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

Window Bird Feeders: Bringing Birds Closer

September 14, 2011 8:57 pm

Window bird feeders are a wonderful way to see the true beauty of birds up close this fall. Feather colors, eating habits and the interaction of birds creates a dynamic viewing experience of blue jays, northern cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, nut hatches, tufted titmice, woodpeckers, pine siskins, redpolls, and other finches. Even seasonal birds such as hummingbirds and grosbeaks will come to window bird feeders.

Window bird feeders are convenient to fill and clean, great for kids and seniors who sometimes have a hard time walking to replenish traditional feeders. They offer hours of entertainment for pets (pet TV) and offer an alternative for areas that do not allow traditional feeders.

Window bird feeders come in a variety of styles. Those with suction cups adhere to almost any window and can be located anywhere in your home or office. Others are designed for single or double hung windows, casement windows, bay windows and sliding glass doors/decks. After a while, birds get familiar with activity inside the house and eat more naturally. Some window feeders also have mirrors that allow viewing birds without them viewing you.

Dining areas are a great location for window bird feeders. Birds’ feeding habits are similar to humans and they eat most frequently in early morning, lunch time and early evening. Window strikes are often a problem with east/west feeder placement due to reflections that cause the bird to fly into the window, or they may think it is another bird and attempt to attack. Using window alerts, which have a see-through pattern that adheres to the window, will help avoid window strikes as well as curtains or alternative placement.

Attract specific types of birds to window bird feeders with different types of food. Suet window feeders will attract woodpeckers while sunflower will attract most birds and thistle will attract finches, siskins and red polls. To avoid house sparrows, starlings and cowbirds avoid grains used in mixes—corn, milo, red millet, oats, wheat and canary seed. Jays prefer peanuts (but then, so do squirrels).

For more information, visit USABirdSupply.com.
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REALTORS Urge White House to Gather Leaders, Stabilize Housing

September 14, 2011 8:57 pm

To help develop policies that will stabilize the nation's housing market and support an economic recovery, the National Association of REALTORS® recently urged the White House to host a summit of policy makers, industry leaders and government stake holders focused on revitalizing the nation's housing.

"As the leading advocate for housing issues, REALTORS® know that homeownership supports our nation's economy," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "Housing and homeownership issues affect all Americans, which is why we need strong policies that will help stabilize the housing market and lead the way out of today's economic struggles."

A housing recovery is key to America's economic strength, and NAR wants to make sure that proposed legislation and regulatory rules or changes to current programs and incentives don't further exacerbate problems within fragile real estate markets across the country.

A broad discussion among all stakeholders about what needs to be done to put the housing market and economy on a path to recovery could provide valuable recommendations and solutions to promote responsible, sustainable homeownership and stabilize and revitalize the housing industry and economy.

"REALTORS® look forward to coming together and working with President Obama and his administration as well as our industry partners to design a housing recovery plan that will serve our nation, its 75 million homeowners and indeed all Americans today and into the future," says Phipps.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.
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New Black Friday iPhone App Released for the 2011 Holiday Shopping Season

September 13, 2011 8:57 pm

A new mobile application has been released that will aid shoppers this year on Black Friday. Created by FatWallet, the Black Friday iPhone App allows iPhone and iPod touch users to review and sort 2011 Black Friday ads as individual deals. The app is the mobile version of FatWallet.com’s Black Friday Deal Finder, which aggregates all major retailers’ Black Friday ad rumors and organizes them by store and category. Users can sort by store or by category and have options to filter results for a more refined search. These options include; sub-categories, brand and price range. Capabilities also let users search by phrase and sort deals for free shipping, rebates, online availability and/or doorbusters.

Push Notifications are sent each time a store’s 2011 Black Friday ad is published. FatWallet members can flag deals as favorites for quick in-store reference and comparison. They can also create customized shopping lists online for easy access on the app and share any deal or view via text or email, with possibilities of more social sharing options in future updates.

