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Buying and Selling Your Home – At the Same Time!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 14, 2017 | Comments Off on Buying and Selling Your Home – At the Same Time!

Your life has taken a new direction – your company is transferring you across the country, you’re welcoming your third child into your two bedroom home or you’re sending your last child off to college. Suddenly the house you have doesn’t meet your needs anymore. You find yourself in the difficult position of needing to buy a new home – when you already have one.

The only thing trickier than buying your first home is the dilemma of needing to find a new place to live when you already own one. There are many issues to consider, the least of which is the delicate tightrope of timing you’ll need to walk to pull this off successfully. Many people don’t have enough disposable income on hand to pay two mortgages, and few people relish the thought of moving more than once because they’ve had to find a short term rental to bridge the gap between the time they sell their existing home and the time they can move into their new one.

Here’s some of our top suggestions for planning this difficult maneuver:

Be Market Savvy

Take a little time to become familiar with the real estate market or markets you’ll be working within. You’ll need to know if the current market favors buyers or sellers, since you’ll be filling both roles. If you’re moving to a different city or state, it’s very possible you may find that the market where you’ll be buying is very different from the market where you’ll be the seller. Your strategy and plan of action will depend on which side of the transaction has the power. In a market that favors the buyer, you’ll be more likely to have a choice of homes readily available for you. In a market that favors the seller, you’ll probably have several potential buyers putting bids out on your home. Ideally, you’ll be selling in a favorable market as well as buying in one. If not, you can use this knowledge to make your best move first.

Time Your Tactics Carefully

Whether you’ll buy first or sell first depends on a lot of factors. Buying first – unless you have a nice-sized nest egg put aside – can skew your debt to income ratio and make it more difficult to get a second mortgage while you’re already carrying your first. Juggling two house payments can be difficult, so make sure you’ll have the funds available to get you through the second half of the transaction. Be prepared to face the fact that your current house may be on the market longer than you think or may sell for less than you expect. However, buying first does have its advantages. It does ensure that you’ll be able to move on your own schedule, and not have to worry about the inconveniences of multiple moves and finding temporary housing. You’re likely to have more than one solid choice when it comes to a new home if the market favors buyers, which is a big plus if something goes wrong with your first pick.

Selling first will make financing your new home easier, but in most cases you’ll need to move more than once in a short period of time. Finding temporary housing may be difficult, and you’ll need to consider things like whether or not your children will be finishing a school year in the same classroom, whether you’ll need to put most of your things in storage, or the difficulties involved if you need to scale down to a smaller place than you’re used to while you wait to move into your new permanent home. If the market favors sellers, you may want to strike while the iron is hot and take full advantage of your opportunities. In some situations, you may want to explore the option of a rent-back agreement with your buyers. In return for a reduced price or the payment of rent, you may be able to delay your move out of your old house for up to 60 days if you need somewhere to stay while you finalize your plans for your new home. This doesn’t always work, as it is contingent on the buyers not needing to take immediate possession of their new home. However, if you need a short period of time to coordinate your transition, it never hurts to ask.

Have Some “Secret Weapons” Ready

Consider a bridge loan. Designed to be short-term loans, bridge loans are especially helpful when you don’t have deep pockets to cover the cost of two mortgage payments. They’re meant to be repaid in full when your original house is sold. If the market favors sellers, and your home has the potential to move quickly, many lenders are more than willing to finance bridge loans to consumers with a solid credit history.

Proposing a contingency sale is also an option. Buyers can stipulate that the purchase of their new home depends on the successful sale of their old home. If the market is competitive, sellers will be unlikely to agree; however, if the seller’s home has been on the market for a while, everyone could benefit from this arrangement if your home has features that will help it sell quickly.

If you have any questions about buying and selling a home at the same time, or would like some information and advice on local trends in real estate, don’t hesitate to contact us at Ernest Signature Custom Homes. You can call (912) 756-4135 or send us an email. Our knowledgeable staff is always ready to help you make the transition between your current residence and a new home a smooth one!

