Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Housing Starts Up, Building Permits Down

Mixed news from the housing front, in the form of new construction Housing Starts bouncing higher, yet new Building Permits moving lower. Existing Home Sales rose somewhat unexpectedly in February, marking the largest monthly gain since March 2004 and the highest pace of sales was the highest since April of 2006. Overall, not bad reports, considering how the media still wearily beats away on their housing bubble drum. But it wasn't all great news - overall sales are off 3% from last year, the inventory of existing homes on the market rose slightly to a 6.7 month supply, and the median price of a home declined slightly to $212,800. Many experts feel it is likely the housing market saw its worst days during August of last year, but although stabilizing, the housing market still has a ways to go.

Doorknobs, faucets and cabinet knobs are the accessories of your home, and are details that should not go unnoticed! Coordinating all of the fixtures in your home is a great way to update existing furniture and appliances.Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kitchen Updates Worth Every Penny

Mid-range Kitchen Remodels Reap the Rewards for Enjoyment and Resale

(ARA) - In today’s buyer’s market many homeowners are hesitant to put the “for sale” sign in the front yard -- even if they are not happy with their current home. Instead, wise homeowners are sinking their dollars into remodeling -- to increase their homes’ values and their own enjoyment.

When it comes to remodeling projects that yield high returns, kitchens and bathrooms are king! According to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value report, a mid-range kitchen remodel ($45,000) will recoup approximately 91 percent of the costs, while an upscale kitchen remodel ($82,000) will recoup about 85 percent.

While this may give you sticker shock, the benefits are priceless, yielding an enjoyable, updated area for your family -- and future families to enjoy. What indulgences should you include? For the best return on investment, “Remodeling” magazine recommends these upgrades for a mid-range kitchen remodel.

Cabinets ($10,000 - 15,000)

Semi-custom cabinetry offers you the flexibility to design the kitchen of your dreams, while maintaining an affordable cost. Manufacturers, such as HomeCrest cabinetry offer a wide selection of woods and designs for any kitchen size or style. For added convenience add a kitchen island, which is also a popular selling point in the kitchen. Plus it’ll provide an enjoyable open food prep station or seating area.

Countertops ($3,000 – 4,000)

Laminate countertops used to be the only affordable choice, since solid surface options, like marble or granite, were more expensive. Now options such as Corian or Hi-Macs, provide an affordable, upscale look. You can choose from a variety of patterns or colors to fit every style and budget. Plus, they offer added durability and easy installation -- key benefits for any remodeling project.

Stainless Steel Sink and Upscale Faucet ($800 – 1,500)

“It’s all about smart innovation,” says Judy Riley, Moen Incorporated’s vice president of design. “In today’s fast-paced world, homeowners want to add amenities that are not only fashionable, but functional as well.”

For a stylish and functional faucet, try a pullout version. Moen offers a variety of designs, including the new Medora faucet, an elegant single-hole, single-handle high arc pullout kitchen faucet. With its variety of finishes, including Stainless Steel or dramatic Matte Black, it meets most style demands, and features an ergonomically designed pullout wand with a variety of water flow patterns for convenience at the sink.

Speaking of the sink, “undermount sinks, which complement solid surface countertops, are a “must-have” in the kitchen,” says Riley. “They offer an upscale, seamless look and are easy to clean since there are no edges to catch crumbs.” Moen’s new Camelot undermount stainless steel sinks, available in four bowl configurations, blend quality and value to allow you to achieve an upscale look at an affordable price.

Appliances ($5,000 – 7,000)

Choosing energy-efficient appliances increases the functionality and aesthetics of the kitchen while decreasing your overall energy costs. Plus they are a great selling feature. Visit www.energystar.com for listings of energy-efficient models. Energy Star-rated refrigerators use 15 percent less energy than the current federal standards, while Energy Star dishwashers use 41 percent less energy. To round out your purchase, add an in-wall oven, a flush-mount ceramic range and an over-range microwave oven. Choose matching finishes on all appliances for a high-end look.

Custom Lighting ($2,000 – 3,000)

Gone are the days of the lone overhead fluorescent light fixture. Today, custom lighting adds functionality and warmth to your kitchen. Choose a beautiful chandelier over the dining area for a decorative element. Install hidden, recessed cans in the center of the room to create ambient light. Hanging pendant lamps is an ideal way to beautifully illuminate task areas.

