Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Five Tips to Rodent-Proof Your Home

November 27, 2012 5:36 am

As the cool temperatures start to settle in for the next few months, homeowners are advised to pest-proof their homes, garages and sheds now, because fall is when most insect and rodent pests seek shelter for the winter months.

With temperatures recently dropping, rodents and other pests tend to move inside structures this time of year to find a warm place to overwinter and breed. A pregnant female mouse can produce an average of eight pups in a litter, and a rat, seven pups on average, and there are typically four to five litters per year. Their gestation period is about a month, so before you know it, one mouse can turn into a major problem for homeowners.

Mice can fit through an opening the size of a dime, so it is important to fix any cracks in and under siding, doors and windows. In addition to warmth, rodents enter homes looking for food and water. They prefer cereals and grains, but will eat just about anything.

As you prepare your home for winter, keep the five following tips in mind:

• Make sure all holes, gaps and cracks larger than 1/4 of an inch are sealed.
• Replace door sweeps and make sure doors and windows close tightly.
• Clean out gutters and install gutter guards to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating.
• Store firewood as far from the home as possible.
• Trim branches, plants and bushes that hang over the home.

Source: Orkin

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Tips for Keeping Homes Safe During The Holiday Season

November 26, 2012 5:34 am

Plumbing and appliance emergencies are the most frequent service requests during the holiday season. Kitchen appliances, chimneys, furnaces and garbage disposals are especially prone to malfunction during the hectic holiday season. HomeAdvisor's Home Improvement Expert and DIY Network host Amy Matthews offers useful tips to help homeowners prepare their homes for the winter season.

"The holidays can be as stressful as they are joyous, especially if an unexpected home repair emergency occurs," said Matthews.

Kitchen Appliances
According to HomeAdvisor, the most frequent home emergency repair in 2012 has been for appliance repairs. Avoid having an emergency situation during a big family feast by thoroughly cleaning your oven and grill and keeping kitchen appliances in tip-top shape. If the oven isn't cleaned properly, homeowners risk the chance of filling their house with smoke and ruining their meal. A professional can inspect top trouble areas and provide insights on repairs or replacements.

Garbage Disposals

Matthews advises that homeowners avoid garbage disposal repairs by never placing coffee grounds, grease, eggshells, bones or potato skins in the disposal. It is also important that homeowners do not overfill their garbage disposal or use chemical drain cleaners to unclog it. It is unlikely that chemical cleaners will work completely and they leave the sink full of toxic liquids.

Chimney and Fireplace
A crackling fire is charming during the holidays, but dirty chimneys can be extremely dangerous and can cause a fire in the home. A professional should inspect the fireplace to ensure the chimney is clean before lighting the first fire of the season. A money saving tip is to install a glass enclosure or glass doors on the opening of the fireplace to reduce the amount of hot air that escapes from the house.

Furnace
Keeping a clean filter in the furnace through the winter is essential to maximizing its efficiency. Dirty filters make the furnace work harder and may even damage it. It is also best to hire a professional on an annual basis to install proper filters, vacuum the unit, and recommend appropriate upgrades. Annual maintenance on a furnace can increase its life expectancy by up to four years.

Yard
Dead and dying tree branches can be a danger to people and power lines. Keep your home safe and prevent power outages this season by hiring a professional to prune branches and limbs close to your home.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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Multifamily Market to Remain Strong through 2015 With 1.7 Million New Renters

November 26, 2012 5:34 am

The Freddie Mac Multifamily Research Group released its multifamily real estate market demand forecast for the next several years. The paper forecasts a base case that entails slow economic growth with an additional 1.7 million new multifamily renter households between now and 2015. In addition, the paper forecasts that the multifamily market and demand for rental housing will remain solid and healthy during the same period of time.

The forecast analyzes demographic trends, housing supply and economic data. The scenario-based approach explores rental market conditions under different economic environments: slow growth, no growth and accelerated growth.

Forecast Highlights:
• Recent declines in homeownership related to economic stress and high foreclosures in the single-family housing market have benefited the multifamily market.
• The homeownership rate will drop 1 to 2 percentage points if the current slow recovery continues.
• The single-family rental market, a growing and distinct market from multifamily, has expanded 16 percent (about 3 million units) since 2007.
• Multifamily market demand is expected to be strong through 2015 primarily due to demographic trends and a decreasing national homeownership rate.
• Rental demand will continue to grow faster than historical averages.
• Multifamily demand is likely to be 1.7 million new renter households between now and 2015. If the economic recovery accelerates, demand will be in the 1 million new renter range; and if no recovery, then in the 1.6 million range for new renters.

"The research supports the optimism that currently pervades the multifamily market. It confirms that multifamily is a bright spot in the real estate market and the economy more broadly, and it will likely continue to shine for quite some time," says David Brickman, senior vice president of Freddie Mac Multifamily.

