REMAX 440/Central Blog

A Preventive Maintenance Checklist for Savvy Second Homeowners

December 20, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 20, 2010--Its one thing to examine your property with an eye toward pleasing your guests, but smart second homeowners realize the value of regular preventive maintenance as well. Even if your guests dont notice, say, a leaky roof, its likely to cause bigger, more expensive problems down the road. After youve done your end-of-season audit, plan a second working weekend aimed at protecting your investment.

Based on the stitch in time saves nine theory, Christine Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway.com and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment, offers the following recommendations to protect your investment:

Exterior -Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. -Pressure-wash wood siding to prevent mold. -Check the exterior paint for bare spots. -Inspect and replace exterior caulk. -Check window and door sills for leaks and caulk where necessary. -Clean air conditioning unit. -Check the foundation. -Trim trees and bushes. -Check the sprinkler system. -Check all decks for loose boards, railings, and stairs. -Inspect the condition of the roof. -Check window screens. -Check fences and gates. -Check the automatic garage door opener. -Examine the septic system for flooding or unusual odor. -Check the latches on storm windows. -Inspect the grading around the house to make sure water drains away from the house on all sides. -Check outside walls for termite tubes and damaged wood.

Kitchen -Clean and seal tile and grout. -Check and fix leaky faucets.

Bathroom -Clean and seal tile and grout. -Make sure all toilets are properly secured to the floor. -Check and fix leaky faucets and toilets.

Attic -Check the attic for signs of moisture (i.e., water stains on the underside of the roof sheathing). -Check all wooden materials for mildew and rot. -Look for indications of a pest infestation.

Miscellaneous Interior -Clean out ashes from the fireplace. -Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. -Replace batteries in clocks. -Clean furnace ducts. -Change furnace filters. -Check the main electrical panel for rust and/or water marks. -Test circuit breakers. -Inspect fire extinguisher. -Check walls for condensation and mildew.


10 Appraisal Tips that Will Save You Time and Money

December 20, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 20, 2010--Mortgage rates are at near-historic lows, but sinking home values are often lowering appraisals as well. If you are considering refinancing your home, what do you need to know about the appraisal process to help ensure that you get the best possible appraisal on your home?

Seasoned loan officer and mortgage industry insider Len Finelli shares his 10 important tips on understanding the appraisal process. If you are a homeowner seeking to refinance, heeding these important tips on appraisals before proceeding can improve your refinancing options and save you time and money.

1. Continuously research the value of your home and the other homes in your neighborhood; pay attention to foreclosures in your area; they may drive down the value of your home.

2. Since appraisers use comps (comparable market sales) of local properties sold within the last six months to value your home, make sure to work with a great loan officer who will leverage their knowledge to research comps in your area, before ordering the appraisal.

3. If you use your own appraiser, research them first and ask your lender to cross check them for any potential issues that may delay the process. Great loan officers will always confirm your appraisers credentials.

4. Direct your loan officer to work with local, experienced appraisal companies. Local appraisers have a deeper knowledge of the surrounding neighborhood and will likely be more readily available for the home inspection, to speed your appraisal process.

5. The appraisal report is yours to keep. Find out in advance who pays for the appraisalmany times, appraisal fees are the homeowners responsibility and have to be paid upfront.

6. New lending regulations require two appraisals in some situationsask at the beginning whether youll need one or two.

7. Commit to your lender before committing to an appraisal. Being comfortable working with your loan officer is imperative. They often will be the liaison between you and the appraisal company.

8. Make sure any major repairs are completed before moving forward with your refinance. Structural damages drive your home value down and jeopardize the approval process for todays popular government-backed FHA loans.

9. Dont overestimate the value of making cosmetic home improvements. The expense is rarely justified because in the appraisal world, only improvements that add square footage will significantly increase home value.

10. Rely on market value rather than tax assessments for a realistic appraisal valuein todays market, tax value and current market value may differ widely, but your lender can only go by appraisal value.

Finally, homeowners should expect their lender to explain the appraisal process and all of the steps for refinancing clearly and upfront. Homeowners have a right to understand the process fully before going forward with their appraisal and refinance, Len says. Ask questions, and if they arent answered to your satisfaction, find another lender that has the answers. Todays market offers many opportunities for homeowners to refinance, and a reputable lender can help homeowners find great options to consolidate debt, shorten terms and lower payments. And it all starts with an appraisal.


