Real Estate Blog
Friday, June 29 2012
Many eager first-time homebuyers were sidelined by the worldwide economic recession. It’s hard to commit to any decision – much less such a major one – when you read almost daily that the market is falling or downward pressure continues. Who needs any kind of pressure?
So it’s not surprising that, after such an exceptionally lengthy period of down or nearly flat economic expansion, the optimism that drives sales of all kind has been slow to reappear. But for the home buying public, and especially for first-timers, that hesitation could prove costly if, as it now seems likely, the market is entering its recovery phase. So just what does a ‘recovering market’ mean for today’s buyers?
The first sign will be a wakeup call: buyers will no longer find a market filled with purely bargain homes. Already, foreclosures and short sales are selling above the asking price in some areas, with multiple and all-cash offers beginning to reappear. Veteran observers in a few areas report that it even eerily begins to feel like the old pre-crash days. Published reports remain mixed, but as with the stock market, by the time you are reading headlines confirming a certain trend (i.e. “the bottom”), you’ve already missed it.
This is not to say that home buying is already a missed opportunity in the Evansville market. ‘Market recovery’ is a phrase that only signifies that movement and prices are on their way up. For today’s potential buyers, it does mean that it is time to get serious about investigating what is being offered -- what’s out there.
Financing remains an issue. Home buying candidates hoping to take advantage of the historically cheap loan programs may still be able to do so, but fees and insurance costs for the smaller down payment packages are on the rise. In any case, first-timers who encounter bank caution due to their inexperience with home buying will do well to seek help from an experienced real estate professional.
Every recovery is different, and the good news now is the presence of both the historically low interest rates and the survival – for the moment – of some bargain listing prices. Together they mean that regardless of any Evansville resident’s buyer status, most can wind up paying less for more.
By seeking expert advice, it’s possible to take advantage of the benefits our changing market has created. With the assistance of a great agent, you can arm yourself with that kind of market knowledge. Interested in learning what I can do for you during the home buying process in Southwest Indiana? Call me! You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Thursday, June 28 2012
When the time nears to sell your Evansville home, one extra bit of due diligence can pay off in the most meaningful way: helping you to get the best return on your investment. It’s not a requirement that every listing agent may suggest, but particularly if yours is an older home, it is one you should consider: ordering an advance inspection.
Ordering your own advance inspection, like the proverbial ‘stitch in time,’ can alert you to deferred maintenance items that might conk out just as you’re preparing a big showing. Things do have a remarkable tendency to cause trouble at the most inconvenient time. Even more likely, maintenance items that you have long accepted but which might sour a buyer will be spotlighted early. Curing them before your buyer insists upon it prevents receiving demands for overly extensive cures for simple problems. An Evansville listing agent who knows that a home that has already passed an inspection also knows that it is that much more likely to sail through closing. It becomes a marketing asset.
A home inspector will typically examine areas of your home such as the roof, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and structure. Some will even conduct radon and lead paint tests, and do a check of your crawlspace or attic. If you elect for a home inspection prior to listing your home for sale, you will be able to confirm that major elements of the home are in saleable working order -- and can market the property as such. What potential buyer doesn’t want to hear that when considering writing an offer?
But most important from a listing agent’s point of view is the ability to avoid surprises in escrow. Most listing agents will be quick to agree that the more things that go wrong in a home inspection, the more antsy a buyer can become about the wisdom of the purchase. Otherwise perfect home-to-buyer matches can be lost over minor hitches discovered at the last minute. If a list of even small problems is lengthy, it might seem daunting enough to derail a sale. And any repair becomes more costly if a rush job is required.
If you’re preparing to sell your Evansville home, talk to your listing agent about the appropriateness of an advance home inspection. Numerous professionals are available who can help you determine if your home is ready to sell. The National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) has over 1,500 members -- and I will be happy to offer trustworthy local referrals anytime. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Wednesday, June 27 2012
Real estate markets across the country are inching their way to a slow recovery after bottoming out, according to several real estate economists who spoke at a forum hosted by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.
National Association of REALTORS®’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries, and National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist David Crowe shared their views on the direction of the housing market during the forum.
"Last year was the worst year on record for [new] house sales, for 60 years of housing-sale info," Crowe said.
But things are picking up, the economists note, despite several challenges still threatening that recovery. Yun says that appraisal issues are holding back up to 20 percent of home sales and that lenders’ tightened mortgage underwriting standards are likely holding back another 15 to 20 percent of potential home deals.
Here are some of the economists’ forecasts:
1. New-home market: The NAHB predicts a 19 percent increase in single-family housing starts this year over last (from 434,000 last year to a projected 516,000 this year).
2. Single-family rental market: This could be the next housing market bubble, Humphries warns. He expects this sector to cool as rental rates continue to increase and as home ownership looks more attractive to the public again.
3. Distressed home sales: The percentage of distressed homes sales is projected to drop by 25 percent in 2012 and 15 percent in 2013, Yun says.
