Gunning Daily News

Buyer's Market Spurs Confidence in Young Professionals and Affluent Homeowners

April 25, 2011 8:01 am

By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-As the cold temperatures become a distant memory, and the spring selling season gains momentum, consumers have come to agree on one thing-now's a good time to get off the fence and into the real estate market. This is the overall theme in the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker survey, a monthly survey that tracks the spending and saving habits of consumers in order to get an indication of what's happening in the market. "This month's Spending and Saving Tracker provided an up-to-date look at various consumer trends and gave us the opportunity to assess how consumers are feeling about the current market in addition to gauging homeowner confidence," says Leah Gerstner, vice president of public affairs at American Express.

"This month's survey points to the fact that consumers overwhelmingly feel that we are in the midst of a buyer's market," she adds. The data also points to the fact that a seller's market is at least a year away, which is certainly positive news. While homeowners aren't necessarily willing to settle for less than the asking price when selling their home, two of the biggest areas of interest in the latest survey deal with homeowners including home improvement projects on their to-do list, as well as the willingness to include concessions to get their home sold.

Home Improvements

"In looking at the results of our latest Spending and Saving Tracker survey, our thinking was that if consumers overwhelmingly view today's market as a buyer's market-which they do-they are likely to have plans to put more money into their home," adds Gerstner. In fact, the survey found that about 64% of homeowners currently have home improvement projects on their to-do list for 2011. While the plans are in place, the amount that homeowners are budgeting to spend has gone down quite a bit from last year.

"Homeowners are looking for better ways to stretch their dollars, and many are looking toward energy-efficient home improvements that will pay off in the long run." The survey shows that among homeowners who are looking to go green, the most common items homeowners would spend their money on include energy-efficient windows and doors, insulation, roofing, heating and cooling systems as well as alternative energy systems.

Concessions

Another finding that stood out in the latest survey had to do with whether or not sellers were willing to make concessions to get their homes sold, especially in today's market. While 44% of sellers were willing to give away appliances during a sale-the biggest concession among young professionals and affluent homeowners-another 28% said they would take care of requested repairs in order to get their home sold. "While a large majority of sellers are willing to make concessions to get their home off the market, the willingness to make concessions is down among young professionals when compared with the 2010 survey," says Gerstner. "This is an important finding as it shows that young professionals are more confident in their ability to sell their homes today."

"Homeowner confidence in today's market has increased compared to last year," says Gerstner. "In fact, the survey shows that the confidence level is pretty evenly split-42% of homeowners are confident they will get their asking price in today's market, while 47% of homeowners aren't that confident." Even though home values continue to be on the low side, young professionals and affluent homeowners are seemingly more confident in today's market.

Copyright 2011 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.


Word of the Day

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

Settlement. The day on which title is conveyed.

Copyright 2011 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.


Q: Should I buy a vacation home?

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits of a second home mirror those for a primary residence. Before taking the leap, however, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

Copyright 2011 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.


Top Outdoor Living Trends for Spring

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 23, 2011-Based on the buying habits of their customers nationwide, Family Leisure and FamilyLeisure.com have announced the trends they have spotted for spring 2011.

"Over the last five years there's been a huge jump in customers' desire to nest at home as the economy continues to recover," said Kevin Prefontaine, President of Family Leisure Indianapolis. "We are seeing a continuation of consumers spending their time and dollars enhancing their at home experience with fresh, new, exciting additions."

The top 5 trends in outdoor living for spring 2011, as identified by Family Leisure and FamilyLeisure.com customers, are:

1. Fireplaces. Whether you are trying to create a simple BBQ area or an entire backyard paradise, outdoor fireplaces are "hot" right now. There are a variety of options to consider when building an outdoor fireplace, from size, color and materials.

2. Pergolas. Pergolas extend outdoor living space through a horizontal trellis work supported by columns or posts, either attached to a structure (such as your home) or standalone. "We are seeing an increase in standalone pergolas, which offer customers a separate conversation area aside from a patio or sunroom," Prefontaine said. Pergolas are also a more affordable option for some consumers.

3. Outdoor kitchens/grill islands. Grill islands and outdoor kitchens can be made from the highest quality materials and are increasingly being made to customers' specifications. The stone, stucco and tile are available in a variety of shapes and colors to match any outdoor d cor. Consumers are looking for the best cooking results and an inviting, easy-to-clean kitchen with add-ons like pizza ovens and warming drawers. "We're also seeing customers add lighting and outdoor stereo systems to create the perfect ambiance for outdoor entertaining," Prefontaine said.

4. Fire pits. "The beauty of a custom outdoor fire pit is that they can be used nearly year round and can be as simple or as elaborate as the customer wants, depending upon their budget," Prefontaine said. Fire pits can be made from a variety of materials to match or accent a customer's existing d cor. Fire pits can be customized any way you can imagine, even featuring your family name or favorite sports team's logo.

