Heat Your Home Efficiently

According to the Department of Energy, space heating is the largest energy expense in the average home, accounting for about 45 percent of energy bills. Adding insulation is often a wise investment and may pay for itself within a few years,  but if you’re looking for some quick wins try these simple steps to help reduce your heating bill this winter.

  • Replace your air filters consistently. We recommend replacing them as frequently as monthly during the high-usage months. If your system uses a washable filter, clean it regularly.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and save an estimated 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.
  • Open your curtains to allow natural sunlight to warm your home during the day and close them at night to keep the cold out.
  • Set your ceiling fans clockwise to push warm air down.
  • Check all air ducts, windows, and doors for proper seals. If you feel a draft, your warm air is escaping and cold air is coming in. Use a simple caulk, weatherstrip, or insulation to secure your seals.
  • Ensure air vents, baseboard heaters, and radiators aren’t obstructed by furniture.
  • Keep your unit clean of dust, soot and corrosion. Routine maintenance should be performed annually or as frequently as recommended by the manufacturer’s guidelines. We recommend having your system checked before the winter season begins to discover any problems before the temperatures drop.

Information Provided by First American Home Warranty


Should Millenials Rent or Buy?

Buying a home is 23% cheaper than renting nationwide for millennials and now is the best time to buy since 2012 when interest rates were a tad lower.

Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Report has traditionally assumed a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a 20% down payment for households moving every seven years. With these assumptions, buying is 36% cheaper than renting on a national basis, based on September home prices. That’s the best differential since 2012 when it was 38% cheaper to buy than rent. Buying is also cheaper than renting in each of the nation’s 100 largest metros.

However, using the Census’ 2014 American Community Survey and a new Trulia consumer poll, we’ve found that the math is different for young households (ages 25-34), who tend to move every five years (*) and can only afford up to a 10% down payment (**). This edition of Rent vs. Buy crunches the numbers for these prospective home buyers.

To compare the costs of owning and renting for young home buyers, we also assumed a 3.85% mortgage rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, itemized federal tax deductions and a 25% tax bracket. With those assumptions, buying is not only 23% cheaper than renting nationally, it is also only cheaper than renting in 98 of the nation’s top 100 markets.

Buying a home

But personal choices aside, here are the current economic conditions that influence today’s market. Nationally, home price growth has outpaced rent growth since 2012. That favors the rent side of the buy vs. rent equation. However, interest rates have returned to near historic lows, now at about 3.85%, after climbing to 4% or higher in 2013 and 2014. In October 2012, rates were about 3.4% for a 30-year-fixed rate mortgage. In that year, young households found that it was 28% cheaper to buy than rent.
Southern, Midwestern Housing Markets Great for Young Buyers
Buying is clearly a better deal in many Southern markets. Metros in Texas, Florida and Louisiana dominate the top ten list of places where young households will find buying an easier call. In No. 1 Houston, for instance, it is 46% cheaper for younger buyers to buy than rent.
By:Ralph McLaughlin

Pontiac, MI – the alternative to investing in Detroit?

Have you ever wondered what the site of the Pontiac Silverdome would look like without an 80,311-seat stadium on it?

Wonder no more.

A conceptual plan a little birdie sent my way this morning shows no indication of the former home of the Detroit Lions remaining.

What it does show is a plan for a mixed-use development consisting of 1.64 million square feet of space broken down across multiple use categories.

While Gordon Bowdell, associate planner for the city of Pontiac, said no site plan has been submitted and no demolition permits have been pulled, this could be a glimpse of the future of the 127.5-acre site at Opdyke and Featherstone roads.

That future is expected to be on display to people attending Oakland County’s second annualOne Stop Ready Community Showcase on Oct. 30, where 18 communities designated as “One Stop Ready” will show off a parcel, building, city lot or development-ready property in their borders.

What was sent to me this morning is ambitious. The cost of demolishing the Silverdome alone would be enormous, not to mention the cost of new construction.

