October 12, 2011 8:50 pm
Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned veteran who has been out of the game for awhile, buyers should always be aware of and note certain home buying myths that abound. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying new property, but by being educated and realistic, buyers can avoid a few common-yet-untrue beliefs as they venture toward closing a deal.
The Myth of "The Perfect Home"
Along with all that excitement comes the dreams of your ideal home. If the vision you've set for yourself is too close to perfection, you may not find what you're looking for. Every house is bound to have something wrong with it. If a home is nearly perfect, don't nitpick over smaller needs and priorities. Lock it down before it gets snagged.
The Myth of "The Speaking House"
It's human nature to get a certain "feel" to a house when first walking through it. As they always say, first impressions go a long way and the same rings true with real estate. Buyers, however, should try to fight initial gut feelings. More than likely the home was staged for buyers to feel an emotional tie to the décor. Look past the paint and décor to figure out if a home is right for you.
The Myth of "The Old Furnace"
An old furnace can sometimes be difficult to maintain or replace, but don't let it be a deal breaker for an otherwise suitable home. The same goes for other issues such as a roof in need of repair, old wiring, etc. If everything else is in order without needed repairs, the home in question can still be a great choice for your investment.
The Myth of "The House to Grow In"
First-time buyers always get the advice that they should buy up so that they can grow into a house - for instance, should a couple be planning for children. Look at your current needs, not what you'd like to have down the road. If you end up needing more space for a larger family down the line, you can always sell and move up later.
The Myth of "The Negotiation Winner"
Don't feel like you have to win the negotiation. The winner is not the person to have the last word, but rather, everyone when the deal is truly a fair one. Don't sweat the small stuff, and remember that it is a business transaction - leave those emotions and egos at the door.
The Myth of "The Best Deal"
Don't fall into the frame of mind that thinks foreclosures are always the best deals. Though they can sometimes save in large amounts, oftentimes there's a lot of work and repair to be done. Foreclosed homes are occasionally not left in the best condition. Sometimes the easiest transaction is buying from a seller and negotiating until an agreement can be reached.
When buying a home, it's important to separate hearsay from your actual needs, wants and beliefs. Try to view every property with a clear mind and minimal expectations. Avoid these real estate myths to reach your own conclusion based on your needs, and most importantly, never say never.
October 11, 2011 4:57 pm
By Keith Loria
It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but buyers need to think about more than just the home itself before deciding to live there. While the home may have the perfect number of rooms, a large play area for the kids and that master bathroom you have always dreamed about, you also need to consider the neighborhood in which the home is located.
That’s why before buying any home, a buyer should explore the surrounding neighborhood and area to make sure it has everything they want and need.
For buyers with children or those thinking of starting a family, the first thing you will want to look at is the local school system. You’ll also want to research the closest parks and community centers and consider how busy the streets in the neighborhood get. Even if you are single, living in a top school district will raise your property value.
Another consideration is your daily commute to work. You’ll want to understand the traffic patterns to and from your job and figure out if you’re going to be sitting in traffic for several hours a day. Researching the local mass transit system is also important, as you may want a neighborhood that gives you the option to not have to drive to work.
Profiling the perfect neighborhood also involves scoping out the neighbors themselves. Are there a lot of kids on the block? Are there neighborhood events? Do you see a lot of fences and “Keep Out” signs? It’s never a bad idea to take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to some of the people you see and ask about the neighborhood before putting in an offer.
Don’t forget to map out stores and restaurants in the area as well. You may be used to a five-minute drive to the local grocery store, only to find out that the home you are interested in is 25 minutes away from the nearest place to buy milk. And if you like to walk to stores and shops, make sure to tell your agent that you want a place where this is possible.
You also want to find out if your potential new home is part of a neighborhood association and if your community has lawn or construction restrictions and if there’s a yearly fee involved. The last thing you want is to find out that you can’t put those holiday decorations up because of a strict town ordinance.
Also consider warning signs that the neighborhood could be in trouble. If you see abandoned buildings, vandalism or a lot of “For Sale” signs, it could be a sign that the community is heading in the wrong direction.
