Category — Real Estate News & Tips

9 Home Improvements That Can Help (and Hurt) Value

Home improvement can be taken as very demanding action,  but there are also some ways of home improvement you can do yourself. Therefore, before you start with any, see what improvements are the most needed in your home. Nowadays, a big attraction is an energy-efficient home which saves a lot of energy and reduces energy costs. On the other hand, maintenance problems and pest or bug infestations are a major turn off and should be looked into ASAP.

We bring you several great pieces of advice you can use to improve your home’s value and feel more comfortable and cozy.

1. Water Filtration System

A water filtration system in your kitchen is a small addition that will appeal to many home buyers and is used for purifying the water. When you have a water filtration system installed in your house, you don’t have to buy bottled water anymore. The best thing is that it’s not expensive at all, and everyone can afford it.

2. Removing Old Carpets

Besides looking old, old carpets might also be hiding contaminants and allergens which means you have bad air quality in your home. Sometimes the best option for testing an indoor air quality is to call a professional company because they will surely do a great job.

Wooden floors are an excellent way to bring the touch of outdoors in your home. Great examples of environmentally friendly natural products are tile or laminated floors. By replacing your old carpets with a hard surface floor, your house will be easier to clean, and you’ll have more time to do things you like.

3. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling

It is no secret that homes with popcorn ceilings are outdated so get rid of this popcorn ceiling fast. To be sure that it does not contain asbestos, it would be best to hire professionals to test it. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling is as simple as buying a solution to soften the texture from the hardware store and scraping the popcorn away.

4. Bathroom Remodeling

Remodeling bathrooms is a great way to add more value to your home. If a full rebuild is not in your budget, you can invest in many small changes that will freshen up your bathroom. Replace the dated wallpaper, old lighting, add some fancy cupboard knobs or change the faucet and shower heads.

5. Kitchen Remodeling

Just like the bathroom, a big kitchen update can do wonders. Stained sinks and old appliances are all things to look at. If replacing the kitchen cabinets is too much for you, you can always give them a new look by adding a new varnish or paint layer and swap those old doorknobs with modern ones.

6. Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance is an ongoing process, no matter if you plan to live in your house for a long time or move soon. Repairing or replacing broken appliances or fixtures will avoid further damage. Certain things are not to be left, and for example, leak spots on the ceiling can cause great damage to your roof if not taken care of immediately. If your home is up for sale, a sign of poor maintenance will make the home seekers wonder what else is wrong with the house.

7. Water Heater Upgrade

An old water heater can be a turn off for some home buyers, but you can find water heaters that come with a tankless model. This kind of water heaters are more efficient as they only heat up the water that you need.

8. Appliance Updates

Nowadays, energy-efficiency is becoming trendy. Appliances with an energy star label use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than other conventional appliances. New models look great, and many are stainless steel which is a bonus. If you do not have the money for buying modern devices, upgrade the lighting to energy star.

9. Update Fixtures

Fixtures in your home include curtain rods, light fixtures, doorknobs, switch plates, outlet covers, etc. Make sure that these are updated because sometimes it’s the small detail that counts. For example, outlet covers and switch plates look more attractive when made of metal. These changes are easy to do yourself and aren’t so expensive, just be sure you choose the right color which looks great combined with other furniture in your home.

Written By Matt James

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1016748-20180420-9-home-improvements-that-can-help-and-hurt-value?rtmpage=

April 20, 2018   No Comments

Get The Home You Want, Millennials: Smart Strategies For First-Time Homebuyers

Hey, Millennials. Come on into the real estate market! We really need you to buy some homes so we can keep chugging along. Oh, wait. Prices are rising and so are interest rates, plus inventory is scary low. Hmmm. Well, come on in anyway, wontcha?

It’s not easy to buy a home in a hot market where inventory remains at historic lows – and that covers a lot of areas across the country at a wide range of different price points. But it’s especially hard right now for Millennials, who aren’t exactly getting a warm welcome from the market that has been begging them to participate.

“I think it’s fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we’ve seen in recorded history,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told Curbed. “There’s record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age – in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30 – just as baby boomers are looking to downsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that most first-time buyers desire. This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership.”

But that doesn’t make buying impossible – just a bit more challenging. Get a leg up by following a few smart strategies.

Work with the right REALTOR®

This is not the right time to give your brother-in-law’s cousin’s neighbor who just got his license a shot. Having a competitive edge is more important than ever, and you need a savvy, experienced, and well-connected real estate agent to help you buy a home.