5. Patio furniture. The last few years have seen a huge increase in the availability and options of quality patio furniture. "Instead of buying disposable pieces, we are seeing more and more customers invest in quality patio furniture-sturdy, well-made items that will last a lifetime," Prefontaine said. "You can feel the difference in the weight and you can tell the difference when you sit on a piece of quality furniture as opposed to a cheaply made item that might last a year or two."

For more information, visit www.familyleisure.com.

Copyright 2011 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.


Stronger Crib Safety Rules Established

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 23, 2011-Even though National Consumer Protection Week (March 6-12) is over, Americans should be aware of a new update regarding crib safety rules that can be seen as a step forward in protecting infants and toddlers.

Our friends at the U.S. PIRG, a federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) that advocate for consumers in areas including product safety, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently announced the establishment of the strongest crib safety standards in the world.

Following recent years of recalls of millions of cribs due to entrapment deaths and injuries, the new standards become mandatory in June, 2011. They will ensure new cribs have been tested for safety to rigorous standards.

The Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Kids in Danger and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group all hailed the update as a major step forward in protecting infants and toddlers.

The new rule puts many new tests and requirements in place:

-Cribs with full side drop-sides will not be allowed-the bottom 20" of the crib rail must be fixed to eliminate the entrapment hazards seen when the hardware fails.

-All cribs must undergo rigorous testing for slat strength, durability and mattress support strength. The series of testing is conducted on one crib to simulate a life-time use of a crib. This is the key to the new standard. Most of the 10 million cribs recalled since 2007 were able to meet the weak industry standards that were in place.

-Warnings and labeling have been improved, both to make parents more aware of when a crib is mis-assembled and to alert them to developmental signs to stop using a crib (when the child attempts to climb out). While most attention has been rightly focused on entrapment deaths in cribs, most injuries are a result of children falling out of cribs.

For the first time, this mandatory rule applies to products already in use by some entities as well as to new products. Efforts will begin immediately to remove older unsafe products off store shelves, out of child care homes and out of hotels. This does not apply, however, to already purchased cribs being used in private homes, except for barring their resale.

For more information, visit www.cpsc.gov/info/cribs.

Copyright 2011 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.


Tips to Help Buyers Assess Online Photos in Proper Context

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 23, 2011-With a large majority of real estate buyers starting their home search online, it is more important than ever for sellers and the agents representing them to be sure the photos they post online make a good first impression. The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) warns that real estate images can be misleading, especially as home staging-the practice in which experts make the property attractive to the highest number of potential home buyers by enhancing its visual appeal-is becoming increasingly common. Taking the staging element to the dramatic editing of online photos is a relatively new tactic and can be misleading.

Today's home buyer spends more time online when shopping for a home. The practice is growing and more popular than ever with the rise of smartphone apps that allow buyers to search property listings, calculate mortgages and more. Virtual showings are integral to the total home buying process and a large part of that is the ability to view the exterior and interior of a home before deciding to view it in person.

"We advocate for clarity and integrity in every facet of the real estate buying transaction, and that extends to photographic representations of properties," says Benjamin Clark, 2010 President of NAEBA.

The following four tips will help buyers assess online photos in the proper context.

1. Pictures can look better than the actual home. Buyers should view pictures with that understanding and not make a sole judgment based on the photos.

2. Pictures may look worse than the actual home. Buyers may be discouraged by a poorly taken photo, yet the property may actually represent a good bargain.

3. Order and flow make a difference. It can be difficult to get a sense of the flow of the home from photographs. If the photos are not listed in order, try to do it yourself so that you can follow the path of the home from the front door through the rooms of the house.

4. Photos distort scale. It is difficult to get a good view of a whole room from a small picture. Rely on floor plans and room dimensions rather than photos to judge the scale of rooms.

Photos can provide additional information, but home buyers that rely solely on an image can miss out on a great home or be disappointed by an in-person visit. Buyers should assess all available information about a home. Use Google Street View to see the surrounding neighborhood, and Yelp to read reviews about local businesses and stores. A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but when added to detailed research, it can be very valuable.

For more information, visit www.naeba.org.

Copyright 2011 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.


10 Tips to Banish Mold from the Home

April 23, 2011 9:43 am

By Charles Furlough

RISMEDIA, April 23, 2011-Often, our first encounter with mold at home occurs in that infamous spot between the shower curtain and tub. It's pretty disgusting, but it's easy to wipe up. Unfortunately, in most homes, this isn't the extent of the mold-the more problematic mold is the insidious kind, hiding behind walls and in floorboards, and potentially contributing to a range of allergies and other illnesses. In fact, a 1994 study by the Harvard University School of Public Health, which involved 10,000 homes in the U.S. and Canada, found that half of those homes had mold levels that participants said caused a 50-100% increase in distressing respiratory symptoms.

What causes mold? Surprisingly, advanced building materials are one of the main culprits. In the last few decades, buildings have increasingly been made to prevent the infiltration and exfiltration of air, leading to higher humidity levels. The insulation materials used in this type of construction contain cellulose and other materials that lock in moisture. Adding to the problem, many wall cavities are wrapped in plastic, allowing for even more moisture. An aging home is at even greater risk, as normal occurrences like window and roof leaks bring in even more moisture-and moisture is a direct cause of mold. Limited ventilation or sunlight only makes the problem worse, and things can get bad fast-one square foot of moldy drywall can harbor more than 300 million mold spores.