Regardless, here is what is shown:

  • A 500,000-square-foot corporate headquarters or light industrial building.
  • Four single-story light industrial buildings totaling 750,000 square feet.
  • Retail and entertainment space totaling 192,000 square feet.
  • A 104,000-square-foot hotel.
  • Nearly 46,000 square feet of residential space.
  • And another 50,000 square feet of multitenant commercial space that would include restaurants.

Toronto-based Triple Properties Inc. purchased the Silverdome at auction from the city of Pontiac in 2009 for $583,000, just 1.05 percent of the total 1975 construction cost of $55.7 million.

Steve Apostolopoulos, co-founder and managing partner of Triple Properties, declined to comment.

The Lions moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit it 2002. In recent years, the Silverdome has fallen into disrepair, with its inflated ceiling collapsing and its field and seats strewn with debris.

The Southfield office of CBRE Inc. has been marketing the property for sale for $25 million. According to the listing, about 15 acres in the northeast corner of the site at North Opdyke and Featherstone roads is leased by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles while about 10 acres in the southeast portion is leased to an indoor/outdoor soccer league.

Read More Here


By: Kirk Pinho

Is This September the Perfect Month to Buy a Home?

It’s the perennial question, and one that both consumers and the media have asked me incessantly over the past few weeks: When is the best time of year to buy a home?

The question inspired me to look at the seasonal patterns for supply and demand a couple of weeks ago, revealing the upper hand that buyers who are willing to close on a home in off-peak times like the fall and winter might have.

But upon closer inspection I found this: September could be the best month all year to sign a contract to buy a home.

Why? Multiple factors are coming together to make this September unique.

The first factor is supply. Buyers will now have more choices than they have had for the past 10 months. According to our daily survey of visitors to realtor.com®, the single biggest factor holding back buyers from making a purchase all year long has been the inability to find a home that meets their needs. That’s because both existing- and new-home supply has been tight all year. Happily, listings inventory on realtor.com has been growing all spring and summer, a pattern that continued into August. As of the third week in August, inventory was at 1.91 million units, up 3% from July and up 21% from January.

Normally inventory peaks in August and begins to slow as the nights grow longer. But this year the typical seasonal decline will start a bit later. There will be more choices in September than any other month in 2015.

The second factor is demand. Now that school has started, demand has already started to decline. You can see the evidence in the nonseasonally adjusted pending home sales data reported by the National Association of Realtors® last week. The nonseasonal estimated number of new contract signings in July was down 12% from June. This kind of decline is entirely normal for July, since most contracts signed in July won’t close until after school starts.

And, of course, with less competition for the most listings all year, pricing power weakens as inventory takes longer to sell.

The seasonal pattern to pricing and median age of inventory tells us that the best deals come in the dead of winter. Signing a contract in September will likely mean you could close before Thanksgiving. That means September buyers won’t have as much moving hassle from winter weather, since for most of the country the threat of snow and ice picks up in December.

The third, and final, factor: the current low level of mortgage rates. Thirty-year fixed rates ended last week under 4% as a result of the recent stock market declines—sometimes a little turbulence in one area stabilizes others.

Why pay more later when you can pay less today? The average 30-year fixed rate touched 4.2% in June but has since pulled back and danced around 4%. Rates are likely to be closer to that June peak by the end of the year. So signing a contract to buy a home soon would enable buyers to lock in today’s lower rates before they start their long-awaited ascent.

With low rates, more choices, less competition, lower prices, and the chance to move before “harsh winter” enters our regular vocabulary again—this September sounds pretty enticing, especially if you’re ready and have been looking but unable to buy so far this year.

By: Jonathan Smoke, Realtor.com

Why Millennials Are Dominating the Housing Market

As a newlywed in his mid-20s, Andrew McFadden lived in an apartment in Fresno, California, with his wife, but they soon felt ready to move into a bigger place. “It met our needs, but as a finance guy, I thought we could get into a home and build equity in something as opposed to just paying out a monthly rental payment,” says McFadden, a certified financial planner. So at age 26, he purchased his first home. Six years and one daughter later, his family still lives in it.