Organizing Errors – Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 31, 2017 | Comments Off on Organizing Errors – Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Sometimes your organizing efforts take a wrong turn, and you discover that something that seems like a logical tactic isn’t the solution you anticipated. At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we’re here to warn you about some of these critical errors before you happen to stumble upon them yourself. Why learn the hard way when we’re here to lend a hand?

Don’t:

Clean Everything off Your Counters

If you use something every day, such as a coffeemaker or a toaster, you’ll actually find that it’s easier and more convenient to have these items at hand instead of tucked away. Moving these items back and forth between a cabinet or cupboard and the counter on a daily (or possibly even more frequent) basis quickly becomes a chore. Just make sure to keep the item wiped clean and free of random food particles.

Put Your Entire Life on the Fridge

Streamlining your refrigerator’s front door is one of the quickest and easiest ways to tidy up your kitchen. Take down the souvenir magnets, photos, artwork, and report cards. Replace them with one clipboard or dry erase board for important messages or lists.

Buy Items for Organizing Before You Organize

Stocking up on the wrong kind of storage tools will actually set your organizing efforts behind. If you buy plastic bins and find out later that baskets will be better, or that you’re going to need storage tools that are a different size or shape than the ones you’ve bought, you’ll just be adding to your frustration. Go through your stuff first, decide what you’re going to keep, and buy the items you need to organize only those things.

Put Things in a Drawer and Call It a Day

Make sure that you organize within your drawers, cabinets and cupboards by using dividers and sub-containers. Bins, baskets, cups, bowls and other containers can hold like items and help keep you even more organized. Who needs yet another “junk drawer”?

Forget to Label

Be sure to note clearly on boxes, bins and storage containers that are hidden from view what is inside. You don’t want to waste valuable time going through eight plastic bins looking for your Christmas decorations or lawn darts. By taking a moment or two to label, you’ll save oodles of time in the long run!

Display a Lot of “Dustables”

While you may love your family dearly, think about the clutter you’ll have when you have dozens of photo frames on end tables, coffee tables or bookshelves. Stick with wall-mounted items that can be easily whisked with the occasional feather duster. The same is true for knick-knacks, vases, candles or other décor items. A few well-placed pieces are stunning eye-catchers that have a bigger impact on your interior design. When you do display these types of items, keep them together in a grouping for more visual interest, rather than spreading them around the house individually.

Put Your Whole Library on Display

Keep your bookshelves gorgeous by winnowing out the saddest members of your book collection. Damaged books, faded books, or books that have a musty odor should be tossed, donated or confined to under the bed bins, the kid’s toy boxes or other out-of-sight storage. Once your books are sorted, arrange them by size on the shelves. All mass-market paperbacks belong together, as do all trade paperbacks and full-size hardcovers. When stored with like types, your books look tidier and more attractive on the shelves. Oh…and don’t overpack the shelves! By leaving some shelf space open for decorative items, you break up the eye line and add a pop of visual interest.

Let Your Laundry Linger

When a bin is full, do the wash as soon as you can. A place to store dirty laundry is only a successful organizing tool if you use it properly. An overflowing hamper can really kill the mood of a room!

Forget to Use a Bedskirt

If you’re using under bed storage, be sure to hide the evidence behind a decorative bedskirt. Tucking items away and then leaving the evidence visible is only a partial answer to your organization problem.

Continually Change Your Systems

Organization works best when you’re a creature of habit. Don’t fix an organizing system if it isn’t broken. By keeping things in the same place all the time, organized in the same way, it becomes a habit that is easy to embrace. If you keep trying to reinvent the wheel with new and “improved” organizing systems, more times than not, you’ll end up with a bigger mess than you started with in the first place. Make sure that when you’re setting up your system, you emphasize function over form. Be sure that the way you’re organizing things makes sense. Your most used items need to be the most accessible. Find a method that really works for you so you can stick with it!

Leave It All until the Weekend

Organizing is a process, not a single task. Most of us look at organizing our home environment as one marathon event, rather than something that happens continually, bit by bit every day. Take five, ten or fifteen minutes here and there during each day to put things away, and you’ll notice a huge improvement in the appearance of your home!

Get Organized in the New Year!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 27, 2017 | Comments Off on Get Organized in the New Year!

