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January
30

Much like the rest of the real estate industry, new home construction is on the rise! Are you a real estate agent who sells or even specializes in new builds?   Below is a list of the top ten reasons for home buyers to buy a brand new house. Feel free to use this information during your buyer consultations, share it on your social media platforms and with your clients.   new home1. Design the home of your dreams   When you elect to buy a home that hasn't been built yet, you get to enjoy the process of designing your dream home. This includes being able to pick the floor plan that's exactly right for you. Want all the bedrooms upstairs? Or a master suite downstairs? Done. There's no need to make due when you can start with something that's just right instead.   2. Enjoy your place from the get-go   Many times, when you move into an existing home there will be something you want to replace or remodel right away, like old fixtures or worn carpet or even just a paint color that's not your taste. New homes don't come with this instant to-do list, so you can spend your time enjoying your home... rather than fixing it up.   3. Sleep soundly (and under warranty)   While an older home will usually have components of various ages – some of which may need replacing not long after you move in – a new home has brand new everything and will be under warranty from roof to floor.   4. Start green, save money   New homes allow you to make money-saving, environmentally friendly choices from the start, instead of having to retrofit. You can choose sustainable flooring options, energy efficient appliances, green landscaping systems and more. Additionally, new homes often have better insulation, doors and windows that will save you money on heating and cooling costs.   5. Slash maintenance costs   Today's new homes are built to minimize maintenance, employing the latest, most durable products and techniques that will require less upkeep in the long run.   6. Feel safe and secure   Your new home is guaranteed to be up to the latest safety codes right from the start. In addition, newly constructed properties often boast safety features, like hard-wired smoke detectors and state-of-the-art circuit breakers, not found in older homes.   7. Benefit from community amenities   If you are considering a home in a planned community, don't discount the value of community amenities. Many communities now include pools, fitness centers and other recreation areas that will add to your experience in your new home.   8. Luxuriate in all new appliances   Brand new oven, brand new refrigerator, brand new washing machine, brand new dishwasher... we could go on and on. Sometimes there's just nothing better than knowing that your garbage disposal has never been used (and misused) before.   9. Discover more financing options   New home developers often have access to their own mortgage or financing options, giving you more lending choices overall. You may also encounter developing communities that are offering a discount special or price perk if you move within a certain time frame.   10. Rack up potential incentives   Building developers may offer incentives as part of your purchase package, like design or appliance upgrades or money towards closing costs.   Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
29

energyFor many people, a trip down the lighting aisle can be an overwhelming experience, especially when considering the many energy-efficient lighting options available. Whether looking at light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or compact fluorescent technology (CFL) bulbs, there are some factors you should think about before making a purchase.Recent studies have found that most homeowners aren't ready to make the leap to newer energy-efficient lighting solutions, such as LED and CFL. But those who are making the switch from incandescent bulbs to GE Energy-Efficient Soft White bulbs are doing so at a rate of two-to-one, compared to CFL bulbs.
"We understand that consumers are overwhelmed by all of the changes in the lighting aisle, and whatever their lighting preference, we have reliable lighting options for them," says John Strainic, general manager, Consumer Lighting for GE in North America. "For consumers who still want an incandescent-like bulb, our incandescent isn't gone-it's more energy efficient. Our Energy-Efficient Soft White bulb provides a warm, cozy light and dimming capabilities, but saves energy and meets federal brightness requirements."   Small upgrades equal big savings   According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting consumes up to 17 percent of a home's overall energy usage. With an annual energy savings of $2.05 per bulb, a household that replaces forty 60-watt incandescent bulbs with 43-watt Energy-Efficient Soft White bulbs could save more than $80 a year based on 3 hours use per day and an 11c/kWh electricity rate.   Other energy-saving options   One popular option in energy-efficient lighting is the LED bulb. Though the price for this option can be higher than others, experts believe that prices should decrease as LED technology evolves, allowing for a broader mass market appeal. Another more energy-efficient lighting option is CFL bulb technology, which has been in the market now for more than 30 years and has greatly improved to mirror the performance of a traditional incandescent light.   With new energy-efficiency standards taking place as of Jan. 1, 2014, consumers will now choose between these more energy-efficient lighting options, including Energy-Efficient Soft White, or halogen technology, CFL or LED bulbs. Consumers will still be able to find a limited supply of incandescent bulbs at some retailers until inventory is gone.   For those wishing to save money on energy bills, having an understanding of the different energy-efficient lighting options available can help to make an informed purchasing decision.   Source: GEPublished with permission from RISMedia.
January
27

