems eliminate the need to tear down walls and ceilings to run air ducts — a huge plus for older or architecturally sensitive homes.

What all those letters mean

When selecting your unit, familiarize yourself with a few abbreviations that distinguish models on the market. First, air conditioners are rated by a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which is the measurement of an air conditioner’s efficiency (the ratio of its cooling output to its energy input) over an entire cooling season.

The British thermal unit (BTU) rating, another important figure, indicates cooling capacity — how quickly and effectively a unit can cool a given room.

Most closely tied to your electric bill is the energy efficiency ratio (EER), which is the ratio of cooling capacity to electrical input — this figure tells you how efficiently an air conditioner operates. You can find the EER rating on each unit’s yellow Energy Guide label. A typical range runs from 8 to 11.5, with 10 or higher considered the most efficient.

If energy efficiency is top of mind for you, consider a unit certified under the U.S. Energy Star program, which recognizes models with good SEER and EER ratings. An Energy Star-approved room air conditioner runs about 10 percent more efficiently than an older unit, while an Energy Star-approved central unit might be 15 percent more efficient than its standard counterpart. In addition to the energy savings a higher-rated product provides, your state and local municipalities may also offer rebates or other incentives to consumers for making an energy-smart choice.

Once you’ve chose a unit, operating it efficiently will go a long way toward keeping your home cool and your utility bills low.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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How to Choose an Air Conditioner was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home