A perfect home isn’t always in the perfect neighborhood and you’ll want to make sure that both meet your expectations.
October 11, 2011 4:57 pm
When considering a kitchen remodel, many homeowners are choosing to use eco-friendly products and contractors for a variety of reasons. Some have concern for the environment or their overall health while others have allergies or are chemically sensitive. Almost everyone remodeling their kitchen today is interested in lowering their energy consumption and their electric and water bills. Here are six ways homeowners can make their kitchens greener when remodeling.
1. Choose energy-efficient appliances. When purchasing a new refrigerator, dishwasher or other appliance, choose ones that are certified energy efficient. Use the water and energy-saving settings as often as possible. Plus, some states offer rebates for homeowners who use energy-efficient models.
2. Install energy-efficient lighting. When working on the kitchen remodel design in their new space, homeowners can increase their natural light to cut down on the need for electricity. Choose fixtures that are compatible with compact fluorescents (CFLs), which save 75% of the electricity that incandescent bulbs use. These are slightly higher in initial price but last eight times as long and will significantly cut down on energy bills.
3. Purchase green kitchen cupboards and cabinets. There are more eco-friendly kitchen cupboards and cabinets available today than ever before. These are constructed of rapidly renewable resources or recycled materials. Homeowners who are thinking about remodeling their kitchen should ask their contractor about wheatboard, bamboo and other green cabinet products. Additionally, they should inquire about water-based adhesives and finishes.
4. Choose green products when remodeling your kitchen. For flooring, cork is highly durable, comfortable and an excellent insulator of sound and heat. Cork is also hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly. Concrete is excellent for flooring, countertops and other areas because it does not have harmful fumes, glues or laminates. For countertops and backsplashes, homeowners can choose from a variety of durable and attractive eco-friendly options, such as vertrazzo and recycled glass tiles.
5. Remodel with hypoallergenic materials. These materials are not toxic, like some building materials, and will not lead to harmful indoor air quality. Homeowners should look for low-toxicity finishes and surfaces, and water-based adhesives and finishes without synthetic formaldehyde resins. Paints should have low-VOC or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds).
6. Choose green kitchen remodeling contractors. When a homeowner is getting quotes from contractors, they should inquire about their products and building methods to ensure they are eco-friendly. Increasingly, contractors are becoming more conscious of their materials and methods and will be able to meet a homeowner's needs.
For more information, visit www.kitchenremodeling.net.
October 11, 2011 4:57 pm
Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns is an age-old Halloween tradition. However, it can turn into a plumbing nightmare if the pulp and seeds go down the garbage disposal. With the usual increase in clogged kitchen sink drains and jammed garbage disposals plumbers see this time of year, homeowners should show caution when partaking in this festive tradition with their families.
What many don't realize is that the pumpkin's stringy, slimy substances can harden and stick to many of the pipes in your kitchen sink. The trick to keeping pumpkin pulp and seeds from causing plumbing problems is being cautious when removing and disposing of the pumpkin's remains:
• Carve pumpkins on a newspaper away from the kitchen sink.
• Do not put pulp and seeds into the garbage disposal or toilet.
• Instead, throw all pumpkin-related material and newspaper in the garbage.
• For those who recycle, put the remnants in a compost pile.
And the treat for following this recommendation – pumpkin carvers can use the pulp and seeds for Halloween desserts, breads and muffins. Search the Internet for recipes that use both the pulp and seeds.
October 10, 2011 10:57 pm
Some people judge older food by smelling or looking at it, but what many don’t know is that some types of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness don’t affect the smell, taste or appearance of the food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It might seem like a no-brainer, but there really is no way of telling how good leftovers are if you don’t throw them out within three or four days. Organizing your refrigerator can help.
After coming home from the grocery store, many perishables can start to turn in as little as one hour, so it’s important to unpack your food items and place them appropriately in your home. Even different sections in your fridge can make a difference. The back of the fridge is the coldest area and is the perfect spot for milk, eggs or other dairy products. Milk should be thrown out one week after the sell-by date, while eggs last much longer, three to five weeks.