If you’re like many homeowners (or soon to be homeowners!) you’re always looking for new ways to store your stuff. There’s nothing better than knowing where your things are and being able to get to them easily, but for some of us, that’s one of life’s greatest challenges. If you could use a little help getting your home organized, the folks at Ernest Signature Custom Homes are here with some great ideas you can use to take your tidy to the next level.

First of all, don’t confuse “clean” with “organized”. Your house can be spotless, but still look a mess if there isn’t a dedicated place for everything. Visible piles of clothes, even if clean and folded, still make a bedroom look like a disaster zone. Stacks of books don’t make your house look like a library – they merely add to the clutter. Make sure that the things you keep in your house enhance its appearance instead of turning it into one giant, disorganized storage closet.

Here are some of our top hints and tricks for keeping your life (and your house…) organized.

Repeat after me…Space Bags.

These handy storage gadgets come in a variety of sizes and shapes to hold big, bulky or out-of-season items in a smaller space than you would ever believe possible. Simply load the bag with last season’s clothes, extra bedding or other squishables you don’t need on a regular basis. Zip it shut, pull the air out with your vacuum hose, and VIOLA! You can store three times the amount of stuff you’d expect in a closet or under a bed. The bags are sturdy, reusable and readily available at most discount and home goods stores.

A New Way to Fold…

Have more shirts and shorts than will fit easily in your dresser drawers? Try this technique instead; instead of folding clothes in half and in half again and laying them flat in the drawers, fold them over again and slip them into the drawer this way…

Gain Closet Space

If you have standard sized closets, double your hanging space with a handy closet doubler, or these  multi-tiered hanger holders. You can also invest in hanging shoe holders, sweater shelves or even closet kits like this one that help you fully utilize your closet space.

Repurpose Over the Door Shoe Organizers

Load up the pockets with school and art supplies, small toys and Beanie Babies in the kid’s rooms, lotions, extra soaps, beauty supplies and hair gadgets in the bathroom, spices, seasonings, tea or other pantry items in the kitchen, cleaning supplies in your laundry and lightweight tools or Ziploc bags of screws, nails or other small hardware  in the garage. Your things are off the counters, tables or floors, easy to find and out of sight behind the door!

Freezer Storage

Use clear plastic shoe bins to keep your freezer tidy and know what you have in stock at a glance!

Manual Labor

When was the last time you could actually find the user’s manual for your stand mixer when you needed it? Keep all manuals – and warranties – in pocket folders in a binder…that way you’ll know where they are when you need them.

Wrapping Paper Rolls – Taming the Beast

We all have at least a few partially used rolls of wrapping paper cluttering up our world. Half the time they unwind, get stuck on something and tear, making the paper useless. Here’s a trick…put a clear, zippered garment bag on a sturdy hanger. Load with wrapping paper and hang at the end of a closet rod in your laundry, spare room or coat closet. Pure genius!

Become a Kitchen Whiz!

Install a bookshelf on some open wall space for your cookbooks. It will display them nicely and keep them away from splatters. And depending on where you keep them now, it may open up some counter or cabinet space. Speaking of cabinet space…use lid racks to hold pot and storage container lids. You can stack the pots or containers, but storing the lids is always an issue. With handy racks like these, you’ll be able to keep track of them easily. An alternative idea for storing pots and pans…hang them from the ceiling or underneath a wall-mounted cabinet on sturdy hooks. This works especially well for copper, vintage-styled or brightly colored cookware. Sliding storage organizers like this one can also get kitchen items tucked safely away out of sight.

Utilize the space on the wall under your kitchen cabinets by installing towel rods, mug hooks, wine glass holders, microwave or convection ovens or additional shelving. Use airy baskets or colorful bins to store items out of sight on open shelves, whether they’re existing shelves or the new ones you install.

Hopefully you’ve picked up some ideas you can use to give your home a less cluttered, more polished look. In our next post, we’ll delve a little deeper into organizing by talking about some common mistakes people make when they’re trying to organize…and their efforts backfire. Some organizing tactics seem logical but just don’t work. We’ll warn you against them next time!

