Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DESIGN TRENDS FOR 2012

If you’re considering repainting your home in the New Year, look to the great outdoors for inspiration. The color experts at the Paint Quality Institute (PQI) say paint color trends for 2012 will draw upon the natural colors in the American landscape, such as native plants, flowers, rocks and minerals, and the ocean.

Blues will continue to be popular in 2012, says Debbie Zimmer, color expert at PQI. Whether choosing sparkling sea-glass blue or colonial blue-gray, blues are suitable for all living spaces because they are a soothing color that everyone seems to love.

Greens, from sage to forest green, allow homeowners to bring part of the outside world inside. Dining rooms and kitchens are natural spots for different shades of “in-vogue” green, but the color works well in family rooms and bedrooms too.

Violet, inspired by the majestic purple mountains in the West, brings a harmonious combination of patriotic blue and red to the home’s interior.

Violet can add punch to any room when used as an accent color or be the dominant color in a bedroom.

Also new for 2012 is patterned paint, which can be the focal point in a room, or provide a subtle, textural backdrop to fine furnishings and artwork. For a sleek, stylish look, try classic black and white, which is popular in kitchen designs. Home exteriors are also moving to a more monochromatic palette in 2012. For example, shutters will be painted a shade or two darker than the siding.

Despite the new colors and trends for 2012, Zimmer says one thing will remain the same. “Top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paint will provide the best performance and the best value to budget-conscious homeowners,” she says.


We have a great painting company as part of our team, Greg Giesen with Giesen Painting. He has done fabulous work for us at fair prices. We hope you would consider using him as our preferred referral painter. Greg can be reached at (415) 456-0146.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Goal of Homeownership

Homeownership is a goal for many, whether they are aspiring first-time homebuyers, in the market for a second home or have their sights on an investment property. Whichever your goal, here is some information to help you along the way.

First-Time Homeownership:
81% of homeowners and 67% of renters polled feel that homeownership is the best investment they can make. In addition to having a place of your own, homeownership allows you to build equity.



Investment Property: Many people purchase investment properties with the intention of augmenting their incomes with the proceeds from rent. These properties may round out a growing investment portfolio or provide a second income to owners.


Vacation Home: If you’ve always dreamed of having a vacation home, you may be in luck. Home prices in many vacation hot spots have fallen. While buying property is a good long-term investment, the potential return isn’t the primary reason for buying a second home. Nearly 80% of second-home buyers purchased their home to live in and enjoy, not in hopes of making a substantial profit from investment.


34% of vacation home buyers
plan to use the property as a
primary residence in the future
and the average buyer will hold
onto the property for 13 years.

Source: Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HOME SEARCH BEGINS ONLINE


Most home buyers begin their search for a new home on the Internet and then contact a REALTOR® to assist them, according to the 2011 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Homebuyers use a wide variety of resources to search for a home: 88 percent use the Internet, 87 percent work with a real estate agent, 55 percent follow up on yard signs, 45 percent attend open houses and 30 percent browse newspaper ads.

Four out of 10 homebuyers say they first learned about the home they eventually bought from the Internet while 35 percent learned about it from a real estate agent, 11 percent from a yard sign or open house, and 6 percent from a friend or family member.


Neighborhood quality is the most important factor in choosing where to live, cited by 67 percent of buyers followed by the neighborhood’s proximity to jobs (49 percent), overall affordability (45 percent), and convenience to family and friends (39 percent). Neighborhood design, convenience to shopping, schools, and area amenities and entertainment are also important, while commuting costs continue to factor into buyers’ choice of location, according to the survey.


Despite the difficulties in the housing market in recent years, most buyers still believe in the long-term value of homeownership. Nearly eight out of 10 homebuyers say their home is a good investment, and 45 percent believe it’s a better value than owning stocks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Hints

Selling your home during the holidays is tricky for a host of reasons. It’s not a popular home-buying time; homeowners often host out-of-town guests, which makes it difficult to schedule showings; and agents and would-be buyers are busier than usual. But it is possible to make a sale during the yuletide months. Consider these tips from HGTV.