When you hear the term "mold," it can generally be one of two types-allergenic mold, and black mold. Allergenic mold is found in nearly every home, in some amount, however small. This type can provide unpleasant symptoms if it becomes excessive, depending on a person's sensitivity level. These symptoms include fatigue, nasal and sinus congestion, skin and eye irritation and headaches. While these symptoms can be extremely annoying and make someone ill, they're almost never life-threatening.

What's much more dangerous, however, is toxic mold-more commonly, the black mold stachybotrys. Shockingly, over 27% of homes in the U.S. contain black mold. Black mold, in smaller amounts, causes many of the same symptoms as allergic mold, but, in high levels or among people with preexisting conditions or compromised immune systems, black mold can cause neurological damage, causing debilitating headaches and even memory problems.

How do you find the mold in your home? Sometimes it's easy-it may be right in front of you, or you'll find it by its distinctly musty smell. Though it's harder to find hidden mold, you can do so by looking behind and beneath fixed materials and appliances: refrigerators, dishwashers, sink cabinets, washer/dryers, carpets, vinyl flooring-anywhere near where water flows or where air doesn't penetrate readily. Also, look for signs of discoloration on walls and ceilings; this can denote a moisture buildup behind which mold may lurk.

Once you find the mold, remove it with a store-bought anti-fungal solution, or get rid of it with a weak bleach solution-1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. (If mold exists in an area over 2 square feet, call a professional to have it removed). But even more important than removing it is eliminating as many of its causes and sources as possible.

Follow these 10 tips to drastically reduce the mold in your home:

1. Call in a home inspection professional to assess water-damaged areas.

2. Keep humidity low. Humidity levels should be under 40% in order for mold to stop its forward march.

3. Replace any carpets and furniture that have ever been significantly damaged (i.e., saturated in water), even if they look OK on the outside.

4. Carpet in the bathroom or basement? Don't even think about it. And if you have it, get rid of it.

5. Use an air-conditioner during the summer. We know it's not cheap to run the A/C, but if it's in the budget, even setting it to 80 degrees when it's 90-plus outside, will help. Use fans to circulate A/C most effectively.

6. Dust and clean furniture regularly, and vacuum carpets at least once a week (make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter).

7. Provide adequate ventilation in hot areas. The kitchen and bath are two of the highest-risk rooms for mold. Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom.

8. When you're shopping for house paint for big or small painting projects, ask the sales rep about mold inhibitors you can add before painting.

9. Does your central air system have a fan from the Ford Pinto era? If so, replace it with a high-performance electrostatic air filter. Your local HVAC technician can help withy this.

10. Don't neglect areas underneath the house-have a professional drain and ventilate all sub-basement areas, especially crawl spaces.

Charles Furlough is Vice President of Pillar To Post Home Inspections.

For more information, visit www.pillartopost.

Copyright 2011 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.


Word of the Day

April 22, 2011 8:43 am

Prepayment penalty. Fee charged by the lender when a borrower repays the loan early.

Copyright 2011 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.


Q: Is it possible to get a no-down payment loan?

April 22, 2011 8:43 am

A: Builders will typically offer no-down-payment loans to sell properties in a slow-moving development or a depressed market. Desperate sellers also may commit to finance the down payment for the buyer to move a hard-to-sell home or to make a quick sale. And veterans may buy a home with nothing down through the Veterans Administration's home loan program. And members of some pension funds also may avoid making a down payment.

Copyright 2011 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.


Top 4 Things You Should Donate This Spring

April 22, 2011 8:43 am

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2011-Spring presents the perfect time to take a fresh look at the items in your home and decide what should stay and what should go. As you de-clutter your home, Goodwill Industries can put your unwanted items to good use. When you donate your gently used clothing, housewares and electronics, you are helping Goodwill provide job training, education programs and community-based services to people in local communities every year.

Here are the top five things that people don't think to donate.

1. Cell phones: It's time to dig out the old cell phones you have hidden away. If you've ever upgraded to a new cell phone, it's likely you have an old one somewhere at home. Goodwill agencies are working with partners to collect and recycle these phones and keep them out of landfills.

2. Books: If you've already read a book and have no plans to read it again, donate it to Goodwill. Donating books frees valuable shelf space and makes room for new ones. Check your children's rooms for outgrown kid's books or your kitchen for cookbooks you haven't consulted in the last year.

3. Clothing: You can let go of the jeans that never quite fit or that sweater that wasn't quite your style. Goodwill agencies gladly accept donations of gently used clothing. As you're cleaning out your closet, put clothing donations in a pile and, when you're finished, bring them to your nearest Goodwill donation center. When you're finished going through your closet, that pile might be bigger than you bargained for.

4. Housewares: Sometimes we inherit household items from others or receive them as gifts. If you have a second toaster, vacuum cleaner or blender that you don't need, donate it to Goodwill.

For more information, visit www.goodwill.org.

Copyright 2011 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.