Raw meat, fish or poultry should be placed on plates and put towards the back of the fridge, but make sure to put these on lower shelves. This will prevent them from dripping or contaminating other foods. As always, if you aren’t using them for a few days, it’s always best to freeze.
Never pack your fridge too full. Spread out your items in the fridge to make sure there’s enough room for air to circulate throughout. For the freezer section, don’t stack foods until they are completely frozen through.
For cold cuts, cheeses and fresh fruits and veggies, Tupperware or other plastic containers with lids on them always extend shelf life. In addition, check your fridge temperature and make sure it’s set between 37 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit; the freezer should be set at 0 degrees.
By taking these simple steps, you can ensure that your food stays fresh longer and that everything you serve to your family is bacteria-free and healthy.
Source: Consumer Reports
October 10, 2011 10:57 pm
By Barbara Pronin
Setting a competitive sale price, most REALTORS® agree, is arguably the best way to speed up the sale of your home in today’s market. In addition to pricing your home right, you need to do everything you can to make your home stand out from the competition.
To do that, try to change your mindset and look at the property from the point of view of the buyer:
Start at the curb – What does the buyer see first? Keep the walkway neat, trim plants and hedges, replace worn front door or screen doors.
Focus on the entry – Potential buyers entering the home should see as spacious an interior as possible. Remove clutter, even small pieces of furniture that ‘close off’ further entry instead of inviting it.
Remove the personal factor – Shelves full of bowling trophies or your personal collections can be distracting to a buyer who is trying to ‘see himself’ in the living space.
Make small repairs – Replace that cracked light switch cover. Repair or replace a broken tile or a chip in the bathroom sink. Even taping back wires from audio or computer systems can increase a room’s appeal.
Make small updates – Brighter light fixtures, new cabinet door handles in the kitchen, or updating to modern bathroom accessories can go a long way toward giving your home a fresh, new look.
Scrub, scrub, scrub – New kitchen appliances, especially stoves, are a plus, but if you can’t replace the appliance, make sure oven racks, broiler pans and burner surfaces are scrupulously clean and shiny.
Add some "bling" – Brighter lighting, a shiny mirror in the hallway, fresh new towels, or a crystal vase of fresh flowers on the dining room table are small and inexpensive touches that can attract and please potential buyers.
If you need a reality check, take a walk through an open house or two in your neighborhood and compare your home to the competition. Then, adjust your price and/or make the small changes that make your home the best buy on the block.
October 10, 2011 10:57 pm
One of the nation’s largest professional associations of real estate appraisers recently released a form intended to help analyze values of energy-efficient home features.
An industry leader in green valuation, the Appraisal Institute issued the form as an optional addendum to Fannie Mae Form 1004, the appraisal industry’s most widely used form for mortgage lending purposes. Used by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, Form 1004 is completed by appraisers to uphold safe and sound lending. Currently, the contributory value of a home’s green features is rarely part of the equation.
The Appraisal Institute’s addendum allows appraisers to identify and describe a home’s green features, from solar panels to energy-saving appliances. Form 1004 devotes limited attention to energy efficient features, so green data usually doesn’t appear in the appraisal report, or it is included in a lengthy narrative that often is ignored.
Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA, points out that the Appraisal Institute’s form also will make it easier for appraisers to determine whether recent home sales should be used as comparable sales. Sales that are truly comparable are key components in determining a property’s value.
“We hope lenders, home builders, real estate agents and homeowners will take advantage of this new tool,” Magdziarz says. “Mortgage lenders who want to see energy features analyzed should request the green addendum to be included with Form 1004. We also encourage lenders to provide the green addendum to homeowners so they can fill it out and provide it to their appraiser. If a new home is being appraised, home builders can use the addendum to provide data to appraisers. Real estate agents also can use the data to help populate the MLS.”
For more information, visit www.appraisalinstitute.org.
October 7, 2011 4:57 pm
In a season of shorter days and colder weather, Steven May, a national pet expert shares health care tips and safeguards for the fall season.
“Believe it or not, pet care tips do change from season to season," says May. Listed below, are the top five pet care tips for dogs and cats.