4. Home price appreciation: Yun says it’s possible some markets may see a 10 percent rise in home-price appreciation next year due to an increase in demand, or a 60 to 70 percent increase in housing starts. Yun argues it won’t be both, however, but rather one or the other. He notes it greatly depends on whether lawmakers reach an agreement once again on the looming debt-ceiling deadline.
5. Home owners’ negative equity: About a third of home owners are underwater, owing more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth. As such, the housing recovery will likely be “stair stepped,” Humphries says. He says home owners with negative equity will gradually begin to list their homes as they see prices inch up, but when they do, that may temporarily swell the housing supply and cause a brief pause to the recovery.
Source: “Economists: 2012 Marks the End of a Long Bottom,” Inman News (June 22, 2012)
Tuesday, June 26 2012
The Capitalization Rate (also known as "Cap Rate") is used to compare an income property
with other similar income properties
. It can also be used to place a value on a property based on the income it generates.
The Cap Rate merely represents the projected return for one year as if the property was bought with all cash. But since we don't normally buy property using all cash we would use other measures, such as the cash-on-cash return, to evaluate a property's financial performance.
The Cap Rate is calculated by taking the property's net operating income (NOI) and dividing it by the property's fair market value (FMV). The higher the Cap Rate, the better the property's income and market value. The Cap Rate is calculated as follows:
Capitalization Rate = Net Operating Income / Value
Let's look at an example. Let's say your property's net operating income (NOI) is $50,000. And let's say that the market value of your property is $625,000. Your Cap Rate would be 8%.
Capitalization Rate = Net Operating Income / Value
Capitalization Rate = $50,000 / $625,000
Capitalization Rate = 8.0%
As another example, let's suppose you are looking at purchasing a property that has a net operating income of $20,000. From doing a little research you know the average Cap Rate for the area is 7.0%. By transposing the formula we can calculate the estimated market value as follows:
Value = Net Operating Income / Capitalization Rate
Value = $20,000 / 7.0%
Value = $285,715
An advantage of the Cap Rate is that it provides you with a separate measure of value compared to appraisals where value is derived from recent sold comparables (which are primarily based on physical characteristics). This is especially true when comparing commercial income properties.
Note that a small difference in the Cap Rate may not seem like much but it can make a large difference in your valuation. For example, the difference between a 7.0% and 7.5% Cape Rate, a mere 0.5% difference, on a property with a $50,000 net operating income is a $47,619 difference in value! So be sure to double check the accuracy of your numbers.
As always, you want to look at multiple financial measures when evaluating income property including the cash-on-cash return, debt coverage ratio, and internal rate of return.
Monday, June 25 2012
U.S. builders started work on more single-family homes in May and requested the most permits to build homes and apartments in three and a half years. The increase suggests the housing market is slowly recovering even as other areas of the economy have weakened.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on 3.2 percent more single-family homes in May, the third straight monthly increase.
Overall housing starts fell 4.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000. But that was entirely because of a 21.3 percent plunge in apartment construction, which can be volatile from month to month.
The government also said April was much better for housing starts than first thought. The government revised the April starts to 744,000 — up from an initially reported 717,000 and the fastest building pace since October 2008.
And builders are more optimistic about the next 12 months. They requested more permits to build homes, a gauge of future construction. Permits increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 780,000 — the most since September 2008.
Even with the gains, the rate of construction and the level of permits requested remain roughly half the pace considered healthy. Yet the increases add to other signs that the home market may finally be starting to recover nearly five years after the housing bubble burst.
Builders have grown more confident since last fall, in part because more people are expressing an interest in buying a home. Cheaper mortgages and lower home prices in many markets have made home buying more attractive. Many economists believe that housing construction could contribute to overall economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.
"We continue to expect housing activity to increase gradually in coming months and residential investment to make a positive ... contribution to GDP growth," said Peter Newland of Barclays
By region of the country, housing starts rose 14.4 percent in the West, but dropped in other parts of the country. The declines primarily reflected the weakness in apartment activity.
Still, the pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels. Economists say it could be years before the market is fully healed.
Many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can't afford larger down payments required by banks. Some would-be home buyers are holding off because they fear that home prices could keep falling.
The economy is growing only modestly and job creation slowed sharply in April and May. U.S. employers created only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year.
Though new homes represent just 20 percent of the overall home market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to data from the Home Builders.
Friday, June 22 2012
The constant fluctuations of the housing market can mean many things in terms of property investment, rental rates and the life of a landlord. We know, for instance, that there is a higher percentage of renters in the United States than there has been in quite sometime. But what we haven’t addressed is that there are also more landlords.
Whether you have found yourself in a property investment deal that didn’t go quite as planned or you’ve moved to another house while your old property has sat on the market for far too long, you yourself may have already become a landlord due to a lack of options. The life of a landlord can be financially rewarding, but it can also be complex and draining with many rules, laws and advice to wade through. In this article we want to distill a few of the more important tips that will lead to a better life for both you and your tenants.
