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

10 Tips to Conserve Water

June 9, 2011 8:57 pm

With summer rapidly approaching rain may start to slow down, so it's more important than ever to conserve water. From checking the kitchen faucet to watching your laundry loads, there's plenty we can all do to save water.

Here are some tips on how you can conserve water and reduce the environmental impact of water consumption both indoors and outside the home:

1. Water your lawn only when it needs it. An easy test to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water. (An added benefit of watering less often is that fewer, deep-soaking waterings encourage deep root growth and stronger turf.)

2. Water in the early morning. As much as 30% of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday.

3. Set your lawn mower one notch higher to make your lawn more drought-tolerant.

4. Use drip irrigation hoses to water plants and water in the early morning or evening.

5. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk, driveway, or patio.

6. Forego the hose and wash your car with a bucket and sponge instead. According to EPA WaterSense, a hose left running can waste as much as six gallons per minute while a bucket and sponge uses only a few gallons to do the job.

7. Keep a bottle of cold tap water in the refrigerator. You'll avoid the cost and environmental impact of bottled water and you'll have cold water available in the summer without running the faucet.

8. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.

9. Adjust the water level of your clothes washer, so that it matches your load size.

10. Regularly check your toilet, faucets and pipes for leaks and have them fixed promptly. An easy test for toilet leaks: Place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color tints the water in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

Source: Pennsylvania American Water
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Selling Your Home? Avoid These Mistakes

June 9, 2011 8:57 pm

Now is a great time to buy real estate and even though it's a buyers' market, you can still leave the transaction as a satisfied seller. Oftentimes, sellers may get ahead of themselves and accidentally make a crucial mistake that can lessen his or her selling power. In order to ensure success, remember the following when trying to sell your home:

Don't assume that staging isn't important to the selling process. You want your home to look as good as possible so that potential buyers can picture themselves living their lives there. Whether you choose to stage your home yourself or to hire professionals, you may be able to present your home with the illusion of a higher value. According to a recent study, 94.6% of homes that were professionally staged sold in 33 days or less. Paint your buyers the perfect picture by appropriately staging your home.

Let your furniture help you sell. To accurately stage your home, you must have furniture to show. Attempting to sell an empty house is never putting your best foot forward. Empty houses give buyers the feeling of emptiness and can sometimes be depressing. Walls may look in need of a paint job and the feel of the home may be too cold to entice a bid. Remember, the home must look warm, appealing and lived in.

Clutter is never good. No matter how many children a buyer may have, clutter will never be overlooked or understood. If you have children of your own, it may be tempting to let your home's clutter take over to give the home a "lived in" feel, but don't give in. Bathrooms and kitchens are especially important, as is the outside of the home as well. A clean, tidy atmosphere goes a long way in the minds of buyers.

Hide all traces of your cat or dog. Don't be fooled into thinking that everybody loves pets. Pets should be crated and stored away during each and every showing. Pack up all toys, bones, etc., and make them disappear. You would also be naïve in thinking that your home didn't have a certain pet smell. Steam cleaning carpets is a great idea. Get the help of a pet-less friend's nose and clean, clean, clean!

Selling your home can be a great experience and a rather satisfying one as well. However, sellers must be prepared for the market and be willing to go the extra mile to prepare their home for the big sale.

Source: AOL Real Estate
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Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey

June 9, 2011 8:57 pm

Mortgage applications increased 1.1% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 20, 2011.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 1.1% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 0.9% compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 0.9% to its highest level since December 10, 2010. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 1.5% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 0.8% compared with the previous week and was 3.1% higher than the same week one year ago.

The four-week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is up 5.2%. The four-week moving average is up 1.2% for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is up 7.1% for the Refinance Index.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 66.8% of total applications from 66.7% the previous week. This is the highest refinance share since January 28, 2011. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 5.8% from 6.3% of total applications from the previous week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.69% from 4.60%, with points decreasing to 0.69 from 0.93 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 3.78% from 3.75%, with points decreasing to 1.04 from 1.22 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
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Brighten Up your Rental without Using Paint

June 8, 2011 8:57 pm

Renters may find it challenging to give their place a new look without the help of a fresh coat of paint. If you find you need a change but don't want to break any of your lease's rules, here are a few things you can do to make your rental feel brand new again.

Put up some temporary wallpaper. Temporary wallpaper is easy to hang and easy to remove, making it perfect for coating boring white walls. It's vinyl coated and self-adhesive, but won't ruin the paint or wall underneath.

