From the Desk at Keystone

Common Closing Mistakes to Avoid

on January 18, 2021
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Thanks to today’s fast-paced housing market, you’ve got to move fast. You’ve got to make the offer as quickly as possible and, if it’s accepted, move as fast as  you can on all of the follow-up information. There’s plenty of room for error and it’s easy to get caught up; that’s why Keystone homes is here to help. Not just by providing the best custom built homes in the Piedmont-Triad, but because of the knowledge and care our teams shows every step of the way as you build (or buy!) your dreamhome.

Check & Double Check

The last thing you need is a paperwork error on your closing documents, especially one that is just a misspelled name or an important number missing a digit. Be sure to ask for the documents you’ll be signing as far in advance as you can so that you can take your time and comb through them for costly mistakes.

Get Your Closing Money in Paper

Everything’s digital these days, which is fantastic when it’s automatic with no hiccups. But a down payment plus closing costs is going to be a huge chunk of money, and it may get held up in approval processes with your bank if you attempt to transfer the money instead of bringing a cashier’s check. Avoid the hassle and go with a sure thing.

Deal With Walk-through Issues ASAP

If you’re doing that final walk-through and something appears to be amiss-a repair hasn’t been done, or has been done shoddily; or they’ve taken appliances they should have left, don’t just sweep it under the rug and deal with it later because you’re in a hurry to close. Without renegotiating the terms of the sale, you might be able to expedite your compensation via credits on the closing costs.

Combating Snow in the Piedmont-Triad

on January 11, 2021
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If you’re moving to the Piedmont-Triad from more northerly regions, where snow during winter is the norm and only very serious and very rare weather events ever affect daily life, you’ll be quite surprised to know that you are still not prepared for a Piedmont-Triad winter. Oh sure, your Keystone home–the best custom home you can buy in the Piedmont-Triad!–will be well-insulated and toasty warm as well as energy efficient, but we’re talking about surviving out there in NC when the show his the ground. You’re not prepared!

No, for real. It has nothing to do you, though, so don’t feel too bad. It’s the rest of us, even though we all kinda know better.

Get Prepared

Whenever there’s a hint of a winter storm with snow in the south, there’s always a run on the stores for milk, bread, batteries, gasoline containers, snow shovels, deicers, and generators. If you happen to be out shopping during this time, you’ll want to make sure you get a loaf and a gallon, because it’s likely you won’t be able to find any for a few days. It doesn’t matter if it’s only predicted to snow for a day; we’ll prep as if it’s the end of the world. Therefore: make sure you buy everything you’ll need for the winter well in advance… before it’s sold out!

. . . But Not Too Prepared

That’s right. In a heavy winter, the Piedmont-Triad might get only three heavy snows that last three days at a maximum. Over-preparing is a waste of time and resources, as well as a source of needless stress at this time. Don’t get too worried!

Things Will Close

Not only will schools close, many other businesses will shut down as well, especially ones in the smaller towns outside of the larger cities in the Piedmont-Triad, the ones that are served mostly by highways, which might become impassable (to the average Piedmont-Triad driver, that is). Expect this snow day home with your kids to extend another day, perhaps even two: School buses will not travel into remote neighborhoods if they are still beset by unplowed snow or ice, which means no busses will run on that day. Expect the third day to have a two-hour delay, as well.

It’s Not the Snow, It’s the Other Drivers. 

There’s a 30% chance that the Department of Transportation is going to be caught totally unawares by the first winter storm of the season, and the roads will not be salted and the plowing will not begin for several hours into the storm.

In this case, yes, there will be danger inherent in driving, but overall, the danger comes from other travelers on the road who are either too confident in their driving skills (You always see more 4×4 trucks in the ditches than sedans, you know), or drive so carefully, slowly, and frightened that they endanger others on the road.

Since you can’t count on anyone to drive safely and appropriately, you’ll have to be double-aware of the road conditions and the drivers in front of and behind you. Make sure you only travel if you absolutely have to!

Unless It’s the Ice.

