Water is the planet’s most precious resource. Access to clean water is a privilege that, unfortunately, many people still take for granted.
By utilizing new water efficiency technologies and age-old conservation methods, we can help preserve the water supply for future generations. Cutting down on consumption whenever possible is something that everyone can do to live a little greener.
Making Sure Your Home Holds Water
The first stop on your journey to save water is to ensure your home is free of water leaks. Make your way through your home, and properly shut off the water at all fixtures and faucets. Air-cooling systems and other devices that use water should also be shut off.
Read your water meter, wait two hours (without using any water), and check it again. If your water meter gives you two different readings, you are losing water somewhere, and the problem needs farther investigating.
If you find yourself flooded with problems, it may be time to call your local real estate professional. Most issues are easily repaired or upgraded, but sometimes a fresh efficient start may be a simpler solution.
Air It Out And Get In the Flow
Installing aerators on faucets and shower heads reduce their usage by half. These contraptions are inexpensive and easy to install. By injecting air into the water flow, you keep the same water pressure, but use less water.
If you are in the market for a new toilet, complete your water saving bathroom makeover with a low flow, water efficient model. These toilets can save about 9,000 gallons of water a year.
If a new toilet is not in your near future, a simple homemade contraption can cut down on water being flushed away. Fill a water bottle with some pebbles so it sinks, and fill the rest with water. Place the bottle in the cistern of your toilet. By displacing some of the water in the tank, you can save around 500 gallons of water a year.
Obtain A Lush Lawn With Less Water
Over-watering your grass is wasteful and counterproductive. Watering your lawn two times a week is better for grass than daily sprinklings. Giving your lawn a good soaking with an inch of water every few days will keep it lush and save water. You should also avoid over-mowing.
Grass is happiest at two to three inches tall. Over-mowed grass tends to have weak roots, and requires more water to keep it growing strong. Let Mother Nature take care of the watering on occasion, especially during the spring.
Mulch Landscape To Lock In Moisture
Mulch around the trees and shrubs in your yard. Mulch holds in moisture, and will keep the water in the ground longer. There are also water bags on the market that do a great job of keeping young trees hydrated.
Make sure your sprinklers are putting water where it is needed, and not unnecessarily watering the sidewalk. When the sidewalks and patios need a sweeping, make sure you reach for the broom and leave the hose on standby.
By making a few informed decisions to cut down on water consumption, you can feel good knowing you are doing your part to conserve. When water flows freely, it is easy to forget how precious it is.
Remind yourself that water is a resource that needs to be saved, and should not be wasted. Access to clean water is something no one wants to see lost. Keep looking for solutions, and find answers to your water-saving questions by calling your local real estate professional today.
Some people love living in condos, while others swear by detached homes. When it comes to deciding between the two, however, you can’t always rely on someone else’s word.
Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding and assessing your lifestyle to make the best choice, since condo living and home ownership are two radically different experiences, and thereby serve two very different types of lifestyles and personalities.
Here are a few considerations if you’re trying to decide whether you should invest in a house or a condo.
House: Best If You Have A Furry Friend
Do you have a furry friend or two that are an integral part of your family? Depending on their size and species, you may want to consider a detached house over a condo, simply for the amount of space available.
If you have dogs, you should consider that many condominiums don’t allow certain numbers, sizes, or breeds, and this could be just another reason you opt for a house. Having a backyard for your dogs to play in, and being able to avoid the daily elevator rides, are just more reasons to add to the list.
Condo: Best If You’re A Busy Business Person
If you’re a busy businessperson who’s rarely ever home, you may want to consider condo-style living. Firstly, you will be able to save on mortgage costs, which will certainly help you reach your financial goals, and you will have fewer worries involved than you would if you owned a detached home.
Full size houses require significant upkeep, which is a major time investment. In contrast, a condo is a turnkey living space that gives you the amenities you need without the responsibilities of home ownership. If you hardly entertain and would like a space to enjoy yourself during your off time, living in a condo might be just the perfect setup for you, the busy business-minded individual.