1. Have a Knowledgeable Attorney on Speed Dial
And we don’t mean your friend from high school who now works in criminal law or your neighbor who used to be a paralegal. You should find an attorney who specializes and is intimately familiar with landlord/tenant law and the evictions process. No one wants to think about evictions when you don’t even have a tenant yet, but the fact is that at some point you will have to deal with the process. If you develop a good relationship with an attorney sooner rather than later, it can save you a lot of headache and maybe a few bucks in the future. A good attorney can also help you by reviewing your lease agreement to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors or problems.
2. Consider Professional Property Management
It may seem like an expensive prospect, but the fact is that unless you live next door and can dedicate a significant amount of your time to dealing with your tenants, you will be much better off having the property managed professionally. A trusted manager can fix problems as they arise, collect rents and develop a professional relationship with your tenants so that you can go on living your life without the constant threat of a phone call with an emergency plumbing situation.
3. Set Expectations Right Away
Most landlords agree it’s important to set your expectations up front and not back down, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. As a landlord, it is important to remember that while you may respect and even like your tenants, you are NOT friends with them. Insist that they pay their rent in full, on time, from the very beginning. This makes it less likely that they will offer up excuses in the future. You’ve become a landlord to recoup an investment, one way or another, and you won’t be able to do that unless you actually collect rent.
4. Find a Good Tenant Application
Having an application system in place before you even put out a yard sign for your vacancy will make your rental process go more smoothly. We find that an online rental application is much simpler to use than a paper form. You can collect all the information you need – including references, driver’s license number, credit check approval and a new tenant’s contact information – and keep it safely in one place online for future reference. Even if you don’t choose to go online with the process, make sure you have an application ready as soon as tenants start calling.
5. Choose Tenants Wisely
If you’re desperate to start generating income from your property, you may want to place the first person who shows an interest, but that is not the best idea. Screen your tenants, run a credit check on your tenants, interview your tenants, call your tenants’ landlords. Make sure they are trustworthy people who are not likely to destroy your property and run off in the middle of the night without paying rent.
Of course, being a landlord is not as simple as five easy tips, but keeping these tips in mind as you venture into the world of landlord-hood should make your new role a little easier.
Thursday, June 21 2012
Until recently, reverse mortgages were considered the “Wild West” of retirement planning, writes a Wall Street Journal article published this week. But today, many more planners are using them to create a stream of income or a cushion against market declines.
WSJ speaks with two financial planners including Harold Evensky, co-author of a study at Texas Tech that has brought reverse mortgages into recent headlines. The article writes:
“Using your nest to help with your nest egg is becoming a more common way to round out a financial plan during retirement.
Even after the bursting of the housing bubble, the biggest financial asset many retirees have is their home. But because that money is tied up in the equity of the house, it’s an investment that has been difficult to count on as a source of income.
Reverse mortgages have long been an option. However, until recently, they were the Wild West of retirement planning. High upfront costs, poor disclosure and dodgy sales pitches made them an option that many advisers avoided.
Now, with the introduction of reverse mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration in late 2010, more financial planners are adding them to their tool kit.
Primarily, they’re using them as a way to provide a steady stream of tax-free income that can last the rest of a retiree’s life. They can also be used as a way to provide a cushion against a big, but temporary, drop in the markets….”
Read the full article at WSJ.com.
Wednesday, June 20 2012
While design, color, and surface appeal are important considerations, you’ll also want kitchen flooring that can live up to your lifestyle and provide the comfort and durability you need. Here are some favorites, with their pros and cons:
Durable and easy to clean, stone offers a timeless appearance suited to most any kitchen decor. Choose larger pieces to create a more seamless look with fewer grout lines. Cons? There’s no denying the look is impressive, but you’ll likely need a strong subfloor and some big bucks to get the job done. Tile and stone can also be cold and uncomfortable if you stand in place for long. (One solution is to place a cushioned mat where you most frequently stand to reduce feet and leg fatigue.)
This often-overlooked natural material comes in various colors and patterns and is sustainable, warm, and slightly cushioned. Seal it to prevent water damage and clean the same as you would a hardwood floor.
Easy-to-clean linoleum is available in sheets or tiles in a broad range of colors. Many consumers confuse linoleum with vinyl, but vinyl is a synthetic material with a pattern imprinted on the surface, while linoleum is all-natural with color throughout.
This budget-friendly material (about $10-$13 per square yard) keeps upping its image as new technology helps it more closely imitate the look of stone, wood, tile, and leather. Vinyl is available in 6- or 12-foot wide sheets or as 12- to 18-inch tiles that are ideal for DIYers. Easy to clean, vinyl is also soft underfoot.
Improvements in products and sealers make wood a viable flooring material in kitchens. That’s good news for people with open floor plans, who wish to use the same material in adjoining living areas. Additionally, wood adds a sense of timelessness and warmth that suits any style, from urban loft to cozy cottage to traditional home.
