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

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.

For more information, visit


Mortgage Rates Inch Lower

April 29, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011--Mortgage rates remained below the 5% mark, with the benchmark conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate inching lower to 4.95%, according to's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.37 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage stepped down to 4.14%, and the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate reset the low point of the year at 5.40%. Adjustable rate mortgages were also lower, with the average 5-year ARM dipping to 3.69% and the 7-year ARM dropping to an even 4%.

Mortgage rates were lower this week, but the movement in mortgage rates continues to be tame. Mortgage rates have remained within a one-third percentage point band since mid-December. The Federal Reserve did little to rock the boat, holding interest rates steady and changing very little in the post-meeting statement. While the Federal Reserve confirmed that they will halt their bond purchases at the end of June, this has been widely expected and any resulting volatility in bond yields or mortgage rates is far from certain. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

The last time mortgage rates were above 6% was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33%, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 4.95%, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,067.54, a difference of $174 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Survey Results

30-year fixed: 4.95% -- down from 4.96% last week (avg. points: 0.37)

15-year fixed: 4.14% -- down from 4.16% last week (avg. points: 0.37)

5/1 ARM: 3.69% -- down from 3.7% last week (avg. points: 0.37)

For a full analysis of this week's move in mortgage rates, visit


Managing a Healthy Relationship with Your Landlord

April 28, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011--When renting an apartment, house or condo, keeping the peace with your landlord and managing that relationship is important to your overall happiness and housing stability. Sometimes, that relationship falters, putting the renter in an unpleasant struggle for power. By knowing your rights and what you can do in the case of an increasing problem with your landlord, you can deal with the situation and alleviate it as soon as possible. Here are some facts and tips that can help:

It is your right to live in a properly repaired and habitable property. Your lease most likely requires that your landlord keep your housing in a habitable condition. If there is a problem, don't hesitate to contact your landlord and request a repair. If the landlord refuses, then you have a problem. Contact your state's Department of Housing Preservation and Development with complaints. The state will then send an inspector to check out the problem and, if serious enough, can impose a violation upon the landlord.

To maintain a stable rent, negotiate sooner rather than later. Tenants rarely have control over the cost of rent or subsequent rent increases. Talk to your landlord early. If his or her rental income is secured for an elongated period of time, your landlord may be open to a stabilized or lower monthly rent.

Protect yourself against landlords holding your security deposit. Oftentimes, renters take issue with extra charges that end up coming out of security deposits upon vacating. To prevent any such issue, be sure to take photos of the apartment or condo before you move in. If any problem arises, tell the landlord that you have detailed photos of the place in its vacant state and start the negotiation from there.

Never withhold rent as a revenge tactic. By withholding rent, your landlord has all he or she needs to begin an eviction case against you for failure to pay. Two wrongs won't right your situation. By continuing to pay on time, you still have the upper hand in a legal or verbal conflict with your landlord.

Every renter hopes to never take issue with the landlord, however, if a problem arises, knowing your rights and exercising them when necessary could help you through a tough situation.

Source: AOL Real Estate


Consumers Choose to Pay Credit Cards vs. Mortgage

April 28, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011--A study released by the credit reporting bureau TransUnion shows a shift in consumer credit card paying habits as a result of the recession. The new pattern finds consumers more likely to pay their credit card charges before they pay their mortgage; and this trend has occurred for the last three years in a row.

Steven Stark, general counsel and COO for A New Horizon Credit Counseling Services, stated, "This just confirms what we have seen among our clients; they would prefer to default on their over-leveraged mortgages in favor of paying off their credit card balance." Stark added, "This change in the traditionally expected payment priority is clearly related to home devaluation and high unemployment."

The study found that the new payment pattern has become increasingly popular among consumers, with the percentage of consumers who are delinquent on their mortgages and current on their credit cards rising to as high as 7.4% in Q3 2010 (from 4.3% in Q1 2008). Conversely, the percentage of consumers who are delinquent on their credit cards and current on their mortgages decreased to its lowest level ever at 3.03% in Q4 2010. This rate had been at 4.1% in Q1 2008.