Despite millennials’ reputation as a transient generation that’s not ready to settle down, McFadden’s experience is more common than you might think. The National Association of Realtors 2015 report on generational trends found that millennials, who are currently between ages 25 and 34, make up the largest share of homebuyers at 32 percent. Even more striking, millennials now constitute 68 percent of first-time homebuyers. That percentage might soon grow even more: A survey of 1,002 adults by TD Bank released in July found that just under half of millennials will be looking to buy their first home over the next two years.

“It’s surprising because all we keep hearing is that [millennials] don’t want to buy homes, that they’re the renter generation, but that’s just not true. They are the most optimistic that their home purchase is a good investment,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s director of survey research and communications. She notes that most millennials did not experience the housing crash firsthand, although they may have seen parents or older siblings go through it.

Millennials also appear more willing to purchase properties that need work and to invest their time and money into making improvements. A June 2015 report from Houzz, a home remodeling and design platform, found that millennial homeowners are just as likely to renovate their home as older age groups. Among millennial homeowners, 79 percent said they have decorated, 62 percent said they renovated and 58 percent made repairs to their homes.

“Millennials are embarking on projects because they’re likely to have recently purchased a home and are customizing it to their needs,” says Nino Sitchinava,​ principal economist at Houzz. The younger generation also tends to be drawn to DIY projects, which can make remodeling more affordable.

Dennis Delaney,​ partner at the law firm Hemenway & Barnes LLP in Boston, says buying a home can be a smart choice for millennials, as long as they are ready to settle down in it for more than a few years. “Having a home base or an anchor in your life is good to ground you,” he says, in addition to having a monthly payment to build net worth.

One way to figure out if you’re ready, he says, is to ask yourself if you’ve been able to consistently make progress toward your financial goals during the last year and a half. “Have you been putting more money into savings? Have you refrained from impulse purchases?” Once you’ve saved enough to make a down payment, then you’re probably ready to go house shopping, he adds.

Millennials who are still figuring out their careers and relationships might be smarter to wait. “If you like freedom and you don’t want to handle the maintenance and upkeep of a home, then you ought to delay the purchase,” says Tim Steffen​, director of financial planning for Robert W. Baird & Co., a financial services firm in Milwaukee. Homeowners often spend their free time on the weekends mowing the lawn and dealing with repairs, he warns.

Steffen has also seen single people buy one-bedroom condos only to find they soon get married and need a bigger place, or unmarried couples jointly purchase a home only to break up. “If neither of them can afford it on their own, then they’re forced to sell,” he says.

Here are more lessons that homeowners, and potential homeowners, can learn from the millennial homebuying generation:

1. Aim to put down 20 percent. McFadden, who is also the founder of the firm Panoramic Financial Advice​, encourages clients to make a down payment of 20 percent of the home’s price. That means slow and steady savings for several years, at least, before making a home purchase. If the market drops and the home’s value goes down, there’s a buffer to protect against the mortgage being higher than the value of the home​, he says. It also reduces the monthly mortgage payment.

2. Plan for all the extra costs of homeownership. As soon as you become a homeowner, there’s no landlord to call if the dishwasher breaks or the roof starts leaking. You’ll need to prepare for the physical burden of handling some repairs yourself, and McFadden recommends setting aside a portion of​ your monthly budget to handle unexpected costs​. Between mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, he says homeowners should plan to spend between 10 and 20 percent of the value of the home every year.

3. Don’t underpurchase. While it’s smart to stay within budget, Steffen says, it also makes sense not to buy a home that you will quickly outgrow, which is a risk, especially for millennials. “At the beginning stages of your career, you’re probably at your lowest earning point, and your income will continue to rise,” he says. If you buy a home at the outer edge of what you can afford, then you’ll grow into it without feeling the need to upgrade to a new house in a few years.

4. Build your credit. Cathy Derus​, financial planner and founder of Chicago-based Brightwater Financial​, says strengthening credit by checking credit reports annually and paying monthly bills on time can make it easier for even young homeowners to secure a reasonable mortgage. When she was 27, she bought her first home with her husband, which they were able to do in part because they had excellent credit. She says they have plans to pay off the mortgage in the next 10 years, even though they have a 30-year mortgage. “That means we’ll be financially independent that much sooner,” she says.

