April 9, 2013 5:56 pm
Spring is officially here; the real estate market bustling with new listings and open houses. If you are planning on buying a home, here are some tips that will make your house-hunting experience positive and productive.
Finding the right real estate agent that will work with you is an important first step in the home buying process. This is an important endeavor, and as such, you want to make sure that your personality is compatible with that of your agent. Since you will be working closely on making significant decisions, having an agent who thoroughly understands your goals is paramount. Here are some tips for finding the perfect agent:
- Have your buyer's agent put you on a daily email drip with your buying criteria so that you are kept informed daily of what is coming to Market. The Market is heating is up, and the property may be gone before you are able to view it.
- Ask your agent about their background and qualifications. Make sure the person you chose to represent you is able to handle the nuances of buying and selling properties.
The next step is to ensure sure you do your research to find the right community for you and your needs. Deciding what type of neighborhood you want to live in is crucial; rural, suburban, or the city? Check out what the surrounding area offers, see what the downtown is like. Is it filled with coffee shops, grocery stores, banks, schools? Learning about the neighborhood of where you are looking to purchase a home is almost as important as picking the home you want to purchase. Here are some tips to help you make the best decision with regard to the neighborhood:
- If you are looking to move in to a specific neighborhood, make sure that the other homes in the neighborhood are consistent in value to what you may be purchasing. It's always best to be one of the smaller homes in the neighborhood vs. being the largest and most expensive home in the neighborhood.
- It is always good to check with the local police station to see if that area has any recent crime reports. Also, it would be wise to check on line at www.meghanslaw.com to see if there are any sex offenders residing in the area.
- Check the School Ratings in the Town that you are considering buying in. Even if you do not have children in school, when it comes time to sell that home, it will be an important selling factor.
When you have found a property you are interested in, ask any and every question you can think of; no question is too big or too small. You want to make sure that there are no surprises after you close the deal and are ready to move in. Property damage repair, renovations, electrical/heating systems, and foundation are only a few of the areas you should inquire about. Here are some of the very important questions you should always ask:
- Ask to see a copy of the Seller's Disclosure and a history of any repairs or renovations they have done.
- Ask if there have been any other offers on the property, and if so, have there been any professional inspections performed. If there has, ask what issues may have surfaced from the inspection and have they been corrected?
- Always ask if they have had any water problems in the basement. Telltale signs would be: a musty odor, and in unfinished basements, it is typical to see white lines of effervescence around the foundation, if water problems persist.
- If there is a separate hot water tank, always ask if the seller owns it or is leasing it.
- Ask if there has there ever been an underground oil tank, and if so, ask to see the documentation that it was professionally removed.
- If there has recently been sewer installed in the area, and the home you are interested in currently has septic or has recently connected to the sewer, make sure you ask if there is a remaining, unpaid, sewer betterment, as you may become responsible for that remaining balance.
House hunting can be a lot of fun, if you've done your homework. Work with a qualified agent and remember to ask the right questions! With more and more people entering the market, and inventory scarce, it's important to act quickly. These tips can help save you time and ultimately get you into your dream home more quickly rapidly. Happy Hunting!
April 9, 2013 5:56 pm
Buying a house is in equal parts exhilarating and nerve wracking. Unless you have that perfect house just waiting for you, financing ready to go, and no competing offers, your home search can be time consuming and fraught with ups and downs. Add your kids into the mix, and you might feel completely overwhelmed before you even get started.
There are many compelling reasons to include your kids in your home search. Moving can be a tough proposition for children, especially if they have to change schools and make new friends. Small children might simply miss the familiarity of the home in which they've grown up. Including kids in the search for your new home can be empowering for them. They can feel that they have a say in the final decision – the degree to which they actually do is up to you, but certainly most parents feel that a new home has to be just right for the entire family.
If you are moving towns, in a time crunch, or if you don't have childcare in the area, you might find yourself going on a house hunt with your kids in tow. Here are a few tips that can help you make your home search an experience that is tolerable – or even exciting – for the entire family.