Keep decorations to a minimum. No matter your religious affiliation, it’s best not to show it off to potential buyers, who may not share the same views. If you have wrapped presents, consider putting them in a corner, away from view. If you must deck the halls, give in to your decorating urges with more neutral wintry pieces. Consider pinecones or snowflakes instead of garlands and colored lights.

Try not to plan open houses on or around Hanukah, Christmas or New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. When you do host an open house, make your home feel warm and inviting: Consider placing cookies and holiday-neutral drinks, such as hot chocolate or apple cider, out on a table for guests to take.



And finally, be sure your agent will be available during the holidays. Discuss up front whether he or she will be in town, on call or will have limited hours.


Fast fact >> >> >>


The gift wrap industry now accounts for $2.6 billion in annual sales (as of June 2010).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PRYING EYES




Open houses are a great way to show off a home, but they also can open you and your home to privacy concerns. Potential buyers will look through nearly every inch of your home, opening closets and storage areas, to get a sense of the space and where they might store their things.


Consider ways to protect your belongings — and your confidential information — with these ideas from About.com.


Go through your drawers and cabinets before others do. Potential buyers have reason to open and pull on them to determine how stable fixtures are, and it’s easy to glimpse personal letters and bills tucked innocuously away in drawers. Remove prescription medication from bathroom cabinets, too.



Your home should read like a clean slate, one that anyone could live in, so be sure to remove diplomas, wedding photos and other personal items from walls and tables. This protects your identity by keeping your name, college or church affiliation undisclosed, and gives buyers a blank canvas.



Shut down your computer. Professional hackers can gain a massive amount of personal information in a short period of time if left alone with a computer, so be proactive. If you still have an answering machine, consider turning it off so that buyers don’t hear personal messages or companies calling the home.



The idea of having strangers in your home is unsettling, so be sure your REALTOR® is always present and alert during open houses. Also consider talking to your agent about the benefits and drawbacks of you being there during the open house.­

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tap Into My Network

Access Real Estate Professionals Across North America and the World

Friends don't let friends rely on strangers for their real estate needs The average family moves every five to seven years. Whether moving across town or across the country, it's important for you and your family and friends to to have an agent you can trust. I am part of an exclusive network of real estate professionals that operate throughout North America and are committed to serving and providing value to clients before, during, and after the transaction. My network has closed approximately $17 billion in the residential sales in 2010 through working by referral.

The advantages of working with an agent in my network:

Our clients are more than a transaction. We serve as trusted advisors to our clients whether they need help with real estate or are looking for a recommendation to a reputable trade or service provider in their community.

We are known for integrity. We are held to a higher standard, treating our clients with care and respect.

We work by referral. Most of our clients were referred to us by other happy clients.

We are all producers. We get results.

Help me to help you and your family and friends!

If you have a friend or family member who is moving out of town or to another region, I can refer them to a professional who offers the same values and excellent care that I do. Moving can be a stressfull process; let me refer your loved ones to an agent from within my network to serve as a local expert and help ease the transition to a new area. Call me with their names and phone numbers and I will follow up with them.

· 63% of adults have moved to a new community at least once in their lives.

· 12.5% of Americans moved within the past year: Of this percentage, 16.7% moved to a different county in the same state and 11.5% moved to a different state.

· 48% of buyers found their agent through a referral and 85% of people used an agent they previously worked with to buy or sell a home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gut(ter) Check

For most homeowners,
cleaning the gutters is near the bottom of the proverbial to-do list. But keeping your gutters clean can really save you a lot of headaches; overflowing gutters can damage roofs and wreak havoc on your
foundation.


Keeping the water flowing properly isn’t as big a deal as you might think. And if you clean your gutters every six months, you’ll save yourself time and money.

According to www.hgtv.com, you can tell
if a gutter needs cleaning by looking up at
the gutter’s top, outside rim. If it is
discolored, there’s a buildup
and water is not flowing as it
should.

• To clean the gutters, use
a ladder. Make sure to be
safe and cautious around
power lines. If you feel
unsafe or uncomfortable,
hire a professional.