Resilient Flooring ($2,500 – 4,000)

Like the name suggests, resilient flooring is a must-have for busy kitchens, withstanding foot traffic and food spills. Plus, today’s choices include a broad range of style, color and performance options to meet your needs and budget. Low price may not mean lower quality, but less style choices or shorter warranties. Expect to pay more for sophisticated styling, like those that mirror the look of ceramic tile or wood, but they will also have better damage resistance and stronger warranties.

Paint and Stain ($200-300)

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-type-fits-all paint. For the walls, use a latex primer to create a perfect canvas. Next, choose a high-quality washable latex paint so you can easily wash away any food splashes and stains. For wood trim you have two choices: paint or stain. If staining, be sure to test the color to create a close match to your kitchen cabinets for a cohesive look. If painting your trim, choose a high-gloss paint to set it apart from the walls.

So when it comes time to remodel your kitchen, remember smart innovation will pay off. In addition to the enjoyment that it will provide you, it’ll also reduce your energy bills and increase your home’s value when it comes time to sell.

For more information about Moen’s kitchen products, visit www.moen.com or call (800) BUY-MOEN.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Upscale Bathrooms

Marble counters, whirlpool baths and steam showers are hot trends and will make any bathroom more attractive. Minor renovations, such as a vintage mirror frame and sconce lighting are also great ways to update your bathroom. Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Homeowners and Homebuilders Seek Eco-Friendly Materials

(ARA) – With the country going green, many homeowners are looking for eco-friendly materials when building or remodeling their home. And as more homeowners struggle with high utility bills and become more concerned about the environment, many are building and updating their homes to be more eco-friendly.

The latest housing trend shows that many new homebuilders are constructing “green” homes. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders reports that eco-friendly construction will climb from 2 percent of all residential housing starts in 2005 to between 5 and 10 percent in 2010.

For those consumers in older or newer, there are many easy, affordable and immediate steps they can take to make their home more environmentally friendly.

* Lower the temperature on your thermostat. By lowering it just one degree, you can reduce heating costs in your home by nearly 4 percent.

* Install low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads. These help reduce water consumption and water heating costs by as much as 50 percent.

* Repair leaky faucets. One drop per second from a leaky faucet can waste as much as 10 gallons of water each week.

* Purchase appliances with the Energy Star rating. An Energy Star-qualified refrigerator would save enough electricity to light a home for more than four- and-a-half months compared to a refrigerator from 1990.

* Select renewable resources when purchasing flooring products. Bamboo and cork surfaces are excellent choices for those wishing to purchase an eco-friendly product that will also provide a beautiful look in their home. Bamboo is actually a grass and replenishes itself naturally in the wild, so by using bamboo, consumers preserve the habitat of endangered wildlife. In addition to bamboo, cork is also another great option for those wishing to have a green or eco-friendly home. Cork is considered a green product because the same tree can be harvested numerous times. It is also durable, acoustical, long-lasting and is the best flooring available for allergy sufferers.

One popular retailer of bamboo and cork flooring is Lumber Liquidators. The company offers 13 varieties from three brands—Morning Star Bamboo, Supreme Bamboo and Schön Engineered Flooring—in varying sizes of floor boards and finishes. Lumber Liquidators also offers four different cork flooring options from Lisbon Cork that all come with a 25-year warranty.

“We’re at an age where consumers are becoming more concerned about what they put in their bodies, and in their homes,” said Tom Sullivan, founder and chairman of Lumber Liquidators

While constructing a green home from the ground up may not be doable for many homeowners, these suggestions can help make their existing homes more green and even help save some money in the process.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Model Home Tricks Help Maximize Your Home’s Value

(ARA) – Perfectly manicured, emerald green lawns flanked by floral beds. Acres of granite counter top and gleaming stainless steel appliances. And everywhere you look are surfaces clean enough to eat off -- that’s the appeal of the model home.

There’s a reason why model homes look the way they do. Builders know that everything they do to make a house look visually appealing amounts to actual dollars, and often thousands of dollars, added to the sale price. The same principal applies to your home.

