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

More than 25 Percent of Renters Have Lost Their Security Deposit

January 30, 2013 2:24 am

Everything from pet damage to moving out before the end of a lease could get your security deposit withheld by your landlord, but just how often does this happen? What are the most common causes of tenants getting the cold shoulder when it comes to getting their deposit back? surveyed 1,000 U.S. renters, and the results were startling:

· More than a quarter (26 percent) of all renters have lost their security deposit at some point.
· Thirty-seven percent of men and 44 percent of 18-24 year olds said they did not get their deposits back because they moved out early.
· More women (9 percent) than men (3 percent) lost a deposit due to pet damage.
· Thirty-six percent of renters who did not get their deposits back said the landlord gave no explanation.

In addition, to help make sure you get your deposit back at the end of your lease, here are several tips for maintaining your apartment and your relationship with your landlord:

-When renting, it is always best to get written permission from your landlord before doing any renovations, changing paint color, etc.

-Read your lease. Many renters miss the specific guidelines laid out by their landlord regarding the return of their deposit. A list should be made and agreed upon regarding the conditions of the apartment at the end of the lease BEFORE you sign it.

-Snap a photo. It’s always a good idea to take some photos of the apartment when you first move in. Make sure they are time- and date-stamped! Then, repeat the process on move out day. This way pre-existing damage is documented and the blame cannot fall on you.

-Be reasonable and your landlord might be too. There is no guarantee that a landlord will negotiate you breaking your lease, but maybe there is a compromise that can be met. For instance, you could help find a replacement tenant, agree to pay rent for an additional number of months or until a new tenant is found, etc.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Exterior Replacement Projects Provide Biggest Return on Investment for Homeowners, Say REALTORS

January 30, 2013 2:24 am

Homeowners looking for the most return on their investment when it comes to remodeling should consider exterior replacement projects. According to the 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® rated exterior projects among the most valuable home improvement projects.

“REALTORS® know that curb appeal projects offer great bang for your buck because a home’s exterior is the first thing potential buyers see,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Gary Thomas.
“Projects such as siding, window and door replacements can recoup more than 70 percent of their cost at resale. REALTORS® know what home features are important to buyers in your area and can provide helpful insights when considering remodeling projects.”

Results of the report are summarized on NAR’s consumer website, which provides information on dozens of remodeling projects, from kitchens and baths to siding replacements, including the recouped value of the project based on a national average. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® judged a steel entry door replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 85.6 percent of costs recouped upon resale. The steel entry door replacement is the least expensive project in the report, costing little more than $1,100 on average. A majority of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects; all of these are estimated to recoup more than 71 percent of costs.

Three different siding replacement projects landed in the top 10, including fiber cement siding, expected to return 79.3 percent of costs, vinyl siding, expected to return 72.9 percent of costs, and foam backed vinyl, expected to return 71.8 percent of costs. Two additional door replacements were also among the top exterior replacement projects. The midrange and upscale garage door replacement were both expected to return more than 75 percent of costs.

According to the report, two interior remodeling projects in particular can recoup substantial value at resale. A minor kitchen remodel is ranked fifth and is expected to return 75.4 percent of costs. Nationally, the average cost for the project is just under $19,000.

The second interior remodeling project in the top 10 is the attic bedroom, which landed at number eight and tied with the vinyl siding replacement with 72.9 percent of costs recouped. With an average national cost of just under $48,000, the attic project adds a bedroom and bathroom within a home’s existing footprint. The improvement project projected to return the least is the home office remodel, estimated to recoup less than 44 percent.

“A REALTOR® is the best resource for helping homeowners decide what improvement projects will provide the most upon resale in their market,” said Thomas. “Each neighborhood is different, and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies depending on where you live. When making a home remodeling decision, resale value is just one factor that homeowners should take into consideration. Consult a Realtor® to make sure you are making the best decision.”

Source: The National Association of REALTORS®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Family Physicians Say It's Not Too Late for the Flu Vaccine

January 29, 2013 8:22 am

With one of the worst flu seasons upon us – and the peak of the season yet to come – the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) is urging those who have not yet received the flu vaccine to do so soon.

"It's absolutely not too late to get vaccinated against the flu virus this year," said Dr. Karen Mitchell, a family physician and MAFP Board member. "As long as the flu virus is circulating, it's never too late."