Not unexpectedly, the lowest credit-scoring segment continues to be the highest number of consumers delinquent on their mortgages. The rate for consumers in this segment who were delinquent on their mortgages but current on their credit cards during Q4 2007 was just over 19%, but rose to 30.4% in Q4 2010.

However Stark cautions, "We have also noticed that while consumers have struggled to remain current on their credit cards, these balances continue to grow steadily larger for a significant majority of the same population that has been hardest hit by unemployment and failed businesses during the recession. Anyone finding themselves in this pattern should consult with a reputable credit counseling agency to review what options are available to them."

For more information, visit


Tips for Finding the Right Neighborhood for Your Family

April 28, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011--When making the decision to move your family, it's imperative that you find a neighborhood that best suits your family's lifestyle, needs and wants. Researching a new neighborhood before getting too far into the buying process is crucial in order to ensure a smooth settling. While you're considering a new location, keep the following in mind:

Keep your eyes peeled: Observing the neighborhood at various times of the day is a good way to get a feel for the overall safety of the neighborhood. Be sure to visit at night as well as during the day. Pay attention to things like noise, traffic and parking. Though these may not be the first things you would think about when visiting, they will be highly important to you should you decide to move there.

Research the local hospitals: How far away will your potential new home be from a hospital? Is that particular hospital well established? Conducting some online research about the hospital's reputation is a good idea as well, especially for families with ailing members.

Check up on the school system: For those with children or those who may have them in the future, the school system should be one of the top areas of concern when considering a move. School ratings can be viewed online, along with various forums of parental commentary. What are others saying about the town's teachers, education, after-school programs, etc.? If you can, ask others in your neighborhood about the schools. By doing so, you'll ensure that you are comfortable with where you will be placing your children.

There are many other aspects that would warrant research. Crime rates in the town or city are a large concern for many new homeowners. Visit the local parks both during the day and at night. How safe are they? What kinds of stores are in the neighborhood and do the store hours match your lifestyle? Will you need any sort of public transportation? Look into schedules for busses, trains or taxis, if necessary.

A successful move doesn't solely depend on the property you purchase. To increase your family's chances of successfully settling into your new home, research the neighborhoods and towns that the property is located in. The more you know, the better your transition will be.



Signs of the Unprofessional Remodeler

April 27, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-Remodeling your home can be an exciting time for you and your family, however, finding the right team for the job can sometimes be a trying experience. To avoid working with unreliable companies, be on the lookout for the following red flags when searching for and preparing to hire a professional remodeler:

  1. The remodeler doesn't have a license and insurance. All professional remodelers should be insured and able to show their certificate proving such insurance. Although all states do not require licensing, remodelers in states requiring licenses should have it and be able to provide a copy.
  2. The remodeler doesn't write contracts. Professional remodelers have clear contracts that outline the job, process, the cost, and helps clarify how problems will be managed. If you don't have a contract, neither the remodeler nor the homeowner is protected when something goes wrong.
  3. The remodeler requires cash or payment in full before starting the job. Shady remodelers demand cash and then run with the money. Many homeowners have been stranded by paying in full up front.
  4. He or she vastly underbids all other contractors. The company may have the best price, but that doesn't guarantee the best work. Such contractors may cut costs on quality for your remodel, which can end up costing more when the homeowner has to redo the work.
  5. Customer references are not provided. Professional remodelers should have current references they can provide from current and past clients.
  6. You have difficulty contacting the remodeler. Professionals have a physical office, mailing address, phone, and email. They should respond to your queries in a timely manner.

If you spot any of these red flags, you may want to exercise caution when making the decision to hire a remodeler. When in doubt, always seek referrals.