Work on your down payment

You may be competing against buyers who are coming in with an all-cash offer, which you’re going to have a hard time standing up to. But, there are ways you can make your offer look better. Remember that if it comes down to a multiple-offer situation for your home, sellers won’t just compare the offer prices. They’ll look at your down payment and the terms, and you need to have better terms than the next guy. You may only have 3.5% down, and that may be all you need to qualify for your FHA loan, but that doesn’t mean the seller will embrace you.

“Your down payment is a key part of the offer you present to the seller,” said Money Crashers. “The general rule of thumb is simple: the larger the down payment, the stronger the offer. More precisely: the greater the down payment’s share of the total purchase price, the more likely the seller is to accept.”

If you’re ready to buy and there’s no time to get a second job or go into hyper-savings mode, you can always take advantage of down payment assistance programs like the National Homebuyers Fund or hit up a relative. “If you’re struggling to pool enough cash for your down payment, a generous relative or friend can help by giving you money,” said NerdWallet. “But the money must be a true gift, not a disguised loan, and it must be documented properly through financial statements and a gift letter. If the gift is really a loan that you have to pay back, lenders won’t accept it.”

Be flexible on the closing

If another potential buyer is insistent on a 30-day close, but you could close earlier, later, and even rent back to the seller if need be, you just might end up with the house you want. Flexibility is key to submitting a winning offer, so make sure you have a Plan B – a place to stay for a few days or longer if you’re going to be between houses, and a mover/storage option squared away.

Look in adjacent neighborhoods

Yeah, you have your heart set on a specific neighborhood. But if it’s just not happening, consider the next neighborhood over. Experts say they have great potential upside.

Consider the worst house on the block

Buying the ugly duckling is a top strategy for investors, and one that can get buyers in the door (literally!) if they’re having trouble purchasing move-in-ready homes. “When your budget as a first-time buyer doesn’t stretch to a house in perfect condition in a neighborhood you adore, you might consider buying a home that needs work. Or maybe you’ve watched fixer-upper TV shows and think you could handle sweat equity. Either way, real estate experts say buying a house that needs renovating can make sense as long as you are realistic about the process,” said the Washington Post. “A fixer-upper can be a smart investment, particularly if you can buy a property under market value and then increase its value with the right projects. While some home buyers prefer move-in-ready homes, they are stuck with the choices the previous homeowner or builder picked for their countertops, fixtures and floors. Not only do buyers of fixer-uppers get to select their finishes, they also can make sure the work is done the way they want.”

If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for all those renovations, ask your real estate agent or lender about a 203(k) loan, which rolls renovation funds into your mortgage. “An FHA 203k loan, (sometimes called a Rehab Loan or FHA Construction loan) allows you to finance not one, but two major items 1) the house itself, and; 2) needed/wanted repairs,” said The Mortgage Reports. “Because the lender tracks and verifies repairs, it is willing to approve a loan on a home it wouldn’t otherwise consider.”

The loan addresses a common problem when buying a fixer home: lenders often don’t approve loans for homes in need of major repairs.”

Waive contingencies before you submit your offer?

Note the question mark. Your real estate professional may caution you against this strategy. But, lenders like Better Mortgage are making it work with a program that “allows buyers in select markets to not only underwrite their finances, but also get the appraised value of their home before they submit an offer. That means they have the option to waive both financing and appraisal contingencies to make their offer as competitive as cash.”

Written By Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice/item/1016724-20180419-get-the-home-you-want-millennials-smart-strategies-for-first-time-homebuyers

April 19, 2018   No Comments

How To Maintain Those Fancy Countertops

Today’s luxury countertops are easy to sell – they are beautiful and durable. Materials such as granite, solid surfaces, and ceramic tiles are making a statement not only about home fashion, but about easy maintenance. But beauty lasts only as long as proper care. Good fabricators will tell you how to clean and maintain your surfaces, but even then, there may be some suggestions that might have slipped through the cracks.

Today’s consumer has a delightful array of choices for countertop surfaces. The rules are being broken with materials crossing design boundaries every day. Concrete is now being formed for countertops instead of floors and Formica(R), the leader in laminate countertops, has entered the flooring arena. Ceramic tiles have come out of the bath and kitchen and are used for decorative as well as surface applications throughout living areas, indoors and out. And marble and granite, once found only in bank buildings, fabulous hotels and ultra residences are being fabricated into floors and countertops for an increasing number of executive homes.

If you are en”counter”ing a luxury surface for the first time, you want to know what kind of cleaning and maintenance products to use so you don’t accidentally etch the stone, strip color or cause any toxic penetrations. This is particularly important on surfaces in which many hands come into contact or food is prepared. So what kind of care do these luxury surfaces require? Let’s begin by grouping the materials into two groups, natural and man-made.