Appliance Safety in the Home: How to Prevent Tip-overs

December 20, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 20, 2010--Because of recent tragedies nationwide involving tipped-over appliances, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently completed a review of various tip-over hazards that can occur in the home.

It was reported that there were 1,600 injuries in 2006 from appliance tip-overs, most of which occurred to victims under the age of 5. Thirteen deaths occurred between 2000-2006, most of which were children under 10 or adults over 70. These deaths were primarily caused by freestanding or slide-in stoves with oven doors swinging outward.

Families must be aware of leaving children unattended in the kitchen, even if the stove is turned off. Many accidents occur when children attempt to climb on top of a stove door causing the appliance to topple over. With senior citizens, the same can happen when they are leaning on it for support. If the stove is on at the time of incident, the heat will only make injuries worse and risk of death greater. Out of all of the accidents occurring in 2006, none of the appliances were properly secured to the wall.

The CPSC recommends the following to prevent related tragedies in the future:

-Manufacturers should create better stability in their designs. Models should be able to support 100 pounds on an open oven door. Although this may require some major redesigns, the added safety bonus will benefit everyone.

-Manufacturers should design door hinges that lock in the open position should an oven start to tip forward.

-Install anti-tip devices that prevent an appliance from working unless they are properly installed.

-Appliances should be programmed to automatically shut off the heat should they begin to tip.

Consumers should be aware that these types of incidents can occur in their home. To prevent this from happening to you or your loved ones, be sure to secure your stove with tip restraints provided by your manufacturer. New appliances made after 1991 should have shipped with them included, but may or may not be pre-installed. The CPSC reports that it is not aware of a single injury or death cause by an appliance with tip restraints properly installed.

For more information, visit www.cpsc.gov.


Choosing a New Door for Your Home

December 17, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 17, 2010--A new entry door can make your house feel like a home. Sure, you want a door that adds value and curb appeal, but you also want an entryway with that special something that brings your home to life. Whatever your future holds, make sure you choose a door that suits your home or style. The right door will increase your homes value and give your entrance the kind of allure that makes neighbors, friends, and family members want to come inside. Consider these suggestions from Lowe's when choosing the door that's right for your home.

Make an Entrance

1. Find Your Style and Shape

Numerous choices for glass inserts can truly personalize your entry. Look for:

-A design style that appeals to your taste and suits your homes architecture, whether its traditional, Craftsman, old-world, or modern

-A shape that will let light into your home, yet still provide your desired level of privacy; choose from a wide selection that includes everything from a small semicircle to two full-length rectangles

-Caming optionsin finishes such as platinum, brass, and wrought ironthat will enhance the glass inserts

2. Select a Door Material

Wood, steel and fiberglass are the materials of choice for entry doors. Each has its own unique set of benefits. If you want:

-A budget-friendly door with an authentic look and feel, then a wooden door may be best for you

-A hearty door that resists cracking and warping, consider steel or fiberglass. Fiberglass doors are available with smooth-surface exteriors or with wood-graining

-An energy-efficient entryway, ask about the doors insulation and if it comes with weather stripping. These features can help save you money on energy bills

3. Complete the Look

After deciding on your glass inserts and choosing a door material, add the extras that will customize your entry and pull the whole design together. Consider:

-A transom (a glass insert installed above the door) that will complement the shape of your doors glass inserts

-Sidelights, which also are available in a range of designs; opt for just one sidelight, or flank your door with a pair

-Reliabilts flexible design plan, which allows you to choose your features from nearly 11,000 options, and then have your door built to your specifications


Curb Appeal in the Information Age

December 17, 2010 10:29 am

By Joe Cooke, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, December 17, 2010--Curb appeal is no longer just for curbs; it applies just as much to the photos of your home that appear on the Web. Sue Argue of Staged First Impressions, in Hampton, New Hampshire, reminds her clients to clean up before the photo shoot; that is going to be up to you the homeowner. Dont expect your agent to do it.

