REMAX 440/Central Blog

Soaring Gas Prices Make Energy Efficiency an Apt Way to Save

April 26, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 26, 2011--With the culmination of Earth Day, consumers are being confronted with spiking gasoline prices. To curb this, energy efficiency can help them "green" the planet while keeping more "green" in their pockets, says the Alliance to Save Energy.

The Alliance advises that this time of year is a good time to start boning up on energy-efficient lighting in anticipation of the phase-out of inefficient products from the market beginning January 2012.

Gas prices currently average about $3.80 a gallon nationwide having jumped 20 cents in a recent two-week period and experts are predicting that gas prices will soon match the July 2008 record of $4.11 and perhaps reach $5 in California by Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer driving season.

In addition, a particularly harsh winter in some parts of the country resulted in a 2.5% national increase in heating costs for the season just ended, according to data from the government's Energy Information Administration.

"Consumers still reeling from high winter heating bills are now being pinched by spiraling prices at the pump," noted Alliance President Kateri Callahan. "But fuel efficiency measures and energy efficiency steps around the house can ease the burden of high energy prices."

Callahan continued, "The Alliance has calculated that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,425 to power its vehicles this year. That amount, coupled with about $2,175 for home energy costs, comes to total household energy expenses of about $5,600 a burdensome amount for many Americans. But energy efficiency can cut those costs significantly."

The Alliance provides these energy efficiency tips for vehicles and homes:

At Home:

  • Use energy-saving lightbulbs. Replace old incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient options such as compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which will save you up to $50 in electricity costs over the lifetime of each bulb even taking into account their higher purchase price. Other options include new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs that use halogen technology or cutting-edge light emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • Pack heavy. Washers, dishwashers and clothes dryers are energy-guzzling appliances and the first two consume a lot of water! To reduce environmental impact, don't wash laundry or dishes until you have a full load. When possible, wash clothes in cold water, and air dry clothes and dishes.
  • Don't waste AC in an empty house. Warm weather usually means high utility bills to cool your house. When you're not at home, turn up the thermostat a few degrees and close your blinds to keep it cool. You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for eight hours a day. Make it easy by using an Energy Star qualified programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature when you're away, while allowing you to return to a comfortable house.
  • Upgrade and save. Now that the 2010 tax season is over, let Uncle Sam give you a 2011 tax break of up to $500 for energy efficiency home improvements such as Energy Star windows, insulation or highly efficient heating and cooling equipment. Get all the details on the Alliance's website at
  • Plant a Tree. Carefully positioned trees can reduce a home's energy use year-round. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service says that according to one government study, winter heating bills may be reduced by as much as 15%, while summer cooling energy needs may be cut by as much as 50%.
  • For more energy efficient tips for your home, visit LivingEfficiently.Org's At Home section.

On the Road:

  • Drive smarter. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds. By driving sensibly, you can save as much as $1.25 per gallon of gasoline (based on an assumed fuel price of $3.79/gallon).
  • Drive slower. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. Each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
  • Engage the overdrive gear. With overdrive gearing, your car's engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.
  • Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing both gas costs and stress.
  • For more energy efficient driving tips, visit the Drive $marter Challenge and LivingEfficiently.Org's On the Go section.

7 Tips for First-Timers Buying a Property at an Auction

April 26, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 26, 2011--In a time of growing repossessions around the world, auction purchases are becoming an increasingly common way to purchase property. Some believe auctions can be one of the best places to find a bargain buy in an environment that is ultimately decided by the drop of a hammer.

Once you have achieved the first step of deciding to actually purchase a property at an auction, the next stage--as it is whenever you attempt to purchase property--is to get prepared. If you're planning on attending an auction, heed the following tips for a smooth transaction.

1. State of Mind

No matter how calm a person you may think you are, buying property at auction can be daunting as well as exciting. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and feel overwhelmed, so the last thing you want to do is panic and end up bidding too high for something and exceeding your budget. It's always advisable to have a maximum amount in mind before you go to the auction.