Tuesday, June 19 2012
When my Evansvilleclients set out to buy a home, one of the elements that has been steadily moving up their list of important considerations is energy: how much will a property cost to heat and cool?
Big, drafty houses are being edged out, replaced by green, eco-consciously-designed homes. Listings able to boast prominent cost-saving features like solar heating can provide a huge advantage to a seller. For prospects looking to buy a home in the Evansville area, the tradeoff between the higher price tag they can expect from a solar-equipped home and the anticipated long-term energy savings is tilting toward the latter.
What are the actual savings in dollars and cents? That’s the tricky part. Because every region is different (in Evansville, for instance, the number of clear, sunny days makes the calculation different from averages elsewhere in the country), the amount of solar energy that a typical homeowner can harvest varies widely.
Solar’s renewed prominence has a lot to do with the recent spikes in energy costs. Anyone who set out to buy a home within the past year has certainly seen the writing on the wall…energy prices may be dipping momentarily, but the future shows every sign that nasty raises lie ahead, sooner or later. To the extent that a solar installation serves to offset those fears, it can be thought of as a long-term energy insurance policy. It’s a subtle ‘peace of mind’ factor that can cinch the decision to buy a home.
Energy-saving features are only one of the many considerations that make a home purchase decision more than simply an emotional one. If you are preparing to buy an Evansville home – whether or not you prioritize those standout green features – give me a call. Now is a good time!
You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Monday, June 18 2012
Selling your home in boom times can seem like quite a different proposition from what we have today. But Evansville real estate veterans know that there are many factors that aren’t subject to change. One of them is the basic arithmetic of residential space: bigger sells for more.
That’s where you -- if you’re an Evansville homeowner thinking about selling your home this summer or fall -- can have make a real impact. Especially if you think ‘deck’!
A backyard deck can add outsized value to any home by providing functional outdoor space – truly adding to the square footage of usable living area throughout the seasons when weather allows. The square footage on the listing may not reflect it, but when it comes to showings and open houses, prospective buyers will remember the expansive feel that a wide deck provides.
If selling your home is in prospect, and you are planning to build or remodel your own deck, one first decision has to be made: use real wood or composite materials? A deck constructed of either will generate additional interest and value when it comes to selling your home -- but each offers its own benefits and drawbacks.
Wooden decks are considerably less expensive to install than their composite counterparts. Because you can stain wood to any color and shade, it’s easy to create a look that is compatible with the rest of your landscaping. And let’s face it -- wood offers unmatched natural beauty.
On the downside, wood decks require plenty of maintenance. Sanding, sealing and staining may be worthwhile projects, but are not everybody’s first choice for how to spend Saturday and Sunday.
On the other hand, while composite decking probably retains a smaller percentage of its installation cost, with a composite deck, virtually no maintenance is required – a fact that some prospective buyers will appreciate. The boards, often made of recycled materials, do not fade, splinter or split, as wood can. Despite the early composite offerings that were clearly fake, many now closely mimic the look of natural wood.
When it comes to selling your home in the Evansville area, your remodeling decisions can play a decisive role. If you are considering selling your home, contact me anytime to compare notes: I’m here for my clients from first step to last. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Friday, June 15 2012
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler's checks and change
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF - 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Thursday, June 14 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA) announces the release of two special reports focusing on the causes and characteristics of fires in one- and two-family and multifamily residential buildings. The reports One- and Two-Family Residential Building Fires (2008-2010) (PDF, 316 Kb) and Multifamily Residential Building Fires (2008-2010) (PDF, 286 Kb), were developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center.
Residential Building Fire Estimates
- 240,500 fires in one- and two-family residential buildings occur each year.
- Annually, one- and two-family residential building fires result in 2,050 civilian fire deaths, 8,350 civilian fire injuries, and 5.8 billion dollars in property loss.
- 102,300 fires in multifamily buildings occur each year.
- Annually, multifamily building fires result in 400 deaths, 4,175 injuries, and 1.2 billion dollars in property loss.
The reports are part of the Topical Fire Report Series and are based on data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) for 2008 to 2010. According to the reports, cooking is the leading cause of both one- and two-family and multifamily residential buildings fires, followed by heating. Fire incidence in both types of residential properties peaks during winter months partially as a result of increases in heating and holiday-related fires. In addition, fires peak over the evening dinner hours in one- and two-family and multifamily residences when cooking fires are prevalent.
Topical reports explore facets of the United States fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information. Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.
For further information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at the USFA, visit www.usfa.fema.gov.
Wednesday, June 13 2012
Just another weekend? Not if you take advantage with one or more of these 5 great projects you can easily pull off for under $300.
Project #1: Add a garden arbor entry.
The setup: Install an eye-catching portal to your garden with a freestanding arbor. It’ll look great at the end of a garden path or framing a grassy area between planting beds.