House: Best If You Like Privacy And Control
If you’re someone who adores your privacy and likes to be in complete control of the maintenance and care of your home, a detached house is certainly the best option for you. Having your own detached house means living with added privacy, as you won’t have neighbors as close by as would be the case if you were living in a condominium.
You’ll also be pleased to be the sole decision maker when it comes to the upkeep and maintenance schedule of the various aspects of your home. Rather than ask a strata manager for permission to, say, paint your front door, you can simply paint your front door.
Condo: If You’re A Single Minimalist
Condo living can be great for single people and minimalists. If you prefer to live on the lighter side, with fewer responsibilities and chores, a condo setup can be extremely rewarding. All of the big stuff will likely be taken care of, and all you’ll have to worry about is the minimal space inside of your four walls.
If you decide to travel for an extended period, it’s much easier to find short-term tenants for condos than for houses.
It can be difficult to decide whether a house or a condo is best suited to your lifestyle. Don’t be shy to ask your friends and family what they think of your personality, and do your due diligence to discover which home is best to accommodate your daily life. Once you’ve made your decision, contact a real estate professional and find the home that fits your lifestyle.
While little housing-related news was released, last week’s economic news showed signs of a brighter economic picture.
Labor statistics were stronger, with job openings up and new jobless claims filed lower than expected.
Mortgage rates fell, and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was higher than expected.
More Jobs Available, Fewer New Jobless Claims
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that February job openings rose to 4.20 million, which exceeded January’s reading of 3.9 million jobs. New jobless claims were lower than expected with 300,000 new jobless claims filed against expectations of 316,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 332,000 new jobless claims filed.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes of its meeting held March 18 and 19. The minutes noted that payroll jobs expanded, but the unemployment rate remained elevated, and inflation was below the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Indicators of longer-run inflation expectations were seen as stable.
Severe winter weather was viewed as a cause for slowing economic activity. FOMC noted that it would be difficult to determine the effects of winter weather on the economy as opposed to slower economic growth caused by unemployment or other negative factors.
Housing Starts and Building Permits were lower, but FOMC noted the impact of winter weather on these reports. FOMC asserted its intention to continue reducing its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion per month as economic conditions permit.
The FOMC emphasized its commitment to continuous review of financial and economic news as it makes month-to-month decisions concerning asset purchases.
Mortgage Rates Fall, Consumer Sentiment Rises
Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 4.41 to 4.34 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 3.47 to 3.38 percent, and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by three basis points from 3.12 percent to 3.09 percent.
Discount points were unchanged at 0.70, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively. Lower mortgage rates may encourage more buyers into the market as the spring and summer buying season gets under way.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for April rose to 82.60 percent against the March reading of 80.00 percent and the projected reading of 80.80 percent. If expectations prove correct, this week’s economic reports are expected to bring more good news.
What‘s Coming Up This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes Retail Sales for March, which are expected to show a gain, the Consumer Price Index which is expected to hold steady, and the Home Builder Index, which is expected to rise.
Projections for Housing Starts are also higher. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to give a speech in New York on Wednesday, and the Fed Beige Book report will also be released. This week’s economic reports will wrap up Friday with Leading Economic Indicators.
When it comes to choosing a fence for your home, you should always consider the style of your home itself. If you end up choosing a fence that compliments your home and works cohesively with the style, you can easily skyrocket the value of your home by adding to its curb appeal.
So whether you’re selling your home or just in search of ways to add to its aesthetic, here are some fencing options for various styles of homes.
For the Contemporary Home: Horizontal Wood Fence
If you have a contemporary, ultra-modern home, you certainly want to be careful when choosing the type of fence to install. Be sure that the fence you go with is just as modern as the home itself.
