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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: High Hopes for High Appraisals

October 18, 2011 9:02 pm

For many homeowners looking to sell their home, a high appraisal could make a huge difference in the amount of money the property actually sells for. Although there is much scrutiny about what you should or should not do to prepare for a home appraisal, many appraisers agree that keeping the home as updated and cared for as possible will take it the extra mile throughout the selling process. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for your home's appraisal:

Make your home look dapper: There is no need to panic about a couple dirty dishes, so don't sweat the small stuff. However, things like overgrown landscaping, a bug or pest problem or lackluster carpeting could affect your home's final appraisal. Try to plan ahead and update what you can before the appraiser arrives at your home.

Keep a detailed list of renovations: If you've updated any aspect of your home in the last few years, keep a running list of what was done and how much it cost. You will not only be highlighting the beneficial features of your home, but also pinpointing its worth. This will only help you in the end.

Focus your funds: Save your hard-earned cash unless you're completely positive it will yield a return. The best areas to focus on are the home's plumbing system, carpeting, lighting and paint. Prioritizing will help, but homeowners who have been attentive throughout their stay should not have a problem.

Location is always crucial: Have there been any updates to the surrounding area or neighborhood? Has your area been deemed a historic district? Is there a new shopping plaza or large chain retailer? Be sure to mention this to your appraiser - it could help toward the final tally.

Hide the pets, crank the heat. Make sure the appraiser is as comfortable as possible. Lock up intrusive pets. If it's hot out, turn up the air conditioning. If it's cold, crank the heat. You don't want the appraiser to question whether or not your system works.

Before scheduling an appraisal, make sure to finish any projects that may remain on your to-do list. They very well could affect your final appraisal.

Source: wsj.com

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Selling a Less-Than-Desirable Home

October 18, 2011 9:02 pm

Let’s say that you inherited an old house in a distant location and want to put it on the market. You may not have the time, resources or energy to make it perfect and just want a quick sale. Or, maybe you had renters at your property that did substantial damage and you don’t have the money to make necessary renovations. Fear not. Just because the house needs work doesn’t mean you can’t sell it, says real estate agent Melanie Tisdale.

Many home buyers today are shopping for deals and want to see the potential in your home. In that case, leave brochures for new cabinets in the kitchen, color palates around the bedrooms and even create computerized images of what updates could look like.

In addition, secure bids from licensed contractors on necessary fixes and provide them to your potential buyers. People may overestimate the cost of a new roof, shower stall or drywall repair and fresh paint. Estimates will bring the home into clearer perspective.

Work with your real estate agent to make the home as presentable as possible for the least amount of money. Make a room or two inviting so you have the photos that will attract buyers to what you can call “a fixer upper.”

Of course, nothing is going to attract people more than a low price. Obviously, you will need to discount the sales price to gain an advantage over comparables in better condition.

A down-and-out house doesn’t mean you’re stuck. With small repairs, research and practical pricing, you can turn that “Ugly Betty” into a sale.

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Builders Urge Caution on National Ocean Policy

October 18, 2011 9:02 pm

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently urged Congress to proceed with caution and conduct a cost-benefit analysis before implementing any new regulations or requirements that call for the federal government to develop a National Ocean Policy, which the Administration is now contemplating.

Testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee, NAHB Chairman-elect Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., says that utilizing environmentally friendly building techniques, NAHB members regularly take steps to improve the long-term conservation and care of the nation's coastal and Great Lakes communities.

"The nation's home builders recognize the need to preserve the health of the marine ecosystem as it is one of the many lifelines upon which we as a nation depend," he says. "However, NAHB is concerned that federal agencies will enact regulations that will only have a minor impact on the environment but impose a significant cost on private landowners and businesses."

A common-sense regulatory structure that continues to allow state and local governments to plan for and determine appropriate uses for their entire communities, including residential development, is important to maintain housing choice for consumers, create jobs in local communities and generate revenues for all levels of government.

NAHB analysis of the broad impact of new construction shows that building 100 average single-family homes generates 305 full-time jobs and increases the property tax base that supports local schools.
As one of the most highly regulated industries, Rutenberg says, home builders already comply with numerous federal, state and local environmental statutes.

For example, home builders must abide by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program when siting, designing and constructing their homes; meet the mandates of the Clean Water Act for controlling storm water discharges; demonstrate that their activities are consistent with their state's coastal zone management plan; and meet the requirements for their local zoning, critical areas or shoreland protection ordinances.

"Clearly, governments at all levels have already taken significant steps to protect coastal areas," says Rutenberg. "Any potential government policies that will broadly shape the future of our communities must be based on solid research and sound science and data and allow for choices and flexibility in the marketplace."

Since its scope is currently undefined and also references coastal areas, the proposed National Ocean Policy has the potential to link land-based activities to the health of the ocean.