Whether you’re planning on selling, or just sprucing up your house to make it more enjoyable to live in, mimicking the ideal appearance of a model home can yield impressive results. Here are some tips and trends to help make your house a showplace:

* Start with curb appeal. This is especially important if you’re planning on selling. First impressions are lasting ones and unmown grass or shabby planting beds make the kind of statement you want to avoid. Keep grass well trimmed and planting beds watered. If you don’t have a green thumb, choose easy-to-grow flowers, like petunias, to add pizzazz to your landscaping.

* Cleanliness is essential. Whether you’re selling your home or living in it, keeping it clean is a top priority. Clean homes are better preserved, more healthful places to live. And homebuyers rank dirty houses at the top of their turn-offs list. You probably take care of the kitchen and baths regularly, but don’t forget the need to shampoo the carpet occasionally, especially if it is worn or old. And take the time to do the windows -– you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your home’s appearance, both inside and out.

* Cut the clutter. Living in a cluttered environment is harmful on so many levels –- from your home’s sell-appeal to your own self esteem. Decreasing clutter opens up the visual space in your home and can inspire greater decorating creativity.

* Take care of repairs as quickly as possible. Some things simply can’t wait, like a leaking roof. But try not to put off small repairs that may not seem consequential –- like the toilet that needs the handle jiggled every now and then. Small repairs can become big problems if they add up or get worse with time –- and they always do.

* Put your decorating dollars into the rooms and trends that give the biggest payoff in both your enjoyment of your home and appeal to potential buyers. Focus on the kitchen and baths. No penny spent in those rooms is ever wasted, whether you’re simply dressing up the bath with new towels or installing granite counter tops in the kitchen. Granite counter tops are a must in model homes, as are gleaming clean baths.

* Consider adding an interior designer touch, such as a custom wall mural. Increasingly popular among designers, wallpaper murals are popping up in model homes across the country. Designers are using them to enhance kitchens, brighten baths and create bold statements in common areas of the house, according to Murals Your Way, makers of easy-to-install custom wallpaper murals. “To have someone paint a mural costs thousands,” states interior designer, Lisa Fields who installed a wallpaper mural depicting Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in a hallway ceiling. “I love being able to have the same look while staying within budget.” For more wallpaper mural ideas, visit www.muralsyourway.com.

Mimicking the design techniques and selling features of a model home can help you maximize your enjoyment of your home as well as its resale value.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deciding on a type of kitchen appliances is always a hot topic. So, remember - stainless steel brings out the gourmet chef in all of us, white is good for a country kitchen, and black is just outdated! Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Room to Exercise

New workouts such as yoga and Pilates are growing trends, and making space in your home where you can burn some calories and relax your mind is popular these days too! Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Closet Organizers

Not only will it make your daily routine of finding what to wear easier, but it will make your home more attractive to potential buyers. Today’s ideal organizers include shelves, drawers and metal rods – all to maximize storage. Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Study shows that more people are applying for home mortgages

Mortgage applications rose 3.2% the week of Feb. 19 on a seasonally adjusted basis to 626.1 from 606.6 the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. And applications were up 8.8% on an unadjusted basis compared to the same week last year.
New Home Trends

What's In For ...

Your Kitchen

A versatile, upscale kitchen with a large island and sitting area that can serve as a cooking station and entertaining area is in high demand. Cover the island with slab surfaces — granite, stone, concrete, limestone, soapstone and marble are popular choices. When it comes to appliances, stainless steel and white are still in, but black fixtures are outdated.

Your Basement

Upscale, finished basements with high ceilings are popular because the added square footage can increase the value of your home. Today, homebuilders are creating basements with 9-foot ceilings to make room for home theater systems, which are also hot on the market.

Your Garage

Lots of cabinets and storage space, residential flooring and a refrigerator are musts for garages these days! Hidden and even underground garages are becoming popular, giving homeowners more space for extra rooms, back yards or swimming pools.

What's Out For ...

Your Home

Selling your home "as is" is out. If you aren't ready for major home renovations, little changes can help. Coordinate fixtures throughout your home, paint the walls with warm colors, make an inviting entryway or clean-up the yard. Buyer incentives are also out. Gimmicks only confuse buyers. If you want to give an incentive, deduct the cost of your freebie from your asking price.

Tim Carr, architect and consultant with Timothy Walton Carr Consulting, contributed to this article.