It is also recommended that you attend at least one auction before you attempt to purchase, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere and to familiarize yourself with how the whole thing works.

2. Property View

Once you're comfortable with the auction environment and you have chosen the auction that you wish to attend, the next essential thing to do is request a catalogue to view the properties available and then arrange with the auctioneer to see the properties you are interested in.

The auctioneers will have allotted times for each property. Although bidding on and buying a property you've never seen before may sound exciting, the chances are it will prove costly one way or the other. Remember, there's no point purchasing a house at a knock-down price if it needs knocking down.

3. Researching the Property

Make sure you do your research thoroughly on the property and compare its price and condition to similar properties in the area listed with local estate agents. You will very often find that the guide price of auction properties is set relatively low in order to entice bidders, so have in mind what you think the true market value of the property is...then bid accordingly.

4. Legal Matters

A legal pack on the property you are interested in is normally available from the auctioneers. It is essential that you digest this thoroughly and if you're unsure about something, have a solicitor go over it; there may be more concerns with an auction property than that of one on the open market.

5. Finances

The completion period for auction properties is 28 days, so it is vital that you have your finances set up beforehand, whether it's making sure you have the cash available or a mortgage set up in principle. A 10% deposit on the property is always required on auction day. It's not unusual for buyers to lose their deposit because they couldn't come up with the rest of the balance.

6. Auction Day

As well as having your 10% deposit on that day, make sure you also have identification documents. What's more, auctions can be crowded affairs, so get there early if you want a seat. When the time comes to bid, make sure you can be seen by the auctioneer and that he or she is aware of when you're actually bidding, as opposed to scratching your nose.

7. Bide your Time while Bidding

Finally, what the whole build-up comes down to, bidding for the property of your choice. Bidding at auction is a strange sensation; it's exhilarating and extremely daunting, especially as the pressure mounts and you are bidding for something that is popular and a number of other bidders get involved.

Stay as calm as possible, think clearly and bide your time while bidding. Remember to not exceed the maximum figure that you have set for yourself; it can be very tempting to go over budget, particularly if you've invested a lot of time and effort prior to auction. A good way to avoid this is to take someone with you who will help keep you in check.

If you are bidding on a property and it fails to meet its reserve price, this doesn't necessarily mean it is the end of the matter. The auctioneers can still act as agents and are able to negotiate between you and the vendors after the auction. Likewise, it is sometimes possible for a deal to be tied up prior to auction, so it may be worthwhile checking this possibility out with the auctioneers beforehand.

If you walk away without the home you were bidding on, contact a real estate professional who can suggest other great deals similar to the property you were vying for. There are many opportunities for buyers in today's market-even in the traditional real estate transaction process.

By familiarizing yourself with the auction process, you can increase your chances of coming out a winner with a new home in hand.


New HUD Campaign Empowers Homeowners to Recognize, Avoid and Report Foreclosure Relief Scams

April 26, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 26, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is launching a new campaign called Know It. Avoid It. Report It. This campaign has two objectives. First, it aims to direct homeowners facing foreclosure to trusted resources and housing counselors. Second, and more importantly, the campaign wants to solicit the support of homeowners in shutting down scammers who regularly target the elderly, Hispanics and African Americans. Both objectives will be pursued through education and outreach, anti-scam reporting tools and close cooperation with federal, state, local and non-profit partners.

Newly deceptive scam artist tactics lure homeowners into misleading agreements. Their tactics include giving the false impression that they are affiliated with the government, charging illegal up-front fees and executing fraudulent lease-back, financing and repurchase schemes.

