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

Majority of Homeowners Want Federal Tax Credit

May 4, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011-- A majority of homeowners surveyed say they want Congress to leave the federal tax credit for homeowners alone, and institute other tax advantages to re-stimulate the U.S. housing market, according to a opinion poll.

Slightly more than half (53%) of respondents said they want the tax credit for homeowners on their federal taxes to stay in place. The credit has been debated in Congress as a way of increasing federal taxes to help resolve the U.S. budget crisis and has been regarded as sacrosanct until the budget deficit, driven by Wall Street and mortgage banking excesses, ran into trillions of dollars.

The tax credit allows homeowners to write-off mortgage interest and state taxes paid as an itemized deduction on their personal federal income taxes. A large group of real estate and lending industry organizations, including the National Association of REALTORS , has lobbied for its retention.

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HUD Making Nearly $65 Million Available to Tribal Communities Seeking to Improve Housing and Spur Economic Development

May 4, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 4, 2011--The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a competition for nearly $65 million to confront housing, infrastructure and employment challenges faced by tribal communities nationwide. The funds are intended for communities seeking to improve or create housing and economic development opportunities for low- to moderate-income families. The competitive grants are provided through HUD's Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program to support a wide variety of community development and affordable housing activities.

"These grants go to the very heart of the development needs in our nation's tribal communities," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The communities that compete for these grants demonstrate enormous creativity and hard work in leveraging the funds to build better housing, create more jobs, and improve neighborhoods from the ground up. These types of projects are at the backbone of our nation's recovery."

The application deadline for this year's ICDBG grants is June 15, 2011. The ICDBG program was established in 1974 to help Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages to meet their community development needs. Federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, groups or nations (including Alaska Indian, Aleutes and Eskimos) or Alaska Native villages compete for this funding.

Communities can use the funding to develop viable communities, including rehabilitating housing or building new housing or to buy land to support new housing construction. The funding can also be used to build infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer facilities, to create suitable living environments. To spur economic development, recipients use the grants to establish a wide variety of commercial, industrial and agricultural projects. Recipients have used the funding to build community and health centers, or to start businesses to support the community, such as shopping centers, manufacturing plants, restaurants or convenience stores/gas stations.

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How to Catch Roof Leaks Early and Avoid Costly Repairs

May 3, 2011 2:57 pm

By Keith Loria

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011--A leaky roof is one of the most common challenges faced by homeowners. And for someone with their house on the market, there's nothing quite so frustrating than to all of a sudden have water dripping from a ceiling or window. When the roof leaks, a variety of problems can follow, from infestations of mold and mildew to damaged foundations.

"A leaky roof is more than just a nuisance. A roof leak mean that water is invading your home or business," said Paul Bange, a roofing company owner. "Long before you notice that telltale spot on the wall or ceiling, water can cause rotting, mold and permanent damage."

Many times a roof leak can be repaired, with low expenses and minimal time commitment, so it's important to get to the problem early and bring in experts to discover the source of the leak.

"A minor leak can become a major problem in no time at all," said Jacob Liggett, managing partner of an exterior contracting company in Nashville, Tenn. "To the surprise of many property owners, many leaks can exist for years before any damages become obvious to the untrained eye. These leaks are usually slow at first, and if they continue to go undetected, they can cause harmful growth of mold, structural damage and, in some severe cases, a complete roof collapse."

Liggett said that common areas for roof leaks include skylights, wall step flashings, valleys or low spots in the roof, missing shingles and plumbing vent flashings.

The first sign of a roof leak is often wet ceiling tiles. Finding the source of the leak can be found simply by tracing the leak backwards to its source on the roof, keeping in mind that the source of the leak may be some distance away from where it is dripping into the home.

"If the leak is running along the wall, it may be necessary to remove the top tiling to get to the source of the leak," Bange said. "Some leaks may originate further up on the roof, making the source somewhat difficult to find. If the source of the leak turns out to be as simple as a missing block of shingles due to a recent windstorm, the solution may be as simple as replacing those missing shingles."

More complex problems may be more expensive but still necessary for getting your home in selling shape.

Nearly 99% of all roof leaks occur at transitions or penetration points, which are places where the roof meets a wall or an adjacent roof, and where equipment such as air conditioning units, vents, railings, drains, and even satellite stands are secured.

Often, a clogged gutter or downspout can cause the roof to start leaking, so it's necessary to clean out all gutters and downspouts on a regular basis to keep the roof looking like new.

Remember, most states require the seller to disclose all known issues, including roof leaks, so you don't want to hide it and hope to get away with it. Besides, the buyer's house inspector will see the signs of an undisclosed roof leak and this could leave one liable for repair costs or cause the house sale to fall through altogether.