• Purchase reflective collars and leashes. This will help drivers see you in the dim-light hours.
• Purchase reflective sweaters and jackets for the cooler days and nights.
• Pay attention to any indoor plants that may be toxic to dogs.
• Clean and dry all paws and pads after each walk or outdoor activity. Your dog’s paws should stay dry at all times.
• Be prepared for the holiday travel period. Make sure your dog is current with all his/her vaccinations.
Bonus Tip: Halloween is just around the corner. Remember chocolate is toxic. Always inform and teach your children to be very careful when handling candy around pets.
• Clean the cat litter box after each use. Pet parents that have multiple litter boxes need to clean constantly.
• Replace your entire litter box, from top to bottom. It is a good practice to replace and purchase a litter box at least two times yearly. The use of cleaning products and your cat constantly using the box can stain, scratch and wear it out.
• Purchase a reflective breakaway collar. This will help drivers see your cat(s) in the dim-light hours.
• Tie-up and secure all electrical cords inside the home.
• Pay attention to any indoor plants that may be toxic to cats.
For more information, visit dailygrowlblog.com.
October 7, 2011 4:57 pm
Increased lending to creditworthy home buyers and more loan modifications and short sales are necessary to reduce the rising inventory of foreclosed homes and help stabilize and revitalize the housing industry and economy, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
That was the message delivered recently by Allan Dechert, 2011 president of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®, who testified on NAR’s behalf before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development regarding new ideas to address foreclosures.
“As the leading advocate for homeownership, NAR knows that foreclosures don’t just affect the families that lose their homes—communities, the housing market and the economy all suffer,” says Dechert. “Ensuring credit availability to qualified buyers and helping more distressed homeowners with loan modifications and short sales will help reduce the growing inventory of foreclosed homes and ensure that housing leads the way out of today’s economic struggles.”
Dechert says that creditworthy consumers continue to have difficulties securing fair and affordable loans despite their proven ability to afford the monthly payment. He says that NAR supports responsible lending standards; however, unnecessarily tight credit restrictions are putting downward pressure on home values, increasing the number of homeowners whose mortgage exceeds the value of their home, and adding to the number of foreclosures.
“Increased fees, higher downpayments and reduced loan limits are making it harder for borrowers to obtain safe and sound mortgage financing products. Greater access to financing for qualified borrowers and investors could help absorb the excess inventory of foreclosed properties,” says Dechert.
In testimony, NAR also urged the lending industry to take greater action to keep struggling families in their homes through loan modifications that reduce the probability of default and prevent further increases to the large inventory of foreclosed properties. Helping more families remain current on their mortgage by significantly reducing their monthly mortgage payment will allow them to remain in the home that they worked so hard to obtain and reduce the impact of foreclosures on local home prices.
Dechert says that continued short sale delays are also contributing to foreclosures and urged lenders and servicers to quickly approve reasonable short sale offers that would allow homeowners to avoid foreclosure. The current short sale process can be time-consuming and inefficient, and many would-be buyers end up walking away from a sale that could have saved a homeowner from foreclosure.
“Loan modifications—and short sales for those unable to meet their mortgage obligations—help stabilize home values and neighborhoods, and limit the losses incurred by lenders, the federal government and taxpayers,” says Dechert. “More must be done to streamline short sale transactions, since many potential home buyers are simply choosing to walk away from transactions due to the length of time it takes for lenders to approve and complete these sales.”
For more information, visit www.realtor.org.
October 7, 2011 4:57 pm
Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure that they have a safe holiday, here are some tips to keep in mind throughout the season:
All Dressed Up:
• Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
• Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
• When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories, look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
• If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he or she stumbles or trips.
• Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
• Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
Home Safe Home:
• To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, homeowners should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
• Homeowners should check outdoor lights and replace burnt-out bulbs.
• Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
• Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
On the Trick-or-Treat Trail:
• A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
• If your older children are going alone, plan and review an acceptable route. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
• Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
• Remind children to stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
• Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
• If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
• Never cut across yards or use alleys.
• Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
• Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will.
• Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
• A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
• Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, or pens and pencils.
• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
• Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.
Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)