Influenza seasons can be unpredictable, and in some years peak activity can last well into the spring. According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu season can begin as early as October and last until late May. Michigan has already reported a high level of Influenza-like illnesses throughout the state.

"There's a good match between the flu and the flu vaccine this year, which means if you get vaccinated, you are very likely to be protected against the flu," said Mitchell. "And, there's still plenty of vaccine available, so check with your primary care physician and make it a priority to get vaccinated."

Anyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated annually. It's also especially important for those at high risk, such as individuals who are over age 50, have a suppressed immune system or chronic illness, are pregnant, or are caretakers for anyone in a high-risk group.

"It's far safer to get the flu vaccine than to take a chance on getting the flu," said Mitchell.

If you do experience flu-like symptoms, there are anti-viral prescription drugs that can lessen your symptoms and shorten your illness. These treatments can mean the difference between a milder illness and a hospital stay for those at high-risk.

Stop the Spread

The easiest way to stop the spread of the virus is to get vaccinated: if you don't have the flu, you can't spread it. In addition, MAFP recommends the following steps for prevention:

-If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home – except to get medical care or other necessities – until your fever subsides for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medicines).
-Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to prevent the spread of germs, meaning coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow—never into your bare hands.
-Wash your hands regularly.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
-Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

"These actions aren't a substitute for vaccination," said Mitchell, "but they will help prevent the spread of the flu virus and other illnesses."

Source: Michigan Academy of Family Physicians

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pending Home Sales Down in December but Remain on Uptrend

January 29, 2013 8:22 am

Pending home sales declined in December, but have stayed above year-ago levels for 20 consecutive months, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 4.3 percent to 101.7 in December from 106.3 in November, but is 6.9 percent higher than December 2011 when it was 95.1. The data reflect contracts, but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is an uneven uptrend. "The supply limitation appears to be the main factor holding back contract signings in the past month. Still, contract activity has risen for 20 straight months on a year-over-year basis," he said. "Buyer interest remains solid, as evidenced by a separate REALTOR® survey, which shows that buyer foot traffic is easily outpacing seller traffic."

Yun said shortages of available inventory are limiting sales in some areas. "Supplies of homes costing less than $100,000 are tight in much of the country, especially in the West, so first-time buyers have fewer options," he said. "We expect a seasonal rise of inventory in the spring to help, but a seller's market may be developing. Much of the West is already a seller's market for homes priced under a million dollars, but conditions are much more balanced in the Northeast."

Even with tighter inventory, a pent-up demand and favorable affordability conditions bode well for the market. Yun expects existing-home sales to increase another 9 percent in 2013, following a 9 percent rise in 2012.

The PHSI in the Northeast fell 5.4 percent to 78.8 in December but is 8.4 percent higher than December 2011. In the Midwest the index rose 0.9 percent to 104.8 in December and is 14.4 percent above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South declined 4.5 percent to an index of 111.5 in December but are 10.1 percent higher December 2011. In the West the index fell 8.2 percent in December to 101.0 and is 5.3 percent below a year ago.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Resource for Consumers Facilitates Smoother Moves

January 29, 2013 8:22 am

Unpakt, an instant pricing application helping consumers find reputable moving companies and book their moves online, recently partnered with Harris Interactive to conduct a comprehensive online survey revealing consumer feelings toward the moving industry. With this new platform, consumers can compare movers, receive exact price quotes rather than estimates, and manage a move online, all while considering both consumer and mover feedback to improve the process overall.

Unpakt's survey revealed that Americans move an average of 8.2 times in their lifetime. Moreover, 88 percent of Americans chose to move by themselves rather than hire a moving company. This could be largely due to survey findings that indicate almost half (46 percent) of Americans are afraid movers will steal their belongings during a move and 69 percent of Americans fear that movers will damage belongings during a move.

In terms of the cost of moving, one frequent complaint from consumers after using a moving company is that they paid more for the move than anticipated. This is likely because of hidden fees, given that many moving companies use estimates rather than exact price quotes. Of Americans that paid more for their last move than initially anticipated, 57 percent paid upwards of $175 all the way through $1,000 more for the move than expected.

Well over half of Americans also agreed that it is hard to find a good moving company.