Get FloodSmart: Protect Now with Flood Insurance

May 3, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011--One month from the beginning of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season (June 1), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials are urging U.S. residents to prepare their homes and businesses for the heightened flood risks associated with hurricanes and tropical storms. Flood insurance is essential to help protect against the devastating effects of flooding, and the time to act is now; there is typically a 30-day wait before a policy takes effect.

Past hurricane seasons have shown how the consequences of seasonal flooding can be devastating; eight of the top 10 most expensive federally declared disasters were caused by hurricanes. But many residents across the U.S. still lack adequate insurance protection against flood damage, causing them to absorb significant financial losses on their own or seek limited funding from other sources to rebuild or repair after a storm.

"The spring months have already brought significant flood events to many states in the U.S. As we respond to these events, we must also look forward to summer and hurricane-related weather patterns that will heighten flood risks for many," said Ed Connor, assistant administrator for FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration. "We encourage all residents to have a preparedness plan that includes flood insurance as a critical financial safety net to safeguard against flood losses as hurricane season approaches. Because most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, the time to get properly protected is now."

FEMA also stresses that flood risks associated with hurricane season extend beyond the Gulf and Southeastern coasts. The largest amounts of rainfall from hurricanes are often produced by slow moving storms that stall out miles from a shoreline. As these storms move inland, high winds and torrential rains increase the likelihood of flooding.

"Some residents who live further from the coast may think that they are immune to flood damage from hurricanes and seasonal storms. The fact is, floodwaters do not stop at coastlines or floodplain boundaries; everyone is at risk. It is important to insure your property no matter where you live," said Connor.

Flood insurance is available through more than 85 insurance companies in nearly 21,000 participating communities nationwide. Everyone - renters, business owners, and homeowners - can purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is affordable, with an average flood insurance policy costing around $600 a year; in moderate- to low- risk areas, homeowners can purchase low-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) starting at just $129 a year.

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Housing Starts Rise 7.2% in March 2011

May 3, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2011-Nationwide housing starts rose 7.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 units in March 2011 from an upwardly revised number in the previous month, the U.S. Commerce Department recently reported. This gain was represented in both the single- and multifamily sectors, and was mirrored by substantial improvements in building permit issuance for the same period.

"While the overall rate of new-home production remains quite low and is still being weighed down by significant uncertainties among both home builders and buyers, this latest report is encouraging," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "It means that some builders are cautiously beginning to re-stock their extremely thin inventories of new homes in anticipation of gradual improvement in consumer demand as the economy slowly inches toward recovery."

"The modest improvement in new-home production and permitting in March is in line with our forecasts for incremental gains through the spring buying season," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "While our builder members continue to experience a great number of challenges with regard to competition from foreclosed and short sale properties, low appraisal values and tight credit conditions, they have noted slight improvements in interest among qualified buyers, and they need to be ready to meet the demand as it materializes."

Gains in new-home production were seen across the board in March, with upward movement registered in both the single- and multifamily sectors as well as three out of four regions. On the single-family side, a 7.7% gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 422,000 units partially offset a big decline in the previous month. Multifamily starts also gained back a portion of the ground they lost earlier, with a 5.8% increase to 127,000 units.

Regionally, housing starts posted double-digit gains of 32.3% in the Midwest and 27.6% in the West, as well as a 5.4% gain in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, issuance of building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, rose by an impressive 11.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 594,000 units, more than offsetting the previous month's decline. Single-family permits rose 5.7% to 405,000 units, while multifamily permits rose 25.2% to 189,000 units.

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Tips for Working with Professional Landscapers

May 2, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011--If you're trying to sell your home this spring, working with a professional can boost your home's curb appeal and attract possible buyers to the door. As any landscaper would tell you, the condition of your lawn can have a big effect on the value of your home. If you plan on hiring some help, here are a few tips to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Talk to several landscapers before deciding to hire one. Scheduling consultations with multiple landscapers is important. Have them come survey your property and make recommendations on what needs to be done. Use them as consultants, helping you narrow down the work that needs to be done versus extra frills you would like to add to the process. For smaller tasks such as mowing, weeding, gardening or raking, you may want to consider hiring a local teenager or family member in order to save money.

Request estimates. Now that you know what it is you want to have done, request an estimate from at least three of the consultants you met with. Depending on the company, costs could range greatly and the differences could be thousands of dollars. According to the Consumers' Checkbook, a tree-removal job could cost anywhere from $1,935 to $6,300 and lawn care could range from $229 to $805. Finding out what each company will charge you for the job is crucial to staying in budget.