Additionally, the strange weather patterns here often lead to the snow melting during the day and refreezing during the night, which often means driving the second day, in the morning, is more dangerous than driving through the snow.

Outdoor (and Indoor!) Winter Activities in the Piedmont-Triad

on January 04, 2021
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This winter has been much different from other winters thanks to the pandemic, but the upcoming snow days–you know we always have at least one every year here in the Piedmont-Triad–are still events to look forward to, even if you’ve been inside with your family for months. There’s no better time to get out of the house and have fun with the family than a snow day!

But: Just in case you’ve already exhausted your list of fun winter activities already, we’ve got a bunch of boredom-busting activities for all of you to enjoy.

Before the Snow

If the snow isn’t a surprise—and let’s face it, any snow we get in the Piedmont-Triad is always a surprise—be sure to set out a few bowls to catch clean snow. With it you can make snow cream or effortless slushies, which no kid (and very few adults) can resist.

Outside!

The snow’s not just for snowmen, sledding, and snowball fights. Try these fun activities:

-Use rectangular containers to pack snow in and create bricks to build a fort with!

-Spray bottles with colored water in them = Snow Graffiti!

-In 32 degree or colder weather, bubbles will freeze as you blow them! Give it a shot.

The Blanket Fort

This fail-proof activity is the perfect way to foster a little quiet time in your house, and with a little creativity, you can put it anywhere! The key points to remember while making a blanket fort are:

– Lighter pieces, like sheets, are easier to hang

– Heavier pieces, like comforters, are better for padding on the the floor

– Stability of the entrances is most important!

It’s easy to secure blankets together, or to chairs or tables. Tie knots into corners to make pockets to pull over couch backs or chairs; use clamps on tables. Safety pins are great for connecting several sheets; pin them about a foot away from each other for maximum stability. If you need to get some lift, the pole from a broom or mop with the head removed and tied to a small chair or stool is a great support. Don’t forget to use clothes pins, hangers with pants clips, rubber bands, and couch cushions!

Fun Foods

There’s nothing as good as hot food after coming in from the cold, and fun, communal meals make it even better!

– You don’t need a special pot to enjoy fondue! A regular pot lifted up on wood risers with a candle underneath will keep your cheese (or chocolate!) nice and warm.

– A nacho bar with plenty of toppings is a good way for everyone to have something they like.

– For dessert, decorating cupcakes or cookies is always good for entertaining the kids!

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home in 2021

on December 28, 2020
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The fresh start promised by the new year is the perfect time to change course or get back on the road, no matter what journey of life you’re taking. While we don’t really want to burden you with even more resolutions to keep this year, your house just might want you to. Improving your home could help you improve your quality of life, and the first step to improving your home is maintenance. Here’s a handy checklist for things you should do now to make sure your home enters the new year healthy. And here’s the best part: You won’t have to spend three weeks doing all of this!

  • Check batteries in CO & Smoke detectors
  • Change HVAC filters
  • Change or clean furnace filters
  • Clean out exterior dryer vent & pipes
  • Clean refrigerator coils
  • Flip mattress
  • Clean baseboards / chair rail / trim
  • Recaulk / regrout / reseal as needed in tiled areas (bathroom, kitchen, mudroom, laundry)
  • Clean garbage disposal
  • Clean oven & range hood filters
  • Inspect fire extinguishers
  • Flush hot water heater
  • Clean sink aerators
  • Take stock of new purchases / valuables, update home insurance accordingly
  • Check all wires & plugs that are always plugged in for frays/loose connections
  • Check and repair window screens / screen doors before spring

Once your home is fresh and ready for the new year, all it takes is three weeks of small, daily improvements/cleaning/organization to your home to keep it in that perfect state (Don’t worry; after three weeks it’ll feel completely natural.) We suggest taking a look at the following posts we have about cleaning and maintaining your home:

Clean Like A Pro

Spring Cleaning Tactics for Your Home

Getting Your Piedmont Triad Home Ready for Warm Weather

Happy New Year 2017!!!