Here is a quick preshoot checklist for curb and Web appeal:

  1. Dont leave debris and toys all over the driveway and front entrance. Park your car out of the way and encourage buyers to park where their car wont block the view.
  2. Spruce up your landscaping. Trim hedges, weed the flowerbeds and power wash the driveway and walkways.
  3. Make your entryway inviting. Paint your front door a happy color. It should promise comfort inside and say welcome.
  4. Make sure everything is clean. This simple fact cannot be emphasized enough.
  5. Air the house out. Make sure there are no food smells, cigarette smells or other scents that might put a buyer off.
  6. Put away clutter. Too many appliances on kitchen counters, too many pictures hanging on walls and too many bits and pieces on your tables will stop a buyer seeing their own special things in those places.
  7. Clear away unnecessary furniture. Go for a minimalist look so buyers can picture their own dcor in the home.
  8. Do a thorough spring cleaning. Clean out your closets and pack away items you dont need right now to give a spacious look to your storage areas.
  9. Clean your carpets, especially if you have animals in the house. The last thing prospective buyers want to do is to smell your dogs dinner or have your cats hair attach itself to their clothes.
  10. Wash your windows and let the sunshine in. Light affects emotions. Also, turn on the lights when showing your home. Day-like light bulbs enhance happiness and comfort.
  11. Put flowers and plants throughout the house to brighten it up and make it feel welcoming.
  12. Get any undone maintenance jobs and do-it-yourself projects completed before you show the house.
  13. Fix any broken light fixtures or ceiling fans.
  14. A new coat of paint works wonders. Select warm neutral shades of paint that will appeal to everyone.

By following Argue's suggestions, you can increase your home's curb appeal and better your photos' Web appeal as well.


Keep Your Family Safe During the Holidays

December 17, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 17, 2010--This holiday season, families should take extra precautions to keep their loved ones safe. By being aware of some unconventional dangers around the home, you can ensure a happy holiday season for all. Consumer Reports recommends the following tips:

When putting up holiday lights, beware of the following:

-Inclement weather can slowly tarnish outdoor lights. After three seasons (or 90 days), replace your lights. Check for loose or missing bulbs as well. If sockets are cracked or wiring is frayed, considering buying anew. You don't want faulty lights to lead to an electrical problem later down the road.

-Keep small bulbs out of the hands of children or pets that might choke on them.

-Turn off all of your lights before you go to bed. Decorative lights cause approximately 170 home fires per year.

Prevent Christmas tree fires:

-A dry Christmas tree can be a huge hazard and cause of fire. Watering the tree daily greatly reduces the chances of a fire in your home.

-When shopping around for an artificial tree, look for a "Fire Resistant" label.

-Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and candles. Use common sense when finding the right spot to put your tree.

-Unplug the lights when you leave the house or go to bed.

With a little awareness and an eye for problems, you can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season for all of your friends and family.


NHPC Examines Home Energy Efficiency Programs to Help Homeowners Conserve

December 16, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 16, 2010--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 in 2011.

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 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 www.nhpci.org.


Homeowners Recoup More with Exterior Replacement Projects, REALTORS Report

December 16, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 16, 2010--As part of the 2010-2011 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

"This year's Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but also are among the least expensive improvements for a home," says National Association of REALTORS president Ron Phipps. "Since resale value can vary by region, it's smart for homeowners to work with a REALTOR through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell."

Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally, in terms of value recouped, are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1% of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year's report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9% of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home's curb appeal.

"Curb appeal remains king--it's the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership," says Phipps.

The 2010-2011 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. REALTORS provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 60% of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8% last year.

According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70% of costs.

Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS the most cost-effective among siding projects, recouping 80% of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6% upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8% of costs.

The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2% nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70%. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8%; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5%; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6% of costs.

"It's important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors," says Phipps. "Things such as the home's overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That's why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you're buying, selling or improving a home."

To read the full project descriptions, access national and regional project data, and download a free PDF containing data for any of the 80 cities covered by the report, visit www.costvsvalue.com.


The Truth about Carpet, Asthma and Allergies

December 16, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 16, 2010--Not only does carpet add warmth and comfort to any room, it also helps keep the air free of allergens and pollutants when properly vacuumed and maintained. What falls to the carpet--such as allergens, common dust, pet hair and other pollutants--tends to stay on the carpet until it is vacuumed, unlike smooth surfaces that allow these particles to re-circulate. Properly maintained carpet leads to improved air quality and a healthier indoor environment because regular vacuuming with a Carpet and Rug Institute-certified vacuum cleaner locks pollutants in the machine and removes them from the air you breathe.