Hot Home Décor Ideas

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 23, 2017 | Comments Off on Hot Home Décor Ideas

If you’re looking for a few quick updates for your home, or perhaps planning your first living room, dining room or bath, you’ll want to take a look at some of the hottest trends in interior design!

Interior Curtains

Rather than limiting curtains to the windows, it’s popular now to hang a curtain rod in other areas of the house. A decorative brocade can create a serene yoga corner in the living room or family room, while a bright splashy print or serene solid can conceal the prep area of the kitchen from the seating spot. Are your kids sharing a room? Give them a little extra privacy by installing a vibrant curtain!

Mix and Match Bedding

It’s all the rage…your shams don’t have to match your comforter or your throw pillows! Choose complimentary colors and different patterns, or mix dramatic solids you usually don’t see together. If it is pleasing to your eye, go for it!

Surprising Vintage Pieces

Add an antique washstand to your bathroom, a throwback appliance to your kitchen or a charming historic mirror to your bedroom. Lay an exotic Turkish carpet in your entryway. Most rooms have enough flexibility of design to add an accent from another time.

Paint the Town…or Your Furniture!

Coat the breakfast bar with sunny yellow, or spray your wicker deck chairs white. Your daughter’s desk becomes a vibrant pink, and your son’s changing table a soothing blue. Paint your headboard seafoam green! This is an especially practical approach to modern decorating if you’re short on cash…comb local flea markets, Craig’s List or thrift and second-hand stores for used pieces that can be transformed with just a few hours of time and a can of paint!

Turn the Ordinary into Art

Cover a wall with mix and match plates from a flea market. Use wallpaper to cover vinyl window shades. Reupholster furniture with recycled curtains. Turn your old concert t-shirts into a one-of-a-kind quilt. Let your imagination go wild!

Re-think Your Seating

Move your couches and chairs away from the walls, closer to the center of the room. It gives the room a more intimate look, and improves the interaction between the people in the room.

Light Up Your Life

Floor lamps are coming back into style…and they have the advantage of putting more light exactly where you want it!

Update Your Hardware

Jazz up your kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity with new handles or knobs. Vintage china, brushed metal or retro molded plastic are in vogue.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Animal accents are hot right now. Try a peacock light fixture, butterfly print curtains, an elephant throw, a swan lamp.

Holding Out for a Hero…

Update a neutral room by choosing a “hero color”. Choose one exciting shade, and add accents of that color throughout the room. An area rug, throw pillows, curtains…your options are many, your limitations few!

Paint Half a Wall

Choose two shades of a color and stack them. Paint the bottom half of the wall in the darker shade, then put a paler shade from the same color family on the top half. This ombre look is taking the design world by storm!

Dining Room Drama

Give your dining room a new look by mixing and matching your table seating. Choose different styles and time periods, but make sure they’re all equally comfortable. Then add a dramatic patterned tablecloth for extra punch!

Decorate with Maps

As a décor accent, maps are where it’s at! Whether they’re brightly colored for the kid’s rooms, sketched antiques for the study or topographical specimens for the foyer, adding a map definitely takes your interior design in the right direction!

Pick up a 70’s Throwback

Remember tassels and fringe? Well, this staple of 1970’s style is back again! Trim a few pieces with this versatile accent and update your look in an instant.

Integrating a few of these quick pick-me-ups to your décor can bring the style of your home from tired to trendy over a weekend!

BRRR…It’s Insulation Season!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 18, 2017 | Comments Off on BRRR…It’s Insulation Season!

At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we take pride in using only the best materials and products when we’re building our award-winning homes. At this time of year, when winds whip and temperatures drop, it’s all about the insulation! We’re proud to offer Icynene spray foam insulation in all of our carefully constructed homes. When it comes to new construction in Savannah, GA, sweltering heat and high humidity aren’t your only concerns. They may not last long, but our two to three month winters can pack a powerful punch. It’s not unusual to see overnight temperatures in the teens during this time of year, so your insulation has to work overtime to help keep your utility bills in check.

Not all insulation products are created equal. Some are better than others at blocking sound, some promote better air quality than others, while some excel at managing the temperature of your home. After carefully examining all of our insulation options, our management team selected Icynene spray foam insulation because it delivers exceptional results across all of these platforms.