Research. The more information you can find out ahead of time about the property either online or from your real estate agent, the better background you'll have to target areas of concern or interest when you go for the showing. Make lists of everything you're looking for in a home and screen out any houses that don't fit your needs.
Take your time. If possible, don't cram all your showings into one day. If a full day of showings seems like a marathon to you, just imagine how worn your children's patience will be.
Plan the day. Do you have a contingency plan in the case of a meltdown? Can you take turns viewing the home with your spouse and compare notes in the car?
Bring provisions. You'll need ample snacks, drinks, and entertainment like books, crayons, and sketchbooks. Portable DVD players, laptops, iPads, iPods, and handheld video games can work wonders for "bored" kids, especially if you ordinarily limit their time with such devices – and the promise of some technology time can serve as a reward for good behavior during each showing. Make sure you're stocked with diapers, wipes, and paper towels for any messes on the go.
Set ground rules. Lay out your expectations for your kids' behavior before you even embark on your day, outlining things they must not do while they are "guests" in someone else's home. Let them understand that you won't tolerate running, fighting, sitting on furniture, or fiddling with other people's belongings. Keep careful track of all of your kids at all times to make sure they are observing the rules.
Take breaks. Have lunch a restaurant your kids enjoy or take a midday break for ice cream or some other treat. Stop at a park or playground in one of the neighborhoods you visit. You can make the day a fun adventure that the kids enjoy and remember.
Streamline. Take notes and photos so that you can revisit the details of each property later on when you are free from distractions. If you find yourself with questions later on, you can contact your agent for answers.
Prioritize. Make sure to visit the homes that most interest you early in the day so that you don't end up missing them if you have to cut the day short. If there are any homes that would be "nice to see," but not compelling, save them until the end of the day and only visit them if the family is holding together well.
Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions you can make. It's imperative to make a sound choice that will assure your happiness down the road. Including your kids in your home search doesn't have to be difficult if you plan your search with them in mind. You might find that they have questions about a property that you haven't thought of – and their additional perspective could prove useful when you finally make your decision.
April 9, 2013 5:56 pm
Multiple listing. Agreement that allows real estate brokers to distribute information on the properties they have listed for sale to other members of a local real estate organization. Allows the widest possible marketing of those properties. Commissions are split by mutual agreement between the listing broker and the selling broker.
April 9, 2013 5:56 pm
A: Generally not because they are considered personal living expenses. But if an association has a special assessment to make capital improvements, condo owners may be able to add the expense to their cost basis when the property is sold. Another exception may apply if you rent your condo – the monthly condo fee is deductible every year as a rental expense.
April 8, 2013 5:22 pm
(BPT)—Forget wondering who's the fairest; when it comes to choosing home improvements that make your home look good—from the curb and to potential buyers—it may make more sense to ask "Who's the greenest of them all." Sustainable home improvements not only help reduce utility costs and boost owner satisfaction with their homes, they also make a house more appealing to potential buyers.
In fact, buyers are willing to shell out up to 10 percent more for new homes certified green, according to a January real estate report by Harvard University. Return on investment for certain types of green improvements - such as replacing older, less efficient doors and windows - also tends to be high, meaning sellers recoup much of the initial cost of the improvement when they sell the home.
If you're looking for eco-friendly home improvements, these five are among the greenest you can make:
1. Switch to a solar water heater - Switching to solar power for heating water can be a huge energy and money-saver. Solar hot water systems rely on free energy from the sun to heat a home's hot water. A typical system can use 50 to 80 percent less energy than traditional heating systems, according to Velux America, marketers of solar-powered hot water systems. That reduction can help a typical household trim its annual energy costs by 10 to 15 percent.
"While the initial cost of installing a solar-powered system is often higher than installing a traditional water heater, most homeowners find the energy savings allows them to recoup that cost in just a few years," says Jim Cika of solar system manufacturer Heliodyne. "What's more, homeowners may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost to buy and install a residential solar water heating system."
