Date Archives: December 2014

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December
28

Financing the cost of the holidays with the cost of keeping your home warm and safe during the winter season may be more than many families' budgets can handle. But keeping your family warm doesn't have to break the bank. Generac recommends these cost-effective fixes:   1. Top Off Your Attic Insulation A high percentage of heat loss occurs through the roof because of poor insulation. Make sure your attic is insulated with the minimum R-value for your climate (up to R-49 for northern). Also, check the rim joist areas above the foundation walls in the basement and plug any gaps with fiberglass insulation.   2. Dial Down the Thermostat Tried and true, because most people can live comfortably with a lower temperature around 68 degrees. Setting it lower than that when you're away or asleep will also save energy. Consider purchasing a programmable thermostat that will lower the temperature automatically during off-peak times. 3. Replace or Insulate Drafty Windows You can literally hear your money flying out the window when a winter wind blows on old windows. Consider replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones. Another option is to put up window insulating kits. The clear plastic film can increase coziness by reducing drafts, saving energy and avoiding the costs of window replacement.   4. Fill Gaps with Caulks and Sealants Replace old caulk joints around your window and door trim (both inside and outside) that can shrink and leak energy over time. Use a spray foam sealant to fill in the gaps left around pipes, wires, TV cables or bath and dryer vents penetrating your foundation or siding. 5. Get an Energy Audit Most local utilities can help arrange a home energy audit to pinpoint where to focus your winterizing efforts. One essential tool is a thermal-imaging camera, which uses infrared technology to show where heat is escaping the house. In many areas, the cameras are available to rent, so try one out before winterizing to know exactly what needs to be done to lower your heating bill.   Source: Generac Published with permission from RISMedia.
December
25

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 76.4 million baby boomers. This statistic has an interesting implication for the real estate market. Many baby boomers will be in the market to downsize from the home where they raised their family to a smaller house or apartment. Here are a few tips for helping baby boomers find the right home for the next chapter of their lives.     1. Friends and Family: Living in a close proximity to friends and family will increase the likelihood that baby boomers will have companionship and someone to care for them should the need arise. Plus, who wants to watch their grandchild's first steps over video chat.   2. Accessibility: As people age, walking up stairs may become burdensome or impossible. Look for houses or apartments with ramps, stair lifts, or elevators. Similarly, make sure that all the housing you look at is wheelchair accessible.   3. Storage: Downsizing is an emotional process for many reasons - including the fear of losing the memories attached to the home and the belongings it contains. Almost every parent has a box of notes, art, cards, macaroni necklaces, and other memorabilia from their kids and grandkids. Recommend that they open a storage unit so that they can keep things with sentimental value even after they move.   4. Neighborhood: Ideally the neighborhood will have classes and activities for baby boomers. It will also be good to look for neighborhoods with good hospitals and doctor's nearby. Bonus points if there is a golf course close!   Whether you are an agent or a friend or family member, these tips will help you make a baby boomer's transition easier.   Source: https://blog.century21.com/2014/12/how-to-help-baby-boomers-find-a-home/
December
18

(BPT) – Buying a home is one of the most important investments you'll make for yourself and your family. Before making a purchase, ask yourself these four questions. Determining the answers in advance will allow you to enjoy your new home now and in the years ahead.     1. What exterior style speaks to you? Your home is an extension of your lifestyle and a reflection of your personality. When shopping for a new house, contemplate curb appeal. First impressions matter, so it's important to consider architectural style, exterior color and details like trim and landscaping.   2. Is your home protected from the elements? With the climate ever-changing, extreme weather is a reality in all corners of the country. Look for homes with siding and trim products that protect from hurricanes, blizzards, wind, wildfire and more.   3. Is your new home built using sustainable products? Green building continues to be a growing trend, in part because an energy-efficient home can save you money on heating and cooling bills. By choosing a home clad in 100 percent sustainable and efficient material, you're consuming less energy and reducing your environmental footprint.   4. What maintenance will your new home require? Selecting a home made with low-maintenance building materials can lower the chances of large ticket home repairs in the future. Ensure the materials have a strong warranty to protect your investment.   Published with permission from RISMedia.
December
11