Highlights of the Know It. Avoid It. Report It. campaign include:

-Information on how to avoid becoming a victim

-Scam artist red flags and fraud warning signs

-Complaint form and hotline to report fraud or suspicious activity

-Resources for finding HUD-approved counselors and free housing workshops in every state

-Names of individuals and companies identified by law enforcement agencies who have allegedly committed loan modification fraud or foreclosure relief scams

Education, outreach and grassroots efforts in hardest hit communities include:

-Multilingual brochures, posters, flyers and other outreach materials

-Television, radio, print, mass transit and out-of-home advertising

-Social media activity

With millions of homeowners in foreclosure or at risk of losing their homes as they fall behind on mortgage payments, and eight million Americans expected to face foreclosure now through 2012, the timing of this campaign could not be more prudent.

HUD encourages homeowners to call 1-888-995-HOPE (4763) or visit to get the facts about fraud and to report suspected scammers.

For more information, visit

How to Complete Home Renovations On a Budget

April 25, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-As the interest in home renovations continues to grow, homeowners are constantly looking for ways to get the job done without depleting their bank account. With numerous steps and details involved in the process, it is easy for homeowners to become overwhelmed and spend more money than is truly necessary.

The following tips from the April 2011 Issue of HOLMES: The Magazine To Make It Right provides useful information that will keep homeowners from going over budget as they take on renovation projects this spring.

1. Work in the off-season. Some jobs like pouring concrete and applying stucco, are best done in good weather, but if your job doesn't require it, postpone it until the off-season to save on labor costs.

2. Avoid structural changes. Moving walls and adding foundations also raise the bill. If you must have more space, steal it instead of adding on; grab it from an adjoining closet or room, or even the hollow between studs.

3. Work with what you've got. Unless you're dealing with structural issues or water damage, it's likely that not everything needs to be replaced. If you've got a good set of cabinets, why trash the boxes when just replacing the cabinet doors will do?

4. Leave appliances, fixtures and outlets in the same locations. Running new lines drives up costs. Only when you've planned for such changes is it the right time to go to the trouble of rewiring and plumbing so that a range can sit where the fridge once stood.

5. Value-engineer. Your architect and contractor are trained to know all types of materials. Ask them to make recommendations for thrifty alternatives.

6. Buy all appliances or fixtures at one time and on sale, if you have a place to store them. Purchasing items in bulk can often garner you a discount from the retailer.

7. Stick with normal colors. By that we mean choose standard color wheel options or neutrals, which are manufactured in the greatest numbers, and the efficiency is passed on in the price.

8. Opt for factory finishing. Cabinets, floors and even entire houses are now available factory finished, allowing for faster installation.

9. Make decisions based on quality, not just price. It's still cheaper to have the same item over a longer period than to replace it a few years later-and pay for labor again, too.

10. Plan for energy efficiency. This can be as simple as buying energy efficient appliances that draw less energy over their operating lifetime, or installing a system to capture and amplify natural light, negating the need for an electric light in a windowless room. Investigate these options before you complete a contract.

11. Prioritize and don't budge. Once you have your list, refine it by dividing it between what you want and what you need. Ask yourself again why you are doing this project. Do you crave a more efficient space? An attractive and up-to-date room? Are you doing it for yourself or for resale? If the latter is the case, consult with your designer and a REALTOR to see where your money will count the most.

12. Go with the standard model whenever possible. There are low-cost alternatives to just about everything, and you don't have to compromise quality. This means weighing standard appliances versus commercial grade, stock versus custom cabinetry. Labor-intensive tile and woodwork can dramatically bump up cost. Talk to your builder about how to achieve a custom look for less.

13. Rule out thoughtless change orders. Nothing busts a budget faster than changing a floor plan or materials after work is underway. The time you invest in planning now will pay off as work gets underway. If you do run into any changes, minimize them. At this point, it will not only cost you money, it could also temporarily disband your construction team while you wait for new materials to arrive. And don't forget to request a copy of the change order from your contractor, detailing the new timeline and payment due date.

14. Use an architect, your paid advocate in directing the contractor and subs. And when you can't be on-site to stop waste and overspending or curb unauthorized changes, he or she can. The peace of mind is worth the money.