The app also comes pre-loaded with 2010 Black Friday content allowing users to compare all 13,676 deals from 90 stores. Users can expect many of these deals to be available online (2010 saw over 800 deals online with more than 500 of those deals offering free shipping). The content will be replaced with 2011 data as soon as the first Black Friday ad is made public in FatWallet’s Black Friday 2011 forum and Black Friday Deal Finder.

For more information, visit www.fatwallet.com.
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Tips for Hiring the Best Contractor for the Job

September 13, 2011 8:57 pm

When it comes to hiring a contractor, finding one you can trust in your home for an extended period of time is crucial to the project's success. A fair and hardworking contractor may take some time to find. These tips will help facilitate your search:

Get as many estimates as you can: By pricing out many different contractors, you will be able to determine the going rate for your area. Beware of any prices that are either too low or too high, and always make sure to ask if the price is a hard quote (the price you will actually be charged) or simply an estimate.

Make sure the contractor is insured and licensed: In addition, ensure that all of the company's employees are insured as well. In the case of an accident, you want to be sure that any worker working in your home is covered by workman's comp and liability insurance.

Call references: Never neglect to ask for references and always call to check up on the contractor. Was work completed on time? Were there any issues on the job? How close was the estimate to the final cost? You may be able to learn from someone else's hiring mistakes.

Research the company: Find out how long the contractor has been in business and see if you can find out information about any past jobs. If any red flags have been raised, you'll likely find them on the Internet.

Make sure it feels right: Are you comfortable communicating with the contractor? Do they understand exactly what you want? Are they able to clearly explain what exactly will be done and how long it will take? If any problems or delays happen on the job, you want to make sure you have a solid working relationship with your hired help so you can properly discuss how to move forward. This can make all the difference as you head toward a happy end result.

Source: Relocation.com Blog
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Mortgage Rates Lowest in Over 50 Years

September 13, 2011 8:57 pm

Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing mortgage rates, fixed and adjustable, reaching all-time record lows providing further incentive for those homeowners looking to refinance. The 30-year fixed averaged 4.15%, breaking the previous record low of 4.17% set November 11, 2010.

According to the survey, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.15% with an average 0.7 point for the week ending August 18, 2011, down from the last week when it averaged 4.32%. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.42%.

Additionally, 15-year FRM averaged 3.36% with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.50%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.90%.
Results also showed that the five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.08, with an average 0.5 point, down from the previous week when it averaged 3.13%. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.56%.

The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.86% with an average 0.6 point, down from the last week when it averaged 2.89%. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.53%.

Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac, says, "The Federal Reserve's policy statement and ongoing market concerns over the European debt market carried momentum into this week allowing all mortgage products in our survey to reach all-time record lows. For instance, 30-year fixed mortgage rates are now the lowest in over 50 years. In comparison, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated the average effective mortgage rate was about 5.3 percent on single-family loans outstanding during the second quarter of 2011.

"Not surprising, many homeowners took advantage of this low mortgage rate environment and have already refinanced their loans. The refinance share of applications averaged nearly 70% of all mortgage activity in the first half of this year, according to our survey. In addition, an increasing share of refinancing borrowers chose to shorten their loan terms during the second quarter, according to Freddie Mac's Quarterly Product Transition Report."

For more information, visit www.freddiemac.com or www.twitter.com/FreddieMac.
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Mistakes to Avoid for Housing Investors

September 12, 2011 8:57 pm

With home prices at bargain levels, it may be the perfect time to consider purchasing a property to rent. Investing in a rental property can be profitable for those with time on their hands and who are knowledgeable enough to work the market appropriately. Although no purchase is ever a sure-shot, you can avoid losing money by keeping the following in mind:

Don’t assume a cheap deal is a win-win: Although low prices are always attractive to you, the buyer, don’t forget to keep other factors in mind such as location and building type. If the property is in a less-than-desirable location, you may have trouble finding the right renters or any renters at all. Look for properties in busy areas or cities where demand will never waver.

