Real Estate Information Archive


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5 Steam Heating Maintenance Tips to Keep Your System in Good Shape

by Charles Furlough

In steam-heating systems, water is heated to its boiling point (212º Fahrenheit), and steam rises by convection through pipes to radiators located throughout the house. The steam releases heat into the air, then condenses; gravity sends the water back to the boiler for reheating. In a one-pipe system, the same pipe distributes steam to various radiators and carries the condensate back to the boiler. In a two-pipe system, one pipe supplies the steam, and the other returns the condensate to the boiler.

No matter what type of system, the boiler is the star of the show—a steam-heating system is only as good as its boiler. Luckily, a boiler can last 50 years—even longer given regular maintenance and care. Below are a list of key monthly and yearly maintenance issues—some you should call in a professional for, and others you can do yourself (depending, of course, on your level of comfort with the task). If your home has steam heat, chances are many others in the neighborhood do too, so if you’ve just moved to the area, ask your neighbors about the best boiler service people in town—then keep these five maintenance guidelines in mind:

1. Test the pressure-relief valve every month during the heating season by depressing the handle (located on top of the boiler, this valve allows steam to escape if the pressure in the boiler exceeds a preset safe level). If no steam comes out or the valve does not completely close, call a professional to have the valve replaced. It’s critical that this valve always be functioning properly.

2. Have a professional drain the boiler once a year. (To drain the boiler, a hose is typically attached to the boiler when it’s cold, and water is led into a floor drain, while the boiler’s interior is flushed with fresh water. This is best left to a professional).

3. Make sure the pressure of the boiler is always between two-10 psi. If the steam-pressure gauge indicator on the boiler is not in this range, call for service.

4. Open the boiler’s blowoff valve (at the bottom of the low-water cutoff) once a month when the system is off, to drain out all the sludgy water that could clog the whole system.

5. Open the valves at each end of the boiler’s steam-pressure gauge once a month. The water level should be in the middle of the valve. If water is not visible, shut off the boiler, let it cool, open the fill valve on the water inlet pipe and add water. If your system has an automatic water fill valve, call a service professional.

Finally: While the boiler needs the most maintenance and care, it’s important to keep the radiators in good shape too. In order to retain heat and operate efficiently, most steam pipes are covered with insulation (used as a heat shield, around and under the radiator cover). Never tamper with this insulation. Visually check the condition of what you can see; if it looks excessively cracked, dry or crumbling, have it serviced or replaced. Never add, remove or change existing insulation yourself, as doing it wrong can present a severe fire hazard; always call a professional. If you’re in the home-buying process: when it’s time for the home-inspection, choose an experienced, professionally trained home inspector who is familiar with steam-heating systems and can accurately evaluate the condition of the existing boiler and radiators.

Improve Your Credit Score Before Searching for a Home

by Paige Tepping

Many prospective homeowners find out the hard way the importance of a good credit score when they apply for a home mortgage, especially after the subprime loan crisis. If you are considering buying a home in the near future, it is a good idea to give your credit score a check-up and then take positive steps to improve your credit score if you find problems. Ideally, it is best to begin working on improving your credit score at least six months before you plan to start shopping for a home.

According to the experts at, the following tips will help you improve your credit and should be taken before you begin your home search.

The first critical step in taking care of your credit is to check your credit report. Unfortunately, many people fail to take this all important first step. Instead, they wait until they have applied for a mortgage loan to find out from the lender that there are problems with their credit scores.

By checking your credit score before you apply for a mortgage loan, you gain the opportunity to find out if there are problems which you can correct and discrepancies that need to be removed. When you check your credit report, make sure you check all three of the national credit reporting agencies: Experian, Trans-Union and EquiFax.

Review your credit report carefully for items that may be erroneous. If you believe that an item on your credit report is reported in error, you have the right to contest it. To do so, you will need to contact the credit reporting agency and explain why you believe the item is inaccurate. Supporting documentation such as receipts and cancelled checks can help your claim. Alternatively, you can engage a credit report repair services firm to fix your credit report.