The spray foam application of Icynene allows the product to fill every available space in your new home, promoting optimal heating and cooling control. Fewer gaps mean fewer leaks and better protection! Icynene insulation expands up to 100 times its original size, filling cracks and crevices and stopping air leaks. The superior air sealing you’ll get from Icynene ensures that you’ll have the best possible management of your HVAC system. This spray foam style of insulation also helps support the overall structure of the building.

Traditional forms of insulation such as cellulose and fiberglass tend to break down, fall apart and disintegrate around the floors, walls and joints of most structures. Moisture, whether from the outside or from within the structure itself, is often the main culprit. Spray foam insulation maintains its integrity under high moisture conditions and provides better protection to your home.

The air sealing qualities of spray foam insulation help reduce the amount of dust, allergens and pollutants that enter your home. This dramatically improves the air quality of your residence, protecting your family from allergies and other respiratory issues. Spray foam insulations also promote health in other ways. Most traditional forms of insulation can be excellent feasting or nesting materials for rodents, termites and other nasty creepy-crawlies. However, spray foam doesn’t appeal to the tastebuds, and it doesn’t make a good home for most pests. In addition, fiberglass insulation is made with formaldehyde, which can release undesirable fumes into your home. Most spray foams, in contrast, are made without harmful chemicals and are more environmentally sound.

And if you find that it’s a constant battle to hear yourself think above the noise of televisions, street traffic, video games and overloud conversations, you’re sure to appreciate Icynene’s sound dampening qualities! Spray foam has the ability to minimize airborne sound transmission between rooms, giving you more relaxing down time and improved sleep.

For more information on Icynene insulation, visit them at www.icynene.com. You’ll see for yourself why we’ve selected Icynene as our insulation provider of choice. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us at (912) 756-4135 or email us at any time…we’re here to help!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 31, 2016 | Comments Off on New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

If you’re searching for New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep, it’s time to turn your attention to your most valuable possession – your residence! As a homeowner, you can elevate your living space and feel good about your “willpower” at the same time – just by keeping a few of these easy to achieve resolutions.

Instead of cutting calories this year, try cutting your energy budget. Switch over to the newer, more efficient light bulbs. Keep your thermostats at a consistent temperature instead of turning them up and down, turn off lights when you’re not in the room, run dishwashers and laundry appliances only with full loads, and refer back to other energy saving tips that we’ve published in our blog over the past couple of years. At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we’re dedicated to searching out new and innovative ways to save you money on your heating, cooling and electric bills!

Make a promise to catch up on or start those home improvement projects you’ve been considering. It’s so easy to let your busy schedule draw you away from tasks that can make your home safer, more attractive or more economical to own. Choose a project for each month and put it on a special calendar. Put a strict deadline on the task; make sure it’s completed by the end of the month. Even brand new homes can use a little personalization. You can add custom shelving to closets, paint your kids’ rooms or upgrade your furniture.

Divide your monthly mortgage payment by twelve. Resolve to set aside this amount per each month, and keep it in either a special bank account or stashed away somewhere safe. At the end of the year, make an extra mortgage payment to help reduce your debt load.

Clearing the clutter from our homes is something most of us want to do, but it seems like something else is always more important at the time. Vow to stick by your resolution to pare down and tidy up. Choose a day each month where you devote a few dedicated hours to decluttering a room. In January, purge your kitchen of gadgets you don’t use, expired pantry items, aging spices, ratty hand towels and most of the items in your infamous “junk drawer”. Winnow out abandoned toys and outgrown clothes from the kid’s rooms in February. Are you ready for the garage in March? After you’ve been through each room, start the rotation over again the next month so that you can keep on top of the urge to re-collect things you really don’t want or need. And before buying anything new this year, ask yourself these questions: Do I really NEED this thing right now? Can I “make do” with something I already own? Do I have somewhere to put it when I’m done using it? If the answers to these questions aren’t in line with the purchase, simply walk away.