A wise choice might be to go with the classic stained wooden fence, but opt for the more modern, contemporary version with horizontal wood instead of vertical. The right stain can provide an attractive contrast to the white siding or glass that makes up the exterior of your modern home.
Commonly these kinds of fences provide added privacy for the modern glass that likely encompasses your contemporary abode.
For The Colonial Home: White Picket Fence
If you have a colonial home that is representative of the classic American residence, a classic white picket fence might be just the right choice. These modest and low-laying fences can offer just the contrast needed to make your house “pop” against its neighbors, instantly skyrocketing your home’s appeal.
Typically these types of fences are made of wood and painted white, with a charming gate and walkway that leads to the front entrance of the home. This acts to highlight the home’s entrance as the focal point as well, giving your home an added visual aesthetic.
For practicality, however, you can opt for vinyl fencing that is virtually identical to the wooden white picket fence, but does not require painting or repainting. Vinyl may initially cost more than wood, but being much easier to maintain, would likely be more cost-effective over time.
For The Bungalow: Ornamental Metal Fence
If you have a single or two-story bungalow house, you want to ensure that you don’t install a fence that will take away from the home’s visual appeal or be too overwhelming for the home’s stature to handle. Often the perfect addition to this kind of humble abode is a simple, ornamental metal fence.
This low-maintenance fencing was traditionally made of cast iron metal, but commonly today the same design in fencing is composed of powder-coated, galvanized steel or aluminum, or sometimes a combination of both. This can be the perfect solution for you bungalow, and one that requires little upkeep too.
Bringing up your home’s appeal while adding to the feeling of privacy when you are enjoying your home itself is certainly a project worth taking on. With the various options and styles available to you, you are sure to find a fence that is perfectly suitable for your house, creating a higher appeal for potential buyers and drawing more admiring glances from your neighbors.
For more information on fence styles that are perfect for your home, contact your trusted real estate professional today.
While the traditional method of trawling for sale listings, making bids, and negotiating with the seller has been a popular rite of passage for many home buyers, buying a house at auction is swiftly becoming a favored way to purchase property.
Buying a home through auction can be tricky, so it’s best to do your research and keep your cool on auction day, lest you find yourself stuck with a less-than-ideal place to live for a price you didn’t expect to pay. If you’re in the market to buy through auction for the first time, here are some things you need to know.
How To Find Houses Up for Auction
Real estate agents will often use the same methods to sell a house by auction as they do in a traditional sale: adverts in newspapers and online, posters in their office windows, and signs outside the property.
Depending on the reason for the sale, a home auction may be held at a local courthouse, an auction house, or, in some cases, online.
Viewing A House Before Auction
It’s always best to try before you buy, so make sure you are able to view the house prior to the auction. Some real estate agents will insist on exterior views of the home only, but, if you’re a new buyer, this may not be enough.
Seasoned home buyers can often pick a house by looking at the exterior and reading a description; buyers new to the game should bank on seeing inside first.
Checking The Price Of An Auction
Look into the price that is offered for the home you seek to buy; sometimes, if a house is in foreclosure, the starting price of the home may be the balance of the mortgage, or a lower price to get people to begin bidding. Lenders, such as banks, are not permitted to make a profit from selling a foreclosure and may often sell homes at a loss; look out for these bargains when checking house prices in your local area.
Bidding At An Auction
On auction day, make sure you enter the auction knowing the general value of the house and the maximum amount you are willing to pay; having these parameters set out will help prevent you from getting swept up in the auction process and bidding more than what you have or what the house is worth.
On the day, bring a cashier’s check – auction holders ask winners to pay for auction fees, bidding fees, and a deposit on the purchase. If you are successful on auction day, you will then have to close the deal with the seller just like any other property purchase.
If you need financing, you may wish to be pre-cleared by your lending company before the auction. Also, be aware that your winning bid may not be accepted. Many homes have a reserve price, and if the reserve is not met, the house will not be sold on the day.