• There are several ways
to clean gutters. One is
to simply put on a pair
of gloves and dig the
debris out by hand and
rinse it with your hose.
Or you can use barbeque
tongs or make a scoop by
cutting a plastic, two-liter
soda bottle.

• To dispose of the debris, hang a
bucket on the ladder with a bungee
cord or lay a tarp on the ground to
catch the falling debris. When you’re
done, just roll up the tarp and empty it into
the trash.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

USE HEAT SOURCES WISELY

In response to rising energy costs, some homeowners are using alternate sources to heat their homes. While wood-burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces are popular options, especially in colder climates, they can be fire hazards.

Wood stoves made of plate steel or cast iron are best. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, and avoid green wood, artificial logs or trash. Inspect and clean the pipes and chimneys annually, and check monthly for damage and obstructions. Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from the stove.


Space heaters that feature the Underwriter Laboratory certification are recommended. Use a heater with a thermostat control mechanism that can switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don’t dry clothes or store objects on top of the heater. Like wood stoves, keep combustibles at least three feet away. Always unplug the device when it is not in use.



Clean fireplaces frequently to prevent creosote from building up in the chimney. Also inspect the chimneys for obstructions or cracks. Never burn trash, paper or green wood, which can cause heavy creosote buildup. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes near open flames, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.



Finally, make sure smoke detectors are working properly, and replace batteries every six months.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is Your Home Ready for Winter?


The change of seasons signals a time to prepare your home for winter, no matter what climate you call home. Taking the following steps now can not only save money, but provide added warmth and peace of mind.

Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and other debris from the gutters using your hand, a scraper or spatula, then rinse down with a hose. Also check that the downspouts are carrying water away from the house’s foundation, where it could cause flooding or water damage.

Seal the leaks. If your home feels drafty, cold air may be seeping in from around the window and door frames, electrical outlets and recessed lighting. Apply caulk around these areas, and use door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors.

Test smoke detectors. Make sure smoke detectors operate properly and replace the batteries, if needed. Also invest in a carbon monoxide detector, and make sure the fire extinguisher works.

Take care of windows. In colder climates, remove window screens and put up storm windows, which will add warmth and protect your home from the elements. If you don’t have storm windows and the windows are leaky or drafty, consider updating to more efficient ones. Or for a low-cost solution, use a window insulator kit to keep out cold air.

Inspect the chimney. Before using the fireplace, have the chimney inspected for creosote buildup, and if needed, cleaned. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the chimney damper closed to keep out cold air.

Add insulation. Most homes in the U.S. need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic regardless of the climate.

Check the furnace. Before the coldest temperatures set in, turn on your furnace to make sure it’s working properly. Check the filters monthly and change them if they are dirty. A dirty filter impedes air flow and could cause a fire in extreme circumstances.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fight the Flu Bug


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu-related complications. The first and most important step in protecting against the flu is a yearly flu vaccine. The 2011-2012 vaccine will protect against all three strains of flu viruses expected to circulate this season, the CDC says.


Vaccinations are especially important for populations that are at risk, including children, pregnant women, people over age 65, and people with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. Children under the age of six months are also at risk but are too young to be vaccinated, so people who care for them should be vaccinated instead.


Germs spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or other close contact. Infected individuals can infect others beginning one day before their symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. To minimize the spread of germs, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and immediately toss it into the trash. Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water isn’t available. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth, where germs are most likely to spread, and avoid close contact with those who are sick.


Once symptoms occur, prescription antiviral drugs can help decrease the symptoms and shorten the duration. Experts suggest that infected individuals should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).



The best course of action is prevention. Get plenty of rest, eat properly, drink lots of fluids, manage stress and stay physically active. Practicing healthy habits can beat the flu before it starts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Germ Hot Spots



The kitchen may be a popular place for families to get together to prepare and enjoy their meals, but a recent study by NSF International finds that it may also be the “germiest” room in the home. That’s because coliform bacteria can be found on many household surfaces in the kitchen, including dish sponges and rags, kitchen sinks, countertops and cutting boards. The sources of coliform can be traced to food items, such as unwashed produce, raw meat and poultry. The bacteria also can be brought in through improperly washed hands or through contact with household pets, including pet toys and dishes.