Create your own wall murals. Easy-to-remove murals can be created from your own artwork or digital photos. Consider finding a photo you love and enlarging it. These murals can be put up or taken down at your leisure, and even moved from room to room.

Brighten or darken a room with new light fixtures. If the lights in your rental don't suit your taste, buy new ones. Install them in each room to provide the lighting that you find most comfortable. Be sure to keep all original fixtures and pieces; you will have to restore them upon your departure.

Hang mirrors in smaller sized rooms to create the illusion of space.

Layering rugs works well to give a room a splash of color or design. Even in a white-walled room, you can still work brightness into its color scheme.

Think about how you dress the windows. Take down metal blinds and replace them with new ones of your choice. More stylish brands can be found at any home improvement store and can give the room your own touch of character, personality and color.

Although you may be limited with what you can do to your rental apartment, townhouse or condo, be creative. With a few key changes, you can splash a brand new color scheme and style into your home.

Source: Washington Post

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Remodeling Index Says More Homeowners Remodel Rather than Move

June 8, 2011 8:57 pm

The March BuildFax Remodeling Index, which is based on building permit data, increased for the seventeenth straight month on a year-over-year basis as the residential remodeling industry continued to strengthen and more homeowners opted to stay where they are and remodel rather than move.

The index rose 14% year-over-year—and for the seventeenth straight month—to 98.0, the highest March number in the index aside from March 2006. Residential remodels in March were up month-over-month 2.9 points (3%) from the February value of 95.1, and up year-over-year 12.0 points from the March 2010 value of 86.0.

All regions except the Midwest posted year-over-year and month-over-month gains. The West posted the largest gains, up 18.5 points (22%) year-over-year and up 5.4 points (6%) month-over-month. The Midwest saw significant drops, down 15.3 points (20%) year-over-year and 3.3 points (5%) month-over-month, perhaps due to a colder winter. The Northeast gained 2.7 points (4%) year-over-year and 4.5 points (8%) month-over-month, and the South improved 7.8 points (10%) year-over-year and 7 points (9%) month-over-month.

“The winter of 2010/2011 was one of the worst on record. The economy is continuing to struggle and gas prices have soared, however, consumers in March still continued spending on renovations and home improvements as they drove the remodeling industry to yet another month of solid gains compared to a year ago,” says Joe Emison, vice president of research and development at BuildFax.

“Significant improvements in the West continue to drive activity nationally to the best year in remodeling since 2006. Even though the Midwest saw a drop this winter, early data shows that remodeling in all regions will continue to prove out the economic recovery in 2011.”
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How to Prevent Scams throughout the Moving Process

June 8, 2011 8:57 pm

Being prepared could help the millions of Americans who move during peak moving season from Memorial Day to Labor Day save thousands of dollars. Each year, about 15 million American households move. By planning ahead and doing some simple research, consumers can reduce their risk of falling victim to disreputable movers who make a business out of baiting customers with very low estimates and then adding on unreasonable charges or even holding the customer's household goods hostage for exorbitant ransom.

"Anyone with a website can claim to be a mover," says Carl Walter, vice president of Mayflower, one of the oldest moving companies in the country. "It's important to do some homework to avoid falling victim to a scam. There are a number of red flags that make rogue movers stand out, but to recognize them you have to know what to look for ahead of time. The best way to know if a prospective mover is doing something wrong is to know the right way from the start."

Heed the following tips if you are planning a move:

• Go with a name you know: Find three moving companies that have offices in your area and have been in business for at least 10 years.
• Get a referral: Word of mouth is the strong indicator of reliability—ask friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.
• Ask for an in-home estimate: Transportation charges are based not only on the distance of the move, but also on the weight of the items being moved. To ensure that your estimate is accurate, have the moving company come and look at the items you need to move.
• Don't be hooked by the lowest price: Disreputable movers often lure customers with lowball prices and then hit them with unreasonable charges or, in extreme cases, even hold their belongings for ransom. Get three estimates—if one is much lower than the others, that is a red flag.
• Be sure the company is who it says: Some disreputable movers try to lure customers in by using names that are very similar to reputable companies. Check the reputable company's website to make sure the local agent is affiliated with the brand name it is claiming.
• Don't pay up front: Typically you should not be required to pay a deposit to have your items moved. Most companies request payment at the time of delivery.
• Do your research: If you are moving interstate, go to protectyourmove.gov to find out if a mover is licensed for interstate moves by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.
• Get it in writing: Ask for pickup and delivery dates in writing.
• Know your rights: Request a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a brochure created by the Federal Highway Administration that outlines consumers' rights. Federal law requires movers to give this to customers prior to an interstate move.