Natural Stone

Natural stone is the earth’s formation of minerals and gases that have slowly cooled and condensed over millions of years into a solid core, forming rock beds of various colors, patterns and degrees of porousness. They include marble, granite, slate, terra cotta, and terrazzo. Thousands of types of stones have been quarried throughout the centuries from all over the world and are finding their way to modern luxury kitchens. Because natural stone is porous, including the most dense stone – granite, it must be sealed to protect the stone from penetrating water or oils. Sealants, known in the industry as impregnators, do not protect the surface as such, but protect moisture from accummulating within the stone itself.

According to Andrew Levine, president of Stone Care International, nothing is maintenance-free, but understanding the nature of your surface will help you provide better maintenance. Stone Care makes specialized products for cleaning and sealing all surfaces, from laminates to solid surfaces to natural stone. “You still have to clean, and cleaning with the right product is important, because choosing the wrong product can cause a problem. Household cleansers are not for all surfaces. Tilex is fine for ceramic tile, but it can actually etch marble. Fantastic and 409 will attack the color and fade stone. Some stones won’t react, but you don’t want to take a chance. You have to choose the right product for the surface.”

“Stone has a PH balance due to its high moisture content. It is a chemical in a solid form, so it has different cleaning requirements. Granite comes from magma – it is a natural acid so it won’t react to acids, but marble is an alkalai, recrystallized limestone. It is vulnerable to acids like orange juice and colas.”

Solid surface, ceramic tile, concrete

Unlike natural stone, solid surfaces and ceramic tile are man-made materials that are produced in factories. Solid surfaces, better known by name brands such as Avonite and Corian, are pressure/heat treated products in which the pigment of the surface design is consistent all the way through the countertop. As with natural stone, solid surface materials are custom fabricated for each kitchen. They are most in danger from burning, but should the worst happen, those without high gloss finishes can be sanded to restore the countertop.

Most complaints about solid surfaces center on their tendency to streak. Newspaper and fingerprints are particularly difficult to clean, along with any greasy residues. A cleanser that cuts grease, doesn’t streak, and doesn’t eat through the material is required. “Again, what you find in the supermarket may not be adequate. Windex is often used, because it won’t hurt solid surfaces and it doesn’t streak, but it doesn’t really clean either,” advises Levine.

Concrete is mixed, poured, stained, sanded and fabricated for a variety of looks including old world or very urban contemporary. Like natural stone, it requires a sealant to protect it from stains, moisture penetration and accompanying bacteria.

Ceramic tile receives a permanent glaze right in the kiln, making it fairly maintenance-free. The grout, which is porous, can have stain and sealer added to blend with the tile, and most tile can be laid so closely that the grout is not a problem. Although tile is the most vulnerable surface to chipping, it cleans easily with most over-the-counter products. Levine adds, “Ceramic tile makes a good surface. It comes from mudstone, and it is pretty safe, but watch out for products like drain openers.”

For a complete list of cleansers and sealants for a wide variety of countertops, visit Stone Care International.

Written By Realty Times Staff

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice/item/1016578-20180413-how-to-maintain-those-fancy-countertops

April 13, 2018   No Comments

Is Your Home A Burglar Magnet?

Is Your Home A Burglar Magnet? Quizzle.com

The thought of a home break-in is terrifying, but are you doing everything you can to prevent one? You might be making critical mistakes that make your home a burglar magnet, or, at least failing to take advantage of easy fixes to make your home less attractive to thieves.

While break-ins have been declining over the past decade, “It’s estimated that a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States,” said Safety.com. “That means that during the 10 minutes it takes you to read this post, approximately 40 homes will have been burglarized.” Taking a few steps now can help ensure you’re not one of the unlucky ones.

Protecting your house during the day

“When someone breaks into your house, it’s usually in the middle of the night – a masked, anonymous man swipes your jewelry before fleeing in an unmarked car. Right? Nope,” said Architectural Digest. The publication quoted Dr. Joseph Kuhns, a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who was part of a groundbreaking study on the effects of alarms on crime and criminal behavior. “Myths about burglars abound,” he said. The reality is that one in four robberies involve a known associate or the homeowner or renter, many robberies take place during the afternoon – female robbers, and there are plenty, tend to prefer this time – and most often the victim’s medicine cabinet is the real target. Most burglaries are drug-involved.”

That means making sure a home is secure during the day is every bit as important as securing it at night.

Examining the exterior of your home by walking the perimeter and taking note of areas of concern is the first step. “The best way to protect your home from the outside is to survey it with the eyes of a burglar,” said HomeAdvisor. “If you can easily tell that a window could be pried open, a thief will definitely be able to come to the same conclusion. You can even contact your local police department and they’ll provide a courtesy home assessment that can help you identify your home’s weak spots.”