2. Eliminate incandescents - You'll have to do it soon anyway, so it may pay to start the process now and phase incandescent light bulbs from your home. Federal law banning incandescent light bulbs means that by the end of 2014, you probably won't be able to find one of the old-fashioned power-guzzlers on store shelves anymore. Instead, more energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) will dominate the marketplace.
3. Add or upgrade a skylight - Installing a skylight, or replacing an older model skylight with a new Energy Star-qualified one, can help reduce utility costs. The natural light from a skylight can help reduce the need for artificial light sources, thereby paring down electricity costs. When you pair no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights equipped with automatic rain sensors and efficiency-enhancing, energy saving accessories like designer solar powered blinds, you gain a new source of fresh air while improving energy efficiency by up to 37 percent, according to skylight manufacturer Velux.
And, in addition to long-term savings, the cost of solar powered skylights and blinds, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement.
And, if you would like to see exactly how skylights would look in your home, there's an app there that allows you to take pictures inside your home and superimpose skylights and blinds on the image of your ceiling.
Sunlight entering the home through a skylight can help reduce winter heating bills. EnergyStar.gov says installing an EnergyStar-qualified skylight, windows and doors can trim a home energy bill by 7 to 15 percent over non-qualified products. Visit www.EnergyStar.gov to learn more.
4. Replace an old HVAC system - In the typical American home, up to half of total energy consumption goes to heat and cool the house, EnergyStar says. Replacing old, inefficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems with newer, more efficient models can dramatically reduce a home's heating and cooling costs.
5. Upgrade old windows and doors - A home can lose a tremendous amount of air - hot in the winter, cool in the summer - through poorly sealed doors and windows. Older units, obviously, tend to be less energy efficient than newer ones. Upgrading from drafty windows and doors to more air-tight models can result in significant savings on your heating and cooling costs.
What's more, replacing windows and doors are among the home improvements that deliver significant ROI at the time of resale. Replacing old windows with new vinyl ones can recoup more than 71 percent of the cost when you sell; 73 percent for wooden replacement windows, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report. And installing a new front door earns you back nearly 66 percent for a fiberglass door and a whopping 85.6 percent for a steel door.
April 8, 2013 5:22 pm
(BPT)—As spring blossoms, so does our desire to lighten up - in life and at home. Simple eco-friendly changes to home decor can set the tone for a much fresher and brighter outlook.
Here are five tips to get you started:
Get a color lift
Color has long been credited for its mood-changing qualities. "Color can really change the energy in a space," says C. Michael Kleeman, program coordinator of design at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Choose the season's hottest color - orange - or seasonal citrus green, turquoise or sunny yellow, in paint, botanical fabrics and accessories.
A new coat of paint - even on one wall - can immediately set an upbeat mood. Use Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free paints to protect the environment. "These paints don't emit toxic fumes and are completely odorless," says Kleeman. "They make it possible to paint a bedroom today and sleep in it tonight."
Lighten up the mood
Give your home an eco-friendly dose of spring with updated lighting, new furniture arrangements and removal of heavy draperies and rugs.
Rachel Simmons, a member of the interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Jacksonville, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design, suggests converting task lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which are now available in dimmable versions. The reduction in energy consumption translates into a lower monthly electric bill and an overall reduction in the carbon footprint.
Try creating a more flexible floor plan with your furniture. Move a piece or two from one room to another. Angle a sofa or reorient the seating to take advantage of a view or a natural breeze through an open window. Shifting pieces can give a room the appearance of more space, making it feel less cluttered.
For instant brightening, remove heavy draperies and roll up the rug. You can place lightweight panels, preferably organic cotton or linen, on the windows, or leave them uncovered if you don't need draperies for privacy. Leave hardwood floors bare or invest in an inexpensive natural fiber seagrass or jute floor cover for the summer.
Delight in de-cluttering
Spring brings the inspiration to cleanse and purge items no longer needed. In addition to sorting through closets and cupboards, give your home an airier look. Replace heavy accents like wood and ceramics with lighter pieces like baskets or glassware filled with flowers or fruit. Kleeman suggests storing a collection of carefully edited accessories to pull from for each season. Reposition artwork and add mirrors on walls, mantels or even bookshelves to open up a room and give the illusion of more space.