If your garage is musty, cluttered or downright chaotic, don't stress. In the following article, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes gives us a few tips to take your garage space from disorganized and dirty to livable, or at least lovable.   Sort. "The first step to organizing your garage is clearing out anything you no longer need," says Litzner. Donate old items (like kiddie toys your troop has long outgrown) and toss anything no longer working.   Clean. Now that you're only keeping the essentials, clean your garage from top-to-bottom. Powerwash the floor, scrub down the walls, and get into every nook.   Paint your floor. Once your floor is clean, Litzner suggests, give it a glossy coat of paint. Use an epoxy paint, which provides a tough finish that will hold up longer and resist cracking and peeling.   garageAdd storage. Wall-to-wall shelves or a storage unit can help keep your newly ordered space organized for longer. "To find the perfect place for an item, keep in mind how often you use it," suggests Litzner. If it's an every week thing, don't place it on a top shelf. That sprinkler that won't come out for six more months? Feel free to stow that away until summer.   Utilize wall space. Hang gardening tools and appliances along the wall, suggests Litzner. Add a coat or shoe rack if you often enter the house through the garage.   Upgrade lighting. Tired of digging around a dark garage? Make sure you have ample lighting – not just the automatic light that comes on when the door opens, notes Litzner.   Create usable space. Don't park your car in the garage? Or maybe your garage is larger than you need. Create usable space – like a workshop, or a home gym corner. Now that your garage is clean, organized, and well-lit, you won't mind crafting or sweating in it.   For more information on remodeling your home, please contact Century 21 American Homes at  1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes.   Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at careers@c21amhomes.com.
January
26

Windows can bring new life to existing homes by letting in fresh air, flooding rooms with natural light and opening up beautiful views. They also come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Important considerations for selecting the right window are type, material, style, climate and budget.   Type A pocket window is perfect in situations where the home's existing window frame and surrounding wall are in good condition, but the sash is in need of improvement. Installing a complete replacement window is a good choice for projects involving more substantial renovation.   Material The most common materials used for windows are vinyl, wood, clad-wood and aluminum. Your choice depends on what factors are most important to you.   • Vinyl - A strong PVC material that is used for its durability, energy efficiency and ability to stand up to the elements. This material resists fading and won't flake, peel or rot. • Wood - Wood comes from trees with a range of characteristics, such as grain, color and sap content. Cladding is a strong layer of metal over the wood, providing extra protection and low maintenance benefits with no exterior painting required. • Aluminum - A lightweight and strong material that is a cost effective alternative to wood. This material is corrosion-resistant and performs well in most climates.   Shedding Light on Replacement WindowsStyle Awning, bay, bow, casement, double-hung, fixed, garden, single-hung, sliding and tilt and turn - windows are available in many shapes, sizes and combination units.   Budget When it comes to budget, it's important to factor in long-term value beyond the initial purchase price. Energy efficiency and a longer warranty can all help save maintenance and replacement costs over time. Resale value is also a key consideration - beautiful, more efficient windows are a big selling feature.   Climate Considerations Wet, humid, hot, severe storms, salty air - different climates have different window needs when it comes to material and glass choices. Talk to a reputable contractor or window dealer in your particular area to help select products that may work best for you. He or she may recommend hardware for a coastal environment, rot-resistant wood or another of the following materials or options:   • Coastal climates, wet and damp and/or high humidity - Specially treated wood windows or vinyl windows offer good moisture protection. Because these conditions can require more maintenance, including regular repainting and touch-ups, windows that require less maintenance and won't need painting, such as vinyl, and clad-wood windows, are a good choice. • Energy efficiency - With more homeowners looking for ways to save energy and money with building and remodeling projects, the demand for energy efficient windows grows. The W-2500 window from JELD-WEN, www.jeld-wen.com, can meet ENERGY STAR® criteria in all four climate zones in the U.S. and comes with an industry-leading warranty against wood rot. There are several criteria that must be met for a product to receive the ENERGY STAR designation. It is given in North, North Central and South Central climate zones with the standard glass package of Low-E270 with argon, and in the Southern zone when grilles are used. Without grilles, Southern zone ENERGY STAR criteria are achieved with Low-E366 and argon. • Exceptionally hot/harsh sun exposure - Rather than window material type, glass and window location is key. The right glass can help protect against UV exposure and keep interior furnishings from fading. Choose insulated Low-E glass, which reduces the amount of heat entering the home and lowers cooling needs. It also blocks up to 85 percent of harmful UV rays that cause interior fading. Look for the ENERGY STAR label suitable for your region. Pay attention to window labels including the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which indicates the ability to block heat generated by sunlight. The greater the protection, the lower the SHGC. U-factor is also important, which is the amount of heat flowing through a product. The lower the number, the more energy efficient it is. Proper overhangs and location of windows are also important. When building a home in a sunny region, place larger windows facing north. • Severe, hurricane-force storms - In hurricane-prone regions, look for windows designed to meet local building codes. These windows come with options that resist impacts from wind borne debris and keep windows intact during storms.   Depending on location, new windows can save you money year after year. They can also increase your home's value. Most importantly, new windows enhance the entire look of your home and add to priceless curb appeal - a must when it comes time to sell your home.   Don't Let Money Go Out the Window Windows have a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills. So, it's extremely important to make the most energy-efficient choice for your home.   Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows can lower household energy bills by 7 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lower energy consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and shrinks a house's carbon footprint. ENERGY STAR divides the U.S. into four climate zones, each with its own unique set of energy performance requirements. Energy efficiency for windows and doors is compared by using two important measurements:   • U-Factor: U-factor measures insulating value and indicates how much heat or cold transfers through the window or door. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient the product is. • SHGC: Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measures a window's ability to block the sun's heat. The more solar heat it blocks, the lower the SHGC number. Where air conditioning is prevalent, ENERGY STAR requires a lower SHGC. Where heating is more prevalent, opt for a higher SHGC so the sun's rays can stream in on cold winter days.   In the northern zones, U-Factor and SHGC requirements focus on helping reduce the need for heating. In the southern zones, requirements generally aim to reduce the need for air conditioning. Special glass coatings help control how much of the sun's heat enters and how much of the controlled air temperature inside escapes.   To earn the ENERGY STAR label, windows must meet rigorous energy performance levels. Qualified products must also have third-party certification based on testing in recognized laboratories.   Source: JELD-WEN Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
23