15. Have the architect itemize everything. Sounds tedious, but that's the thoroughness you are paying for. You'll want to see a detailed work scope document with sketches outlining the following: demolition, construction, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, tile and stone work and finished. "Itemize absolutely everything," says Collette Whitney of New York City. "This will give you an accurate basis from which contractors can bid, and from which you can compare bids." That includes specifications, which list every material thing going into the project, right down to the doorknobs. Don't forget to ask for a floor plan and elevations. "People tend to hear only 65-70% of any conversation," says Rory McCreesh, owner of a construction corporation in New York City. "You want to be sure you and your contractor completely understand the finished project. Detailed, comprehensive drawings give your contractor the tools to understand exactly what he needs to build for you." These drawings become the basis of your contract and the construction documents.

16. Seek multiple bids. Once you have the architect, pursue the best possible bids for the job. Have more than three licensed and insured contractors provide a detailed bid, including labor and materials, so you can really compare and analyze each. "When interviewing, you might want to ask the contractors about their worst experience and how they handled it," says Jason Yowell, owner of a design and construction company in Atlanta. "That'll give you insight as to how they handle adversity."

17. Itemize within the contract. Once you've picked your general contractor, he'll create a contract that includes a progress payment schedule. This is based on certain milestones of completed work, such as cabinet installation. It tells you how much money you have to pay and when, and what should happen when. Plus, realistically, snags do come up, no matter how well you organize and plan. Make sure the contractor includes at least a 10% cushion for the unexpected. Of course, review the contract in person with your architect and contractor, item by item, to make sure all are in agreement before singing.

18. Memorize the change order policy. Then try your hardest to avoid the need for any. You don't want them. But even we acknowledge they sometimes happen for legitimate reasons. In case you must make a change, make sure in advance that the contractor has a policy whereby he advises you of the cost and writes a change order immediately, which you then sign. Be informed of the procedure. Anything out of step with the contract at this point puts the project at risk.

19. Ask for pricing. You thought you did this when you went over specifications, right? But when you build anything, you have a minimum of 16 categories of pricing. "There's masonry work, millwork, cabinetry, framing, drywall, doors, windows, plaster, stone and tile, electrical audio and video," says Steve LeBlanc. "The more information the contractor gives you in terms of what something costs-and individual breakdown, item by item-the more likely you are to stay on budget."

20. You can benefit by purchasing materials through a professional. Architects and contractors have relationships with suppliers who offer purchasing efficiencies that save time. A big upside in using this service is that whoever orders the products also assumes responsibility if something goes wrong or is damaged or missing-not you. Any upcharge in materials takes into account the contractor's time, responsibility and experience; it's worth it.

21. Have all materials on-site before they're required. It's called the "preconstruction period" when everything gets ordered. This way no time is wasted-on your dime-while workers wait or miss a day because the materials they're working with have not arrived. The architect or contractor's project manager should be designated to monitor delivery times.

22. Hold pre-construction meetings. The people on your construction teams need to thoroughly understand the job prior to starting. Your contractor can see to this, possibly with a project or field manager, at this special meeting. You as the client won't attend; talks will be mostly technical. Prior to demolition, though, you should meet the crew. "Get together with your contractor's construction team to go over all aspects of the job, from introductions to phone numbers to a brief recap of the whole job," says Tom Sertich, president of a development company in Phoenix. "You, the client, may have further questions, such as scheduling, and they can all be addressed in person then by the team on-site."

23. Check materials as they arrive. Sounds obvious, but you must see everything out of the boxes to ensure things arrive undamaged and intact. Your contractor should review all materials as they arrive so the subcontractors aren't waiting for an indispensable item. This helps maintain productivity, too.