Leaving doors or windows open

The number of burglars who are able to access a home through a window or door that was left unlocked is disturbing. Making sure locks are strong and in good working order is key to protecting your place.

“Most burglars reported entering open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open,” said Alarm.org. In fact, security experts estimate that almost 70% of burglars enter your home through a door. “Only about one in eight burglars reported picking locks or using a key that they had previously acquired to gain entry.”

Upgrade your door

You can help make sure you’re not one of the ones who comes home to a kicked-in door by making a smart upgrade. A solid wood door that can’t be easily breached might just make someone turn around and move on to another home.

Get a deadbolt

New door or not, adding a deadbolt is a great deterrent for criminals. A Reddit post on the topic of home burglary asked thieves how to keep a home safe from theft. The consensus: The sight of a deadbolt will likely make a burglar choose another home. Other types of locks can be easily picked, and often it takes no more than the swipe of a credit card.

Change the locks

Did you change the locks when you moved in to your house? Whether you just took possession today or have lived in the home for a few years, getting a fresh new lock and set of keys is easy, and smart. You never know if there is a key floating around out there that could give someone immediate access to your place.

Don’t hide a key

While we’re talking about keys…that whole key under the rock thing isn’t fooling anyone. It’s time to cut that out.

Secure sliding doors

Sliding patio doors can be an open invitation to burglars because they typically create a simple forced entry opportunity. A curtain rod or pole cut to size and placed in the sliding track can keep the door from budging. This easy, budget-friendly tip can make the difference between a home that is an easy target and one that causes a criminal to look elsewhere.

A poorly lit yard

When the sun goes down, it’s time time to apply another layer of protection to keep your home and your family safe, and lights are a great place to start. Not only will a good lighting system out front highlight your home and landscaping, but it will make it less likely that your home will be targeted. Motion sensor lighting is great, especially for darker areas, and newer products combine motion sensors with video playback.

Be smart about lighting

Just as you want your home to be well-lit to discourage a would-be burglar, you don’t want it to be too lit at certain times. A home whose lights stay on all night long for a few days in a row is a tipoff to someone casing the neighborhood that the residents are probably on vacation. That makes your home a great candidate to be burglarized.

Trim those hedges

Tall hedges or other greenery close to the house can act as hiding places for burglars. If you do want landscaping up close to your house, HomeAdvisor suggest planting “thorny shrubs by your windows to make it not only difficult to break in, but painful!”

And don’t forget about second-stories. A tree can be climbed for access to a window, so prune those branches!

Get to know your neighbors

You know when nosy neighbors can come in really handy? When they notice and alert you to questionable activity around your home. HomeAdvisor reports that, “Crime tends to be lower in tight-knit communities because neighbors are more likely to look out for each other and can easily spot a stranger. Your neighbors can be one of your best assets in home crime prevention because they offer extra eyes and an outside perspective. Plus, if they have a different work or school schedule from yours, they might be around during the day when you’re away and can alert you to any suspicious activity that may occur in your absence.”

If you’re somewhat of an introvert and don’t want to physically meet your neighbors, at least join Nextdoor to keep up with neighborhood happenings online. You might learn about a crime spree or suspicious individuals in your neighborhood to look out for.

Keep your plans to yourself

You may want to brag online about your European vacation and post pictures from every city on your month-long tour, but consider who’s seeing or hearing what you’re putting out there.

“Whether you announce your big vacation on Facebook or you and a friend discuss an upcoming business trip at a coffee shop, mentioning travel in public forums is dangerous,” said A Secure Life. “In these types of situations, anyone could overhear you and know that your home is going to stand empty for a few days, creating the perfect opportunity to target your home. It’s especially important to emphasize to children that when they mention outings innocently on their social networking pages, they are opening the door to strangers who might want to burglarize your home while you’re out.”

Get an alarm

If you’re on the fence about the expense of an alarm system, consider this: According to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte study, “A majority of burglars considered the presence of deterrents such as alarms, outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment when choosing a potential residential or commercial target,” said Alarm.org. “Approximately 83 percent of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary, and 60 percent said they would seek an alternative target. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars who were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary.”

A key piece of data from the study is the fact that, “Among those who discovered the presence of an alarm while attempting a burglary, half reported they would discontinue the attempt, while another 31 percent said they would sometimes retreat. Only 13 percent said they would always continue the attempt even after an alarm had been discovered.”