"NAHB has significant concerns about the potential for the federal government to overstep its bounds with regard to land use planning, a practice that allows home buyers and homeowners the opportunity to live in a home of their choice in a location of their choice," says Rutenberg.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

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Researching the Perfect Neighborhood

October 17, 2011 8:58 pm

There’s an episode of the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother where the characters of Marshall and Lily decide to buy a home in a neighborhood they are unfamiliar with, only to learn later that it sits downwind from a sewer plant. The message is obvious: A buyer must do his or her due diligence on prospective neighborhoods to make the best real estate decisions.

For starters, investigate the local school district, as good schools boost your property value. Research the closest parks and community centers and consider how busy streets impact the neighborhood.

According to Florida-based REALTOR® Caprice Atwell, profiling the perfect neighborhood also involves meeting prospective neighbors. Walk through the area and say hello to people and ask them for their impressions of the neighborhood. While you’re at it, look around. Are there lots of kids on the block? Do people walk or jog through the neighborhood at night? A neighborhood can speak volumes by itself.

Don’t forget to map out stores and restaurants in the area. You may be used to a five-minute drive to the local grocery store, only to find out that your new home is 25 minutes away from the nearest place to buy milk. Of course, find out if your potential new home is part of a neighborhood association bearing regular fees, or if your community has lawn or construction restrictions, says Atwell.

A good agent can furnish you with a wealth of local information, and will take you on a tour of the closest commerce centers, restaurants and shops.

With a little groundwork you can help ensure that your dream house is surrounded by a dream neighborhood.

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Increase Your Home's Resale Value with a Newly Remodeled Bathroom

October 17, 2011 8:58 pm

By Keith Loria

Every home buyer has a vision of his or her perfect house and the rooms that are most important to them. Because of their relatively small size in comparison to the rest of a home, bathrooms are often overlooked in the staging process, but for many, it could be the most important room when making the decision to put an offer on a home. Not only do bathrooms contribute to a home’s value, a well-designed bathroom will also increase the home’s appeal in the eyes of a buyer.

“A bathroom is more than just a place for grooming; it’s a sanctuary,” says Marcia Sullivan of the Staging Bug Blog. “It’s a place one can relax in a hot bath and escape the stresses of daily life for a few moments at a time.”

Updating a tired looking bathroom is one of the best things you can do to increase a home’s resale value and the fixes are not too costly or labor intensive. Easy fixes include adding luxurious towels, replacing the shower curtain and placing candles around the bathtub. However, with a little more money and effort, your bathroom can become a talking point of the house.

“Newly remodeled bathrooms will add value to your home and help your home sell faster,” says Debbie Batts, manager of Metropolitan Bath and Tile in Bowie, Md. “You don’t have to feel cramped for space in your average-sized master bath. Light, café-au-lait colors and white will give you a bright wake up call in the morning. Washed, natural cabinets and polished granite countertop with double white sinks and porcelain keep it light.”

Adding decorative glass, stone tile or accents to the bathroom will help the home stand out among the other houses in the neighborhood that are for sale. Extra-wide wall tiles are popular these days and wood cabinets can be beautifully embellished with intricately carved wooden onlays.

“Add more lighting options around the room, especially around the vanity to reduce shadows and glaring,” Sullivan says. “This is something that isn’t too expensive and can really highlight the positive features of a bathroom. Mood lighting around the tub area is also increasing in popularity.”

While there’s nothing better than coming home from a hard day’s work and relaxing in a big soothing tub, putting in a new tub and creating a spa-like atmosphere will enable prospective buyers to imagine themselves washing their cares away. Adding a massage element to the showerhead or one that replicates rain showers is also something that will appeal to buyers.

Changing out the fixtures in a bathroom can also dramatically enhance the space. From cabinet handles to faucets, the addition of brushed nickel or other metals that are polished and elegant are always a huge hit. If space permits, you may want to invest in adding a second sink.

When buyers walk into a renovated bathroom that exudes quality and offers an intimate, contemporary feel, it’s one of the top things that people will remember about a home.

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Americans Show Great Desire to Age in Place

October 17, 2011 8:58 pm

According to the National Aging in Place Council, an overwhelming majority of Americans want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. But, while people may wish to stay in their homes longer, most houses were not built to adapt to our changing needs as we age.

By 2030, Americans 65 and older will make up 20% of the population. For those people wishing to make changes in their home that make aging in place an easier experience, heed the following tips:

Tip #1 - Evaluate Your Entryway: To accommodate a wheelchair, the doorway to your home should be at least 32-inches wide. Even without needing a wheelchair, a wider opening can be beneficial to provide added space for getting in and out.

Also, consider how the door swings. A door that swings in may be easier to operate than one that swings out. A remodeling contractor can help determine what your home will accommodate structurally and can provide recommendations for the door styles available and handle the installation.

Tip #2 - Get a Grip: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 67 million adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2030. For arthritis sufferers, just turning a doorknob can be painfully difficult. For this reason, consider installing lever-style handles on your exterior and interior doors.

Tip #3 – Upgrade Patio Doors: Patio doors tend to receive more traffic than the front entry door. If your patio door is due for an upgrade, you can choose the classic elegance of a hinged patio door or the modern convenience of a sliding patio door. Both are available in two-, three- or four-panel configurations to ensure a wide opening.