24. Let the pros do their jobs to avoid confusion. Ask questions if something concerns you, but don't get involved in the day-to-day management and give conflicting directions to subcontractors. This risks creating miscommunication. "The architect is your representative to the contractor and can walk through the site with you, get notes and then take that direction back to the contractor," says Dan D'Amelio. Since each knows the technical aspects of construction, they will speak the same language fluently. The architect can also approve the completion of each stage.

25. Prepare a punch list, or post-job list of to-do items you feel may still need attention. When the job appears done, it's customary to do a walk-through with the contractor or project manager and your architect. "Before the walk-through," says Yowell, "get some Post-its and use them to write notes for anything that concerns you, and then attach it to that item." Bring the punch list to the meeting.

26. Space out the payments. You should have been doing this throughout the project with the help of your written contract that includes an incremental pay schedule worked up beforehand. Now is the time to be ready with the final payment. This schedule is your insurance that the contractor will be with you until the end. Only when the project is completed-and any lien period has expired-and you are happily surveying a job well done, shake hands and hand over that check.

Most Landlords Say They Would Rent to People Who Lost Homes to Foreclosure, The National Association of Independent Landlords Finds

April 25, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011--More than three-quarters (82%) of independent landlords say they would rent to someone who lost a home in foreclosure, assuming the applicant traditionally had good credit, according to a survey released by The National Association of Independent Landlords.

"Landlords typically won't rent to applicants with poor credit-and a foreclosure will absolutely slam someone's scores. The exception is when they see people who have paid their bills their whole life, but lost their job, can't meet their mortgage and must hand their keys back to the bank," said Tracey Benson, president of The National Association of Independent Landlords.

Despite recent credit problems, Benson said, applicants with a foreclosure can prove good risks, chiefly because they did once own their own home: "These people are used to taking pride in where they live. Often, they lost their jobs and homes through no fault of their own."

Increasingly, mortgage defaults stem more from lost jobs than ill-equipped borrowers who lost homes they never should have bought, Benson said. A thorough background check, like one conducted by The National Association of Independent Landlords, will indicate into which category an applicant falls-and whether financial woes are part of a recent spate of bad luck or a life-long trend.

"Because of this abundance of defaults, there is a greater need for rental property, so landlords should carefully vet applicants," Benson said.

The National Association of Independent Landlords polled 563 members from March 21 through March 25, 2011.

For more information, visit

HUD to Offer Grants to Fix Housing-Related Health Hazards

April 25, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 25, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is making grants available to help eliminate lead-based paint and other housing-related health hazards from lower income homes. The funding will help protect young children as well as other vulnerable populations.

HUD is making these grants available through its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control, Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration, Healthy Homes Production and Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grant Programs.

"These grants are critical for States, counties and cities who are on the front lines of protecting our children from lead hazards and other residential hazards," said Jon Gant, Director of the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. "While we have made remarkable progress toward eliminating lead poisoning in children nationwide, now is the time to focus on reaching the finish line. We look forward to communities applying for these grants so that they can help make older housing safer and healthier for children."

HUD is making grants available through the following programs:

-Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control (LHC) and the Lead Hazard Reduction (LHRD) grant programs - These grants will identify and control lead-based paint hazards in eligible privately owned housing for rental or owner-occupants. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

-Healthy Homes Production - This grant program is modeled after the previously successful Healthy Homes Demonstration and Lead Hazard Control grant programs, and will enable public and private grantees to address multiple housing-related hazards at the same time. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

-Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grant - These grants will develop, implement, and evaluate multifaceted programs for the control of asthma among residents of federally assisted multifamily housing. HUD is targeting asthma because it is a common illness that especially affects disadvantaged populations, and because multi-pronged interventions, such as reducing exposure to environmental triggers, can help control the disease. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

HUD is providing an opportunity for applicants through its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program. Prospective grantees will be able to apply for supplementary funding to promote and develop a local Healthy Housing initiative, building on their lead hazard control program, to address multiple housing-related health hazards in accordance with best practices HUD has identified.