For more information, visit mayflower.com.
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Dos-and-Don'ts for a Stress-Free Move

June 7, 2011 2:57 pm

There is a lot to do to prepare for a big move into a new home and at times, you may feel overwhelmed. Between the packing, planning and paperwork, make yourself a checklist and follow these dos-and-don’ts for a satisfying and successful moving process. With the proper planning and time management, you can work towards having a stress-free move.

DO: Choose a type of move
If you have the time, energy and manpower, you may opt to move entirely by yourself. It’s the cheapest way to go, costing the rental price of a truck, gas and packing materials. Otherwise, do some research and find a reasonably priced, yet responsible mover. Compare prices online and get recommendations from friends and family. A mover will do one of two things: a full move or partial. If you can afford it, you may want to hire a full service mover. If you’re on a budget, hire them for the big stuff – beds or any other heavy furniture. Either way, start thinking and researching as soon as possible.

DON’T: Fail to plan

It’s never too early to start pre-production on this project. Complete any planning, researching or deciding that can be done ahead of time. The more you leave off until later, the more you’re going to have to crunch to get done as your moving date approaches. That longer to-do list is only going to bring on the stress. Have a general idea of how you’re going to move, who is going to help you and what you are going to do with all those cumbersome tables, desks and couches.

DO: Declutter

No one likes throwing things away or parting with his or her belongings, but before a move, decluttering is one of the best things you can do. If you haven’t used something in a year or more, toss it. The lighter your load, the happier you’ll be.

DON’T: Pack in a panic
Packing in a hurry leads to nothing but disorganization and drama. Take your time while packing. Make sure you have all the packing materials you need at the get go. Pack similar things together, and label, label, label! In addition, mark important boxes as priority. This way, if you find yourself slacking with the unpacking, you at least will know exactly where everything is and what definitely needs to be unpacked first when you arrive.

DO: Save on packing materials and boxes
Buying boxes from your mover is the most expensive way to get them. Try to find a friend or family member with free boxes you can score. If not, try Craigslist or local stores that might have some they’re looking to get rid of. If you do go through your mover, ask for used boxes to lessen the expense. Save on packing materials too. Pack suitcases, plastic storage containers and laundry baskets with non-breakable items.

DON’T: Forget other loose-ends

Make sure you take care of any records that need to be changed or utilities that need to be shut off or switched over. Change your address where applicable, and transfer medical and dental records for longer moves. These things can be done ahead of time and are just as important as moving your physical belongings. Make yourself a checklist if you have to, and ask yourself, “What am I forgetting?”

DO: Mail books and DVDs
Books and DVD collections take on a life of their own. They also take up lots of space. To avoid a few trips and save time for the important stuff, try mailing a few boxes of books and movies to your new address. Media Mail is very affordable and will give you one less thing to worry about on move-in day. If the idea of mailing your prized collection makes you nervous, insure your shipments.

DON’T: Lose your cool
There are always unforeseen snags or issues that come up throughout a move. Don’t get hot-headed and lose your cool. By keeping a level head, you’ll be able to make the best decisions and get things done quickly and efficiently. Take everything with a grain of salt, and imagine the joy you’ll feel at the end of the day when you’re completely moved in to your new home.
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Want to Sell Your Home Furnished? Think Again

June 7, 2011 2:57 pm

When selling your home, it may be tempting to sell it completely furnished or "as is." Doing so may save you, the seller, the hassle and expense of moving heavy items out of the house, which you may view as an added bonus or selling point for your buyers. However, experts almost always recommend avoiding a furnished home sale as it will usually end up costing you money. Here are a few reasons why including furnishings can be a bad idea:

Think about the appraisal: Appraisers will compare your home to recent sales of others in your neighborhood to help determine what yours is worth. If everyone else's homes sell for $450,000, yours won't appraise for more because of your furnishing. If for some reason the appraisal comes in lower than expected, your buyer's financing has the possibility of falling through if you want more money for the extra perks. Consider the appraisal process and your buyers' ability to receive a loan before determining whether or not you want to sell a furnished home.

Why increase your taxes if you don't have to? If you're a single homeowner, you can make up to $250,000 in profit without having to pay capital gains tax. If you're married, this figure doubles. If your home sells for more, capital gains taxes will kick in and you'll be stuck paying more in the long run. Why raise that number?