Source: Freddie Mac

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What's All the Buzz About Reverse Mortgages?

November 26, 2012 5:34 am

If you're near retirement age, and need some funding to finance home renovations, pay off your current mortgage, or to help cover medical expenses, there is a way to get cash fast without taking out a loan. It's called a reverse mortgage and many Americans over the age of 62 are taking advantage of it these days. How does it work? In a traditional mortgage, you pay your lender. In a reverse mortgage, your lender actually pays you. That's because in a reverse mortgage, you convert the equity of your home into cash, and you don't have to repay the loan as long as you live in the home. Instead, the loan is repaid to the lender when you die, sell the home, or when it's no longer your primary residence. In most cases, the proceeds of this type of loan are tax-free, and many reverse mortgages do not have income restrictions. There are three types of reverse mortgages:

1. Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgages - Offered by some state and local government agencies and non-profit organizations, these are usually the cheapest option. Like the name implies, these can only be used for one purpose, as specified by the lender. For example, if you need money specifically to pay off medical bills, a lender may grant you this type of reverse mortgage, but you can only use the money for that purpose, and must provide proof that you are doing so. Typically, single-purpose reverse mortgages are for people with low to moderate income levels.

2. Federally-Insured Reverse Mortgages -- These are often referred to as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) and are backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Before applying for a HECM, you are required to meet with an independent government-approved housing counseling agent to go over the costs and alternative options. These reverse mortgages are very common, and they don't come with any income or use restrictions. The only catch is that the amount of money you can borrow is determined by your age, the appraised value of the home, and current interest rates. There are also several options of how you receive the money. You may get a fixed amount each month, fixed cash advances, or a line of credit where you can draw money whenever you need it. One thing to remember -- these reverse mortgages come with upfront costs. Be prepared to pay origination fees, a mortgage insurance premium and closing costs.

3. Proprietary Reverse Mortgages -- These are private loans that are backed by the companies that develop them. They are similar to HECM in that they generally do not have income restrictions, and you can use the money any way you'd like. However, the value of your home and how much you still owe on your original mortgage can affect how large of a reverse mortgage you receive. Regardless which type of reverse mortgage you choose, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Reverse mortgages do not affect your Social Security or Medicare benefits.

- You'll get to keep the title of your home.
- The reverse mortgage does not have to be paid off until the youngest borrower in the home dies, sells the home, or no longer lives there.
- In the HECM program, you can live in a nursing home for up to 12 consecutive months before you have to start paying the loan back.
- Some reverse mortgages have fixed rate interest, but many come with adjustable rates.
- The amount you owe on a reverse mortgage grows over time. Interest is charged to the outstanding balance and added to the amount you owe each month.

Source: www.RealtyPin.com

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Lattes: A Nutritious and Delicious Breakfast Complement

November 23, 2012 5:30 am

 There's good news for the millions of Americans who start each day with a cup of coffee. Making a latte at home for breakfast is not only a delicious start to the day, but it can provide much-needed nutrients including calcium, Vitamin D and potassium that most Americans are lacking. Your morning latte delivers a full serving of milk's nine essential nutrients, including eight grams of high quality protein – even more than an egg.

Breakfast with milk, whether in a latte, your cereal or straight from a glass, can help you feel satisfied, focused and energized, so you can make the most of your day. At a time when specialty coffeehouse prices can be high, being your own barista at home could also help save you money. For only a quarter a serving, coffee's latte counterpart, milk, adds nutrients without breaking the bank.

Whatever your personal latte order, the National Milk Mustache "got milk?"® Campaign has at-home recipes for easy ways to make your morning latte the way you like it. Whether it's a simple two parts milk, one part espresso drink or a triple shot with extra foam, caramel drizzle and cinnamon, being your own barista is as easy as:

-Espress-o Yourself: Thinking about getting an espresso machine? Great! If not, no problem... just brew your coffee beans stronger than usual.
-Get Frothy with It: Milk frothers are a great gift. But you can also heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave, then whisk for extra foam.
-Have Fun with Flavor: Check your spice cabinet to add great flavors like cinnamon or nutmeg. You can also buy your favorite syrups for a coffee shop-worthy flavor boost.

Source: Facebook.com/MilkMustache

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Hard vs. Soft Water - What Do They Really Mean?

November 23, 2012 5:30 am

By Barbara Pronin

In a nutshell, hard water, which to one extent or another is most of the water that flows through our neighborhood pipes, is water that contains an appreciative amount of dissolved minerals. Soft water is treated water in which the only ion is sodium.

As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. But as it makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk and lime and a lot of calcium and magnesium.