If you are interested in buying a home through auction, go into the process knowing that auctions can be riskier than buying a home via traditional means. Also remember that just because a house is up for auction doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a good price. Some houses sell for a lot of money, and others sell cheaply but have hidden costs, such as urgent maintenance.
When you’re ready to find your new home by auction, call your local trusted real estate professional for information, answers, and the best deals in town.
Paying your income taxes each year leave your wallet a bit thin? There may be money hiding in your home that lessens your tax burden. Here are four places to look:
1. Home-Office Deduction
If you work from home, you could qualify for a home-office deduction. Taking the deduction can be a bit complicated; so many people who qualify don’t claim the exemption. An estimated 26 million Americans have home offices, but only 3.4 million claim them on their tax return.
Perhaps that’s why the Internal Revenue Service attempted to simplify the process in 2013.
The write-off takes into account depreciation, utilities, insurance, the amount of square footage dedicated for office space, whether you host clients at your house and other factors.
Because the parameters involved in filing a home-office exemption are rather complicated, it’s best to keep all business-related receipts, records of client meetings and other pertinent information to make things easier when you prepare your return.
2. Casualty Loss
Damage to your home from an act of God or a theft or burglary may qualify you for an income tax exemption. To qualify for the write-off, the causality loss must meet the “sudden event test.” That means it must be sudden, unpredictable, have involved some natural force and occur in a single instance.
To claim thefts and burglaries, you must be able to prove that a wrong doing has actually occurred. It can’t just be a case of a lost item that you suspect was stolen. Proof can come in the form of witness statements, police reports or newspaper accounts.
3. Energy Efficiency Upgrades And Repairs
Upgrading your home with energy efficient improvements can qualify you for a tax deduction. New roofs, insulation, windows, doors and a number of additional items qualify for the deduction. The deductions lets homeowners claim 10 percent of the total bill for energy efficient materials. The maximum credit is $500.
4. Real Estate Taxes And Newly Purchased Homes
New home owners should look at their settlement statement a bit closer. If the previous owner prepaid property taxes that cover any of the time you owned the home, you can include the prepaid taxes in your property tax deduction.
Don’t pay more than you have to when you file your taxes each April. Consider these commonly overlooked deductions that can lessen the amount you have to pay.
Something that the Europeans have been doing for decades has finally made its way over the Atlantic Ocean to North America: the trend is called micro housing, and it’s turned into an entirely new way of living.
With micro housing, we’re beginning to do away with oversize condos and even detached homes, learning to live in a more minimalistic manner and curbing our hoarding habits for good.
The affordability of micro housing is making it possible even for young adults and students to purchase their homes in the city centers across North America. But one must ask, is the micro housing trend good for the globe too?
Sustainability Of Micro Condominiums
Being able to pack a higher number of salable units into one building and lowering the prices to widen the market and encourage young buyers to purchase instead of rent is certainly economically beneficial; but is this trend sustainable and beneficial for the planet too?
As it turns out, the cost of building a micro-apartment structure over a regular sized one has a much lighter footprint on our earth. Micro-housing is a sustainable part of urban design because it is made to be a contributing asset to compact cities across North America, requiring less infrastructure cost, fewer resources, and a smaller environmental impact from shipping to construction to ongoing management and maintenance.
Some micro-buildings even have shared areas like kitchens and lounges; this helps to cut back on building costs even further and lessens air pollution from shipping.
Micro Homes: Are They Green?
Though micro detached homes are also on the rise, they have run into problems with bylaws in certain cities across North America. They may just be the way of the future, though, with the real estate prices in many areas growing out of control.
These micro homes are similar to the micro condominium units in their petite sizes, however they typically do not have a standard foundation, instead resting on screw piles that are attached to the ground. These easy-to-assemble micro homes, though perhaps battling with particular municipalities and their bylaws, offer practical housing that is sustainable too.