Dish sponges are the top hot spot for germs, according to the study. “Sponges pick up bacteria during the cleaning process and are typically not properly – or regularly – sanitized before their next use,” explains Dr. Rob Donofrio, Director of Microbiology at NSF International. “Additionally, sponges are often wet and left in damp areas in or near the sink, providing optimal conditions for germ growth. They also have many nooks and crannies which can be great places for germs to multiply.”





To clean, place wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes every day and replace every two weeks or more as needed. Or better yet, use dishcloths, towels or rags, which can be sanitized by washing them in hot water with bleach. Replace dishcloths every one or two days.





Another hot spot for germs -- the kitchen sink – should be washed and disinfected at least once or twice a week with a disinfecting cleanser. Sanitize kitchen drains and disposals monthly by pouring a solution of one teaspoon household bleach in one quart of water down the drain. Wash kitchen sink strainers in the dishwasher weekly.





Knowing where the germ hot spots are in your home and taking steps to clean and sanitize them properly will help protect you and your family from harmful bacteria.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Get Organized for a Stress-Free Move






Summer is a prime moving season for many families, especially those with young children who want to settle in their new home before the school year starts. Experts at Move.com offer several tips for making your move a seamless and stress-free experience.







1. When hiring professional movers, get written estimates from at least three licensed companies. For a few extra dollars, consider buying moving insurance. Investing in full value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced.





2. Take photos of every room in the new home while they are vacant. Then write down every item from your current home and which room those items will go before you begin packing them.





3. Begin packing early, even if it’s one room or one cabinet at a time. Toss or donate any items you don’t need. And remember to fill out change-of-address notices and schedule utilities ahead of time.





4. If you have children or pets, consider hiring a sitter or daycare for moving day, or find a safe place for them so they’re not underfoot.





5. When breaking down larger items, like shelving units, into smaller pieces, put the screws, washers and other small components in a sealed baggie and label it clearly. Keep all baggies with small parts in one box and carry it with you on moving day.





6. Take pictures of electronic hook-ups for TVs, DVRs, home theater systems and computers before unplugging them. Print out the pictures and label them in detail, so you will be able to set up the systems properly once you are in the new home. Also keep all loose wires in separate baggies or boxes that are clearly labeled.





7. Dispose of any household products you no longer use, such as paints, pesticides and detergents. Contact the city’s waste disposal department for guidelines on how to dispose of them safely. For items that you plan to take with you, like laundry detergent or cleaning products, pack them in a small box within a larger box to protect against leaks and seal the boxes securely.







Plan ahead and start packing early, so you
can enjoy the moving experience
with less stress.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kitchen Cosmetics



Could your kitchen use a facelift? According to Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the average minor kitchen remodel costs $21,695. And considering the amount of time people spend in their kitchens, it could be well worth the investment: Homeowners typically recoup about 73 percent of the cost, according to the report.




If you’re hiring contractors to do the work, make sure you do your research. Estimate how much the down payment will be (usually about a quarter of the total project cost) and be sure to discuss a schedule for the payments. Walk through and make a list of what (if anything) in the kitchen won’t be replaced during the remodel. Keep in mind that you can save thousands if your remodel allows you to keep existing wiring and plumbing in place. Still, unexpected costs do pop up, so experts recommend keeping about 20 percent more cash on hand to cover unforeseen cost overruns.




When it comes to the details, costs can certainly add up. But there are ways to get the luxe look for less. Kitchen counter materials range in price, from a top-of-the-line expensive granite surface to a wallet-friendly durable quartz countertop that has the look and feel of granite. If you do go for a luxurious countertop, consider installing a less expensive backsplash (beadboard, DIY mosaic tiles, or faux pressed tin are some options). Refacing cabinets, painting them or just replacing the knobs for a fresh look might be a more viable option than replacing the entire set.







Tuesday, June 7, 2011

PICTURE PERFECT













Whether you are preparing your home for sale or simply want to spruce up your house for the summer, the experts at the Paint Quality Institute (www.paintquality.com) suggest following several simple rules to make the exterior of your home look its best.