Hard water is to blame for dingy looking clothes, dishes with spots and residue, and bathtubs with lots of film and soap scum. Because soap is less effective in hard water, it takes more soap and more shampoo to achieve acceptable results, and even appliances will work harder and use more energy in the process.

Most consumers prefer using soft water because chores can be performed more efficiently. Lather is rich and bubbly even when using a minimal amount of soap or shampoo. Glasses will sparkle, hair will look healthier, and the shower curtain will be scum-free.

Soft water users will also save money. In addition to saving on detergents and soaps, appliances have to work less hard, prolonging their productive lives, and energy bills are noticeably lower in households with soft water systems.

There is a downside to soft water in that it is not as healthy to drink. In the softening process, as minerals are removed, sodium content increases. Soft water not only tastes salty, but research shows the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowest where water has the most mineral content.

But the conundrum may be easily solved. Consumers may enjoy all the benefits of softened water while safeguarding their health by bringing bottled water into the home for drinking purposes – or by installing a reverse osmosis system, which may be installed under the kitchen sink for less than $500.

If you are on a municipal water system, the water supplier can tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. If you have a private water supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. They can also help you evaluate the significance of the test results, so that you can make an informed decision about how – and where – to opt for softened water.

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Clean Your House Naturally and Avoid Toxic Cleansers

November 23, 2012 5:30 am

It's time to tackle the annual home cleaning. But just because you're thoroughly washing, scrubbing and disinfecting your home, it doesn't mean you need to turn to cleansers with harsh ingredients and chemicals. In fact, you can easily clean using inexpensive products already in your kitchen, such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Use these tips to clean your home naturally.

Start seeing clearly: Are your windows coated with a layer of grime? A solution of two teaspoons of white vinegar and one liter of warm water can be used to gently remove dust or dirt from all glass surfaces including windows and mirrors.

Freshen up the fridge: In addition to food spills, your refrigerator takes on odors from all the different foods stored throughout the year. Discard old items and be sure you are regularly cleaning out the fridge. Help reduce odors year-round by keeping a box of baking soda in the fridge at all times, replacing it every 30 days for best results.

Reawaken your wardrobe: Start the season feeling good in clothes that smell fresh. Even when carefully stored, clothing can still be exposed to dust, and may require a good washing before wearing. Add a cup of baking soda to your next wash to naturally boost the power of your detergent. The combination will help balance PH levels to leave clothing cleaner and fresher. You can also freshen non-washable items like gym shoes, bags and sports equipment by sprinkling baking soda inside.

Renew the everyday rooms: Avoid the fumes of harsh kitchen and bathroom cleaners by naturally cleaning surfaces with baking soda. A sprinkle of baking soda on a damp sponge will clean counters, stainless steel sinks, microwaves, ovens and much more without scratching. For tough grease, mix vinegar and lemon juice to leave your surfaces like new.

Bet on a BBQ: After the inside of your home is looking spic-and-span, get your grill ready to prevent bad tasting hot dogs and hamburgers from ruining your next BBQ. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp brush, then scrub away any residue and rinse clean. For really difficult stains, make a paste with three parts baking soda to one part warm water and use a wire-bristled brush to work away at grime and grease stains.

Source: www.armandhammer.com

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The Winter Sun Brings Light and Warmth Indoors, But May Cause Skin Cancer Too

November 21, 2012 5:30 am

Wintertime protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays inside a home or office is seldom a thought for concern, but many health experts warn that it's something we all need to be aware of, according to the International Window Film Association (IWFA).

"Many health organizations, from university hospitals and medical research groups, all agree that UVA is damaging to skin and eyes on a variety of levels, from wrinkles to cancer to cataracts," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA. "A cost-effective and safe solution that starts working immediately is window film. It blocks up to 99 percent of harmful UVA rays, plus delivers many other benefits," he added.

The nonprofit group points out the sun's UVA spectrum passes through glass easily and it's linked to skin cancer and other health problems, while UVB rays that cause sunburn are mostly deflected by glass.

In winter UVA penetration inside a home can be significant. This is because the increasingly horizontal angle of winter daylight hits windows straight on and can be intensified when sunlight bounces off the snow pack.

In fact, the IWFA suggests that parents should think twice before placing toddlers in front of a window for sunlight and warmth, as 75 percent of UVA will pass into the home and onto the skin where exposed.
To learn about sunlight and window film, the IWFA offers a free consumer booklet about window film and its benefits, such as:

• Blocks up to 99% of UV rays
• Slows fading of furnishings
• Protects from harmful UV rays
• Virtually clear, allowing natural light in
• Some films can reflect a home's interior heat back inside
• A more even temperature by reducing hot spots
• Easy to Install and will last for years

The booklet can be downloaded at the IWFA website: http://www.iwfa.com/ConsumerInfo/IWFAWindowFilmBooklet.aspx.

