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

Power Outage Protection Tips

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

The powerful winter storm that pounded the Northeast with gusting winds and heavy snow resulted in power failures for hundreds of thousands of people. But, it doesn't matter what part of the country you call home, everyone is susceptible to power outages, particularly when it comes to severe winter weather. Being prepared is the best defense for such energy emergencies.

Here is a list of important things you can do to ensure the safety and security of your family during this and every power outage.

Develop a weather emergency plan. The plan should include a list of important phone numbers in case you need to quickly evacuate your home (i.e. doctors, family members, etc.). The plan should also include an evacuation route, as well as an established meeting place in case you lose communication with loved ones.

Grab a backpack or purchase a large plastic bucket with a lid from a local hardware store or home center. Stuff the backpack or bucket with three days' worth of food and water. Other items should include a flashlight, battery powered/hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, money, medications and a CD or USB drive containing important documents. Store the kit in a place that is easily accessible in an emergency situation. For more tips on how to prepare for weather-related emergencies like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or tornadoes, visit the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) at

Turn off major appliances such as water heaters, stoves and air conditioning units. Unplug other appliances such as TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers. This will prevent damage to appliances and possible overloads to the system when power is restored.

Leave one light on so you will be able to see when power is restored to your home.
Have a battery-operated or weather radio, multiple flashlights and a battery-operated clock and fan, along with extra batteries.

Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all down wires and anything touching them as though they have electricity running through it!

Do not connect portable generators directly to the electrical system of your home. Electricity could flow backward into the power lines and endanger lives. Either have a qualified electrician perform the work or plug appliances directly into the portable generator.

If you're running a portable generator, be sure to use properly rated extension cords (electrical load and length). Also, make sure the portable generator is properly vented to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not place a portable generator in your home or an enclosed space with limited ventilation like a garage or a screened porch.

Familiarize yourself with your main electrical panel. You may have to turn off the main breaker or have to reset circuit breakers after an outage.

Inspect the area around your electricity meter. If you detect or suspect any damage, call your local utility provider.

Consider installing a commercial-grade, automatic generator for your home. An automatic generator (aka standby generator) is permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. It runs on natural gas or propane and hooks up to existing gas lines. Standby generators turn on automatically when the power shuts off. A transfer switch constantly monitors utility power and transfers the electrical load to the generator if power is lost, protecting the home even if the home owner is away. A standby generator can power critical and sophisticated appliances and systems in your home, including lights, heating/cooling systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, home security systems and more.

To determine if a standby generator is right for you, be sure to do your homework and look for a unit that offers some of the following:

A commercial-grade engine that provides clean, consistent power, handles heavy loads and powers up quickly.

Make sure to purchase a standby generator with a minimum five-year warranty.

Don't forget about appearance. A standby generator sits outside your home, so look for a unit with a bold, clean look that is corrosion resistant.

Some units have remote monitoring/operating capabilities. This is important for those who spend time away from home.

Source: Kohler Generators

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is DIY Home Remodeling Dying?

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

The Spring 2013 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report documents strong growth in higher-end home remodeling projects where a homeowner will hire a general contractor and do little or none of the work themselves. So is Do-It-Yourself home remodeling on the way out?

The latest findings show that the influences of the recession are continuing to diminish. The most notable results from the survey are as follows:

-58 percent of homeowners report that the economy is having minimal effect on their plans for remodeling, which is up from the low of just 33 percent in the middle of the recession.

-Average estimated cost for the planned remodels has reached $114,000 to remodel or add on an average of 3.6 rooms, which is up from $80,000 and 2.6 rooms at the depths of the recession.

-Homeowners planning to hire a general contractor for their project is up to 73 percent of respondents; 55 percent will hire an architect, and 80 percent report they will do little or none of the work themselves.

-Kitchen remodels and bathroom remodels tie for the most popular projects with 57 percent of homeowners reporting that these projects are part of their remodeling plans.

-The wealth effect is helping to fuel the recovery in home remodeling as homeowners taking this survey reporting an average home equity of $130,000 – the highest since 2009.