Source: NAHB


Staging Tip: Don't Forget to 'Clear the Air' before Showing Your Home

April 27, 2011 2:57 pm

By Keith Loria

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011-As sellers prepare their home for sale, it is important to remember that the quality of air is equally as important as de-cluttering, cleaning and staging, in order to make the home as clean and attractive as possible for potential buyers entering for the first time. Often it is a person's sense of smell that will be triggered first.

"Clean or not, houses have odors that are particular to its inhabitants," says Terri Zajac, president of ClearFlite Air Purifiers. "This can be something that the potential buyer or visitor may notice."

Often people create ambience to mask odors by burning candles during showings, but that could cause an adverse effect, as it could irritate people who are sensitive to fragrances or smoke. An air purifier that can absorb odors may be a very small financial investment that will pay off significantly in the overall presentation of a home.

"A quality air purifier can improve the overall interior atmosphere of a home, reducing airborne dust or particles, and making it simply feel cleaner," says Zajac. "This is certainly a plus. But it is in the realm of odors that an air purifier can make the biggest difference regarding the successful sale of a home."

The different cleaning technologies used are HEPA filtration, electrostatic precipitation, and negative ion generation. There are also air cleaners that have technology that removes bacteria, fungi, volatile organic compounds, odors, and gases.

"Air purifiers can reduce air-born bacteria from mold, fungi and household chemicals found in many cleaners used in day-to-day house cleaning," says Barry Cohen, the owner of Absolute Air Cleaners and Allergy Products. "These pollutants in your home's air can aggravate asthma, allergies, and sinus problems, especially if your household has children or seniors."

According to the Environmental Protection Association, the air inside your home can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air outside the house. Along with reducing airborne bacteria, many air purifiers remove irritants such as pet dander, pollen, smoke, and dust from your home's air and make the air smell cleaner by noticeably reducing odors.

Zajac warns that air purifiers aren't used to remove harmful gases such as carbon monoxide or radon from your home's air, and that separate devices that test for these health risks are still necessary.

"An air purifier is ideal for general pet odors, cooking odors, odors from cleaning products, and the odors from the humans living in the home," Zajac says. "They can do wonders for setting the tone of someone seeing the house in its best light for the first time."


Existing-Home Sales Rise in March

April 27, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 27, 2011--Existing-home sales rose in March 2011, continuing an uneven recovery that began after sales bottomed last July, according to the National Association of REALTORS .

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.92 million in February, but are 6.3% below the 5.44 million pace in March 2010. Sales were at elevated levels from March through June 2010 in response to the home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects the improving sales pattern to continue. "Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we're clearly on a recovery path," he said. "With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain-primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing, monthly mortgage payments as a percent of income have been at record lows."

NAR's housing affordability index shows the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for the purchase of a median-priced existing home is only 13% of gross household income, the lowest since records began in 1970.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.84% in March, down from 4.95% in February; the rate was 4.97% in March 2010.

Data from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae show requirements to obtain conventional mortgages have been tightened, with the average credit score rising to about 760 in the current market from nearly 720 in 2007; for FHA loans the average credit score is around 700, up from just over 630 in 2007.

"Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus, sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago-before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle," Yun explained.

"Given that FHA and VA government-backed loan programs turned a modest profit over to the U.S. Treasury last year, and have never required a taxpayer bailout, we believe low-down payment loans should continue to be available for those consumers who have demonstrated financial responsibility and are willing to stay well within their budget. Raising the down payment requirement would unnecessarily deny credit to many worthy middle-class families and veterans," Yun said.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 33% of homes in March, compared with 34% of homes in February; they were 44% in March 2010.

All-cash sales were at a record market share of 35% in March, up from 33% in February; they were 27% in March 2010. Investors accounted for 22% of sales activity in March, up from 19% in February; they were 19% in March 2010. The balance of sales was to repeat buyers.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $159,600 in March, down 5.9% from March 2010. Distressed homes-typically sold at discounts in the vicinity of 20%-accounted for a 40% market share in March, up from 39% in February and 35% in March 2010.