Specs and cost: Garden arbors can be priced up to thousands of dollars, but you can find nice-looking kits in redwood, cedar, and vinyl at your local home improvement or garden center for $200-$300. Typical sizes are about 7 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. You’ll have to assemble the kit yourself.
Tools: Screwdriver; cordless drill/driver; hammer; tape measure. Kits come pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy assembly, and usually include screws. If fasteners aren’t included, check the materials list before you leave the store.
Time: 3-5 hours
Project #2: Install a window awning.
The setup: Summer is super, but too much sunlight from south- and west-facing windows can heat up your interiors and make your AC work overtime. Beat that heat and save energy by using an awning to stop harsh sunlight before it enters your house.
Specs and cost: Residential awnings come in many sizes and colors. Some are plastic or aluminum, but most are made with weatherproof fabrics. They’re engineered for wind resistance, and some are retractable. A 4-foot-wide awning with a 2.5-foot projection is $150-$250.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; adjustable wrench; tape measure; level. You can install an awning on any siding surface, but you’ll need a hammer drill to drill holes in brick. To prevent leaks, fill any drilled holes with silicone sealant before you install screws and bolts.
Time: 3-4 hours
Project # 3: Screen off your air conditioner from view.
The setup: Air conditioning is great, but air conditioner condensers are ugly. Up your curb appeal quotient by hiding your AC condenser or heat pump unit with a simple screen.
Specs and costs: An AC screen is typically 3-sided, about 40 inches high, and freestanding — you’ll want to be able to move it easily when it comes time to service your HVAC. For about $100, you can make a screen yourself using weather-resistant cedar or pressure-treated wood to build 3 frames, and filling each frame with plastic or pressure-treated lattice.
Or, buy pre-made fencing panels. A 38-by-38-inch plastic fencing panel is about $50.
Tools: Hammer; saw; cordless drill/driver; measuring tape; galvanized wood screws.
Time: Build it yourself in 4-6 hours. Install pre-made fencing in 1-2 hours.
Project # 4: Add garage storage.
The setup: Shopping for garage storage solutions is definitely a kid-in-the-candy-store experience. There are so many cool shelves, hooks, and hangers available that you’ll need to prioritize your needs. Take stock of long-handled landscape tools, bikes, paint supplies, ladders, and odd ducks, such as that kayak. Measure your available space so you’ll have a rough idea of where everything goes.
Specs and cost: Set your under-$300 budget, grab a cart, and get shopping. Many storage systems are made to be hung on drywall, but hooks and heavy items should be fastened directly to studs. Use a stud finder ($20) to locate solid framing.
If your garage is unfinished, add strips of wood horizontally across studs so you’ll have something to fasten your storage goodies to. An 8-foot-long 2-by-4 is about $2.50.
Tools: Cordless drill/driver; hammer; level; measuring tape; screws and nails.
Time: This is a simple project, but not a fast one. Figure 6-10 hours to get everything where you want it, plus shopping. But, oh the fun in putting everything in its place!
Project #5: Edging your garden.
The setup: Edging is a great way to define your planting beds, corral garden mulch, and to separate your lawn from your garden or patio.
Specs and cost: Wood and metal edging looks like tiny fencing; they’re 4-6 inches high. Some include spikes that hold the edging in position; other types must be partially buried. Cost is $1-$5 per foot.
Plastic edging can be molded and colored to mimic brick, wood, and stone. About $20 for 10 feet.
Concrete edging blocks are smooth, or textured to resemble stone. $15-$25 for 10 feet.
Real stone edging is installed flush with the surrounding grade in a shallow trench on a bed of sand, so digging is required. Stone is sold by the ton and prices vary by region. You’ll need about one-third of a ton of flagstone to make an 8-inch-wide edging 50 feet long, costing $150-$200.
Tools: Shovel; wheelbarrow; tin snips (for cutting plastic edging); work gloves.
Time: Pre-made edging will take 2-3 hours for 50 feet; stone will take 6-10 hours.
Tuesday, June 12 2012
Even some veteran renters are looking at today’s housing market and wondering whether it’s time to start an Evansville home search. With prices and mortgage rates as low as they are while rents continue to move higher, the numbers point to home ownership as an ever more obvious choice.
But that’s just the quick, back-of the envelope budget equation: monthly rent vs. mortgage payment less tax savings. If this June finds you at the start of your own Evansville home search, many financial advisors recommend that you also consider another rule of thumb – you should plan to stay in your new home for at least five years.
Transaction costs are only one consideration that makes this a good idea. Here are some of the others why it’s prudent to think about the 5-year planning horizon as you conduct your home search:
Financial Safety - Homeowners need to have at least some extra liquidity: funds set aside as an emergency resource in the event of unforeseen loss of income. Affording a home and its maintenance costs should never jeopardize the financial health of your household. Liz Weston of MSN.com recently asked several experts for their calculations regarding home repairs. Their answer? Plan to spend at least an additional 1% of a homes’ value on maintenance each year.