Get a security camera

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte study also found that video surveillance was a top choice for theft deterrent. “Nearly 60 percent of the burglars said they would consider the presence of cameras or other video equipment when selecting a target, and more than 40 percent said that would be a factor in prompting them to choose another target,” said Safety.com. “You’ll need indoor and/or outdoor security cameras with night vision and a decent hard drive to record a few days’ worth of video. If you can’t afford the real thing, fake cameras can also work as a good deterrent; just make sure they’re quality fakes and not cheap plastic that thieves will easily identify as dummies.”

Mind your porch

Package theft is one of the fastest-growing crime categories around. Home deliveries are tempting for would-be crooks looking to snatch your stuff. And, if thieves think you’re an easy mark for stealing packages, they may come back for more, or get more aggressive about their tactics. You can eliminate this temptation by only scheduling deliveries for when you’ll be home.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1014250-20180125-is-your-home-a-burglar-magnet?rtmpage=

January 25, 2018   No Comments

Weather Winterizing Moves You Should Be Making Right Now

The bomb cyclone that hit the East Coast this week was a good reminder for everyone, regardless of whether your area is accustomed to winter weather (We’re talking to you, Northeast and Midwest) or not (Hello, Florida!). There are some easy steps you can take to protect your home from winter wear and tear, even if snow isn’t in your forecast, to make it function better and keep it – and you – safe.

Protect your home from frozen pipes

If you already live in an area where hard freezes are a regular occurrence, you probably know how to protect your pipes. For everyone else, it’s important to understand what happens when water freezes and how to avoid catastrophes at home. “Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes,” said the American Red Cross. “This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

A few tips include opening “kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.” You can get more tips on the Red Cross website.

Turn off sprinklers

The last thing you want is a winter wonderland of ice outside your house because you forgot to turn off the sprinklers. With the weather conditions turning on a dime these days, you could very well have warm sunshine on a Tuesday and get a wicked snowstorm on Thursday.

Check your heater

It’s not too late to have a tune-up if you haven’t had your heating unit checked out this year. Experts recommend an annual check, and if you’re overdue, you could be running the risk of your heat clunking out in the middle of a sub-zero storm.

Do a roof check

Get out that ladder (or hire someone who’s willing to do the climbing) to make sure your roof is in good shape. Heavy snow and ice from last year or a more recent storm could have compromised some of the shingles, and you want to catch the issue before the roof starts leaking.

Invest a few bucks in some caulk

Air leaks in your home can stress your heating system and jack up your heating bills. A little fix can make a big difference. “If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements,” said Kiplinger. “Check window-glazing putty, too (which seals glass into the window frame). Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.”

Check for other drafts

“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use,” said Popular Mechanics. “Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture – the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door.”

Clean out your gutters

Even if you had this done before the cold weather arrived, you might want to do a re-check. The “bomb cyclone” was described as a “snow hurricane”; that could have left all kinds of debris in your gutters, just waiting to cause problems next time there’s rain or snow.

Turn off outside faucets

“Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets,” said Kiplinger. “If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.”

Decrease the amount of time between filter change-outs

“Yes it’s easy to forget, but it’s important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season,” said Popular Mechanics. “Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here’s a worry-saving tip: Mark a monthly check on your calendar.”

Flip the switch on your ceiling fans

Most ceiling fans have a switch that changes the direction of the blades. This is one of our favorite cold-weather tips because not only can it help make you more comfortable in your home by forcing some of the warm air that collects near the ceiling down into the room, but it can also save you as much as 10 percent on your heating bill!

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1013680-20180108-weather-winterizing-moves-you-should-be-making-right-now?rtmpage=

 

January 8, 2018   No Comments

A Lack of Listings Remains ‘Huge’ Challenge in the Market

A Lack of Listings Remains ‘Huge’ Challenge in the Market | Keeping Current Matters

The housing crisis is finally in the rearview mirror as the real estate market moves down the road to a complete recovery. Home values are up, home sales are up, and distressed sales (foreclosures & short sales) are at their lowest mark in over 8 years. This has been, and will continue to be, a great year for real estate.

However, there is one thing that may cause the industry to tap the brakes: a lack of housing inventory. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer traffic and demand continues to be the strongest it has been in years. The supply of homes for sale has not kept up with this demand and has driven prices up in many areas as buyers compete for their dream home.

Traditionally, the winter months create a natural slowdown in the market. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, points to low interest rates as one of the many reasons why buyers are still out in force looking for a home of their own.

“Overall, the fundamental trends we have been seeing all year remain solidly in place as we enter the traditionally slower sales season, and pent-up demand remains substantial as buyers seek to get a home under contract while rates remain so low.”

NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, points out that the inventory shortage we are currently experiencing isn’t a new challenge by any means:

“Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in. Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand.”