Source: International Window Film Association

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The Top 3 Reasons to be Thankful for Your 2012 Mortgage

November 21, 2012 5:30 am

The end of a year is a time for reflection, a time when you can look back and be thankful for all the blessings in your life. If you purchased a home this year, one of the things you should be thankful for is your 2012 mortgage. 2012 was a rebuilding year for the housing market. After several years of dropping prices, increasing foreclosures, and high interest rates, statistics now show a reversal in those trends, and indicate that the real estate market is starting to dig its way out. Here are three reasons you should be thankful if you were approved for a home loan in 2012:

1. Low interest rates - At the beginning of the year, home sales were still slow, so the Federal Reserve took steps to encourage lenders to reduce interest rates for home mortgages. As a result, mortgage rates have hit new record lows all year long, and it looks like we're going to end the year with average rates on 30-year mortgages well below 4 percent. If you were among those who purchased a home in 2012 or refinanced your mortgage, be thankful for the mortgage rate you received. Although the Federal Reserve is still taking steps to keep interest rates low, including purchasing $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities, economists fear the potential "fiscal cliff" that is looming in early 2013 will raise rates.

2. Your Good Faith Estimate - A Good Faith Estimate, or GFE, must be provided by a mortgage lender to a customer, as required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. A GFE is basically a list of all associated costs you have to pay to purchase the home. This includes closing costs, inspections, title insurance, taxes and other charges. It must be provided to the prospective borrower by the lender in three business days after the customer applied for a loan. It's basically a standard form that allows the borrower to compare and contrast quotes from various lenders. By law, the lender cannot change the fees listed in the origination box once the form has been issued to the prospective borrower. Although GFEs are not new, they have gotten a lot more detailed in recent years, meaning they are something you should be thankful for if you purchased a home in 2012. What other industry is required to give you a price quote before you sign paperwork? And, even if they do, is it required by law like it is with the mortgage industry? Be thankful you had GFEs to compare before you had to decide which quote was right for you.

3. More competition - Ever since the housing market collapsed in 2007, lenders have been more apprehensive to approve home loans. However, if you have a great credit score, mortgage lenders have been fighting for your business all year long! They still want to approve loans, but only to those individuals who they think will pay back their debt, instead of people who will get behind on payments, forcing a foreclosure or short sale. If you have good credit and went house shopping in 2012, you were likely surprised at how accommodating lenders were when you applied for a loan. The better your score, the more competition there was for your business, so that's always something to be appreciative of. With more and more Americans having to file for bankruptcy or struggling to make ends meet, consumers with good credit scores are hard to come by these days, and lenders know that.

Source: www.realtypin.com

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Top Five Ways to Find Your Dream Home Now

November 21, 2012 5:30 am

As we look forward to a new year and further economic turnaround, it may be time to think again about finding that "dream home" for yourself and your family. Most first-time home buyers welcome a helping hand (or two) to find and buy their first piece of real estate:

1. Getting Help = Good. Getting Free Help = Great!
Before you go any further with your house-hunting efforts, consider hiring a buyer's agent. A buyer's agent is a well-trained, licensed real estate sales agent whose sole mission is to advise you on the best path to take when deciding which community and/or home is right for you.

2. Walk the Walk Before You Talk the Talk
This tip's a pretty simple one to overlook: get to know the neighborhood you're considering before you see any homes on the block. Do a drive-by in the afternoon. Walk around in the evening. Check out the local shops and restaurants. Talk to the neighbors. The time you spend checking out the neighborhood will pay off for you when you do find "the" house to go see.

3. Don't Time the Market
When's a good time to buy a house? There's an easy answer to that: When you want to. Too many homebuyers waste time waiting for better interest rates or for home prices to hit bottom. While springtime has historically been the peak of the home-buying season, the truth is that homeowners sell all throughout the year. Right now interest rates are lower-than-low; there's less traffic at open houses (read: less competition); and sellers are eager to negotiate with.

4. Spot Your Favorite Room
If you're a homebody, you're bound to hang out in one special spot in your current home. Maybe it's in your home office. Perhaps it's next to the picture window in the living room. Kitchen anyone? There's always a spot or two in your home that you spend the most time just doing nada. So it's all the more important to try to visualize where that new favorite spot might be in the homes you go look at. Visualize how you'll use the house in order to ensure that you'll actually enjoy the house.

5. Measure Twice, Cut Once

This do-it-yourselfer's adage applies to home-buying as well. See the homes you like on the first pass at least one more time. In order to ensure happiness, meet at the home to sign the contract. Follow your gut when finding your dream home, but there's something to be said about impulse control. Don't rush to judgment when making the biggest purchase in your life.

Source: Michael A. Pallares, REALTOR®, ABR

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