2020 Holiday Celebrations in the Piedmont-Triad

on December 21, 2020
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This year the winter holidays will be much different than most. This does not come as a surprise, sadly: this year itself was much different than most. However, social distancing does not mean that these holidays will be any less special or celebrated less happily: if you’ve made it through this much of 2020, then you’ve certainly got something worth celebrating!

While many families will be celebrating by themselves this year, your Keystone Home is, thankfully, one of the best places to stay during the holiday! With features custom-tailored to your specifications and a neighborhood in the perfect location, it’s the one thing you’ll have on the holidays that you’ll certainly be grateful for. Ties, socks, and another meat, cheese, and summer sausage box, well, they’ll have to work for it.

There are still many activities your family can take part in to celebrate the holidays here in the Piedmont-Triad.

Tanglewood Festival of Lights – A Piedmont-Triad tradition for decades, the Festival of Lights never fails to please. This year is sure to be the same, but be sure to be ready for a wait: It’s likely this year will be one of the most popular yet!

Greensboro Science Center Winter Wonderlights – A newer light show, this one is on foot through the Greensboro Science Center and features twelve fun, themed areas sure to delight the whole family.

Christmas Festival at McLaurin Farms – Though McLaurin Farms is better known for their Woods of Terror haunted attraction, that just means they know how to put on a good show! Enjoy a holiday hayride through the light-filled woods and take part in holiday crafts and family-friendly activities.

Sunset Hills – This Greensboro neighborhood is famous for its all-out light display featuring hundreds of balls of light! While they can be enjoyed at any time, be sure to consider the Running of the Balls next year, a night-time 5k!

Housing Market Outlook for 2021

on December 14, 2020
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It’s difficult, but people are still trying to make predictions for 2021 even after the unpredictable year that was 2020. The only one we’re 100% sure of is that if you buy a Keystone Home in 2021, you’ll find yourself in one of the best neighborhoods in the Piedmont-Triad, in a home that has been custom-tailored to your every need. We’ll be ready to get building when you’re ready for one of the best custom homes you can buy!

However, there are some factors that haven’t changed in 2020, mostly in the fact that mortgage rates are still low; as well, so are inventories, down almost 34% from this point last year. This means the market is still a seller’s market, with houses in the most desirable neighborhoods and areas barely lasting a day in the listings before being snatched up, often at the asking price or higher to secure the sale. On average, houses have been on the market for 14 days fewer than they were at this point last year.

With so many companies now allowing full remote working for their employees, we can possibly also predict a desire for larger houses: larger in the sense that there are extra rooms for an office or even a ‘classroom’ for children who are learning from home. This may also make less desirable homes and more remote areas more appealing as commuting becomes less of an issue for some folks (although these neighborhoods will need high-speed internet access, which is still an issue in last-mile communities).

So, for 2021, we can expect much of the same market conditions as we saw in 2019 that were ‘put on hold’ in 2020, and then possibly increase in activity in early-to-mid 2021 as the COVID-19 vaccine is released and people see a return to normalcy.

Gifts for Your Smart Home for Holiday 2020

on December 07, 2020
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Technology has finally brought us to the point where we can walk into our home and start telling it to do things for us: Turn on the lights, turn on the tv and tell me what’s on tonight, tell me what I need to buy at the store for dinner tonight. Or, hey: play some holiday music while I wrap presents.

In fact, sometimes you won’t even need to tell your house what to do. Smart thermostats learn your patterns after a few weeks and begin heating and cooling your home automatically. Security cameras automatically snap pictures of whoever’s at your door, so you know when your latest Amazon Prime haul arrives at your door, and that vacuuming robot only needs you to empty its bin every week in exchange for you never having to vacuum again. Even your pets can be fed at the push of a button, or, more accurately, at the swipe of a touch screen.

There aren’t many more shopping days left until the gift-giving season is over, so if there’s a family that’s hard to shop for, why not help them straighten up their automated lives with a smart project… or, even better, gift one to yourself!