Bottom Line

Healthy labor markets and job growth have created more and more buyers who are not just ready and willing to buy but are also able to. If you are debating whether or not to put your home on the market this year, now is the time to take advantage of the demand in the market.

 

Written by:

Source: http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2016/11/15/a-lack-of-listings-remains-huge-challenge-in-the-market/

November 16, 2016   No Comments

NAR Reports Show Now Is a Great Time to Sell!

NAR Reports Show Now Is a Great Time to Sell! | Keeping Current Matters

We all realize that the best time to sell anything is when demand is high and the supply of that item is limited. The last two major reports issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed information that suggests that now continues to be a great time to sell your house.

Let’s look at the data covered by the latest Pending Home Sales Report and Existing Home Sales Report.

THE PENDING HOME SALES REPORT

The report announced that pending home sales (homes going into contract) are up 2.4% over last year, and have increased year-over-year now for 22 of the last 25 consecutive months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, had this to say:

“The one major predicament in the housing market is without a doubt the painfully low levels of housing inventory in much of the country. It’s leading to home prices outpacing wages, properties selling a lot quicker than a year ago and the home search for many prospective buyers being highly competitive and drawn out because of a shortage of listings at affordable prices.”

Takeaway: Demand for housing will continue throughout the end of 2016 and into 2017. The seasonal slowdown often felt in the winter months did not occur last winter and shows no signs of returning this year.

THE EXISTING HOME SALES REPORT

The most important data point revealed in the report was not sales, but was instead the inventory of homes for sale (supply). The report explained:

  • Total housing inventory rose 1.5% to 2.04 million homes available for sale
  • That represents a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace
  • Unsold inventory is 6.8% lower than a year ago, marking the 16th consecutive month with year-over-year declines

There were two more interesting comments made by Yun in the report:

“Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in. Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand.”

In real estate, there is a guideline that often applies; when there is less than a 6-month supply of inventory available, we are in a seller’s market and we will see appreciation. Between 6-7 months is a neutral market, where prices will increase at the rate of inflation. More than a 7-month supply means we are in a buyer’s market and should expect depreciation in home values. As Yun notes, we are, and will remain, in a seller’s market with prices still increasing unless more listings come to the market. 

“There’s hope the leap in sales to first-time buyers can stick through the rest of the year and into next spring. The market fundamentals — primarily consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates — are there for the steady rise in first-timers needed to finally reverse the decline in the homeownership rate.”

Takeaway: Inventory of homes for sale is still well below the 6-month supply needed for a normal market. Prices will continue to rise if a ‘sizable’ supply does not enter the market.

Bottom Line

If you are going to sell, now may be the time to take advantage of the ready, willing, and able buyers that are still out looking for your house.

 

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Source: http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2016/11/07/nar-reports-show-now-is-a-great-time-to-sell/

November 8, 2016   No Comments

Nine Energy-Efficient Fall And Winter Tips

Saving energy is a priority year round, but when the temps start to dip, and those 24-hours-a-day heating bills kick in, finding ways to conserve takes on new urgency. A few tips can make a big difference in keeping your home, your energy usage, and your bank balance, comfortable.

Use the Earth’s natural heater

In the summer, it’s all about keeping the heat out by drawing blinds and curtains. But, in the cooler months, using the power of the sun can help you warm your home and keep your heating costs down.

“Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows,” said Energy.gov.


Check for leaks

Do a walkthrough, looking for spaces where air can be escaping or getting in. The space under, over, and around doors and windows is an obvious spot. Also look for gaps near chimneys, recessed lights, behind and inside cabinets and closets, and around areas where plumbing pipes make contact with walls and other parts of the home. This Old House provides guidance on how to self-check for leaks. Or, you can hire a professional to come do a home energy audit.

Insulate the windows

Light, gauzy window coverings may look great, but they could be contributing to a cold home and a waste of energy, especially on windows that are not receiving direct sunlight. If you’ve addressed leaks and the area close to your windows still feels cold, insulated drapes should help.

Check your heating system

“Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating system failure,” said Huffington Post. “If your heating equipment is more than 10 years old, now is a good time to schedule a season checkup with a licensed contractor to make sure your system is operating at peak performance.” You also want to make sure you’re regularly checking and changing the air filter – at a minimum of every three months, they said.

Turn down your thermostat

Turning the heat down by 10–15 degrees “when you are asleep or out of the house” can save about “10% a year,” according to energy.gov. Using a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature when everyone is out of the home is key. But a smart thermostat ups the ante. Our favorite is the Ecobee3, because it features a remote sensor you can put in another room to regulate the temperature throughout the house, as well as a touchscreen that makes using it even easier.