So what does the future hold? Do-it-yourself home improvement has been, and will likely continue to be, a feature of the U.S. home ownership picture. The recent decline in interest is likely a short-term result of the disproportionate economic recovery – homeowners who are better off financially are proceeding with their remodels by hiring others to do the work, while homeowners who are more budget-conscious and more inclined to do some of the work themselves are slower to start their remodeling projects. It is likely that as the economic recovery expands, more homeowners interested in DIY will begin planning remodels, and the sentiment report will show a ratio of DIY and Hire-it-done more in line with pre-recession numbers.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Home-Selling Tips for Spring Selling Season

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

For those wanting to sell their home come spring, here are a few data-proven home-selling tips for 2013. These important actions can be used by home sellers to maximize their chance of selling, get the highest price, and decrease time on market.

1. Friday is the best day to list a home. Homes listed on a Friday sell faster (81 days on the market, on average) for a price closer to their asking price (99.1 percent of the original asking price, on average) than homes listed on any other day of the week.

2. April is the best month to list, but definitely before June. Homes listed in April sell for closer to their original asking price, with a 99.2 percent sale price-to-list price ratio, compared with a 97.3 percent ratio for homes listed in December. The period of March through June had the largest percentage of homes that sold within 90 days of their debut.

3. Price your home right the first time. In the first week that a listing goes on the market, it receives nearly four times more visits on real estate websites than it does a month later.

4. Use professional photos on your listing
. Listings with photos taken with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera sold for prices considerably closer to their asking price than those with point-and-shoot photos. Sellers made $5,700 more for a home priced between $400,000 and $500,000 when they used DSLR photos.

Source: Redfin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


National Mortgage Loan Delinquency Rate Drops Nearly 14 Percent in 2012

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

The national mortgage delinquency rate (the rate of borrowers 60 or more days past due) declined for the fourth consecutive quarter, dropping from 5.41 percent in Q3 2012 to 5.19 percent in Q4 2012. On a year-over-year basis, the mortgage delinquency rate has declined nearly 14 percent from 6.01 percent in Q4 2011.

"The national mortgage delinquency rate experienced its largest yearly decline since the conclusion of the recession, though we still remain far above normal levels," said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion's financial services business unit. "For the most part, newer vintage mortgage loans are not the reason for the stubbornly high delinquency rate. They are performing relatively well. The elevated delinquency levels that we are still experiencing are a result of older vintage loans - borrowers who haven't been making their payments for a rather long time that are still in the system, inflating the overall rate."

During the height of the mortgage crisis, mortgage delinquencies rose 54 percent in 2007, 53 percent in 2008 and 50 percent in 2009. The subsequent decline has been a slow process with delinquency levels dropping 7 percent in 2010, 6 percent in 2011 and now falling 14 percent in 2012.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia experienced improvement in their mortgage delinquency rates from last quarter. Only three states did not experience mortgage delinquency improvement from last year.

TransUnion expects the mortgage delinquency rate to continue its downward trend in the first quarter of 2013, though it will likely remain above 5 percent.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Show Some Love for Your Home on Valentine's Day

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

If you believe in the old adage that “home is where the heart is,” then why not show a little love for your abode this Valentine’s Day? There are lots of ways to do it: You can rearrange the furniture, redecorate, or freshen things up with a colorful new coat of interior paint.

“Spicing up your home with some new color is a great way to fight the winter blahs,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute. “Studies have shown that color can be a great mood-lifter, and one of the easiest and least expensive ways to introduce new color into a home is with paint.”

One approach is to tackle the room where you spend the most time – your family room or dining area, for example. That way, you’ll get maximum enjoyment from your painting project.

If you’re not quite so ambitious, think about painting only an accent wall in a different color that complements or contrasts with the other walls. This simple project can often be accomplished in just a couple of hours, but can completely change the appearance and feel of a room.

When choosing which wall to paint in your accent color, keep in mind that the eye will tend to be drawn there. As a result, you might want to favor the wall where your best artwork is displayed or where your nicest furniture resides.

To better incorporate the accent wall’s new hue into the room’s overall color scheme, you might want to purchase a few inexpensive items that match the color and sprinkle them here and there. Possibilities include throw pillows, ceramics, a small area rug, even placemats.