HUD requires prospective grantees to submit their applications electronically via Any changes to HUD-published funding notices will be made available to the public through a Federal Register publication and published on Applicants are urged to sign up for's notification service to receive periodic updates or changes to this grant offering.

For more information, visit

Tips and Tools to Save Energy This Spring

April 22, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2011-With warmer weather just around the corner, many homeowners will soon begin tackling their spring cleaning and home improvement to-do lists. DTE Energy offers the following energy-saving tips for the spring.

Roof ventilation. Now's the time to ensure that your roof has adequate ventilation. When the weather gets warmer, good attic ventilation helps reduce heat buildup which cuts cooling costs and prolongs shingle life.

Air conditioner maintenance. An annual inspection is key to keeping your cooling system at peak performance. Early spring is the best time to call a local contractor to schedule a check up for your air conditioning system. It's important to keep air conditioning units free of obstructions inside and out. Make sure your spring yard work includes clearing bushes, leaves and other debris away from your outdoor condenser.

Furnace replacement. You may be using your furnace less as the weather warms up, but if it's an older model, now may be the time to take advantage of end-of-season sales to replace it with one that's more energy efficient.

Landscaping. Plant trees that lose their leaves in the fall on the south and west side of your house to provide cooling shade. When the trees lose their leaves, you'll enjoy the benefit of solar heat gain in the fall and winter months. Plant evergreen trees on the north and west side to protect your home from blustery winter winds and reduce heating costs.

For more information, visit

NHPC Examines Home Energy Efficiency Programs to Help Homeowners Conserve

April 22, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2011--The National Home Performance Council (NHCP) released a new study that gives an overview of the universe of whole-home energy efficiency retrofit programs in the U.S. The study provides information on the 126 programs across the U.S. that promote whole-home approaches to residential energy efficiency. Among other characteristics, the study found that more than half of the programs offered free energy audits, and slightly more than half offered financing to pay for the cost of an energy efficiency retrofit.

"This is a time of tremendous change and growth for the energy efficiency retrofit industry," says NHPC Managing Director Robin LeBaron. "In five years, the field will look very different than it does now. This study provides a baseline for us to study how the field evolves." NHPC plans to issue a follow-up study by year's end.

An energy efficiency retrofit can not only improve comfort by tightening leaky homes, but it can also save a homeowner as much as 20% to 40% of the cost of their monthly utility bills. Nationally, homeowners could save $21 billion each year by retrofitting their homes. "To so many Americans, a house is not just their largest asset, but a place of comfort for their families to grow," says Kara Saul Rinaldi, NHPC executive director. "By investing in energy efficiency, homeowners look to improve their asset and their comfort. Programs that support whole-home retrofits support the American Dream of a comfortable, affordable, safe home."

A whole-home energy efficiency retrofit program provides information and, often, financial support to homeowners who want to carry out renovations in their home that will reduce their energy consumption. Typical retrofit measures include insulation, air sealing, replacement of inefficient heating and cooling systems with high-efficiency models, and similar measures.

State- and utility-based energy efficiency retrofit programs have expanded rapidly over the past two years in response to new funding provided by Federal stimulus programs and initiatives like the competitive Better Buildings program are deliberately encouraging experimentation and innovation.

"The study takes a very broad view of what a whole-home retrofit is," LeBaron adds. "It's helpful to get a broad cross-section of what's being done.

The study, entitled Residential Energy Efficiency Retrofit Programs in the U.S.: Financing, Audits and Other Characteristics, can be read in full at

Homeowners Look to Reduce Energy Consumption for Earth Day

April 22, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2011--Retrofitting an existing home to be more energy efficient is an effective way to save energy and reduce cost of homeownership. Retrofitting includes a variety of projects from replacing old light bulbs to upgrading appliances and installing new insulation. Practical home improvement has become popular among savvy homeowners looking to save. According to Pike Research, expenditures for energy efficient home improvements will grow to over $50 billion by 2014.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 80% of homes built before 1980 were built with insufficient insulation. Old dishwashers waste up to 6,700 gallons of water per year-enough water to run an efficient dishwasher for seven years. Replacing old, single-pane windows can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars on energy bills.