NAR President Ron Phipps said some renters are looking to homeownership as a hedge against inflation. "The typical buyer today plans to stay in a home for 10 years, while rents are projected to rise at faster rates over the next few years," he said. "As buyers gain more financial security, the advantages of homeownership become more obvious. Rents will continue to trend up, especially in comparison with a fixed-rate loan which provides financial stability and gradual accumulation of equity over time."

Total housing inventory at the end of March rose 1.5% to 3.55 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.4-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with a 8.5-month supply in February.

Single-family home sales rose 4.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.45 million in March from 4.28 million in February, but are 6.5% below the 4.76 million level in March 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $160,500 in March, down 5.3% from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 in March from 640,000 in February, but are 4.1% below the 678,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $153,100 in March, which is 10.1% below March 2010.

For more information, visit


Soaring Gas Prices Make Energy Efficiency an Apt Way to Save

April 26, 2011 2:57 pm

RISMEDIA, April 26, 2011--With the culmination of Earth Day, consumers are being confronted with spiking gasoline prices. To curb this, energy efficiency can help them "green" the planet while keeping more "green" in their pockets, says the Alliance to Save Energy.

The Alliance advises that this time of year is a good time to start boning up on energy-efficient lighting in anticipation of the phase-out of inefficient products from the market beginning January 2012.

Gas prices currently average about $3.80 a gallon nationwide having jumped 20 cents in a recent two-week period and experts are predicting that gas prices will soon match the July 2008 record of $4.11 and perhaps reach $5 in California by Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer driving season.

In addition, a particularly harsh winter in some parts of the country resulted in a 2.5% national increase in heating costs for the season just ended, according to data from the government's Energy Information Administration.

"Consumers still reeling from high winter heating bills are now being pinched by spiraling prices at the pump," noted Alliance President Kateri Callahan. "But fuel efficiency measures and energy efficiency steps around the house can ease the burden of high energy prices."

Callahan continued, "The Alliance has calculated that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,425 to power its vehicles this year. That amount, coupled with about $2,175 for home energy costs, comes to total household energy expenses of about $5,600 a burdensome amount for many Americans. But energy efficiency can cut those costs significantly."

The Alliance provides these energy efficiency tips for vehicles and homes:

At Home:

  • Use energy-saving lightbulbs. Replace old incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient options such as compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which will save you up to $50 in electricity costs over the lifetime of each bulb even taking into account their higher purchase price. Other options include new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs that use halogen technology or cutting-edge light emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • Pack heavy. Washers, dishwashers and clothes dryers are energy-guzzling appliances and the first two consume a lot of water! To reduce environmental impact, don't wash laundry or dishes until you have a full load. When possible, wash clothes in cold water, and air dry clothes and dishes.
  • Don't waste AC in an empty house. Warm weather usually means high utility bills to cool your house. When you're not at home, turn up the thermostat a few degrees and close your blinds to keep it cool. You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for eight hours a day. Make it easy by using an Energy Star qualified programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature when you're away, while allowing you to return to a comfortable house.
  • Upgrade and save. Now that the 2010 tax season is over, let Uncle Sam give you a 2011 tax break of up to $500 for energy efficiency home improvements such as Energy Star windows, insulation or highly efficient heating and cooling equipment. Get all the details on the Alliance's website at
  • Plant a Tree. Carefully positioned trees can reduce a home's energy use year-round. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service says that according to one government study, winter heating bills may be reduced by as much as 15%, while summer cooling energy needs may be cut by as much as 50%.
  • For more energy efficient tips for your home, visit LivingEfficiently.Org's At Home section.

On the Road:

  • Drive smarter. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds. By driving sensibly, you can save as much as $1.25 per gallon of gasoline (based on an assumed fuel price of $3.79/gallon).
  • Drive slower. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. Each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
  • Engage the overdrive gear. With overdrive gearing, your car's engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.
  • Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing both gas costs and stress.
  • For more energy efficient driving tips, visit the Drive $marter Challenge and LivingEfficiently.Org's On the Go section.