Don’t have the budget to buy anything other than paint? Then “create” some matching accents by applying leftover paint to one of your small furniture items, a couple of picture frames, or some old pots with interesting shapes. The objective is simply to inject a little more of the accent color to help pull together the look of the room.

Color selection is a personal matter, but if you want to stay in the spirit of the valentine season, what could be more appropriate than red? The fiery color just so happens to be a great color choice for dining rooms and eating areas, where it tends to stimulate appetite, according to color psychologists.

Being a psychologically “warm” color, red in any tint or shade will tend to make cold February days cozier no matter where you use it in the home. And if you feel warmer, you might even be able to lower your thermostat a degree or two, saving on energy bills.

If you think you might have a passion for painting as Valentine’s Day approaches, Zimmer offers one final bit of advice: purchase the highest quality paint for the longest lasting results. As time goes by, you’ll learn to love the way the color continues to look as bright and fresh as the very first time you laid eyes on it.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fourth Quarter Metro Area Home Prices Show Strongest Performance in Seven Years

February 12, 2013 2:36 am

A growing number of metropolitan areas had higher median home prices in the fourth quarter, with the national price showing the strongest year-over-year increase in seven years, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®. A companion report shows record high housing affordability conditions for metro areas in 2012.

The median existing single-family home price rose in 133 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) based on closings in the fourth quarter compared with same quarter in 2011, while 19 areas had price declines. In the third quarter, 120 areas showed increases from a year earlier, while in the fourth quarter of 2011, only 29 metros were up.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said all the conditions for strong price growth are at play. "Home sales are on a sustained uptrend, mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years," he said. "Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates. Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play." Yun added that more housing construction is needed to relieve some of the pressure in the market and keep home prices from overheating.

The national median existing single-family home price was $178,900 in the fourth quarter, up 10.0 percent from $162,600 in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is the strongest year-over-year price increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when the median price jumped 13.6 percent. In the third quarter, the price rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier.

The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions.

A shrinking market share of lower priced homes continues to account for some of the price growth. Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales generally sold at deep discounts - accounted for 23 percent of fourth quarter sales, down from 30 percent a year ago.

Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.90 million in the fourth quarter from 4.66 million in the third quarter, and were 12.1 percent above the 4.37 million pace during the fourth quarter of 2011. Sales in the last quarter were at the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2009 when they reached 4.95 million.

At the end of the fourth quarter there were 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.6 percent below the close of the fourth quarter of 2011 when 2.32 million homes were on the market. Unsold inventory is at the lowest level since January 2001 when there were 1.78 million homes for sale.
According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged a record low 3.36 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 3.54 percent in the third quarter and 4.01 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Source: NAR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Online Shopping Study Shows Boomers' Purchasing Behavior Still Growing, Millennials Steady

February 12, 2013 2:36 am

Although the ongoing study by The Integer Group® has shown an increase in online shopping over the last three years, the latest study is showing online shopping overall has leveled out. Even though online shopping is steady, Boomers are continuing to increase their online purchases (up 4.5 percent since 2011) and the percentage of Millennials who reported purchasing more online is down 7 percent from 2011. This was revealed in the latest issue of The Checkout, an ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by Integer® and M/A/R/C Research.

"Millennials may be feeling the pinch of a still-slow economy and making the decision to watch spending more closely. It could also be that we are starting to reach a plateau in online-shopping adoption," said Craig Elston, senior vice president, Insight & Strategy at The Integer Group.

Even though many shoppers in the survey noted that they are shopping about the same amount online as they were three months ago, there are some interesting shifts in purchase categories. Since January 2012, online purchasing of health and beauty has increased significantly among shoppers aged 50 to 64, growing nearly 12 percent. The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who say they've purchased any products online, even once, has dropped in all categories except books, music, and tickets. Overall, none of these categories saw major growth from 2011 to 2012.

Data for The Checkout comes from a national survey conducted by Integer and M/A/R/C where consumers are asked about their shopping attitudes, shopping behaviors, and economic outlook. Topics range from criteria shoppers use to select retailers, to which in-store stimulus is most likely to drive purchase, to factors that might lead shoppers to leave an aisle empty-handed.