First, prepare the surface properly. Use a long-handled brush and soap and water to scrub the surface, then use a scraper or wire brush to remove any loose, flaky or peeling paint. Sand down any rough edges and brush off any remaining dust and particles left behind.


Use top quality paint for your project. For most wood and other exterior surfaces, 100 percent acrylic latex works best because it provides a thicker, more durable film and easily conceals old paint color. And since acrylic latex lasts up to 10 years or longer, you won’t have to repaint unless you decide to change the color scheme.



Using quality brushes and equipment for the project will make the job easier and produce a more even coat and color. When working with latex paints, use brushes with synthetic bristles, ideally polyester. Brushes should be springy and well-balanced, with multiple lengths of split bristles packed tightly in a three-quarter to one-inch thickness on a standard four-inch brush.



You should also take care to paint in the right weather conditions. Choose a day with mild temperatures, ideally above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and when the winds are light. If you must paint on a warm day, work on the shady side of the house.



With a little common sense and self-discipline, you’ll reward yourself with a beautiful, professional-looking paint job that will last for years.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grill Master




Few things are better than a barbecue on a warm, sunny day. Keep those burgers and hot dogs coming by keeping your grill in tip-top shape.


The National Barbecue Association recommends that you always start with a clean grill. Break up tough charred food and ashes from the last barbeque session with a metal-bristle brush or a steel wool pad. If the food is still difficult to remove, consider closing the grill’s lid and cook on “high” for an additional five or 10 minutes. The grill residue will turn to ash, which is easier to clean off.


To prevent food or ash residue in the future, lightly coat the grill grate with vegetable oil. Two things to keep in mind: always apply oils with the grill off, and never spray directly into an open flame. Another simple approach is to rub down the grates using tongs with a paper towel dipped in oil for an even application. While cooking, try to avoid using sugar- or tomato-based sauces until the last 15 to 20 minutes of grilling time; they tend to cause meats to char.


After you’re done cooking, allow the grill to cool. Once it cools down, remove all coals and liquids accumulated from inside the grill. These remnants can affect the taste of future meals and can collect moisture and impede the airflow within your grill, causing it to rust.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HERB GARDENING MADE EASY



Growing an indoor herb garden is a simple way to fill your home with color and fresh aromas while adding flavor to cooking and reducing grocery bills. And growing an indoor herb garden is easier than you think. All you need is natural light, water soil and nutrients.



There are many herbs to choose from, such as basil, dill, oregano, cilantro, rosemary and thyme. Before choosing your plants, the National Gardening Association suggests that you consider how much natural light you get in your home. Herbs need a lot of sunlight, at least five to six hours a day, so windows that face south or west will provide the best sources of light. If your home doesn’t get a lot of natural light, or you live in a colder, cloudy climate, keep the plants under a fluorescent light year-round.



Once you’ve selected the herbs, either plant seeds in a container or buy small starter plants from a local nursery. Use containers with holes at the bottom to drain the excess water. Provide enough water to keep the plants moist, but not soggy. Some herbs can be planted together in one larger container, but consider their needs first. For example, basil prefers warmth and more moisture, while rosemary needs to dry out between soakings and prefer cooler temperatures.



If a plant becomes wilted, check the soil for dryness. If there are pests, move the plant to another area and spray the foliage with a soap solution every five days until the pests are gone. To keep them strong, feed the plants every two weeks with a half-solution of an all-purpose fertilizer. With a little care, your windowsill herb garden can thrive all year round.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

CURB CONTROL

Whether or not you’re getting ready to list your home for sale, maintaining your home’s curb appeal is important. To make your home’s exterior shine, think about following the same decluttering and staging principles you would use to spruce up the interior.

Get an outsider’s view. Take a walk across the street to get an overall first impression of your property. Is the lawn unkempt? Are the hedges unruly? Rev up the lawn mower and trimmer; if you’re short on time, consider hiring a gardening service to do an overall clean-up and be sure to keep up with regular maintenance. Assess the windows — are they cracked or dingy? Repair any cracks or dings on the panes and sills and make them shine with a thorough cleaning.