Green features of these micro homes include the additional options of a composting toilet, solar power energy systems, grey water treatment system and a rainwater collection system.
The Lifestyle Of The Micro-Housing Trend
Another factor that should be taken into consideration when looking at the sustainability of the micro-housing trend in the kind of lifestyle it is promoting. Generally situated in the dense city centers, micro housing encourages a lifestyle that is affordable, thereby attracting residents who will take public transit or be within walking distance to work or school, and lessening the need for the daily use of a vehicle.
Perhaps we’re looking a little too enthusiastically at the future, but as it seems, the micro housing trend is bringing with it all kinds of benefits, both economically and sustainably. A lifestyle and housing solution that finally benefits the planet is always accepted among our modern cities across North America, and soon it may just be the reason to purchase instead of rent, allowing us to walk instead of drive.
For more information on the micro housing trend in your area, call your trusted real estate advisor today, and get in the know!
Last week’s economic news included readings on February construction spending and multiple reports on employment data.
Private sector employment was higher in March, but The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Non-Farm Payrolls for March fell short of expectations. According to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates ticked upward.
Employment And Unemployment News
ADP’s payrolls report for March was higher than February’s reading, with 191,000 new private sector jobs added. In February, 178,000 jobs were added. February’s reading originally showed 138, 000 new jobs added.
While analysts were confident that private-sector employment was showing signs of stability, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics swamped excess confidence in labor markets Friday with its March reading for Non-Farm Payrolls.
192,000 jobs were added in March against predictions of 200,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 197,000 jobs added.
The news was not all bad as job gains for January and February were revised upward. January’s job gains were revised from 129,000 to 144,000 and February’s reading was revised from 175,000 to 197,000 jobs added. The revised readings represent a total of 37,000 more jobs added.
As data impacted by severe winter weather “shakes out,” it would not be surprising to see a revision to March’s new jobless claims reading as well.
Unemployment Rate Holds Steady, Workforce Numbers Higher
While readings on employment have been up and down in recent months, the national unemployment rate has held relatively steady, with last week’s reading at 6.70 percent. 503,000 workers joined the workforce this increased the labor participation rate for March from 63 percent to 63.20 percent.
Mortgage rates were incrementally higher last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 4.41 percent; discount points moved from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent.
The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.47 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.12 percent, which was two basis points higher than the previous week. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.50 percent.
This Week’s Economic News Highlights
Job openings for February, FOMC minutes and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March are set for release this week. As usual, Freddie Mac will post results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey and weekly unemployment claims will also be reported.
Moving into your home is an exciting time, and you shouldn’t allow higher than expected electricity bills to dampen your spirits. Every day, households around the world waste large amounts of energy.
If your home uses more energy than it needs to, you are the one that is paying the price. Luckily, there are many ways to make sure your home is running as efficiently as possible. Save yourself from ‘utility shock’ by taking these seven steps.
Make Energy Efficiency Your Electric Company’s Business
When you first move into your home, have your appliances inspected by an authorized technician. You could call your appliance’s manufacturer or the electric company to find someone to inspect your appliances.
If you do find yourself on the phone with the electric company, ask them if they have peak and off-peak hours. Often, there are times throughout the day where usage is at a premium, and the cost is higher than it would be at other times.
You should also ask if they have any tips or resources pertaining to your home’s electrical usage. Electrical companies will often send you literature or an energy saving kit that can help make your home run more energy efficiently.
Get Fresh Furnace Filters And Examine Your Central Air System
When you move into a new home, it’s difficult to know what kind of upkeep the previous owners performed on the furnace. Upon moving into your new home, you should have the filter on your furnace changed and your ducts examined and cleaned.
Do the same for any central cooling systems in the home. This way you’ll feel confident that they are operating properly and producing the best air quality possible.
Wrap And Warm Your Hot Water Tank
The hot water tank is another area where you can save a significant amount of money. Set your hot water tank to a warm setting, instead of a hot one (this makes little difference in the water temperature at your tap, but it will save you money).