Don't be hasty on saying 'yes.' If your landscaper suggests an add-on of any sort, think it through before OK-ing it. Sometimes your company might recommend various fertilizers, treatment or sprayings, but make sure there is a good reason and necessity for it. The more your landscaper provides, the higher your bill will be.

Quite possibly the most important step: Don't pay until the job is finished. If possible, pay nothing until the job is fully completed. If the landscaper requires a payment, do so with a credit card. If the job isn't finished to your satisfaction, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. By not paying up front, you also have more leverage in terms of ensuring that the job is completed the way you want it. Keep this in mind while you're hiring professional help.

Hiring a professional landscaper can improve your curb appeal by leaps and bounds. However, keep these tips in mind to make sure you get the most for your money.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Consumers' Checkbook


Spring Cleaning: Spruce Up Your Home Safely

May 2, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011--Winter is finally a distant memory and the fresh, clear air just might be giving you that burst of motivation to do the unthinkable: spring cleaning (with the windows open, no less). When the time comes, most of us can't wait to rid ourselves of things we do not need, give our home a good dusting, mow the lawn, clear the gutters and maybe even add a fresh coat of paint to the walls. Nothing seems more important than refreshing both our home and mind of dust and clutter.

However, statistics show that thousands of people injure themselves during their annual clean, whether it be using a step ladder, a lawn mower or moving furniture. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) urges people to take the proper safety precautions to reduce the number of spring cleaning-related accidents.


According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • In 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder.
  • Over 41,000 Americans injured themselves while gardening or using gardening equipment.
  • More than 127,000 were injured while operating a lawn mower.

AAOS Expert Advice:

"Spring cleaning can bring on many injuries for a variety of reasons. Specifically, people tend to do too much too soon," said orthopedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson, Michael A. Flippin, MD. "Many common injuries including tendonitis, sprains, strains or breaks can be prevented with proper technique like bending at the knees when lifting instead of from the back, or securing and stabilizing a ladder before climbing. These are simple precautions that are overlooked too often."

AAOS Safety Tips:

  • Proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending should be part of any spring cleaning project to avoid back injuries:

    • Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart, and keep your back upright. Bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles.
    • Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don't try to lift any object by yourself if it is too heavy or an awkward shape.

  • When gardening, avoid prolonged repetitive motions during activities such as digging, planting, trimming and pruning, and take frequent breaks.
  • Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture, such as a chair or the couch, when dusting high hard to reach areas.
  • Ladders used for chores such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
  • Use care with extension cords; be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways.
  • When working on a ladder, over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Never climb a ladder without a spotter.
  • When mowing the lawn, be sure to wear proper footwear and eyewear for protection.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary carefully look for others behind you when you do.
  • Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16-years-old for a ride-on mower.
  • Read product labels for proper use and wear protective clothing and gloves when using chemicals for gardening or cleaning. Store all chemicals at the appropriate temperature, which is usually indicated on the package. Make sure they are located in a place that is out of reach of both children and pets, and never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance.
  • Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration and keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Align Guidelines for Servicing Delinquent Mortgages

May 2, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011--Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to align their guidelines for servicing delinquent mortgages they own or guarantee. The updated framework will establish uniform servicing requirements as well as monetary incentives for servicers that perform well and penalties for those that do not.

"FHFA's directive to align Enterprise policies for servicing delinquent mortgages should result in earlier servicer engagement to identify the best solution available for homeowners, given their individual circumstances," DeMarco said.

The updated guidelines also address the so-called "dual track" by requiring servicers to contact borrowers as soon as they become delinquent and focus solely on remediating that delinquency. The foreclosure process may not commence if the borrower and servicer are engaged in a good-faith effort to resolve the delinquency. The servicer must conduct a formal review of each case to ensure a borrower has been considered for foreclosure alternatives before the loan is referred for foreclosure. Even after foreclosure processing begins, financial incentives are provided to encourage servicers to continue to help borrowers pursue a foreclosure alternative.

Consistent with statements recently issued by federal and state regulators, this initiative is intended to deal with identified problems in mortgage servicing. The updated framework will streamline and expedite borrower outreach, align mortgage modification terms and requirements, and establish a consistent schedule of performance-based incentive payments and penalties. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will each issue detailed guidelines to their servicers in the second and third quarters of 2011.

"Once fully implemented by the servicing industry, the Enterprises' aligned policies should give homeowners a greater understanding of the process and faster resolution by requiring earlier contact, more frequent communication, and prompt decisions," said DeMarco. "Equally important, the newly aligned policies will minimize taxpayer losses by ensuring that Enterprise loans are serviced efficiently and fairly."