"As someone who has been in the moving industry more than 25 years, I have seen firsthand exactly why consumers are uneasy about working with moving companies," said Sharone Ben-Harosh , founder of Unpakt. "Today's informed consumer is able to easily compare costs, receive guaranteed prices and access customer reviews when booking travel or searching for good restaurants, so the same should be true of booking a move and finding a reputable mover. Unpakt is now providing these services."

Survey data found that 58 percent of Americans said they would be most likely to use online reviews or online research to search for a reputable moving company. The online tool also allows customers to create an inventory of all their furniture and boxes and quickly enter moving date and location information. Once the information is submitted, Unpakt provides a comparison of guaranteed prices from Unpakt's pre-screened movers. From there, the customer can book the move on-the-spot or save the search and revisit the booking process at a later date.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Healthier Dishes for Your Table

January 28, 2013 4:30 am

(Family Features) Bringing healthier foods to the table can be easier – and more delicious – than you might think. When you add high-quality proteins such as soyfoods to the menu, you open up the door to a wide variety of tasty and nutritious meals.

The plant-based proteins of soy are packed with benefits for your body. They:

• Have all the essential amino acids needed for growth.
• May help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and increasing the flexibility of blood vessels.
• Are equivalent to animal sources of protein but have no cholesterol and little saturated fat.

In fact, both the national 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the MyPlate nutrition guidance recommend soyfoods such as soymilk, veggie burgers, soy nutrition bars, soy sausages, tofu, soy yogurt, soy protein shakes and edamame. You can easily enjoy soy proteins in a lot of different ways.

Meat and poultry lovers can enjoy soy, too, by incorporating soy crumbles and other soy products into their favorite dishes. This recipe for a Veggie Taco Salad makes a satisfying, nutritious entrée for the whole family.

You can find more delicious recipes and information about soybeans and their journey from the farm to your plate at

Veggie Taco Salad
Makes 4 servings

2 cups soy crumbles (you can find these in your grocer’s freezer section or refrigerated meat section)
3/4 cup salsa
5 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup black beans

Topping Options:
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons sliced ripe olives
2 tablespoons fat free sour cream

In large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook crumbles and salsa over medium heat about 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently.

In large bowl toss together lettuce, corn and black beans. Arrange on 4 serving plates. Top with crumbles mixture. Sprinkle with toppings.

Nutrition Information
Per serving: 180 Calories, 4 g Total Fat, 14g Protein, 26g Carbohydrate, 8g Fiber, 600mg Sodium

Source: Soyfoods Association of North America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Rebound

January 28, 2013 4:30 am

Fixed mortgage rates increased following positive economic news, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate rising to 3.66 percent this week, according to's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.35 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate jumped to a 4-month high of 2.94 percent and the larger jumbo 30-year mortgage climbed to 4.08 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were all over the map, with the 3-year ARM increasing to 2.96 percent, the 5-year ARM dropping to 2.71 percent and the 7-year ARM holding at 2.88 percent.

The past week saw positive reports on housing starts and a drop in weekly unemployment claims, which coupled with good news on the corporate earnings front, powered mortgage rates higher. With the debt ceiling debate delayed, the most dire economic scenarios are alleviated for now, which should keep a floor under bond yields and mortgage rates at least until talk of government spending cuts heats up. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

The last time mortgage rates were above 5 percent was Apr. 2011. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 5.07 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,082.22. With the average rate now 3.66 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $916.05, a difference of $166 per month for anyone refinancing now.

For the full mortgage Rate Trend Index, go to

Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Homeowners Believe Now is a Good Time to Sell

January 28, 2013 4:30 am

Redfin has released its latest survey of home sellers, capturing sentiment of homeowners with the intent to sell. Redfin based this analysis on survey answers from 895 respondents across the U.S. who indicated intent to sell their home in the near future. The Redfin Real-Time Home Seller Survey is a companion to the quarterly Buyer Survey and Agent Survey.