Don’t forget the extra costs: Always factor in a 3-6% closing-cost fee and keep in mind that you’ll also need funds to maintain the building. Try to plan ahead and figure out what your profit margin will likely be and determine whether buying the property in question is worth your time and investment. Too many times do first-time landlords purchase properties without thinking on a long-term scale. Cover all of your bases by taking all costs into consideration.

Be reasonable about your profit expectations: When you become a landlord, you become a collector. If tenants lose their jobs or stop paying for any other reason, it may take several weeks to evict them. Don’t simply assume that money will keep coming in. It may take time to find the right tenants and even then, there could always be a disruption in payment. Be prepared for this, just in case.

Owning a rental is different than owning a home: Some tenants may be more demanding as to what’s acceptable in terms of maintenance and repairs. State laws (which vary by state) may also impose strict rules and regulations, dishing out even more work for your plate. Although property managers can help out with a lot of this, hiring one will cost you. Be mentally and financially prepared for the task of becoming a landlord so that there are no surprises later down the road.

Source: Bankrate
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Tips for Drying Out a Flooded Basement

September 12, 2011 8:57 pm

Approximately 98% of all basements will become flooded basements, suffering from some form of water damage at some point. Homeowners up and down the East Coast and across the Southeast joined the 98% club in the last few weeks, as hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee soaked homes and businesses with torrential rainfall and caused record flooding in many areas.

Basements are natural targets for excess water, due to their position as the lowest point in any home and the fact that water loves to run downhill. It is always advisable to make sure the landscaping surrounding a home slopes away from the structure for a distance of no less than 10 feet. In extreme cases, once the ground has been saturated, any additional water that is added will have to go somewhere, and it is going to seek the path of least resistance.

As with any sort of water damage in the home, it is always advisable to begin the water removal process as soon as possible. Water will continue to cause damage for as long as it is allowed to remain untreated, rotting wood, rusting metal, and destroying personal items and valuables, not to mention setting the stage for mold to grow.

All utilities should be shut off at the source. Water and electricity do not mix, and if gas is leaking as a result of the flood, then it only takes a spark to trigger some undesirable circumstances.

Wet/dry vacuum units or gas-powered submersible pumps should be used to extract the water from the basement. Which type of unit used depends on the depth and severity of the spill. When pumping, it is vitally important not to pump the water out too fast. Doing so may cause a sudden change in pressure that could weaken the structural integrity of the walls, making them prone to collapse. The water should be pumped out slowly but steadily, at the rate of about a third a day.

Once the water is out, the job is not finished. Carpeting, flooring and drywall will still have retained a significant amount of water. Fans, blowers, and dehumidifiers will be required to remove all residual moisture from surfaces and the surrounding air, as well as reduce humidity levels in the area to ward off mold.

Electrical appliances and outlets should not be used until the system has been checked out by a qualified electrician. The same principal should be applied to the heating and air system.

Carpets should be salvageable if they have been submerged for less than 48 hours. They will need to be taken up, dried, cleaned, disinfected and sanitized, possibly more than once. All damaged carpet padding will need to be thrown out and replaced. Floors should be checked for warping or cracking, and drywall inspected for the telltale swelling and discoloration that accompanies water damage.

If the right steps are taken, you can minimize water damage to your home and hopefully clean up before any mold has the chance to grow.

Source: WaterDamageLocal.com
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Investors Who Can't Resell, Rent

September 12, 2011 8:57 pm

Anemic demand from owner-occupant home buyers has forced investors to rent out about half of the homes they purchase—as opposed to renovating and flipping the properties, according to the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey.

The latest HousingPulse Survey results showed the proportion of first-time home buyers in the housing market rose to 36.9% in July, from 35.4% in June. Meanwhile, the HousingPulse Distressed Property Index (DPI) climbed to 46.2% in July from 44.7% in June, indicating a high percentage of foreclosed property sales and short-sale transactions in the housing market.