Color coordinate. Consider planting or adding to a garden with bright florals and, at maximum, one or two decorative pieces (iron statues, gazing balls, etc.), depending on garden size. If it’s in the budget, rejuvenate your home with a new paint color — perhaps one to match the season, with a cool pale blue for winter or pale yellow for a warm, spring look. If you can’t revamp your entire exterior, consider repainting the front door to make it stand out, and replace existing hardware such as doorknobs or locks for a new feel.

Consider all angles. Prospective homebuyers are going to check out your house from all sides, including the backyard. Make sure any outdoor elements — the patio, pool, pond, deck and shrubbery — look just as inviting as the front porch. If you have a patio or lounging area, be sure furniture is up to date with clean cushions and no scratches or hasty repair jobs, and make sure the look matches the rest of the d├ęcor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Numbers Game



Websites like Zillow.com claim to provide estimates of what your home is worth, and while this estimate might be somewhat accurate, the only way to get a true assessment of the value of your home is to have an appraisal done by a certified third-party professional. There are a few situations where an appraisal is mandated, such as when you’re buying and selling a home, refinancing or applying for a loan using real estate as security.

The appraiser’s report can help determine a selling price, and it can provide owners with information about problems that are devaluing the home’s worth and give insight about worthwhile fixes. Appraisals are usually conducted after an offer has been made or to determine the initial value of a home as part of the selling process. Keep in mind that to approve a loan, banks typically require an appraisal using their preferred appraisers to ensure the most accurate
assessment, even if you’ve already had one done by another party.


The appraisal offers side-by-side comparisons of the home, along with three similar properties and an evaluation of the overall real estate market in the area. The appraisal will also note flaws in the property, such as a crumbling foundation, and offer specific dimensions pertaining to the home, such as the square footage and the size/number of rooms.


The appraiser will also research the area’s costs of labor and local building costs to determine how much it would cost to erect a similar property in the present economic climate. Things such as the home’s location and nearby amenities are taken into account to increase or decrease the value of the home — for instance, proximity to a school zone or within a neighborhood might be an increase, while being situated near a busy highway or isolated from the community could be a decrease. These factors, among others, will be used to estimate an approximate time frame for selling the home, which is also included in the appraisal.

Monday, February 28, 2011

FIGHT PHONE BILL CRAMMING

Have you taken a close look at your phone bill lately? It’s possible that unauthorized phone charges are slipping onto your billing statement unnoticed. According to the Federal Communications Commission, phone bill cramming — the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on a telephone bill — is rising. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than consumers were told.


Cramming can come from a number of sources, such as subscription services for “free” ringtones or joke of the day that are billed every month. Or consumers might have signed up for a “free” trial service or entered a sweepstakes. The charges may appear on the statement labeled as service fees, calling plan, membership, mail server or voicemail, which makes the charges tougher to pick out.

To fight phone bill cramming, the Better Business Bureau suggests reviewing all monthly billing statements for any unauthorized charges. If there are any discrepancies, contact the telephone provider or the business itself to ask about the charge. Follow up with an e-mail or letter sent by certified mail with a return receipt and keep a copy of the bill and correspondence for your files.
Finally, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or with your state Attorney General’s office, even if a refund was issued. Include the names of all the companies involved, not just the phone company. Also ask the telephone provider to restrict third-party billing on your account. That may be the most effective way of keeping crammers at bay.




Wednesday, February 23, 2011

FIND YOUR HOME STYLE

With so many homes on the market these days, buyers may find it difficult to decide which style of home is right for them. HGTV’s Frontdoor.com outlines several factors to consider when choosing a home style, including the region of the country, personal tastes, lifestyle and budget.

First, think about what part of the country you plan to live in and the type of neighborhood that appeals to you. Some home styles are more prevalent in certain parts of the country and in certain communities. For example, bungalows are more common in the Midwest, while Colonials are more prevalent in the Northeast.


Budget is also a consideration. For first-time homebuyers on a budget, certain home styles may be out of their price range. Meanwhile, move-up buyers with more cash available can consider a more spacious home with luxury amenities.