Resale Value - The significant overhang in distressed homes will likely continue to exert at least some pressure on home values for the near future. If you need to sell your home two or three years down the road, you may come up short when all the moving, transaction, and other expenses are considered. It may be at least that long before the familiar growth in residential real estate value resumes.
Sanity – Studies have shown that moving is one of the top stresses in life (up there with death, divorce and illness). Personally, I think a well-planned move is a little less dire, but it is true that a happy homeowner is a settled homeowner. When you’re starting your home search, consider the changes coming to your family in the coming years: New baby? Child to college? If you know a move is eminent in the near future, consider finding a home with long-term rental value. Buy a home that can grow with you and you’ll find yourself much more financially secure…and sane!
The current low prices and 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates aren’t likely to last forever, and that old adage remains true: buy low, sell high. If you’re looking for a reason to start your home search in the Evansville area now, call me for a serious look at this June’s market. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Monday, June 11 2012
For some Evansville homeowners selling in today’s market, the nominal value of their property will have declined since they bought their home. According to last month’s Zillow Negative Equity Report, the property value of 15.7 million homes is lower than the amount owed on their mortgages. Additionally, in the coming months and years, 1.6 million properties are likely to hit the market as distressed properties. The downward pressure on property values will persist while the market absorbs them.
However, it’s not all bad news. Those figures represent paper losses. For the great majority of homeowners, those property values will remain purely hypothetical. And the market has shown improvement recently, with home prices creeping upward from the previous lows. Nonetheless, successful home sellers know that to gain the best results from their offering, they need to price realistically right from the start. The key is to find the appropriate level when first listing it rather than ‘testing the water’ and planning to adjust the price later. Experience teaches that homes that languish on the market through multiple price reductions are less likely to sell. Buyers tend to assume that there is something wrong with the property rather than considering the sellers’ psychology. It’s just human nature.
If you are thinking about putting your own property on the market, good tools are available to help you trackEvansvillehome values – the standard for creating a realistic, priced-to-sell listing price:
1. The tools on Zillow.com and Trulia.com help you follow local market trends and property values. Not always precise and timely, the volume of information on either site makes each a valuable source.
2. Newspaper foreclosure sale information. It’s important to remember that the property values in the foreclosure realm don’t mean your property must compete directly -- but knowing those values and the direction they are moving will let you share information most home shoppers know.
3. Open houses in the neighborhood give you a look at your competition: comparable homes and their listing prices. You can keep an eye out for how neighborhood homes are selling…or whether they have to lower their asking price.
I also offer competitive marketing packages designed to sell homes quickly. If you are considering selling and are curious about property values inEvansville, do give me the opportunity to share the latest trends with you. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Friday, June 08 2012
It is better to send text messages than to call when natural disasters strike and networks get congested, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, also urging people to add battery-powered cell phone chargers to their storm emergency kits.
Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters that forecasts for a "normal" Atlantic hurricane season should not keep those in potentially affected areas from getting ready for storms that could make landfall.
"There is no forecast yet that says where they are going to hit or not hit. So if you live along the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, and as far inland as the folks in Vermont found out last year, you need to be prepared for this hurricane season," Fugate said at a White House news briefing.
The U.S. government is working to extend its public alert warning system beyond radio and television to mobile networks, Fugate said, noting that most new and upgraded cell phones have the capacity to receive such emergency notices.
Households without fixed-line phones should be ready to charge cell phones during power cuts, the FEMA administrator said, also calling on families to make alternative communication plans for when wireless networks are congested.
"When there's a big crisis, don't try to call people on your phones - text message. It's a lot faster and gets through. Use social media to update people ... and also be prepared when power outages occur how you're going to keep your electronic devices charged," Fugate said. "Add to your evacuation kits your cell phone chargers."
(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Anthony Boadle) http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/31/uk-usa-weather-storms-idUSLNE84U01D20120531
Thursday, June 07 2012
There is no such thing as a ‘universal trend’ when it comes to residential real estate: a quick look through the current local listings will confirm that. At the highest end, the most luxurious features will always attract some homebuyers, just as in the great majority of listings, practical value prevails. But some shifts in priorities do seem to be underway, perhaps because of today’s altered selling environment. Some features that used to help sell listings in Evansville are no longer being emphasized – a sure sign that buyers aren’t asking for them.
For anyone preparing a property for sale, the listings hold clues that can prevent wasting time and effort. Some formerly popular elements fading in today’s market:
1. Square footage and grandeur
There was a time (and recently) when people looked for the largest home they could financially support, with high-fashion accessories and embellishments that marked its expense and grandeur. The reality is people can no longer afford those luxuries, or, even if they can, are electing to shy away from some of the more showy features. Market analysts assert the home listings currently moving on and off the market with ease promote small, comfortable homes. Especially those with a high level of energy efficiency.