Establish a schedule for housekeeping so that chores don’t pile up on you and overwhelm your weekends. Make a list of daily tasks that must be done, without exception, and make sure that all family members work together to do them. Dishes must be washed or loaded into the dishwasher each day, laundry must go in hampers and loads must be run with the hampers are full. Items not in their proper places must be put away. Pull the family together all at one time once a week to cover must-do’s such as changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting. If everyone pitches in, you’ll be done in just an hour or two, and can move along to other things you’d like to do.

Use your yard to “go green” in the New Year. Up the curb appeal of your home by resolving to improve the look of your lawn, shrubs, trees and ornamental plants. Create an outdoor calendar similar to your indoor versions to keep track of essential tasks. If you want to take it a step further, consider planting a vegetable garden to grow your own fresh produce, starting a composting pile to dispose of biodegradable waste or buying a rain barrel to collect and repurpose water for home use. Just make sure to check with your homeowner’s association to make sure you won’t be violating any local regulations before getting started with any of these plans.

With a little determination and planning, you can make your 2017 New Year’s resolutions a resounding success!

Origins of Celebration – Holiday Traditions from Around the World

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 25, 2016 | Comments Off on Origins of Celebration – Holiday Traditions from Around the World

America has often been called “the melting pot”. Vast numbers of immigrants came to our country, settled here and made this land their home. They brought many of their holiday traditions with them when they arrived, and their countries continued to be represented here in a new land, in their new homes.

Both new homeowners and established homeowners alike continue to honor these diverse and popular traditions in their own residences today. Here’s a quiz for you – try to match the holiday tradition with its country or area of origin and see how you fare! Match an activity (1 through 8) with a country or region (A through H).

1. Singing Carols

2. Christmas Trees

3. Santa Claus

4. Hanging Stockings

5. Reindeer Pulling Santa’s Sleigh

6. Christmas Parades

7. Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes

8. Sending Christmas Cards

 

A. Switzerland

B. The United States

C. England

D. Germany

E. The Netherlands

F. Mexico

G. Italy

H. Scandinavia

 

Now let’s reveal the answers!

Although many believe that Christmas carols had their origin in the United Kingdom, the first carols were actually written to be sung in churches in the city of Rome, making their actual birthplace in Italy. The British were eager to pick up the practice, and are largely responsible for making carol singing a popular secular activity.

The first Christmas trees were trimmed in pre-Christian Germany, making this popular tradition quite ancient. The decorated tree was called the “Paradise Baum,” or tree of Paradise, and represented the tree in the Garden of Eden.

Santa Claus is an Americanized version of St. Nicholas, a Scandinavian tradition that is thought to have begun in Norway with “Julenisse”. This Christmas Eve visitor is known for his red stocking cap and long white beard. He is mostly known as a jolly, smiling soul, although with naughty children, he can be stern. He brings gifts to children in a large sack. Families would usually set a place for him at the table before going to bed, and would often leave beer and porridge for him as a treat. This practice eventually morphed into the common tradition of leaving milk and cookies for Santa.

The hanging of Christmas stockings is a Dutch practice that began with children putting out their empty stockings (socks) and shoes on display before going to bed, in hopes that the Dutch version of St. Nicholas would fill them with gifts and treats. According to many legends, this tradition began as a gift from St. Nicholas to the daughters of a poor man. Here’s a summary of the legend, as told by our friends at Wikipedia:

Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn’t accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark he threw three bags of gold through an open window, one landed in a stocking. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the three bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry.

Reindeer began drawing Santa’s sleigh in certain parts of Switzerland, and the idea soon caught on worldwide.

Christmas parades are thought to have taken root first in Mexico, as part of the Latin American celebration of the holiday.

While predominately popular among Italian Americans, the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes is a uniquely American tradition that took root and spread in the United States. During this annual Christmas Eve meal, seven different courses are cooked and served that feature some type of fish or seafood. This gut-busting extravaganza often features shrimp, mussels, crab, scallops, lobster and oysters along with various types of fish dishes.

The first Christmas card was posted in England in the 1840’s, beginning a cherished tradition that is one of the favorite ways that people can prepare for the upcoming holiday by spreading cheer and good wishes to family members, friends and business associates.

So…how did you do? Hopefully you enjoyed this quick trip down tradition lane, and will share what you may have learned with your family and friends.