The gap between first-time home buyers and distressed property supply was 9.3 percentage points in July, unchanged from June. Given that home purchases by current homeowners do little to absorb the supply of distressed properties, the housing market is increasingly dependent on investors to pick up any slack in purchases by first-time home buyers.

Because the current housing environment makes it difficult for investors to sell properties, many are choosing to rent instead. Campbell Surveys estimates that investors will ultimately rent out 48% of the properties acquired in the month of July 2011. A comparable figure for the month of July 2010 would have been investors renting out 28% of acquired properties.

Significantly, real estate agents responding to the July HousingPulse survey indicated that the debate in Congress over the U.S. debt ceiling negatively affected home buyer activity last month.

“I spoke with several would-be buyers who, because of the ridiculous behavior of our government, felt uneasy about purchasing at this time. This may be contributing to the hot rental market,” reported an agent in Washington State.

The Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey involves approximately 2,500 real estate agents nationwide each month and provides up-to-date intelligence on home sales and mortgage usage patterns.

For more information, visit www.realestateeconomywatch.com.
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Make Sure Your Home is Front-Door Friendly

September 9, 2011 8:57 pm

According to Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show, fall is the perfect time to focus on the exterior of your home. “While the weather is good, my advice is to get outside and fix up problem areas, work on the landscaping and invest in products that make your home’s exterior not only look great, but work great.”

One of the most important and personal design elements of your home’s exterior is the front door. Clement recommends taking the following steps to make sure your front door is both functional and stylish:
1. If you can see light around your main entry door from the inside, the door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it’s time to consider a new door.
2. Even if you can’t see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate. On a very cold or hot day, hold the back of your hand an inch or so away from the bottom and perimeter of your door. If you can feel air moving or a significant cold spot, that’s a signal your existing door could benefit from better sealing.
3. Determine what role you would like an entry door to play on your home’s exterior. Do you want it to be a focal point with a splash of color? Is it important that you have decorative glass in the door system? Will you need vented side lights to allow more light and air into your home? Search the Web for “Door Designer” and “My Saved Door” online tools to help visualize how a new door will look on your home.
4. Think about the weather conditions your home’s door faces along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing your entryway with a high-performance fiberglass door (which has four times more insulation than wood doors). You can also request features such as enhanced weather stripping, corner seal pad, door bottom sweep and profiled sill that all work together to provide strength and stability.
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Environmental Issues Report Now Available for Homeowners

September 9, 2011 8:57 pm

Environmental Data Resources Inc., (EDR), provider of property-specific environmental information and risk management solutions, recently unveiled the Environmental Issues Report (EIR), an online environmental education tool for homeowners, home buyers and real estate brokers.

The EIR provides access to information about the historical and current use of land in U.S. neighborhoods, especially uses that may pose environmental risks.

For over two decades, EDR has provided information nationwide for commercial real estate transactions. Now, homeowners and buyers, sellers, brokerages, real estate agents and home inspectors can directly access EDR's extensive database.

"Conducting an environmental history search on a possible new home or residential lot is a prudent step in the due diligence process for home buyers," says Max Cook, an environmental professional with Ranger Environmental Services, Inc. "Just as the market requires home buyers to procure appraisals and home inspections, the natural next step should be to identify impacts to properties or surrounding properties which have nearby contamination reports that could affect home occupants."

Commonly recorded impacts include contaminated soil or groundwater, and according to Cook, "facilities such as gas stations, dry cleaners, landfills, former airports and military bases are everywhere and can affect the environmental health of many neighborhoods across the U.S."

To run an EIR, users can visit www.environmentalissuesreport.com and enter the desired address to obtain a property map that shows environmental issues within a one-mile radius. Users can then request access to a more detailed report that will help inform them of the risk any reported event(s) poses to their home or well-being. If a professional opinion on the information is needed, users can consult with an environmental professional from EDR or consult with their real estate agent regarding the next steps to take.

According to EDR, current homeowners should consider evaluating their property for environmental impacts throughout their ownership, as spills and contamination events happen often.
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