2. Formal Living Room
When “big” was in, so were grand formal rooms. More of today’s buyers, however, tend to seek multi-purpose rooms with an open layout and seamless flow. They don’t want a sunroom, a formal entrance, a formal dining or formal living room: they want a kitchen that is functional, built to last, easy to clean, and one that opens onto the rest of the living space. I have to confess that, even when formal living rooms were in vogue, I usually could see the question in the back of most prospects’ minds, who ever uses that ‘formal’ living room, anyway?.
3. Whirlpool Tub
Once considered the gold standard in master bathroom remodels, the jetted tub has gone the way of the other more formal features as buyers shift to a more environmentally-friendly mindset. I can’t tell you how many homes with Jacuzzi tubs I have listed where the owner tells me, “I never use it – I don’t even know if it works!” If you are considering a bathroom remodel, you might better opt for a larger shower -- currently a popular option with the baby-boomer crowd mindful of easy bathing access.
The takeaway? More of today’s homebuyers are passing up the grander features (especially energy-hoggers); instead gravitating to the listings that emphasize practicality and modern functionality. If you are preparing your own home for sale, do give me a call. I’ll be happy to offer my input on the most direct course to today’s homebuyer. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Wednesday, June 06 2012
For most of us, as soon as we feel the opening blast from the first truly hot Evansville summer day, we automatically fire up the air conditioner. While that may seem like the only way to keep our property from broiling, later -- when we open up the next electric bill – we’re reminded once more that it isn't necessarily the most efficient.
There can be longer-range benefits to battling the heat using a more energy-conscious strategy. If you later decide to put your property on the market, I find it is now common for prospective buyers to ask to see a year or two of utility bills – and you don’t want those to cool your prospects’ enthusiasm!
Here are a few ways property owners are using to keep their cool while conserving summer energy use:
1. Seal Off Your Windows
Adding sealant to your windows is an inexpensive yet often overlooked way to keep cool air inside. Although we usually think of sealing heat inside to save on winter heating bills, the loss of cool air can be just as much of an energy drain during the other half of the year.
2. Make the Most of Ceiling Fans
Take advantage of the enormous difference ceiling fans can make. While central air conditioning refrigerates and circulates air throughout the whole house, ceiling fans can be effective in individual areas – while drawing a fraction of an A/C’s electricity. The comfort factor added by stirring even warm air is instantly noticeable. When used in conjunction with room or central air conditioning, ceiling fans can provide comfort at temperatures set several degrees higher.
3. Program Your Thermostats
Programmable thermostats give you all-day control and major energy savings during those parts of the day and week when nobody’s at home. Many newer properties already feature programmable thermostats, but you can have one installed for a fraction of the price you inevitably pay for those lapses of attention older systems allow. All thermostats shut down the A/C when your home reaches the desired temperature, but programmables let you make smart changes in what and when (and can also be big heat-savers during winter months).
Taking these few steps can help save hundreds – even thousands – of dollars over the lifetime of your property. Now that the hot weather is on the way, feel free to contact me if you need an Evansville vendor referral or for any other property-related questions I’ll be happy to help answer. You can call me on my cell phone 812-499-9234.
Tuesday, June 05 2012
In the Age of the Internet (that’s what we’re in the middle of, I’m pretty sure) it is widely held that everything you want to buy is merely a mouse click or two away. It’s sort of like“Alice’s Restaurant”: ‘you can get anything that you want’ – only better, because you don’t even have to ‘walk right in.’
If that were true, selling your Evansville house would be as simple as turning everything over to your listing agent, watching its picture go up on the Web, and WHOOSH!, it’s sold! Pack up and move!
Of course that’s seldom the way homes get sold, and for at least one good and logical reason:
Nobody wants to live inside a computer.
When prospective homebuyers get serious, they leave the computer to pay a visit to the real, 3-dimensional town -- and the homes for sale here. They want to see what our neighborhoods looks like in real life, rather than through a photographer’s lens. What it feels like to walk through the front door. What the sounds of the neighborhood are like when you stand in the back yard. How the air smells, how the sunlight plays on the walls of what might become the kids’ bedroom, etc.
And here is the point: once they’re serious enough to get up and away from that computer screen, they might just drive by one of my Open House signs. In fact, if it’s a weekend morning, they might be driving around the neighborhood actively looking for an Open House sign -- because stopping in at an open house is the least complicated way for anyone to compare a property they have already seen (have made an appointment to see later) with a new possibility.
That is why I tell my clients that an old-fashioned Evansville open house is worth the trouble to prepare, and worth my giving up that Saturday or Sunday to host. When asked (by the N.A.R.), close to half the people who have bought a home say they used open houses as information sources for their home search; and a reliable 15% say the house they bought first came to their attention through an open house or sign.
Whenever you are looking to buy or sell ahome, don’t hesitate to make full use of the Internet and all the convenience and efficiency it brings to the process…but also be ready to make use of the old stand-by: the open house. Give me a call any time: together we’ll make full use of both! You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Monday, June 04 2012
In-ground pools are expensive projects with ongoing maintenance costs, so review the numbers before taking the plunge.