To learn more home-buyer and -seller trends, contact me or visit http://teresabutler.com

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Avoid Predatory Lending

According to Policy Matters, a non-profit research institute, one in every 71 households in Ohio filed for foreclosure in 2005 — quite an astounding statistic. Predatory lending is especially prevalent among first-time homebuyers and consumers unfamiliar with home financing. How can you avoid the pitfalls of predatory lending as a prospective homebuyer?
According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), homebuyers need to ask the right questions when shopping for the least expensive loan. Questions such as:

*What is my credit score? Can I have a copy of my credit report?

*What is the best interest rate today? Do I qualify?

*Is the loan's interest rate fixed or adjustable?

*What is the term (length) of the loan?

*What are the total loan fees?

*What is the total monthly payment? Does this include property taxes and insurance? If not, how much more will I need to pay for taxes and insurance?

*Is there an application fee? How much is refundable if I don't qualify?

*Are there any prepayment penalties? If so, what are they and how long do they last?

It's important to understand all the details of your loan before signing anything — and ask questions! Also, the NAR offers these other strategies that homebuyers can follow to protect themselves from predatory lending:

*Check out lenders with the Better Business Bureau®, government Web sites or other consumer groups. How long has the lender been in business? Have consumers filed many complaints? Does the lender belong to a trade association with ethics requirements for its members?

*Ask for an estimate and compare with other lenders.

*Refuse to participate in transactions that may be fraudulent.

*Avoid unnecessary contract extensions that could cause your loan commitment to lapse.

*Get educated on the value of your home by asking your Real Living agent for a comparative market analysis.

*Review the HUD-1 closing settlement statement before closing. This statement itemizes all charges imposed upon a borrower and seller for a real estate transaction. Upon request, homebuyers have the right to see this information 24 hours before the loan closing.

*Report possible violations to appropriate federal, state and local officials.

If you're considering a home purchase and want to make sure you'll be safe from predatory lending, working with a Real Living agent is a wise move. Contact me or visit http://teresabutler.com for more information.

HomeSeller Quick Tip

A fresh listing number can re-energize the sale of your home.
If your home has been on the market for more than six months, your Multiple Listing Service (MLS) number can make it look stale compared to newer listings. It may be a good idea to take your property off the market for a few weeks, or even a month. This will give you a chance to improve your home’s general condition, and then re-list your property with fresh changes and a new MLS number.

For more home-selling advice, contact a Teresa Butler or visit http://teresabutler.com today.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Understanding Agency Relationships

There are a handful of laws today governing agency relationships designed to help you relax and feel comfortable with your home-buying or -selling transaction. Keep in mind these laws differ from state to state, and agency policies differ among real estate companies. Read on to learn about the basic types of agency relationships.

Buyer or Seller Agency:

When you choose to be represented by a real estate brokerage in the purchase or sale of a home, the buyer or seller's agent and the brokerage must act on behalf of and promote your best interests, be loyal and obey your lawful instructions, disclose material facts to you, maintain confidential information (which includes anything that could have an adverse effect on your transaction), act with reasonable skill and care when answering your questions, present all offers in a timely fashion, be accountable for handling funds and paperwork, and execute all other duties as outlined in your buyer's agency contract or listing agreement.

Dual Agency:

A dual agency is formed when the same agent and brokerage who represents the seller also represents the buyer. Agents and brokers who become dual agents must maintain a neutral position between the buyer and seller. This means that they may not support the position of one client over the other, or disclose any personal or confidential information to the other party without written consent. Dual agents must also disclose any material defects of the property and prepare and present all offers and counter offers to each party.

In Company Split Agency:

On occasion, the buyer and seller will each be represented by two different agents from the same brokerage. In this case, the agents may each represent the best interests of their respective clients. Or, depending on the company policy, the agents may both act as dual agents and remain neutral toward both parties. When either situation occurs, the broker will be considered a dual agent.

A common misconception about agency relationships is that they are automatically established at the first meeting between a brokerage and a homebuyer or seller. However, these relationships are typically established when agents disclose whose interests they are serving, which is usually done through an agency disclosure form. The state law mandates that agents must disclose their representation before they show you any properties.

When considering a home purchase or sale, it's key to understand the differences among the various agency relationships. If you have any questions, contact me at 614-565-8161 or email me at teresabutler@columbus.rr.com. I can provide you with a detailed explanation of these relationships and show how they'll affect your transaction.