Mortgage rates pulled back, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate retreating to 4.64 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.34 discount and origination points.   The average 15-year fixed mortgage was down to 3.69 percent, while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage inched higher to 4.73 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mostly lower, with the average 5-year ARM settling at 3.46 percent and the 10-year ARM slumping to 4.19 percent.   Mortgage Rates Dip to Start 2014Mortgage rates started out 2014 by pulling back, helped by a few down sessions in the stock market. This week's decline largely unwinds the increase in mortgage rates seen in the last week of 2013. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds, so as those bond yields move up and down, mortgage rates typically follow.   On May 1, 2013, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.52 percent. At that time, a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $900.32. With the average rate currently at 4.64 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,030.08, a difference of almost $130 per month for anyone that waited too long.   Findings: 30-year fixed: 4.64 percent - down from 4.69 percent last week (avg. points: 0.34) 15-year fixed: 3.69 percent - down from 3.73 percent last week (avg. points: 0.25) 5/1 ARM: 3.46 percent - down from 3.52 percent last week (avg. points: 0.26)     Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
22

According to the HomeInsurance.com RateReport, average 12-month U.S. home insurance premiums fell from December 2012 to December 2013. The average annual premium in December 2013 was about $823, down 9.5 percent from the $900 average at the end of 2012. Premiums had increased for three years in a row before that.   The average price of home insurance fell despite an increase in the median price paid for existing homes, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The organization says the national median for existing homes in November 2013 was $196,300, up 9.4 percent from the same month in 2012. Average U.S. Home Insurance Premium Costs Decline to $823The average 12-month cost of home insurance has fallen every month since March 2013. "We think policyholders benefit greatly by knowing where premiums stand in their states," said Jana Bell, Vice President of HomeInsurance.com.   "New homebuyers can sometimes face sticker shock when they start quoting home insurance after they have gone into contract," said Bell. "Home buyers should not only research the average costs in their specific area but also get comparative quotes as premiums can vary greatly from home to home."   According to the RateReport, Oklahoma policy holders paid the highest average annual premium in December – nearly $1,491. Contrast that with homeowners in Oregon, who paid $454. Rates fell in 28 states. The largest year-over-year declines in premiums came in Tennessee, where costs fell 34.2 percent; Mississippi, where they dropped 26.9 percent; and Kansas, down 22.3 percent. The largest year-over-year increases occurred in Delaware, where average 12-month premiums were up 19.2 percent, New Jersey, where they rose 8.4 percent; and Nevada, up 6.7 percent.   Source: HomeInsurance.com Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
21