First-time home buyers are expected to re-emerge in the new year after mostly staying out of the market in the aftermath of the housing crisis. That's one of realtor.com®'s five top housing predictions for 2015.
2015
"The residual financial effects of recession-driven job losses and subsequent unemployment have impeded Millennials' entry into the home-owning market," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. "In 2015, increases in employment opportunities will empower younger buyers to return to the market and fuel the continued housing recovery. If access to credit improves, we could see substantially larger numbers of young buyers in the market. However, given a high dependency on financial qualifications, this activity will be skewed to geographic areas with higher affordability, such as the Midwest and South."     Realtor.com®'s top five housing predictions for 2015 are:
  1. Millennials to drive household formation. Households headed by Millennials are expected to see significant growth in 2015, particularly as the economy continues to make gains. Millennials are expected to drive two-thirds of household formations over the next five years, according to realtor.com®'s report. The forecasted addition of 2.5 million jobs next year, as well as an increase in household formation, are the two factors that realtor.com® points to in driving more first-time home buyers to the housing market.
  2. Existing-home sales on the rise. Existing-home sales are projected to rise 8 percent year-over-year in 2015, as more buyers enter the market. Distressed properties will make up a smaller share of that growth, unlike in 2012, when a similar increase in existing-home sales was mostly driven by distressed properties.
  3. Home prices will rise. Home prices are expected to continue to edge up in 2015, with realtor.com® forecasters predicting a 4.5 percent gain. "While first-time home buyers have many economic factors working in their favor, increasing home prices will make it more difficult to get into high-priced markets such as San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.," realtor.com® notes in its report. "As a result, first-time home buyer activity is expected to concentrate in markets with strong employment and affordability, such as Des Moines, Iowa; Atlanta; and Houston."
  4. Mortgage rates to inch up to 5 percent. In the middle of 2015, mortgage rates are expected to increase as the Federal Reserve increases its target rate by at least 50 basis points before the end of the year. That will likely bring the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to an average of 5 percent by the end of 2015. (It's currently averaging 3.89 percent, according to Freddie Mac.) The 1-year adjustable-rate mortgage, on the other hand, is expected to rise more minimally. "Lower ARM interest rates will influence an uptick in buyer interest for adjustable and hybrid mortgages," realtor.com® notes. "While still at historic lows, rate increases will affect housing affordability for first-timers trying to break into the housing market and will be another factor pushing them to less-expensive locales."
  5. Housing affordability will decline. Affordability for homes, based on home-price appreciation and rising mortgage interest rates, will likely fall by 5 to 10 percent in 2015. However, the decline in affordability likely will be offset by an increase in salaries next year for many households. "When considering historical norms, housing affordability will continue to remain strong next year," realtor.com® notes.
  Source: realtor.com®
December
9

(BPT) - The heat is definitely on this winter. With winter storms hitting many parts of the country early in the season, furnaces are plugging away, causing rising heating bills. Space heating is the largest energy expense in the average U.S. home, accounting for 45 percent of energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Consumers are looking to keep their homes cozy as the temperature continues to drop, while also having manageable utility bills.   fire-place   To help homeowners combat the cost of heating a home during the winter months, Bobby DiFulgentiz, an energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries, suggests looking at various spots around the house to keep the warm air in and the cool air out.   'Many places around the home can allow warm air to escape, wasting heating dollars. This causes your heating system to work overtime to keep your house comfortable,' DiFulgentiz says. 'It's important to take a look at the attic, fireplace, windows and your furnace to ensure your home is ready to combat the cold efficiently. The little time it takes to make a few quick checks and adjustments in a home can yield dividends in savings and comfort in the long run.'   Attic: The attic is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to heat loss. If you are experiencing high heating bills and having difficulty keeping your home warm, it could be time to add insulation. DiFulgentiz says that attic insulation should be approximately five inches deep. Homeowners can hire a professional or install additional insulation themselves with portable blowing units available for rental at home improvement stores.   Fireplace: To prevent warm indoor air from escaping the home, DiFulgentiz reminds homeowners to keep fireplace dampers closed when not in use. However, always make sure the damper is fully opened before starting a fire. Look for any gaps in the mortar between bricks, as they can allow moisture to build up and compromise the roof's integrity. Also check for soot buildup in the chimney, and if necessary, hire a professional chimney sweep to perform a thorough cleaning.   Furnace: DiFulgentiz recommends having your furnace thoroughly inspected by a company with certified technicians. In addition, changing furnace air filters at least once a month and vacuuming the heater vents in the living areas of the home will help keep your heating system clean and working efficiently. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, Lennox recommends upgrading to a high efficiency unit, such as the high efficiency Lennox SLP98 Variable-Capacity Gas Furnace.   Windows: Air leaks caused by cracks or holes around windows and doors can enable warm indoor air to escape and cold outside air to seep in, preventing you from maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. DiFulgentiz suggests sealing cracks with caulk or weather stripping, particularly in the exterior joints of your home where brick or siding fits against another material, such as wood. In addition, drapes, shutters or insulating shades can be installed on windows and doors to increase energy efficiency and help prevent heat loss.   To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://ift.tt/1wega8J.
December
7