Take a look at your fireplace

A crackling fire may make the room nice and toasty when you’re in front of it, but what about when you don’t have a fire burning? Keep your “fireplace damper closed at all times unless fire is burning,” said Delfera Heating & Cooling. “Keeping the damper open causes the warm air to go up the chimney instead of heating your house. If you no longer use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue to ensure maximum energy efficiency.”

Lower the temp on your water heater

If you can stand a shower that’s not scorching, lower the temperature a bit and you’ll see a big return. Typical water heating “accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home,” according to Energy.gov. Turn it down “to the warm setting (120°F) to save energy,” said Delfera.

Don’t heat unused spaces

If you have rooms that aren’t being used all the time, close the vents and shut the doors. This will help the heating system run more efficiently by pushing air only to the spaces that need it.

Consider your holiday lights

If it’s been a while since you changed out your Christmas lights, it may be time to consider a new approach. “For some, LED lights may be the way to go,” said USA Today. Frank Skinner, marketing director for ChristmasLightsEtc.com, told them that, “For the most part, all LED lights use up to 90% less electricity than their incandescent counterparts. So right off the bat, there are some savings there with energy.”

They may cost a bit more upfront, but will pay off (literally) in the long run.

Written By: Jaymi Naciri on Sunday, 23 October 2016

Source: http://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice1/item/48218-20161024-nine-energy-efficient-fall-and-winter-tips

 

 

October 24, 2016   No Comments

Renovations To Think About Now If You Want A Holiday-Ready Home

Extended family descending on your house this year? Don’t panic. If you start now, you can have a holiday-ready home by the time Aunt Brenda and her brood shows up.

“We say it every year – the holidays will be here before we know it,” said Prime Lending. “For many people, that means hosting parties, welcoming overnight guests and opening your home to unexpected drop-in visitors. You may be thinking it would be great to spruce things up around your house before the holiday hustle and bustle begins. Now is a great time to dive into your home makeover and wrap it up before the holidays arrive.”

Here are the areas you might want to focus on first.

Get your kitchen looking cheftastic

Chances are, your kitchen is going to be one of the places where people are congregating during the holidays, and not just while cooking. If it’s seen better days, or if it just doesn’t reflect your style – or any style from this century – get started. You can select, order, and have new countertops installed in a matter of a few weeks. If you don’t want to touch the countertops, think about painting your cabinets and adding new hardware. A new backsplash can bring it all together, and is something you can do yourself.

 

Mary Evelyn

Replace or repair appliances

Thinking about the function of your kitchen – not just how you’ll use it over the holidays, but all year round – is key to making good choices when renovating. “If you are hosting Thanksgiving, a double oven and a new refrigerator may be your top priority,” said Prime Lending.

Maybe your dishwasher has seen better days or your washer and dryer have been hanging on for a while. Knowing that they’ll be put to good use with a house full of people might inspire you to make some upgrades now.

Consider the stuff you serve with and eat on, too

While you’re in the kitchen, you may want to think about upgrading your cookware, cooking utensils, glassware, silverware, and anything else that will be helping you prepare, serve, or eat food during the holidays. How old are those dishes, anyway?

Living room redo

If you have clunky built-ins or a large armoire housing your outdated TV, it might be time to make some changes. Turn the built-ins into bookcases or a sleek desk with some streamlined shelving above, which can provide both function and a fashionable upgrade. Turn a fireplace into a focal point by retiling or simply painting old brick white and hang a flat screen above. Voila. Your hangout space is updated and holiday-ready.

If you’re not super tech-savvy and have never installed a flat screen before, it’s smart to hire someone who is and who has. “If a new flat panel television, home theatre system, or other electronic devices are bound for your household this gift-giving season, consider seeking installation quotes from a trained professional,” said Better Homes and Gardens. “Proper installation can maximize your enjoyment of new electronics for a fraction of their purchase price, and the stress of following a multi-page instruction manual may bring out the Scrooge in many DIYers.”


Better Homes and Gardens
Add new bedding

You can make the guests rooms (or the guest couches, if your family converging on one house for the holidays looks anything like ours) hospitable and improve the look at the same time by changing out the bedding. Buying new sheets and a comforter is easy and inexpensive – and don’t forget new pillows, too. Choose a neutral color for the comforter and add some patterned pillow for some zip. Or, choose a graphic pattern to give the bed a modern feel. A fresh coat of paint in a color that is neutral and that gives the rooms a calming nature will help transform them into something that feels resort-like.