If there are derogatory items on your credit report that are accurate but which could cause problems in your loan application, you cannot have them removed; however, you can take positive steps to counteract them. In the event that you have missed payments in the past, take steps now to get your bills current. Even if it means tapping into money that you might be planning to use for a down payment, it is essential that you get your accounts current and keep them that way. Begin by immediately making your payments on time. There is nothing which can lower your credit score more quickly than late payments. Ideally, make an attempt to begin sending in your payments a few days ahead of time to make sure they arrive on time and you do not have any more late payments on your record. If necessary, begin taking advantage of electronic payments in order to make sure your payments are made on time. Over time, this can make significant difference.

Keep in mind that eradicating all of your credit balances is really not the solution. In fact, credit can be your friend when you are looking to make a big purchase such as a home. The key is to make sure your credit is positive, not negative. Toward that end, avoid actually closing out your accounts. Instead, make an effort to pay down your balances and keep them paid down well below the minimum or completely paid off, but do not close the account. When your lender runs your credit to make a decision on your mortgage application, he or she will want to see that you have had a long credit management history.

After reviewing your credit history, if you see that most, if not all of your credit cards are maxed out or nearly maxed out, it is time to sit down and plan an aggressive strategy for paying some of them down. One of the critical factors that often determine your ability to be approved for a mortgage loan is your debt to income ratio. In addition, high credit card balances can drag down your credit score. Therefore, it is important to look at paying off some of your balances.

It is generally better to begin with your highest-rate balances first. Many consumers are tempted to move around balances when they receive an offer from another bank that is good; however, before you do this, remember that the worst thing you can do when you are trying to make a major purchase is to open new accounts.

By following these guidelines, you can improve your credit score and improve your chances of being approved for your home mortgage loan.

Taking the Stress Out of the Home-Buying Process

by Paige Tepping

For many prospective buyers, the thought of going through the home-buying process is often filled with a lot of stress. From finding a qualified real estate agent, to narrowing down your choice of homes and then packing your belongings and moving across town can be an overwhelming process.

Here are some tips to help you keep your cool as you begin the process of a buying a home.

-Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime, and along with the finances come emotions. When you are choosing a real estate agent to work with, be patient and take the time you need to find an agent that you connect with. Finding a highly-skilled agent who fits with your personality is crucial.

-Every home buyer and seller is in a different situation, so it is important that you don’t compare your timeline and decisions to anyone else’s. As you make your way through the home buying process, remember that there is no right time to buy, just as there is no perfect time to sell. If you find a home that fits your needs, don’t let it slip out of your hands by waiting for interest rates to drop lower as you run the chance of losing out on the home of your dreams.

-It is natural to want to get opinions from those you trust before you make your final choice, but too much input will ultimately make the decision process much harder. Remember to focus on what your immediate wants and needs are so that everyone will be happy with the final decision.

-You probably aren’t going to find a home that is 100% perfect, so it is important to make a list that includes your top priorities that you can’t live without. Be sure to stick to the items on your list and let go of the minor things.

-Negotiation is an important part of the real estate buying process, but be sure you don’t take your negotiating too far. Trying to get an extra-low price or refusing to budge on your offer may cost you the home in the end. Successful negotiation depends on give and take, so make sure you are being fair in your requests.

-Don’t get too caught up in all the physical aspects of a home and forget about the more important issues. While the size of the rooms and the layout of the kitchen might not be exactly what you expected, be cognizant of issues such as noise level, location to amenities and other aspects that will have an impact on your day-to-day life.

-Getting approved for a mortgage should be taken care of well before you find a home and make an offer.

-Create a budget before you move into your new home and be sure to include maintenance and repair costs. Even if you buy a new home, there will be extra costs, so it is important to not come up short and let your new home deteriorate.

-After purchasing a home, a little buyer’s remorse is inevitable, but it will pass. Buying a home is a big financial commitment, but it also yields big benefits. If you are feeling remorseful after buying your home, remind yourself why you wanted to buy a home and what made you fall in love with your new property.

-When choosing a home, buy it because you love it. A home’s most important role is to serve as a comfortable, safe place to live, so don’t get bogged down with thinking about your home’s appreciation.

Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

© 2016 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.®.  Equal Housing Opportunity.