Results Snapshot:

• 81 percent believe prices will rise in the next 12 months, up from 75 percent in the fourth quarter
• 34.1 percent indicated that missing out on future price gains was a major concern, up from 30.6 percent, and overtaking general economic conditions (33.8 percent) as the top concern
• 49 percent indicated that they were planning to sell, up from 45 percent
• 47 percent would also consider renting out their home instead of selling, up from 43 percent
• 22 percent believe now is a good time to sell, up from 15 percent
• 54 percent believe it is a good time to buy, down from 58 percent

Based on increased home-seller confidence reported in last quarter's survey, Redfin was optimistic that inventory would start to pick up in early 2013. As prices continue to rise, Redfin expects what it now considers an inventory crisis to ease as the spring and summer home-selling seasons approach.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Upgrading to a Master Bedroom

January 25, 2013 4:24 am

If you just bought a home or are looking to spice things up, renovate your room into a full-blown master bedroom. A master bedroom provides luxuries both big and small to help you fully utilize your space for rest and relaxation. With these tips, you can customize your room’s lighting, windows and more, to open up the room and turn it into a real sanctuary.

In-suite Bathrooms
It’s always nice to have your own bathroom away from the kids or other household members. His and hers sinks and vanities are popular, as are separate tubs or showers. Incorporate some fun by adding things like a jetted tub or heated towel racks. If you plan to take the shower route, consider adding a shower bench or making it a steam shower. If you have the space to spare, the possibilities are endless.

Add a Balcony or Patio
If your bedroom is on the end of the house or on a higher floor, adding a balcony or patio could really add some flavor to the room. French doors add an intense amount of natural light to the room and can open up to your balcony. If big enough, add a small patio set so you can read, tan or eat outdoors. Outside electrical outlets are perfect for music. A private patio is a great way to escape stress and have some alone time.

Attach a Library or Living Room

Creating your own library or living room may be easier said than done, but if you’re building from scratch it’s an option you should definitely consider. A library can also serve as an office for working at home. If a living room is what you desire, consider mounting a small flat screen television on the wall. A small loveseat and ottoman would provide you with the chance to catch some of your favorite shows in your own space without having to lie on the bed.

Create a Nook

Turning a corner of your bedroom into a reading area can be great to help you relax, especially if you don’t have the room for an attached living room. Add a fireplace next to your reclining chair or ottoman to add ambiance in the winter time. A bedside fireplace would definitely add to your home’s resale value.

Walk-in Closets Are a Must
A walk-in closet is essential for any master bedroom suite. The bigger you can expand it, the better. Not only will you have extra storage space for your belongings, but you can customize the shelving and drawers to suite your personal style. Add full length mirrors and maybe even add a window for some natural light. Creating your own closet will also add to the resale value of the home.

With a little bit of money and the proper time and space, you could transform your modest bedroom into a relaxation haven. As you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor, you’ll be glad you did.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


2013: Transition to 'Normal'?

January 25, 2013 4:24 am

The trend of gradual but below-potential economic growth seen in 2012 is expected to carry over through 2013 and into 2014. This modest growth path combined with the real GDP growth rate during the recovery from 2009 to this point of 2.2 percent annualized give credence to claims that the recovery’s slow pace has become the “new normal,” according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group. The fiscal cliff and ongoing debt ceiling debate, which are likely to suppress consumer spending in the first half of 2013, continue to present potentially strong headwinds to meaningful growth activity. Overall, a 2 percent growth rate is forecasted for 2013, similar to the subdued pace of 2012.

This is despite the fact that the housing sector, which has become a bright spot in the economy since home prices began to rebound in 2012, is expected to provide a rising contribution to GDP in 2013 and in coming years. Recent data indicate that the housing recovery has transitioned to a faster upward track, boosted by an improving labor market and low mortgage rates. Overall, home sales, home prices, and home building activity as well as homebuilder confidence appear to be on the upswing, having risen to multi-year highs.

“What we view as sub-par economic growth may actually continue to be par for the course for the near term,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “We expect the fiscal policy climate to act as a drag on growth this year with possible implications on the direction of the economy in the long term. As fiscal policy debates subside later in the spring, we expect to see some upward trend in economic activity, with growth accelerating moderately in the second half of the year. That momentum will find support in the form of continued, albeit slow, improvement in the housing sector. In the longer term, the gradual return of manufacturing to the U.S. and increasing domestic energy production will work together to accelerate economic growth. However, we anticipate overall growth in 2013 will remain below its potential, extending what has been a slow recovery.”

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.