Shop and swap
For an eco-friendly seasonal update, Simmons recommends reusing or repurposing items you already have. A simple piece of furniture like a dresser or chair can be painted in a bright color to liven up a room. Or you might swap items that no longer fit your space with a group of friends or look for bargains in thrift stores or consignment shops. If you do need to purchase new items, look for selections using renewable or organic resources like bamboo, organic cotton or recycled glass.
Bring the outside in
Bring the natural goodness of the outdoors in by adding potted flowers and plants or window boxes. Simmons recommends visiting the local farmers market to find your favorite plants or flowers and place them in locations where you spend time daily. Plants not only add oxygen, but also brighten the indoor environment.
The key to smart decorating for hotter weather is not to overpower the existing elements. "Small changes can make a dramatic difference in the personality of a room," says Kleeman.
April 8, 2013 5:22 pm
Health experts agree the average mattress should be replaced after 10-15 years. But traditional mattress types have given way to new breeds. If you are in the market for a new mattress, which type is best for you?
“The only way to choose the right mattress is to lie on it for at least 20 minutes,” said Omaha mattress store manager Joe Paginolo. “Don’t let anyone rush you. Get comfy in the position you usually sleep in—and try it out for at least that long.”
Paginolo points out some of the pros and cons of four basic mattress types:
- Pros: They range in firmness, price and fluffiness of the pillow top to satisfy nearly everyone’s preference and budget.
- Cons – The cheapest may not have enough springs and cushioning to offer proper support. Be sure the mattress you choose has at least 390 coils. Firmer versions are best for the overweight and people with chronic back pain.
- Pros: By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you're not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
- Cons - Because they are temperature sensitive, they soften and mold with body heat, so they can make you feel hot during the night. Also, some memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.
- Pros – Made from either natural or synthetic rubber, they provide a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed. They are supportive but comfortable for most sleepers.
- Cons - If you don't like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.
– (Unlike the blow-up kind you use for overnight guests, the high-end types known as ‘sleep number’ beds use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.)
- Pros – The firmness of each side can be altered, so they are a good choice for couples who have different firmness preferences.
- Cons – They can tend to pop up on one side when you sit on the other. Be sure your choice has multiple chambers, so this does not occur.
April 8, 2013 5:22 pm
Market price. Actual selling price of a property.
April 8, 2013 5:22 pm
A: Closing, or settlement, costs are expenses over and above the price of the property. Both the buyer and seller incur some of these expenses when transferring ownership of a property. Who actually pays, however, often depends on local custom and what the buyer or seller negotiates. Closing costs normally include title insurance, loan points, escrow or closing day charges, property taxes, and document fees. The lender provides an estimate of closing costs for prospective homebuyers.
April 5, 2013 5:48 pm
(Family Features)—You might have a favorite cookie or brownie recipe—but did you know you could make it even better by adding a simple, familiar ingredient? With a few expert tips from Buddy Valastro, author and star of TLC's "Cake Boss," you can take your sweet treats from good to great in no time.
Start with Quality Ingredients -- When you start with better ingredients, you end up with a better cookie or brownie. Use real butter, high-quality vanilla and great tasting chocolate. Here, Buddy shares some of his favorite recipes that use M&M'S candies to add an extra special touch to family favorites -- making them even better.
Chill the Dough -- Leaving cookie dough in the refrigerator gives it more body and results in a fuller and better tasting cookie. Plan ahead so you can refrigerate your dough at least one hour -- or, even better, overnight.
Keep It Uniform -- Use a small ice cream scoop to keep your cookies the same size. This not only helps them look professional, but bake up evenly and consistently.
Pans Matter -- Bake cookies on light-colored, non-insulated cookie sheets without sides. Metal pans will cook brownies faster than glass pans, which means cooking times will vary. Start checking your brownies early to test if they're ready and prevent over baking.