Tip #4 - Maintain the Beauty: As we age, simple home cleaning and maintenance tasks get harder. Having a wood door for example, will require more maintenance over time as it tends to rot, split or crack and requires frequent painting and staining. A better option is a fiberglass door that can withstand a wide range of temperatures and weather elements. These doors are easy-to-maintain, can be stained or painted like a wood door and are easily cleaned with soap and water. Fiberglass doors can even replicate the rich look and feel of a real oak or mahogany door, but offer the durability and energy efficiency advantages of fiberglass.

For more information, visit www.thermatru.com.

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The Federal Government Takes Action on Radon Gas to Prevent Lung Cancer Deaths in 2011

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

October 17-24 is Federal Radon Action Week according to The Surgeon General. Health agencies throughout the United States have joined forces to promote awareness of the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during the October awareness drive.

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. In fact, a recent study by Harvard University ranks radon as America’s #1 in-home hazard. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided.

Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires and handguns combined. If a home hasn't been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action. Contact your state radon office for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at www.RadonPlan.org. For more information about the Federal Radon Action Week, visit www.RadonWeek.org.

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As Mortgage Rates Dip Lower, Homeowners Should Consider Refinancing

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

Rates were already low at the start of the quarter, but following an announcement from the Federal Reserve, the national average rate on a traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has inched lower. Informa Research Services, a subsidiary of Informa plc (LSE: INF), encourages qualified homeowners to take advantage of low interest rates and look to refinancing their current home loan.

According to BusinessInsider.com, "Mortgage rates were already near record lows when the Federal Reserve Board acted to further reduce long-term interest rates in general, and included a targeted effort to push down mortgage rates even more." Following this announcement, national average 30-year mortgage rates dropped from 4.37% last week to 4.29% this week.

Homeowners who want to reduce their monthly mortgage obligation can check convenient rate tables found on websites such as ERATE.com to stay abreast of the most current mortgage rate movement. Furthermore, the lenders featured on these rate tables typically offer rates significantly lower than the already low national average.

A successful refinance will bring qualified homeowners immediate savings in the form of reduced monthly mortgage payments, but more importantly, larger savings over the remaining term of their loan. That being said, homeowners who are considering refinancing a current loan should research their options to ensure that the benefits of refinancing their mortgage will outweigh the costs. This relies heavily on the rate that is attached to the current home loan.

For more information, visit www.informars.com.

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One in Three Adults Currently Living with Relatives

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

Nearly one in three adults has moved in with relatives for financial reasons, according to a new study conducted by Hanley Wood. Known as “doubling up,” cohabitation has risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression, according to the survey, which questioned the living patterns of 3,000 homeowners and renters.

According to data from the latest U.S. Census, there has been an increase in doubling up among households, particularly among young adults who are opting to move back with their parents. Approximately 5.9 million Americans aged 25-34 lived with their parents in 2010, a 25% increase compared to the years prior to the recession. Men were also found to be nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents.

The survey also found that renters and homeowners are delaying new home purchases due to tougher mortgage qualifying standards and concerns over the economy and job security. In conjunction, a majority of homeowners and renters say homeownership is important and they felt that now was a good time to buy with lower home prices.

Source: HousingPredictor.com

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Tips for Tackling Pesky Procrastination

October 13, 2011 8:52 pm

By Nick Caruso

For many Americans, it's hard to get motivated and complete tasks after a full day or week of work. From picking up and organizing your home, to washing your car and mowing the lawn, growing to-do lists can quickly become overwhelming. Rather than allowing procrastination to cripple you, here are a few tips to tackle your projects and check off those important chores:

1. Making lists is an often overlooked first step, but will help immensely. By seeing all of the tasks that are needed to be done, you can better determine when and how to complete each one without forgetting anything important. Prioritize the list if necessary, leaving longer projects for the weekends and shorter ones for during the week.

2. Get a monthly calendar to help you keep track of important tasks and dates. If supplies are necessary to purchase, find time during the week to stop at the store around your other professional and social responsibilities. You can't complete a task without having the right materials.

3. On busier days, accomplish even the smallest task. On nights when you really don't feel like it, push yourself to do even the simplest house chore. Is laundry backing up? Throw a load in while watching some TV. Do you need to switch out your seasonal clothes from the basement or attic? Get it done! Your feelings of productivity and accomplishment will only snowball and motivate you to do more as the week continues.

4. Give yourself breaks and rewards while working on overly lengthy projects. Don't break your back, literally and figuratively. After completion of a major job, reward yourself with a day off. Just because you're trying to avoid procrastination doesn't mean that every day's schedule must be filled.

5. People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. Your lists and calendars are a great start, but further planning is usually necessary. Do you need help from a friend? Do you need to borrow a tool? Does a job need to be completed during a specific period of a specific day? Over planning never hurts anyone and will propel you further on your quest to avoid procrastination.

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