If you're considering selling your home, most likely you've heard some of the crucial elements to a successful sale: proper staging, proper pricing, and curb appeal. Below, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes lets us in on several things that can add instant value to your home.   5 Things That Add instant Value to Your HomeLandscaping. Bring in a professional or DIY. However, avoid going over-board. "While a nice looking yard will add value, a high maintenance garden may put off any potential buyers who lack a green thumb," warns Litzner.   A usable garage. You might assume it's okay to leave junk in your garage when showing your home. It is, afterall, a garage. However, cleaning out your garage and highlighting it as a fully usable space (for cars, storage, or a workshop) is an asset to buyers. "Allow them to imagine how they will use the space themselves – don't show them where last season's lawn furniture is hibernating," says Litzner.   Add more closets. If you have a small renovation budget, add extra closets and storage spaces wherever possible. Can you find room for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom? That's a huge draw for many buyers.   Create outdoor living spaces. "Whether it's just a nook you've carved in the garden, or a full-on patio with a pool, outdoor living spaces are always popular," notes Litzner. If you're on a budget, you don't have to go overboard. Simply cluster together some lawn furniture, set up a table by the grill, and you have a great space for summer entertaining.   Refinish the basement. The more usable living space, the better. If your basement is unfinished, and you have the budget, making it a livable space can be a huge bonus when it comes to listing your home. "You can do it minimally, by finishing the flooring and painting the walls, or go all out and create a game room or even an in-law suite," recommends Litzner. A home office or an extra bedroom are always a boon for your listing.   For more information on selling your home, please contact Century 21 American Homes at, 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes.   Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at careers@c21amhomes.com.
January
20

Like other age groups, not saving enough for retirement is the biggest vulnerability facing Millennials. However, they're the only generation that doesn't seem to know it, as Millennials ranked more urgent needs like managing cash flow, getting out of debt and investing as higher priorities. Here are some steps Millennials can take to strike a better balance between the needs of today and tomorrow.   7 Steps for Millennials to Define Their Financial Future
  1. Take control over your day-to-day finances. Millennials rank managing cash flow as their top priority. The first step is to find out where your money is going by looking at previous bank and credit card statements and categorizing them on a worksheet or a free site like Mint or Yodlee MoneyCenter that can track spending online or via smartphone apps. You can then search for ways to cut back on some of those expenses to bring your spending in line with your income and free up money that can be used to pay down debt or save for the future.
  2. Know the difference between good and bad debt. Getting out of debt was their second most important priority, but not all debt is equal. Debt taken to enhance career opportunities like a student loan, to purchase a vehicle needed to commute to work, or to invest in an appreciating asset like a home tends to be low interest and can be characterized as "good debt." Credit card debt taken to purchase the latest iPad is typically charged much higher interest rates and should be considered "bad debt."While auto and student loans may be frustrating, they don't typically cost as much in interest or have as negative an impact on your credit score as credit card debt. In fact, it may make more sense to invest extra money rather than pay down these good debts since the investments can be expected to earn more than you save in interest. On the other hand, you should pay any high-interest debt off as soon as possible.
  3. Protect your credit. Millennials are already the most likely age group to check their credit report on an annual basis, likely due to the impact it has on their opportunities for jobs and home ownership. You can take it one step further by signing up for free credit advice and monitoring on sites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. For even stronger protection, you may want to put a security freeze on each of your credit reports to prevent would-be identity thieves from opening credit in your name.
  4. Run a retirement calculator. With retirement so far off, only 29 percent of Millennials have run a retirement calculator, the lowest percentage of the generations. This lack of awareness is their greatest weakness. Using an employer-provided program like Financial Engines or Schwab GuidedChoice, or a retirement calculator can be an eye-opener.
  5. Start saving for retirement. Millennials are the generation most likely to not be saving for retirement at all. While their incomes may be relatively low, and many are struggling with student loan payments, Millennials should still begin building the habit of regular saving. One place to start is to make sure you're contributing at least enough to your employer's retirement plan to get the full match and not leave any of that free money on the table. This also forces you to save money before you even have a chance to spend it. You can then gradually increase that contribution rate over time.
  6. Open a Roth IRA. One place to put additional savings is a Roth IRA, which can be used to save for both short-term goals like emergencies, going back to school, or buying a home, and long-term goals like retirement. That's because whatever you contribute to a Roth IRA can be withdrawn tax and penalty free at any time and for any reason so the money won't be tied up. (Earnings can also be withdrawn penalty-free for education expenses and up to $10k for a first-time home purchase.)On the other hand, whatever isn't withdrawn grows to be tax-free after age 59 1/2. (Any earnings withdrawn before age 59 1/2 could be subject to taxes and a 10 percent penalty.) The key is to leave the Roth IRA invested someplace safe and accessible like a savings account or money market fund until there's enough emergency savings (at least 3-6 months of necessary expenses) accumulated somewhere else. At that point, it can be invested more aggressively for retirement.
  7. Get investment help. Investing was the third highest priority for Millennials and an area where their behavior trailed the other generations, probably due to their lack of investment experience. Target date retirement funds can simplify the process but they may actually be too aggressive for many Millennials as 43 percent characterized themselves as conservative investors. See if you can get more customized guidance and advice through your employer or use online tools like FutureAdvisor and Jemstep for free investment recommendations (there are fees if you want to have them manage the money for you).
Source: Financial Finesse
Copyright© 2014 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.
January
18