Here are several facts that support the use of carpet to help prevent asthma and allergy symptoms:

Know

-There is no scientific study linking the rise of allergy and asthma to the use of carpet. Indeed, several studies actually disprove any correlation.

-According to Carpet and Flooring Review, a 15-year Swedish study found no link between carpet usage and the incidence of allergy or asthma. In fact, even when carpet usage in Sweden decreased by 70%, allergy reactions in the general population increased by 30%.

-Carpet may even be helpful to people with asthma: an 18-nation study of nearly 20,000 people found a statistical relationship between carpeted bedrooms and reduced asthma and allergy symptoms and improved breathing.

-A 2003 study of more than 4,600 school children in New Jersey found that having carpet in a childs bedroom was associated with fewer missed school days and less need for asthma medication.

Studies have compared the distribution of airborne dust associated with normal activities on hard and soft flooring surfaces. Findings show that walking on hard surfaces disturbed more particles. These particles became airborne and entered the breathing zone. In contrast, carpeted surfaces trapped more particles so that walking disturbed fewer particles. The result was less dust in the breathing zone over carpeted floors.

Do

Vacuum regularly and thoroughly. It may come as a surprise that something as simple as regular vacuuming can have a big impact on the air you breathe. When vacuuming, remember to keep the following guidelines in mind:

-Use slow, repetitive front-to-back motions in an overlapping sequence. A quick once-over doesnt do much. Move slightly to the left or to the right every four strokes.

-Dont ignore the corners or crevices where dust builds. Use the proper attachments to clean those difficult-to-reach areas.

-Top-down cleaning saves you the step of vacuuming after dusting. Dust blinds, windowsills, and furniture surfaces first and then vacuum away any fallen dust.

-Remember to remove and replace or empty vacuum bags when they are half to two-thirds full.

-Professionally clean your carpet every 12 to 18 months. Regular vacuuming removes soil and dust, but periodic professional cleaning is needed to remove embedded dirt. Check with the manufacturer of your carpet for professional service provider recommendations, many of which can be found at www.certifiedcleaners.org.

Purchase and install carpet certified with the Green Label or Green Label Plus. These programs make certain that carpet and adhesive products meet the most stringent criteria for low chemical emissions.

By appropriately cleaning and maintaining your carpet, you can hopefully keep your family healthier and control your allergies. For more information, visit http://www.carpet-rug.org/.


The Dos and Don'ts of Holiday Moving

December 15, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 15, 2010--While everyone is preparing for the holiday season, are you singing to a different tune as you stress about your upcoming move? Moving can be demanding on its own. Combining the stresses of preparing for the holidays along with relocating can be as challenging as finding that one perfect gift for someone who already has everything. Relocation Blog has come up with a list of moving dos and don'ts to keep you from turning into a Grinch this holiday season.

Winter Wonderland:

For most Americans, moving during the holidays means moving in cold weather conditions with "Jack Frost nipping at their nose." For a cold winter move:

  • Do make sure to have your utilities--especially the heat--operational prior to your move. You don't want to freeze once you arrive at your new place.
  • Don't pack all your warm clothes away. Be sure to have plenty of jackets and sweaters that are easily accessible.

Making a List and Checking It Twice:

Plan ahead and be prepared so you can continue enjoying all of the holiday celebrations, despite your move.

  • Don't wait until the last minute to contact moving companies, gather boxes or begin packing.
  • Do transport necessities and precious items yourself that can't be replaced i.e. photo albums, personal documents, financial information, expensive jewelry and other sentimental items.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like "Home:"

One of the hardest parts of moving during the holidays can be leaving friends and family behind.

  • Do find ways to involve your kids in the moving process and once you're moved, try to keep family traditions alive in your new home to help ease the transition.
  • Don't forget how important it is to stay in touch with family and friends once you've moved take advantage of convenient services like Skype or Google Video and Voice Chat.

For additional holiday moving tips, please visit the Relocation.com blog.


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