From all of us at Ernest Signature Custom Homes, best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!

The Lawn in Winter…Tips to Keep It Healthy

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 21, 2016 | Comments Off on The Lawn in Winter…Tips to Keep It Healthy

It’s that time of year again…the “vacation” from lawn care period after your fall fertilizing, raking and overseeding is finally done. Now you’re looking out at the lawn…and there’s a good chance it may be turning brown. Remember that brown grass in the winter doesn’t mean that your hard-won lovely lawn is dead; it has simply gone dormant and will green up once again when the temperatures begin to rise.

If we’re having our typical dry, relatively warm Southern winter, be sure to run your irrigation or sprinkler system once a week to keep the grass from dying. You can lessen the chances of your lawn turning brown, and you can take advantage of the warm temperatures that will help keep it viable.

Watch for invading weeds and make sure to completely remove any large ones, especially those with taproot. Treat the area thoroughly with herbicide to prevent regrowth. The best time to take on this task is a dry, warm day when temperatures are over 60°F. For taller weeds, use a reel mower periodically to keep your lawn tidy. Otherwise, you shouldn’t mow your lawn at all during the winter season in the South. Make sure your grass is as short as possible at the end of the fall lawn care season. Short grass also protects any new growth that may be more fragile near the end of the growing season.

When your lawn is brown and short it can be easy for you and the people around you to forget that it is more delicate than vibrant green warm weather grass. Try to prevent moderate to heavy foot traffic on your winter lawn. Grass is relatively resilient on the whole, but it will have a difficult time bouncing back after the winter season if a path becomes well-worn across the lawn. While it may be tempting during holiday get-togethers where several cars and trucks bring family and friends to your home, never allow anyone to park on your lawn. Even the lightest vehicle will make impressions in the soil and kill off the grass that is underneath the tires. Using the lawn as a parking lot is the fastest way to kill the good grass and make room for crabgrass and other types of weeds.

Keeping your lawn clean and tidy is essential during cold weather in the South. It is extremely important not to leave debris, leaves or toys out on the lawn. These things can smother the grass, encourage disease, and invite insects, mice, and other damaging pests. Tall lawns or lawns with obstructed growth are dangerous during the winter months. Field mice and other burrowing animals that want a warm place to sleep can take advantage of shelter provided by weeds and places to hide. Mice can destroy large parts of your lawn when they build their nests. They create dead spots where they spend all of their time and pull up large amounts of grass to build their winter homes.

Winter is also the perfect time to plant new shrubs and trees, as long as the ground is soft enough to be broken. Choose your favorites and add to your lawn décor during the cooler months. Winter is also the ideal time to prune limbs from existing trees.

With just a little attention, your winter lawn can get the rest it needs to spring to life again when the temperatures start to rise!

Little Tricks to Save Energy

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 17, 2016 | Comments Off on Little Tricks to Save Energy

We all know the common tips and hints that float around that will help you save energy…things like keeping your thermostat set at a consistent temperature rather than turning it down at night and then back up in the morning. You’ve invested in Energy Star appliances, installed the right windows and have put heavier draperies on your windows to keep out the cold or prevent the sun from bumping up the temperature indoors in the summer. If you’re like most people, you’re already taking advantage of these common suggestions, as well as many more.

However, there are some little known ways that you can conserve energy and stretch your budget as well. Are you using any of these strategies?

Choose the right ring…

If you’re making soup in a large pot, choose the biggest ring on your stove – one that comes as close as possible to covering the entire area of the bottom of the pot. A small ring needs to work harder to generate the heat needed to cover the extra area. On the flip side, using a large ring to scald a small amount of milk in a tiny saucepan lets wasted energy escape around the edges. Also, your food will cook more quickly if you cover it with a lid, saving energy and money!

Fill up that fridge!

Believe it or not, most refrigerators and freezers work more efficiently when they are well stocked – but NOT overfull! Cooling large areas of unused space in these appliances saps energy. And don’t put hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer – your unit needs to work much harder to bring the temperature down quickly. If at all possible, let your warm food cool a bit on the counter before transferring it to the chiller.