You could also purchase an insulating cover for the tank, and wrap the hot water pipes in the home. Insulation for your hot water tank and pipes is a cost-effective solution, and you can find plastic or foam pipe insulators at your local hardware store.
Evaluate The Situation From Windows To Insulation
Check the windows and doors of the home to make sure they are properly insulated. Fresh weather stripping and caulking will keep drafts out in the winter, and cool air in during the summer.
Another way to regulate your home’s temperature is to replace the insulation in your attic. You could also install an attic fan to improve airflow.
A Bright Energy Saving Idea
Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. The cost is only slightly higher, and fluorescent bulbs last over five times as long as incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs give off a softer light, but are bright enough to light your home and will save a significant amount of electricity.
Get Your Windows Working With The Weather
Replace thin curtains with heavier weight window coverings. You can use the sunlight when you need it, and block it out when you don’t. Heavy drapes are also great at keeping warm and cool air in your home. Having high quality window treatments may mean you use your thermostat and light switches less.
Properly Power Down Your Electronics
A surprising amount of the energy our electronics use is wasted while devices are powered down. Electronics that are off but are still plugged directly into an outlet do indeed burn energy. When you set up the electronics in your home, use power strips where you can. Flicking the bar off when electronics are not needed will lead to savings on your electric bill.
Once you have taken these steps, you can feel good knowing you are saving money and being environmentally responsible. Energy efficient handy work and home improvements also qualify for significant tax credits.
Make sure you keep your receipts and invoices, as they could mean cash back in your pocket come tax season. If you decide to take your savings and move up and out, contact a local real estate professional for assistance in finding the perfect place to call home.
If you are going to be staging your home for sale in the near future, you will most likely want to do it as professionally and successfully as possible to get the best sale price.
Many owners have to put a lot of money into their home before they can sell it, and some even invest in a staging expert to come to their home and do an assessment before they put it on the market.
You don’t have to spend too much on getting your home ready, though, and you can do a lot of it yourself. Consider these basic staging tips when you are going to stage your home.
Clean Your Home From Top To Bottom
While you would most likely clean your home before you attempt to sell it, if you really want your sale to be successful, clean every single thing in the home. This includes steam cleaning the carpets, washing and waxing the floors, getting the grout and grunge out of the tiles and more.
If you don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself, you might want to pay for a professional home cleaning service so you can guarantee cleanliness.
Give Your Home One Basic Hue
If you are going to be selling your home, there are some colors that may put off potential buyers. If you have rooms in colors like fire engine red or bright mint green, the buyer may be put off with just one glance.
Choose one soft color and paint the whole home. You may require a professional painter’s advice and help in this area if you have no eye for design or if you do not possess any color coordination techniques.
Say No To Clutter
This is a very important step. Get rid of the clutter in your home.
If you have loads of newspapers, magazines, mini statues and miscellaneous junk sitting around your home and on coffee tables, clear it off. Put it away in storage boxes so you can take it when you move – or do some spring cleaning and get rid of everything you don’t need.
Show as much counter space as you possibly can, as this will better represent the space.
Potential buyers can quickly change their yes to a no when they enter the home that they first adored from the outside, only to see clutter everywhere. Logically, everyone knows a home will be emptied before selling, but the clutter can ruin the whole feeling of purchasing a new home.
Perform Some Minor Repairs
If you notice scratches, rips, blotches or any broken items in the home, try to fix them yourself or hire a professional handyman service. Repairing your home before a sale will definitely improve your home’s appearance and value, making it more appealing to the buyer.
Selling a home is often a challenge, but with a little bit of hard work, you can turn your home into a move-in ready paradise for potential buyers.
You’d be surprised what a thorough cleaning and a new coat of paint can do for a space. For expert assistance with home staging, contact a knowledgeable real estate professional near you.