Decorating a home is part of the appeal: Most buyers will want to customize their new home to suit their tastes and doing so is part of the appeal of buying. By solidifying the home as a "furnished" one, you may be unintentionally preventing some potential buyers from taking interest in your property. If you still feel selling it furnished would be better for you, at least keep all doors open.

Source: AOL Real Estate
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NAHB Breaks down Housing Affordability by Race/Ethnicity with New Data

June 7, 2011 2:57 pm

According to new data released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), stark contrasts exist in housing affordability between major races and ethnic groups across the United States. The NAHB’s quarterly index, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), which measures housing affordability in metropolitan areas nationwide, was broken down for the first time in its history to analyze the differences in income and housing affordability in 2010 across five different races/ethnic groups.

The report examined median incomes and housing affordability for Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and American Indians/Alaska Natives. The HOI for all races/ethnic groups combined was 72.8 in 2010, meaning that 72.8% of all homes sold in the U.S. last year were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400.

In comparison, median family income was $69,000 for Whites, $42,300 for Blacks, $44,100 for Hispanics, $80,500 for Asians, and $43,200 for American Indians/Alaska Natives. Thus, 80.3% of homes sold in 2010 were affordable to White families earning the group’s median income, compared to 53.0% for Blacks, 51.0% for Hispanics, 76.4 for Asians, and 58.7 for American Indian/Alaska Natives.

“By breaking down the HOI by race and ethnicity, we have an even more accurate picture of housing affordability,” says NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. “Builders have generally known that their efforts to build affordable housing were especially important to minorities in their communities, and this new report helps confirm that.”

Affordability disparities were generally quite apparent in the most populous metropolitan areas. In the New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. metropolitan division, for example, 46.1% of all homes sold in 2010 were affordable to White families earning the group’s median income. In comparison, only 13.4% and 8.8% of homes sold in this division were affordable for Black and Hispanic families respectively.

Among large metro areas, the HOI for Blacks was higher than that for Whites in only four: Rockingham County-Strafford County, N.H.; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Boulder, Colo.; and Olympia, Wash. The HOI for Hispanics was below the HOI for Whites in every case analyzed.

“Previously, we have only computed a single, global HOI, either for a particular metropolitan area, or for the nation as a whole,” says NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “However, it was evident that affordability differences are dramatic and persistent across racial and ethnic lines. The NAHB/Wells Fargo HOI methodology is a precise way to demonstrate these differences. Policy makers and elected officials may want to consider the differential HOIs for particular minority groups when contemplating policies that would increase home prices or otherwise impact the affordability of housing.”
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Refinishing Your Deck Will Be Time Well Spent

June 6, 2011 8:57 pm

With summer well on its way, homeowners may want to start considering refinishing their decks or patios. This season's weather proves to be the perfect time to complete an outdoor painting job. Staining a deck is one inexpensive project that can be handled in one weekend and will deliver satisfying results before your next party or event. Here's how you can get started:

Decisions, decisions:
Choose a finish that you'd like to use for your deck. Solid or opaque stains will provide the longest life, lasting 5 years or more, conditions depending. If showing off wood grains is desired, clear sealers or semi-transparent stains can be used, products that may last for a shorter period but will give the desired effect.

Work in the right weather: The job will require at least two days without rain. Aim for temperatures below 85 degrees Fahrenheit to clean the area and let it properly dry before applying the stain. Avoid days with high wind or direct sunlight, as stain can dry improperly.

Before getting started: Search for loose boards and make the repairs, as needed. Use a mixture of bleach and water (one quart to three quarts) or try a deck-cleaning product. Scrub the deck with a stiff bristle brush to ensure cleanliness. Rinse with water and tackle any remaining residue with a power washer, holding the stream at least 8 inches away to avoid from ruining the wood.

It's time to apply: Once the deck is completely dry, apply the stain with a synthetic-bristle brush for latex-based stains. If you have chosen an alkyd-based stain, use a natural bristle brush. Brush about three pieces of wood at a time, always following the grain. Don't forget to work the stain into the sides and ends of the planks.

Give it time: Check the stain's label to find the recommended time for drying. Give it at least 72 hours to dry before placing furniture back on the deck.

The new stain will give the exterior of your home a fresh appeal. With your newly refinished deck ready to go, you can now start enjoying your summer and hosting guests at your leisure.

Source: Consumer Reports
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