The decision to build an in-ground pool isn’t one to take lightly. Apart from the substantial installation costs, which typically run into the tens of thousands of dollars, you have to factor in ongoing maintenance expenses as well as insurance and tax implications. And you can’t be assured of recouping your investment when you sell; while a pool may be attractive to some buyers, others might be put off by the upkeep or safety concerns.
If you’re looking for bang for your buck at resale, an upscale kitchen or extra bathroom offers greater impact. But if you want the ultimate backyard entertainment amenity and social gathering spot, nothing fills the bill like a swimming pool. Thinking about taking the plunge? Here’s a look at how the numbers add up.
Ballpark your installation costs
The average cost in the U.S. to install, equip, and fill a 600-square-foot concrete pool starts at $30,000. Add in aesthetic details like waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and you’re easily looking at totals approaching six figures.
Concrete is the most expensive pool material, but it’s also the most durable and offers the most options for customization. Fiberglass shells and those with vinyl liners fall on the lower end of the budget scale, but the liners typically need replacing every 10 or so years. Changing the liner requires draining the pool and replacing the edging (called coping), so over time costs add up. Most home buyers will insist that you replace a vinyl liner, even if it’s only a few years old.
Decide on a filtration and heating system
The filtration pump is the biggest energy hog in a pool system, so you want to get the most efficient pump possible. The good news here is that new, variable-speed pumps use up to 80% less energy than old single-speed pumps, cutting operating expenses dramatically. At about $1,500, these cost more up front, but some local utilities offer rebates through participating pool dealers. You can further cut energy costs by setting the pump to run at non-peak times, when rates for electricity are lower.
If you’re planning to heat your pool, gas heaters are the least expensive to purchase and install, but they typically have the highest operation and maintenance costs. Many pool owners opt instead for electric heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. Heat pumps take longer than gas to warm the pool, but they’re more energy-efficient, costing $200 to $400 less to operate per swimming season. Regardless of heating system, covering the pool with a solar blanket to trap heat and reduce evaporation will further lower operating costs.
Account for ongoing maintenance expenses
All pools require that the water be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine has traditionally entered the picture. These days you have a variety of options, including systems that use bromine, salt, ozone, ionizers, or other chemical compounds that can be less irritating to skin. Chlorine remains the most popular because the upfront costs are reasonable, and you don’t have to be as rigid about checking the levels on a set schedule. But as far as your wallet is concerned, they all even out in the end.
In a seasonal swimming climate, budget about $600 annually for maintenance if you shoulder the chemical balancing and cleaning yourself; in a year-round climate, it’s more like $15 to $25 per week. To save yourself the task of once-a-week vacuuming, you can buy a robotic cleaning system for between $500 and $800 that will do the job for you. In locations where the pool must be opened and closed for the season, add another $500 each time for a pro to handle this task.
Factor in insurance and tax implications
A basic homeowners insurance policy typically covers a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount. It costs about $30 a year to bump coverage from $100,000 to $500,000. Many underwriters require you to fence in the pool so that children can’t wander in unsupervised.
In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price. For that reason, try to keep your total building cost between 10% and 15% of what you paid for your house, lest you invest too much in an amenity that won’t pay you back.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/pools-spas/what_to_consider_before_building_pool/#ixzz1wONO9tzw
Friday, June 01 2012
Those of us who focus professionally on our Evansvillereal estate trends can vouch for it: outdoor living sells! And depending on what life phase their family is in, homebuyers’ choices tend to follow similar lines.
The 2012 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey confirms again how important those backyard grills and dining areas are when it comes to what most people have at the top of their minds when they think about buying homes.
When potential homebuyers come to me, some of the features highest on their “must have” list virtually always have something to do with outdoor space. Young families buying homes, for example, are usually pleased to find a grassy area off the kitchen where their toddlers can toddle. High-profile clients often seek out impressive spaces with great foot-traffic flow for indoor/outdoor entertaining. Empty-nesters buying homes often come to me seeking the opposite -- less yard with easy- or no-maintenance landscaping. The point is, no matter what the age or demographic of the buyer, in today’s market, outdoor space sells.
So -- what is hot for those buying homes in 2012? The survey I cited earlier is one conducted every year by the American Society of Landscape Architects. This year they came up with some clear winners. According to the survey, top popularity goes to BBQ grill space (97.4%), followed by low-maintenance landscapes (96.6 percent), fireplaces/fire pits (95.8 percent), and dining areas (95.7 percent).
Not so obvious winners were decorative water elements such as ornamental pools, splash pools, waterfalls, grottos, water runnels or bubblers, and pergolas. Not as popular as they once were? turf lawns at 50.9%, gazebos at 49.1%, and hammocks at 27.4%. Go figure!
If you are considering an outdoor remodel before selling your ownhome, be sure to design with Evansville buyers in mind. Contact me any time for a stop-in -- I’ll be happy to go over the features most clients look for when buying homes today. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.