5. Take the plunge. Several millennial financial planners interviewed for this article pointed out that like the decision to have children, you might never feel really ready to buy a home. ​Brandon Marcott,​ a 30-year-old financial planner and founder of Edify Financial Planning in Waukesha, Wisconsin​, says he didn’t feel like he was ready to buy a home when he and his wife purchased their house a year and a half ago.

“We felt pressure from multiple sides telling us, ‘Now is the time!’” he says. Still, the father of two says he is glad to have a fixed monthly mortgage payment that can’t go up, as rent can. “This is by far my favorite benefit,” he says.

By: Kimberly Palmer

Who Represents You in a Real Estate Transaction?

When you hire a real estate agent, it’s important to understand whose side she’s on as you select a home to buy (or list your current home for sale) and head towards closing, where the actual transfer of ownership happens. There are a lot of ways agents may represent clients. Yours might represent:

Only you

Only the other parties in the transaction

Everyone in the deal

By knowing where your agent’s loyalties lie, you’ll know what you can tell her and what you can’t. (If, for example, you’re dealing with an agent who doesn’t represent you but is representing the sellers of a home you want to buy, you won’t want to tell her how high you’re willing to go on the price.) In some states, your agent has to explain the type of representation (also called agency) she’s offering you and ask you to sign a contract identifying who the agent and her broker represent. If an agent doesn’t bring up the subject or ask you to sign a contract, ask about it so you know whom she’s representing.

No matter what form of representation you agree to, watch out for your own interests and understand the six ways brokers and agents represent clients below.

But first, prepare yourself for the closing process:

1. Buyer’s Agency

Want the agent to represent you and only you when you buy a home so that all the information you share with her is confidential? Opt for an exclusive buyer’s agent.

Who pays the buyer’s agent? Surprisingly, even if you hire a buyer’s agent, you can still ask the sellers to pay his fee. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller (or the seller’s agent) to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

2. Seller’s or Listing Agency

An exclusive seller’s agent represents only the sellers, not the buyers. If your exclusive seller’s agent finds a buyer for your home, he may have another agent — maybe even a co-worker from the same brokerage — represent the buyer in your transaction. In some cases the buyer may have no agent at all. Your exclusive seller’s agent is loyal only to you, so it’s OK to discuss strategy with him.

Who pays the seller’s agent? The seller pays a commission to the seller’s agent from the proceeds of the sale. The seller’s agent may, and often does, share the commission with the homebuyer’s agent.

3. Subagency or Cooperating Agency

Let’s say you find a home online. You call the real estate brokerage that’s offering the home and an agent who answers the phone offers to show you the home right now. You think, “Great, she’s showing me the home, she must work for me.” But unless you’ve hired her as your buyer’s agent, she’s working for the sellers.

The same thing can happen if you go to see a home with an agent whose brokerage doesn’t hold the listing. That agent is assisting you, but she’s not your agent; she’s cooperating with the sellers to get you to buy their home.

In some states, that agent may also be a subagent (think subcontractor) of the seller’s agent. Some states allow subagents, some don’t.

Bottom line: Always ask any agent showing you a home whom she represents. Never tell a subagent anything you don’t want the sellers to know.

Who pays the subagent? The seller’s agent shares her commission with the subagent.

4. Dual Agency

In many states, agents can represent both the buyer and seller. These dual agents seek to bring both sides together. They can’t do something that’s only good for you and not for the other side.

A dual agent situation often arises when one agent represents the buyers and the sellers of the same home. The agent must disclose the relationship and, in many states, you must agree in writing to such dual representation because of the potential for conflicts of interest. While dual agents have an obligation not to share any confidential information of a client without their permission, be sure to inform the agent that the information is confidential and know that any non-confidential information may be shared with the people on the other side of the transaction.

Who pays the dual agent? Usually the seller pays the commission.