How to Buy or Sell a Handicapped-Accessible Home

April 29, 2011 2:57 pm

By Michael Walsh

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011--If you are elderly or physically impaired, a property that facilitates increased mobility is essential. Such properties not only allow improved access to your home in a general sense, but also the improved ability to move from one part of the property to the other without needless exertion or the risk of harm. In addition, properties with improved mobility access can be highly beneficial to your sense of independence and well-being. Residential elevators, stair chairs and wheelchair lifts are key pieces of equipment which can support you in this way.

Buying a home with a residential elevator, stair chair or wheel chair lift

If you're looking to buy a home, or are looking to buy a home for a mobility-impaired individual, one great place to start is by contacting local community organizations who specialize in aged care or care for the physically handicapped. These organizations will be knowledgeable in the types of suitable properties available locally, and will have existing networks with relevant communities, vendors and intermediaries who will be able to help you.

Contacting local real estate agents directly is another excellent way to find a property fitted with a residential elevator, stair chair or wheelchair lift. While these fittings may be mentioned in some real estate listings, often they are not, meaning that you may be missing out on hearing about a property that is relevant to your needs. Ask your real estate agent to keep a record of local properties that are designed with wheelchair accessibility or accessibility for the mobility impaired in mind, and have them contact you whenever a property that meets your needs is put on the market.

There are also certain factors that you should take into consideration. These include factors such as speed and loading capacity, as well as whether the equipment is accompanied by a regular maintenance service. Some types of equipment will be better suited to some users than others, so bear in mind how the product will be used when you're making your purchasing decision. Another factor to consider is the age of the device and whether there is a valid warranty in place.

Selling a home with vertical transportation facilities

If you're looking to sell a property that is fitted with a residential elevator, stair chair or wheel chair lift, then there are a number of steps that you can take to ensure that you find an appropriate buyer. First, have a technician inspect your equipment to ensure that it's in good working order, and have them provide an assessment about its longevity and maintenance requirements. You should also ensure that you have detailed information about the equipment's specifications and instructions for use on hand, as well as the manufacturer's warranty if still valid.

When putting your home on the market, make a point to emphasize the fact that your property has been fitted to ensure increased mobility for the elderly or the mobility impaired. This can be a strong selling point, particularly if you live in an area with a large population of one of these groups. If you live in a location that has a high proportion of retirement villages, homes and residential care facilities, then pitching your home as being fitted to provide enhanced independence and safety of mobility for residents can be an excellent way of helping to get ahead of the competition.

It can also be worth contacting or having your real estate agent contact local groups or organizations in the community who may specifically be on the look-out for properties with provisions for the elderly or mobility impaired. Doing so will help target a market not necessarily picked up by traditional real estate marketing and will raise greater awareness about your property, increasing the likelihood that you'll find a buyer who will benefit from your home's residential elevator, stair chair or wheel chair lift. You may wish to allow a potential buyer to see the equipment in action first to reassure them that it will be suitable to their needs; doing so can help with the decision-making process.


Protect Your Blossoming Plants from Deer and Other Hungry Animals

April 29, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011--With summer just around the corner, your yard and garden are wide open for deer, rabbits and other problem animals to feast upon. It's important to know that these animals can potentially destroy gardens resulting in costly financial loss, and one thing gardeners should always consider is that an animal will eat just about anything, if it is hungry enough.

"If food is scarce, deer and other animals can lose up to a quarter of their body weight over the winter months, and that means that they're hungry come spring, so it is prime time for problem animals to feast on your yard," says Bob Reynolds, CEO of Shake-Away, Inc. "The best way to get these pests away from your valuable plantings is to take advantage of the predator-prey relationship animals have. By using coyote urine granules to recreate the predator scent, you can naturally deter animals from the area where it is applied."

According to Reynolds, the top garden offenders that can be damaging your garden this summer are:

  1. Deer/Elk
  2. Rabbits
  3. Domestic cats
  4. Squirrel
  5. Chipmunks
  6. Groundhogs
  7. Possums
  8. Rats
  9. Shrew
  10. Vole

"No gardener wants deer munching on their vegetables or cats romping through that prized flower bed," says Ron Boyce, research scientist, Shake-Away, Inc. "Unsightly fences only solve the problem until the pests find a way around them. In addition, chemicals could potentially harm both animals and the plants, however, when animals smell a predator, their instinct is to stay as far away as possible."

Garden-safe and pet-friendly, predator granules (such as coyote or fox) are 100% non-toxic and cause prey animals to instinctively leave an area where they detect a predatory threat. They are also 100% natural and certified organic with no lingering yard or garden odor that is detectable by humans.

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