How much space do you need? For growing families, the typical American ranch home usually offers plenty of space and a large yard for kids to play, while a smaller ranch home may be a better option for empty nesters and older singles.


When selecting a home style, think carefully about the upkeep. How much home maintenance are you willing to do? Older homes may have more history and character but they sometimes require more maintenance, while newer homes may only require some minor touch-ups and may be more move-in ready.


Modern home styles with open, free-flowing floor plans and outdoor living spaces will likely appeal to those who love to entertain or have families. But smaller, cozy spaces may be better suited to older couples or single homeowners who enjoy their privacy.


The best part about finding the best home style to fit your lifestyle is decorating it to make it all your own.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

POSITIVE SIGNS FOR HOMEOWNERSHIP

U.S. homeowners remain upbeat about homeownership, and many renters are warming up to the idea of owning their own homes, according to a recent survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) conducted by Harris Interactive. A large majority of homeowners (87 percent) and 64 percent of renters agree that owning a home provides a healthy and stable environment for raising a family. More than three-fourths of homeowners (77 percent) and 55 percent of renters believe homeownership helps them meet long-term financial goals, while 70 percent of homeowners and 48 percent of renters believe it helps them realize the American Dream.

Nearly all homeowners (95 percent) and 72 percent of renters say that over a period of years, it makes more sense to own a home than rent. If they had to move in the next six months, 82 percent of homeowners and 50 percent of renters say they would prefer to buy a house. A majority of current homeowners (88 percent) say their ownership experience has been positive or very positive, while only 51 percent of renters have had positive experiences with renting.


More than six out of 10 renters say they are at least somewhat likely to purchase a home in the future, and 24 percent are extremely likely to do so. Nearly three-fourths of young adult renters (74 percent) say they are likely to buy a home at some point in the future, while 43 percent of renters plan to purchase a home in the next three to five years. Many renters cite several obstacles to homeownership, however, such as a lack of money for a down payment and closing costs, finding a home that is affordable and job security.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Final Tally

Thinking about remodeling, but don’t know which projects will give you the most bang for your buck? Check out the results of the latest “Cost vs. Value” report by Remodeling magazine.


One surprising — but fairly easy —change is to replace the garage door, which on average costs $1,291. According to the report, more than 80 percent of the cost is recouped during a resale. Other renovations and remodels worth their price tag include a steel entry door replacement (102.1 percent cost recouped), a minor kitchen remodel (72.8 percent cost recouped) and replacing wooden windows (72.4 percent cost recouped).


For upscale projects, replacing fibercement siding reaps 80 percent of the initial cost, while replacing vinyl windows recoups just more than 70 percent of the initial cost. Big renovations you might think are worth it, but aren’t: master suite additions (52.7 percent of cost recouped), an additional bathroom (53 percent cost recouped) and a home office remodel (45.8 percent cost recouped).


The data from the past seven years show a downward trend in the overall cost-to-value ratio, which began with eroding home prices and a rise in construction costs, but is now largely due to a drop in resale values.


So what’s the bottom line? The report suggests that in terms of remodeling, it’s most profitable to concentrate on the exterior of the home than the interior.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Holiday Tidy-ings

The holidays are filled with traditions, but there’s one you’d probably rather skip: the holiday cleanup. Consider these tips to make the daunting holiday purge seem as fleeting as the season.

Wondering what to do with all those leftover holiday catalogs? Rip ’em up and use the shredded pages to pack away delicate ornaments and other holiday decorations safely and securely. If the tissue paper from all those gifts is too wrinkled to reuse, line boxes with it to keep your most precious items intact until next year.

Use clear plastic cases to store decorations, while the backsides of old greeting cards make good labels to identify what’s in each box.

And what about storing all those extension cords and strings of lights? Wrap them around a gift wrap or paper towel roll to prevent tangling; bag and label with their corresponding extension cords so you know exactly what light goes where.

Do the same for garlands. Consider you avoid stuffing boxes with unrelated holiday knick-knacks. And last, invest in a tree bag to keep pine needles from spilling onto your living room rug or foyer floor. Before taking the tree out of its stand, remove excess water with a turkey baster to ensure that the floor stays dry.