Amazon Echo – The easiest ‘smart hub’ to set up is now in its fourth generation and it’s the best one yet! The Amazon Echo can control most of your other smart devices as well as offer a massive array of its own services, all controlled by simply asking Alexa to do it. Every smart home should start here, and at only $70.00 with a Prime membership ($100.00 without), it’s an incredible deal as well. Plus it’s got a surprisingly great speaker for its size!

Phillips Hue Light Bulbs –  These WiFi connected LED bulbs work with whatever smart home hub you’ve chosen and work in ways you’ve never imagined a lightbulb could. Adjust the color for everyday use, or create a party atmosphere, or even set your morning alarm alongside of them and they’ll wake you up slowly with growing, soft light.  

Ecobee Thermostat – The Nest came along and changed the thermostat world… and then Alexa came along and changed the Smart Home world. Then Ecobee bridged the two, creating a thermostat that also serves as an Alexa hub. Did you ever think you could order groceries by talking to your thermostat? No? Then welcome to the future.

Nest Hello Doorbell – While we aren’t getting many visitors these days thanks to COVID-19, we are spending more time at home and this smart door bell is one of those comforts that helps us feel safer in our home. With night vision, 24/7 streaming, and a huge field of view, nothing will happen in front of your house without you knowing! You might want to get this one early to make sure you snag those gift deliveries before your kids can sneak them… 

Kasa Smart Plug Mini – This is the most simple and easy-to-use smart plug you can buy–for not a lot of money! These plugs work with Google Home and Alexa and with its simple and intuitive app. Schedules, voice-commands: this mighty little plug does it all!

Slowcooker Meals Your Family Won’t Resist

on November 30, 2020
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Ah, the humble crockpot, that strange kitchen device that evokes so many different feelings. Ingredients go in in the AM, and in the PM, a hot delicious meal is ready for you and your family. But is it sheer laziness that makes it work, or merely a clever usage of time? A reliance on pre-made ingredients might not elevate your meal above that of the 1950’s style casserole, but wouldn’t a true chef prepare the meal by hand if they could?

We say the crockpot straddles the line between culinary shortcut and culinary genius. Not just anyone can make a meal worth eating in one, but the good news is that the people that can share their secrets! We’ve collected a few of our favorite recipes that are sure to make your Keystone home smell fantastic and welcoming when everyone comes in for the evening.

Short Rib Queso – Let’s start this off with an appetizer! This dip is perfect for prepping Sunday morning for Sunday afternoon football games.

Split Pea Soup – When it comes to pea soup, there’s no beating the split pea. For one, it’s cheap; for two, it’s delicious; for three, it’s easy as pie! Actually, this is definitely easier than pie.

Cheeseburger Mac – Despite kids having a natural affinity for green, slimy looking things, they might not find Split Pea Soup all that appetizing. No worries, of course: You can do mac and cheese in a slow cooker. This one even features a helping of delicious veggies they won’t even realize are there!

Creamed Corn – Some of the best foods are just plain nasty. Of course, I mean that in a good way: Think about a big nasty plate of nachos. A big nasty tray of barbecue. Get it? Well, creamed corn is another one. This recipe is a great base for a big nasty bowl of creamed corn. I suggest adding chopped chipotles in adobe sauce, black beans, onion, and green peppers. Mmmmm. Nasty.

Peach Cobbler – And a dessert for last! Peaches are well out of season by the time cobbler season hits full stride, so you can either compensate by slicing and freezing fresh peaches yourself, or going for store-bought peaches. Either way, get this going just before you start a weekend dinner and it’ll be ready as soon as the dinner table is cleared.

Thanksgiving 2020

on November 23, 2020
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Halloween and Thanksgiving: These two holidays always seem to be in the top three alongside Christmas. We don’t want to play favorites, but since two of those holidays fall within Autumn, one could make a case that it’s the best season of them all…

Well, we’ll leave that argument for someone else to have! Here in the Piedmont-Triad, every season has a wonderful reason to celebrate, and we celebrate each one to its fullest. What follows are some interesting, little-known facts about this iconic holiday and North Carolina itself.