5. Designated or Appointed Agency

What happens when the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent both work for the same broker?

To make sure both sides of the home sale are treated fairly in this situation, some brokers designate an agent in their company to represent only the buyers and another to represent only the sellers. A designated agent or appointed agent will be loyal to you and only you. The strategy helps avoid a dual agency situation.

Who pays the designated agents? The sellers pay the commission and the designated agents share it.

6. Nonagency or Transaction Brokerage

In some states, you can work with an agent who acts as a facilitator. By doing so, you set up a nonagency, transactional, or facilitator relationship with the “agent” even though that person is technically not your agent under the law. Typically, nonagents owe you fewer obligations and duties than those who are actually agents. For instance, they would still be required to treat you fairly, but wouldn’t necessarily owe you confidentiality.

Nonagent responsibilities vary from state to state. To find out what those services entail in your state, ask the broker and agent.

Who pays the nonagent? You, as the seller, might agree to pay a flat fee or a commission, which would be stipulated in the listing agreement.

A REALTOR® can help you sell faster, get a better price, and guide you through what can be a complex process. So you’ll want to find an agent who suits your needs. Knowing which type of relationship you have with your agent, and his broker, will help you negotiate the best possible deal, whether you’re a buyer or a seller.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/support-home-ownership/how-to-choose-a-real-estate-agent/#ixzz3abVRQM2k
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5 Home Projects Only Professionals Should Do

It’s easy for homeowners to get caught up in the world of Pinterest and do-it-yourself blogs. While unique, custom projects can be a great way to personalize or spruce up your home, some projects are better left to professional contractors. Next time a friend or client has a brilliant idea to attempt one of these projects on their own, let them know why some things are best when left in the hands of pros.

1. Tree Removal – Whether it’s cutting down an overgrown tree or digging up a giant stump, this project can be an accident waiting to happen, especially if the tree is close to your house. Working from a height of 10 or 15 feet with large power tools can be dangerous enough, but add the factor of falling branches, and the risk of injury or damage to your car, house, or telephone lines increases even more. Removing a stump can be risky, too, as roots growing close to water or electrical pipes can cause serious damage as they are pulled up or moved.

2. Electrical and Plumbing Work

Not only can messing up electrical work in your home create much more serious issues, you also generally need a permit and inspection to do this kind of work. Bigger plumbing problems and projects like installing a shower or sink should only be attempted by professionals. Incorrect installation or repair can lead to damaged pipes or waterlogged walls, along with other expensive issues.

3. Pool Repair and Installation

Both above and in-ground pools are difficult to repair without special tools and products. While simple projects around the pool are fine to do yourself, repairing cracks in the foundation or remodeling your pool is something that a professional is better equipped for.

The same goes for pool installation. You may think you are saving a lot of money by installing a swimming pool by yourself, but as PoolProducts.com cautions, installing a vinyl or fiberglass pool is a very big job. A task of this magnitude requires some serious homework before you decide to it take on, plus you may have to rent or buy large construction equipment, or even hire help to do the job right. Measurements must be precise, permits and inspections must be passed, and you must consider how the ground and concrete will settle and shift over time.

4. Removing a Wall

It may seem like a good idea to knock down a small wall in your house to open up the kitchen or create a bigger living room, but it isn’t as easy as it may appear. If the wall is load-bearing or supports any part of the house, or if it holds electrical or plumbing, you could cause serious damage to the structure of your home.

Popular Mechanics recommends consulting with a building engineer before attempting to knock down a wall. A building engineer can give you advice on the best way to remove the wall and let you know if any special permits are needed.

5. Flooring

Homeowners might want to call a professional if they plan to rip up carpet or lay new tile. You might not know what’s underneath your carpet and if the subfloor is damaged or rotten, you could wind up spending thousands in extra costs just to repair it. Laying tile is another delicate and very precise project—if the tiles aren’t cut perfectly, laid completely straight, or if one of them cracks, you may have to start all over. If you’re not experienced in flooring, it may be best to leave it to a flooring expert.

Read More at Realty Times