Source: The Integer Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Blizzard May Cause Mold Damage for Thousands of New Englanders

February 12, 2013 2:36 am

As New Englanders dig out from last week's historic blizzard, a silent threat is creeping into their homes: mold. The snow accumulation on roofs and the high drifts against homes will soon start to melt as temperatures increase. While temperatures are expected to rise above the freezing point during the day, however, they are predicted to retreat below 32 degrees during the night, creating ideal conditions for ice damming and moisture penetration. Such conditions are breeding grounds for mold growth.

After a blizzard or any type of major storm, it is recommended that homeowners inspect their attics, basements and other moisture-prone areas for signs of damage and to consider calling a specially-trained and accredited mold inspector to detected hidden deficiencies. To eliminate any doubt about the safety of your air quality or home environment, a mold inspector uses specialized detection equipment such as digital moisture meters and infrared cameras to identify areas susceptible to mold growth. If mold is present, additional diagnostic testing equipment can be used to identify and quantify the type of fungal activity.

For homeowners that choose to hire a properly-equipped, environmental engineering company, they may be able to detect these hidden deficiencies and storm damage before family members start to get sick or areas of the home cannot be salvaged. Concerned parties should check their homeowner's insurance policy regarding storm damage and specifically inquire about any mold coverage they have. This coverage may include the proper testing and inspecting along with any remedial actions to thwart mold-related illnesses.

Source: IndoorDoctor, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Consumer Housing Sentiment Continues to Rise as Employment Concerns Wane

February 11, 2013 2:36 am

Increasing confidence in home sales and an improved sense of job security provide further evidence of the strengthening of the housing market, according to Fannie Mae’s January 2013 National Housing Survey results. Underlying the growing sense of optimism, the percentage of survey respondents who think it is a good time to sell a home continued to climb to 23 percent last month from 11 percent the same time last year. While expectations regarding personal finances stayed relatively flat last month, other housing indicators remained at or near survey highs, indicating consumers remain confident in the stability of the housing market.

“The housing market continues to firm, with consumer home price expectations for both rental and ownership properties near the strongest levels that we’ve seen in the survey’s two-and-a-half-year history,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Concerns about job loss are waning as payrolls are growing – a trend that may give potential homebuyers more confidence that they can meet the financial obligation of homeownership. The upward trend over the past year and a half in the share of consumers who say it’s a good time to sell may reflect two related events. First, homeowners see that home prices are improving. Second, the number of homeowners who are underwater is declining, reducing a barrier for those owners who need to sell their home in order to buy a new one.”

Survey Highlights

Homeownership and Renting

• The average 12-month home price change expectation fell slightly from last month’s survey high to 2.4 percent.
• At 41 percent, the share of those surveyed who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months decreased by 2 percentage points from December’s survey high, while the share who believe home prices will go down returned to the survey low of 10 percent.
• The percentage of those surveyed who think mortgage rates will go up decreased by 3 percentage points to 41 percent, while those who think they will go down dipped slightly to 7 percent.
• Twenty-three percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell a house, up by 12 percentage points year-over-year.
• At 3.7 percent, the average 12-month rental price change expectation fell 0.9 percent from last month’s survey high.
• Fifty percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a slight increase over December, and the highest level since the survey’s inception.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move held steady at 65 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances

• At 39 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased slightly over December.
• The percentage who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months rose by 3 percentage points to 43 percent.
• Twenty-three percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, holding steady from last month.
• Thirty-eight percent reported significantly higher household expenses compared to 12 months ago, the highest level since December 2011.
• The percentage who are concerned they will lose their job in the next 12 months declined 1 percentage point to 19 percent, a survey low.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Looking for Love Online? Be Aware and Protect Yourself

February 11, 2013 2:36 am

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money.

An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.

How to Recognize a Scam Artist

The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:

• wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM,
• claims love in a heartbeat,
• claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas,
• plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour.
Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.

What You Can Do About It

You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:

• travel
• medical emergencies
• hotel bills
• hospital bills for a child or other relative
• visas or other official documents
• or losses from a temporary financial setback

Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, the money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.

Report relationship scams to the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center, or your state Attorney General.

Source: FTC

Published with permission from RISMedia.