Thanksgiving Trivia

Did you know that there is no clear evidence that turkey was enjoyed at the first Thanksgiving meal? It’s true: it appears this North American fowl was off the menu way back in 1621, in favor of venison and seafood. Considering it was an east-coast meal, can anyone be surprised? But that said, some 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving. That’s double the amount eaten on both Easter and Christmas! Speaking of the bird, where did the name ‘turkey’ come from anyway? Honestly, from marketing: Turkish importers brought Guineafowl from Africa to Europe; Europeans loved the animal and called them by the slang term ‘turkeys’; Spanish importers, bringing the native North American birds in from across the Atlantic, called them turkeys to capitalize on an already delicious bird for sale on the continent. Another Thanksgiving staple, cranberries, also didn’t figure into the original meal, considering that the sugar needed to make the sour berry palatable was in short supply back then.

Seagrove Pottery

There is nothing more iconic of North Carolina than its red clay and the pottery made from it, and Seagrove pottery is legendary across the world. The town of Seagrove—located in the middle of the state, so don’t let the name fool you—is the handmade pottery capital of the US. Over a hundred potteries are located in this town, and normally there are two annual celebrations around this time of year to experience the history, tradition, and craftsmanship of one of America’s oldest art forms. They’re cancelled this year, but if you don’t have at least a few pieces of Seagrove Pottery for your Thanksgiving spread, take the time to find and purchase some from these local artisans.

Sweet Potatoes

Since 1971, North Carolina has produced the most sweet potatoes out of any state in America. It’s no surprise that the rust-colored soil of this state yields the most rust-colored vegetables of all, and sweet potatoes have always featured strongly in any Thanksgiving feast. From the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission itself are tons of recipes featuring this vital and variable vegetable.

Prepping Your Home for the Coming Winter

on November 16, 2020
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54978309 - a lantern hangs in the snowy yard in front of a residential suburban home. focus is on lantern, house is in backgroundThe Piedmont-Triad is not especially known for harsh winters. A tiny amount of snow or ice that would go completely unnoticed just a few states north of us can—and has!—shut down the entire state. Hey, we’re just trying to play it safe, right? Let’s keep playing it safe: Here’s a list of tips for getting your home ready for that winter, no matter how much

Standard Maintenance

First things first: get your heating unit inspected. Even though you haven’t turned it on for half a year, there is still a chance parts have broken or need to be replaced as part of routine maintenance. Getting your heater checked out is not only a matter of efficiency, but safety as well. The earlier in the year you can do this, the better, as demand for repair or replacement of heating units will raise the price you’ll pay.

On your own, you can make sure all filters are replaced to ensure clean functioning, and set all of your ceiling fans to run clockwise, so that the heat that pools at the top of the ceiling is pushed back down to where you can feel it. Replace any summery screen doors with storm doors to help keep cold air out and hot air in; on warmer winter days when the sun is out a tight-fitting screen door that lets the sun in can often help keep your room warm.

Outside

Drain and disconnect your garden hoses and, if your home has an internal shut-off valve for your exterior faucets, turn them off. Being outside your house, they have a much higher chance of freezing over the winter, so make sure you drip them on extremely cold nights as well, if you can’t turn them off completely. Be sure to drain your sprinkler system as well, and just in case the worst happens and your pipes do burst, make sure you know where your main waterline shut-off is in case of an emergency.

DIY Solutions

Draft Snakes are a fun and inexpensive crafty project you can do with your kids that will help keep your home warm. They’re nothing more than long cloth tubes filled with sand or other type of insulation that lie along the bottoms of doors to keep cold air from flowing in. With just a little bit of sewing experience, some scrap fabric and googly eyes, you and your kids can make a fun, energy-saving decoration together in an afternoon. Some slightly more advanced projects include applying window insulation film on all of your windows: think of it as shrink wrapping all of your windows. Additionally, if you have an older house with wooden windows, you may find that they’ve shrunk or expanded over the years and seasons and there are cracks between the framing and siding and jambs. A quick application of industrial-grade caulk will seal those spaces up immediately.