Address the back yard

If you live in a climate that allows outdoor enjoyment throughout the year – or if you know the kids will be playing outside regardless of the temperature – making some changes in your yard might be in order. The fall is a great time to buy patio furniture, since it’s typically on sale after summer ends. A firepit can be an inviting addition to your outdoor area, and one that will allow your guests to gather in front of a crackling fire while bundled up with a tasty, holiday beverage.

Update the guest bathrooms

One thing you can count on is that your guests will be spending time in the bathrooms. If yours are in need of some attention, now’s the time to pay some. If you don’t want to do a complete overhaul, you can make simple, inexpensive edits by changing out the showerhead, faucets, lighting, and slathering on a fresh coat of paint. A new paint color and some new hardware can also liven up older cabinets. Add a fresh set of towels and bath mats, and you’re all set.

Do a complete audit of everything else

Do a complete walkthrough of your house. Turn on all the baths, sinks, and showers, and all the lights and TVs. Sit on the beds, couches, and chairs. Open closets. Search the walls, doors, and baseboards for nicks and scratches. This will give you a head start on anything that needs to be fixed or replaced before family starts knocking on the door.

Written by Jaymi Naciri on Sunday, 09 October 2016

Source: http://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice1/item/47925-20161010-renovations-to-think-about-now-if-you-want-a-holiday-ready-home

 

 

October 12, 2016   No Comments

Lawn Care For The Fall: Essential Tips to Follow

All summer you’ve been watering, cutting, trimming and feeding your yard in the hopes of having the greenest plot of land in the neighborhood. So what should you do to get your lawn in shape for the cool breezes of autumn? These six steps will help you get a head start on the colder weather.

Aeration and Overseeding

If you live in a climate with cool-season grass, fall is the perfect time to aerate your lawn because the air is cool and the soil is still warm from the heat of summer. The earlier you can do this, the better the results will be for your yard. Depending on where you live, September or early October is the best time to tackle this project. You’ll pay around $120 for lawn aeration.

Aeration removes small plugs of soil from your lawn, allowing greater amounts of air, nutrients and water to reach the root system of your grass. It also reduces soil compaction in the process. Following aeration, you might want to overseed your yard. Overseeding makes it easier for seeds to germinate while the soil is loose.

Feed Your Yard

Fall is the prime season of the year to fertilize cool-season grasses. Unlike warm-season grasses, which often go dormant in the fall and winter, cool-season grasses can actually hit their peak growth rates during the fall. This means they need a full dosage of nitrogen to help boost the health of the soil and your grass. Most importantly, this will help prevent the growth of weeds, which choke out the grass over time.

Cut Down on Mowing

Throughout the summer, you’ve gotten into the habit of mowing weekly. But if you have cool-season grass, it’s time to start cutting back on the number of mowing events each month. Generally speaking, every other week should be your maximum. If you have too much leaf coverage on your yard, you can mulch those up, but remember to leave your cutting deck high so you aren’t cutting off too much of your grass in the process.

The professional recommendation is not to cut off more than one-third of the total blade of grass each time you mow. Doing so can result in scalping the lawn, which stunts the growth of your grass. If you live in a warmer climate with warm-season grass, you can likely skip mowing altogether because your grass is going into its dormancy cycle.

Leaf Removal

There are two approaches you can take when dealing with falling leaves. At a bare minimum, you should remove any fallen foliage within seven to 10 days because it blocks sunlight from reaching your grass. But, if you get a relatively light leaf fall each autumn and you own a strong mulching mower, you can turn fallen leaves into a composting gold mine. If you mulch your leaf fall on a regular basis — at least once a week — you are recycling the nutrients back into the soil. If your leaf pile is too big, consider hiring a pro. You can expect to pay about $310 for professional leaf removal services.

Sow and Reseed

Believe it or not, but fall is a great time to reseed the bare patches of your yard and sow new sections of lawn for cool-season grasses. Applying fresh soil and some new seed to barren patches of your yard can help prepare your lawn to bounce back in the fall. As mentioned earlier, this time of year is often the strongest for cool-season yard growth, so take advantage.

Winterize Your Sprinkler System

If you have an underground sprinkler system to help you keep your yard green all summer, it could be the biggest threat to your utility bill and soil during the winter months. If you fail to blow out your underground system, the water left in the pipes could freeze, expand and burst the pipes. This could lead to a water leak in your yard that could compromise the integrity of the soil and cause serious damage. If you live in a cooler climate, it’s important to winterize your sprinkler system immediately.

Conclusion

With one weekend of work, you can accomplish most of these tasks and have a yard that looks great for the coming fall months.

 

Written by: Andrea Davis on Thursday, 29 September 2016

Source: http://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice1/item/47755-20160930-lawn-care-for-the-fall-essential-tips-to-follow

 

October 7, 2016   No Comments