"Retrofitting an existing home to make it more green and an energy efficient structure is easier than some homeowners might realize," says Jeff Kaliner, co-founder and chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania-based remodeling group. "With a few simple steps or home improvement investments, homeowners can reduce their energy consumption, save some money throughout the year-all while being friendlier to the Earth and helping reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil."

Below are tips for homeowners looking to make their home more energy efficient and environmentally friendly:

  • DIY Home Energy Assessment Homeowners can easily assess their energy usage through a do-it-yourself home energy audit. By searching for air leaks and checking things like insulation, lighting and heating/cooling equipment, homeowners can develop a list of problem areas. This list will help homeowners prioritize energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Windows Energy efficient windows are better insulated, allowing a home to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If homeowners are not able to replace their home's windows, closing cracks and seals with caulk to reduce air leakage is a great alternative. Homeowners can receive up to $200 in tax credits toward the purchase of windows in 2011.
  • Insulation According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for heating and cooling. Energy usage for heating and cooling is high because conditioned air often escapes through poorly insulated walls and attics creating a never-ending cycle of circulating air. Updating a home's insulation may allow homeowners to retain conditioned air and spend less to keep the home comfortable. Homeowners can receive up to $500 in tax credits for updating insulation in 2011.
  • Appliances Updating your home's appliances to ENERGY STAR rated appliances can save you money on both your water and electric bill. A new clothes washer alone may save you thousands of gallons of water each year. If replacing your appliances is out of the question, be sure to keep them clean and in good repair to reduce energy waste.
  • Doors Old or improperly sealed doors can significantly affect a home's energy efficiency by allowing conditioned air to easily escape. Installing a new door can provide more effective insulation than older ones. Homeowners can receive up to $500 in tax credits toward the purchase of new doors in 2011. Weather-stripping is another cost effective way to seal air leaks around an existing door.
  • Light Bulbs According to Energy Star , if every American home replaced just one light with an energy efficient CFL light bulb, enough energy would be saved to light three million homes for a year. With a cost of just over $2 per bulb, switching to CFL light bulbs is a very cost-effective Earth Day project.
  • Programmable Thermostat The U.S. Department of Energy reports that homeowners can save roughly 10% on heating and cooling bills by turning their thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature of a home while the homeowner is at work or asleep, making energy reduction easy.

For more information on how you can go green, visit

Global Events Affecting Economic Outlook

April 21, 2011 11:31 am

RISMEDIA, April 21, 2011--Global events during March, including ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, the surge in oil prices, and supply disruptions from the tragedy in Japan, have dampened U.S. economic growth in the first half of 2011, according to the April 2011 Economic Outlook recently released by Fannie Mae's Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. The slowdown in growth is expected to be temporary, however, with a modest acceleration in economic growth projected for the second half of the year. The group forecasts economic growth to average 3.1% for 2011, a downgrade from 3.5% projected in the prior forecast.

Home sales were weak in the first part of 2011, with distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) continuing to account for more than a third of total existing-home sales. In turn, a rising share of distressed sales and the winding down of various programs to support the housing market have caused home price measures to decline.

"Home price expectations have deteriorated during the past several months, which could cause some potential home buyers to remain on the sidelines-and further sharp cutbacks in housing demand would pose a risk to the fragile housing recovery," said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. "We expect a little more decline in house prices at the national level than we had thought previously, but expect prices to begin stabilizing later this year."

On the upside, recent employment reports have been very strong, with more than 230,000 private sector payroll jobs added in each of the last two months. "We anticipate there will be continued reasonably good news in employment through the rest of the year," said Duncan. "If that continues, we expect housing to move in a similar positive direction-hopefully by the second half of 2011."

For more information, visit

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