(BPT) - The days are flying quickly past, and the holiday season will be over before you know it. If you haven't completed - or even started - your holiday gift shopping yet, don't worry; there's still plenty of time to get everything accomplished.   holiday gifts   First, be sure to find an idea for everyone on your list before you even think about shopping. With your ideas written down on a piece of paper, you'll be efficient in checking each and every name off your list. If the ideas are causing you the most problems, try an Internet search. Keywords to use can include 'gifts for mom' or 'musical gifts for a teenage boy.' And if your list includes people with hobbies, be sure to try an Internet search using those keywords as well.   Since you're already at the computer looking for ideas, you might as well continue using it to make your purchase. There's a good chance you can find the same item for sale on several different vendor sites. A quick online search will help you find the item for the best price, and you might also discover you can get the present gift wrapped as well. When comparing prices, be sure to confirm that the vendor can ship your gift on time, what the cost is for shipping, and whether the company has a return policy.   You also can go online to find excellent discounts and coupons for the items on your list. For example, Ebates.com provides discounts and coupons for vendors, and also rewards you with cash back on your purchases once you've finished your shopping. So not only are you able to find the item you wish to purchase with a free shipping offer or at a discounted price, but you'll also receive a percentage of your purchase as cash back to be used however you want.   Before you finalize your purchase, make certain it will arrive before the holiday. Online retailers will provide you with last-minute shipping information so you will know when it's too late. You'll also know if you need to pay more for a faster shipping service. Websites like Ebates often have discounts on expedited shipping. The good news is, if you ship the present online while sitting at your computer at home or at the office, you can avoid the long holiday lines at the post office.   If you haven't started your holiday shopping yet, your secret is safe. With these tips, you can check every name off your list with minimal effort and know that every gift will be delivered in time for Christmas day.
December
4

Choosing whether to purchase a new or pre-owned home is a critical decision for homebuyers, and it's important to know the reality behind some misconceptions about buying a new home.   New Home   KB Home, one of the nation's largest and most recognized homebuilders, debunks three myths associated with buying new construction.   Myth #1: A new home is more expensive than a pre-owned home. Fact: New homes can be built to accommodate any budget. Buyers can select from a variety of floor plans tailored to meet a range of budgets, so they only pay for what they value. Also, with standardized energy-efficient features, monthly utility expenses can be lower than those of an older home or rental property.     Myth #2: A new home will have features I don't want. Fact: While it's true that some new home builders produce communities in bulk and sell speculative inventory homes, homebuyers typically get to select the floor plan and features that best fit their needs and preferences before construction begins.     Myth #3: Buying a pre-owned home is better for the environment. Fact: Just like today's cars run much more efficiently than the clunky gas guzzlers of the past, all new homes use energy far more efficiently than a typical pre-owned home. In addition, new homes utilize sustainably-sourced or recycled-content products whenever possible when building, and often employ advanced supply chain management and recycling practices to minimize waste in the home construction process.     Myth #4: I won't save money buying a new home. Fact: There are a lot of ways that purchasing a new home can lower the total cost of homeownership. Along with saving on energy and water bills, homeowners generally save on renovations and repairs. More importantly, homeownership can offer long-term financial advantages, including the opportunity to deduct mortgage interest payments from your income taxes and the potential to build equity in your home.   Search For New Homes Here Source: KB Home Published with permission from RISMedia.

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