Waterfalls and water fountains soothe the soul. Water in your basement stirs up anguish. There are several methods to keep water out of your basement or remove what gets in. The most expensive, as well as the most effective, can require extensive excavation, our researchers learned in interviewing homeowners and highly rated contractors. Basement Waterproofing MethodsINTERIOR SOLUTIONS
  • Interior-based waterproofing methods, often called "negative side" projects, involve moving out water that's inside the home. Fixing a water problem from the inside may be a cheaper option, especially in cases where exterior work isn't practical or possible.
  • Drain: This system moves water out of the house through a hole or trench in the foundation, paired with a sump pump. Such a system should also include insulation of basement walls, with a vapor barrier to protect against condensation. Drainage systems start at around $2,000.
  • Sealants: Some highly rated waterproofing companies don't recommend sealants because they say they fail too easily. The cost of a sealant-based waterproofing project may range from $4 to $8 a square foot.
  •  Epoxy injection: Like sealants, this option is not always favored because it may provide only a temporary solution to fill cracks in poured-concrete walls. Epoxy injections can start at $300.
EXTERIOR SOLUTIONS
  • Exterior waterproofing projects are sometimes called "positive side" jobs because the aim is to prevent water from getting in the house.
  • Excavation: Many contractors consider installing an underground trench or perimeter drain to be the most effective method, if done correctly. However, the average range for an excavation job is $20,000 to $30,000, and can be as high as $80,000, depending on how accessible the targeted areas are, how much digging is required and how much landscaping or other work must be restored.
  • Sodium bentonite: Some waterproofing contractors don't like this method of adding a clay material to the dirt around the home to fill cracks and absorb water. They say it's a temporary solution and difficult to control, since the clay can clog outdoor drains. Costs for this method start around $500.
BEFORE YOU HIRE:
  • First try the simplest solutions, such as making sure gutters are free of debris, downspouts are moving water 20 to 30 feet from the foundation and the property slopes away from the foundation.
  • In addition to using a trusted online site to review local consumers' experiences, consider contractors who belong to the Basement Health Association, a trade organization that offers certification and continuing education. Also, get multiple bids, check references and make sure that the company you hire is properly licensed, insured and bonded.
  • Beware of a prospective contractor who repeatedly offers to lower the estimated price. Also, be aware that waterproofing work is often calculated by the linear foot. Be sure to get all relevant details, including price, in writing.
© 2014, https://www.angieslist.com/ Distributed by MCT Information Services Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
13

EAST MEADOW, NY, Jan 13, 2014-If you're shopping for a mortgage for the first time, you're probaby hearing tons of terms you're unfamiliar with. One of these terms, although not as popular as traditional mortgages, is an assumable mortgage. In the following article, Michael Litzner, Broker of Century 21 American Homes lets us in on what makes this mortgage different, and if it may be a good fit for you. House Symbol And 3d Character Showing Real Estate"An assumable mortgage is held by the seller and can be taken over by the buyer when a home is sold," explains Litzner. "Such loans are hard to find because most lenders stopped voluntarily writing them many years ago." Most new assumable loans today are adjustable rate mortgages. They may be attractive if the interest rate on the existing loan is lower than the rate the buyer could otherwise get on a new mortgage, either because of current market conditions or the buyer's poor credit history. "To determine whether to assume an old loan or apply for a new one, pay close attention to the possible assumption fee, usually one point, and other terms of assumption set forth in the existing loan," says Litzner. One plus: there are generally few closing costs with an assumable loan. "While an assumable mortgage can speed up the property sale, sellers should be careful about letting a buyer assume their mortgage," warns Litzner. Depending on the state and terms of the mortgage, a seller may remain liable for the loan until it is paid off in full, meaning the lender may go after both the seller and the buyer if the loan is not paid. For more information on loans and mortgages, please contact Century 21 American Homes at , 1-800-270-6318, or Century 21 American Homes. Century 21 American Homes is one of the fastest growing real estate brokerages serving Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. To find out more about an exciting career in real estate contact us at careers@c21amhomes.com.

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