Resist the rinse…

While you may be tempted to run all of your dishes under hot water before putting them in the dishwasher, most of today’s dishwashers are designed to handle small bits of food debris. Scrape dishes well and pop them in – there’s no need to waste hot water with a double wash for each dish.

Save on showers

Consider replacing your standard shower heads with water-saving, lower-powered energy efficient shower heads. Many homeowners don’t realize these items exist…or that they provide you with an invigorating experience every bit as wonderful as the one that costs you more!

Keep the heat in…

By using kitchen and bathroom fans as little as possible. These money-grubbers suck the heat out of rooms along with odors. A squirt or two of air freshener usually does the job just as well.

Use the oven as a space heater

After using your oven to cook a meal or bake a pie, leave the door open during cool weather. You can keep your kitchen thermostat a few degrees lower if the oven is often in use when the family is at home. Extra warmth may drift out into other rooms as well!

Say yes to service

Servicing your appliances and heating and air-conditioning units on a regular basis helps them run more efficiently and saves you money. It may seem foolish at first to pay a technician to come in and tend to your systems when nothing is wrong, but in the long run, a schedule of preventive house calls is less expensive than an unexpected big issue.

Bring out the thermos!

Most people leave the warmer on after making a pot of coffee, which can not only draw electricity, but can also scorch your brew. Instead, opt for an insulated carafe, coffee pot or thermos. Put the hot coffee into your insulated container, turn off the coffee maker and enjoy tastier coffee as you trim your energy bill.

It helps to vent every now and then…

Make sure that your heating and cooling vents aren’t obstructed in any way. Keep throw rugs and mats away from vents and see that furniture, stored items or decorative touches such as artwork and plants are out of the flow of warm or cool air. By allowing the air to move freely, you’ll reduce your energy costs.

Why Winter Is a Great Time to Buy a Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: November 30, 2016 | Comments Off on Why Winter Is a Great Time to Buy a Home

Because most families are decking the halls for the holiday season, late fall and winter are seldom the time when people plan on buying a new home. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider taking the plunge into home ownership during the chilly seasons.

  1. Less Competition

Since many potential buyers pack their early winter months with traveling, shopping, parties and the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, fewer people are in house hunting mode. You’re more likely to get the home you want when you’re serious about finalizing your “deal of a lifetime” purchase during the winter. Mortgage companies work harder for you and sellers are often willing to negotiate or offer extra incentives. Supply usually exceeds demand during this time of year, which puts the buyer in a favorable position.

  1. Better Prices

Typically, serious buyers get the best deal when they put a home under contract at the end of the year.

  1. Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Closing on a new home before the end of the year can offer tax benefits that will serve you well for years to come!

  1. You’re So Very Special!

Because there are fewer serious buyers this time of year, you’ll get more specialized attention from brokers and agents. With fewer clients on their rosters, you’ll get more of their time.

  1. Looks ARE Important…

Often, the litmus test for a home’s appearance is how it looks during the bleak winter months. If a house looks great under gray skies, surrounded by unappealing winter landscaping, it will look even better when the warm weather swings around again. Falling in love with a house during the winter means you’ll be even happier come spring.

  1. Move Now for Good Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates can be volatile. Right now, rates are low and opportunities for saving on the long-term financing of your house are plentiful. However, you never know what’s coming down the pike. Market conditions can change substantially in the blink of an eye. You may end up facing percentage rates that have risen substantially between now and April, when lovely spring weather brings more potential buyers into the marketplace.

  1. Construction Doesn’t Come to a Halt During the Winter

Many people automatically assume that if they’re purchasing new construction, home building only happens during the spring, summer and fall. This is a common misconception. It’s actually more difficult to build a house during seasons where heavy rain is more likely, such as spring and summer. Hard, heavy rain halts construction, while cold weather rarely causes problems. With the average home being completed within six months, you can plan to enjoy your new retreat when the weather is at its best!

If you’re looking to buy a home sooner rather than later, don’t let the coming cool days and chilly nights derail your plans. The team at Ernest Signature Custom Homes can provide you with valuable information, advice and professional insight gained from years of experience – call us at (912) 756-4135 today!

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