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Green Rebate Now Available for Multifamily Borrowers

Green Rebate Now Available for Multifamily Borrowers Who Provide an Energy Star® Score
In hopes of encouraging energy efficiency and affordability in apartment properties and strengthening the market for green investments, a new Green Rebate is now available to borrowers on qualified property loans who voluntarily provide an ENERGY STAR® score with their loan documents, This rebate is offered by Freddie Mac.

“We are doing more than just saying energy efficiency is smart for businesses, their customers and the environment,” says Mitchell Resnick, vice president of capital markets for Freddie Mac Multifamily. “As one of the largest funders of multifamily properties in the nation, we are offering monetary incentives to boost awareness regarding energy consumption because it creates efficiency through lower utility costs, makes properties a better investment and more affordable for renters.”

Rental housing is home to a majority of the nation’s lower income households who work hard and are struggling with housing costs such as rent and utilities.

“Energy efficiency provides one of the greatest opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of multifamily housing, while at the same time making that housing more affordable,” says Michael Zatz, manager of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings Program. “The EPA commends Freddie Mac for recognizing the value of energy benchmarking as the first step to improving energy performance, and looks forward to working with Freddie Mac and its borrowers as they strive to reduce energy use at their properties.”

Freddie Mac also plans to eventually report the ENERGY STAR scores in its K-Deal multifamily mortgage-backed securities and is encouraging industry adoption of the tool.

The ENERGY STAR Score is available in the EPA’s Portfolio Manager® tool, a free online software platform that allows commercial building owners and managers to benchmark and track energy and water usage as well as greenhouse gas emissions. More than a dozen cities and counties across the country, including New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, DC, require energy tracking and reporting using Portfolio Manager.

“Investors understand that energy efficiency can have a positive impact on a property’s profitability, marketability, stability and market value, and some have even earmarked money for green investments,” Resnick adds. “A 10 percent decrease in energy use can result in a 1.5 percent increase in net operating income for a multifamily property.”

Facts:

  • The EPA estimates that the average commercial building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes, often resulting in higher operating costs.
  • If a 400,000 square-foot building pays $1 per square foot in energy costs, then cutting its consumption by 10 percent adds $40,000 to its net operating income, and could boost the property’s value by $800,000 assuming a 5 percent cap rate.
  • The EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool is the industry standard for energy, water, and greenhouse gas benchmarking, with over 400,000 properties representing more than 35 billion square feet of space using the tool.

More information on Portfolio Manager can be found at www.energystar.gov/benchmark and information on the ENERGY STAR Program for multifamily properties can be found at www.energystar.gov/multifamily.

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at 866-977-7623.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


7 Reasons to Use a REALTOR® When Selling Your Home

7 Reasons to Use a REALTOR® When Selling Your Home
Selling your home can seem a daunting task. When you close that deal, you want to make sure that your home goes to the best buyer for the best price. It may seem cheaper to sell your home yourself, and many do; however, there are a lot of details to work through.

“Selling your home through a REALTOR® can help you make sure you get the best value overall,” says Kimberly Nicole, a REALTOR® based in The Woodlands/Houston, Texas metro area who caters to luxury homes and their clientele.

Nicole offers seven reasons why you should use a REALTOR® instead of selling your home yourself:

1. REALTORS® Know How to Navigate the Process – A REALTOR® is the manager of your home buying process. Nicole explains that you and your REALTOR® will begin with extensive discussions to head off any road blocks later on. Your REALTOR® is aware of your concerns, needs and priorities. They are there from the beginning to end, navigating each step of the way with you. Selling real estate can be a tricky business, full of regulations and involved steps. Your REALTOR® works for you, staying on top of the latest regulations and helping you meet them.

2. REALTORS® Know How to Professionally List the Property – In the age of Web 2.0, it’s not enough to upload your phone photos to a few random sites. Buyers expect professional photos, videos and flawless online presentation. To get the most exposure, you also need to manage your listing across multiple channels. REALTORS® will do all this for you, including coordinating with photographers and videographers to make sure your listing is top-notch. “Hitting the right emotional and responsive chords with buyers is the goal,” says Nicole. “Determine who the likely audience is, and market directly to that audience.”

3. REALTORS® Know How to Prepare Sellers – Before you sell, your home must be in the best condition possible. Your REALTOR® can advise you on what repairs need to be done, and they frequently know good contractors. You may have to have inspections done before you sell, and will probably have to do repairs. A REALTOR® can set up any required inspections and instruct you on how to prepare. Sometimes homeowners will take out a loan against the house to finance costly repairs, but this can’t be done while the house is on the market. A REALTOR® may help assess the situation, and then wait to list it until the repairs are completed.

4. REALTORS® Can Help Sellers Prepare for Showings – “Staging is extremely important,” says Nicole. “That first impression is vital.” Not only do all of the repairs need to be done, but if you still live there, the place must be kept clean and staged. This means everything from maintaining curbside appeal to the little details, like placing out a plate of cookies or laying out your best dishes in a table setting. She advises that a home must be open and inviting, and that smells, pets and lighting must all be taken into consideration. “We don’t want a home not selling because a buyer can’t see their own furniture in the home.” Your REALTOR® may also advise you to de-clutter certain closets and rearrange rooms. They may explain which personal touches add a “homey” look and which things detract from a potential buyer envisioning their own decor.

5. REALTORS® Can Help Get Buyers Through the Doors – REALTORS® not only get the traffic in, they know how to manage it. They can arrange and hold open houses in a way that gets as many visitors as possible. They also work with buyers so that showings are more convenient for you. This is especially important if you still live in the house. REALTORS® may also help weed through potential candidates so that you don’t waste your time with no-shows or non-serious buyers. “If a person needs to sell a house before buying another, the seller needs to know this,” says Nicole. This all factors in to final decisions and net proceeds.

6. REALTORS® Know How to Objectively Negotiate – You may think preparing and showing your home may be stressful, but receiving offers can be difficult. “The goal is to get the most money as the seller, and as the buyer the goal is to look at market value and if it’s priced appropriately. You don’t want to present an offer that’s an insult to the seller,” says Nicole. A REALTOR® can help you stay reasonable, without letting you take a lowball offer either. They will also be there to navigate a multi-bid and renegotiations. “Renegotiations fall apart all the time, and deals frequently don’t come through,” she says. “Each side has different concerns, and each party needs to know where the other stands.” Closing can be a confusing process, and there is a lot of paperwork to sign. Your REALTOR® has been through this many times and can explain everything you are signing and why. If you have any questions on anything, your REALTOR® is right there.

7. REALTORS® Know the Area – “The key to a good agent is knowing the area,” says Nicole. They know what the property values are, and have a good idea of future market fluctuations. They also know where and how to list your property for best results. Having a home listed on MLS is not enough. A good REALTOR® that is knowledgeable of the area is essential to getting the best deal on your home.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for real estate tips and trends for you and your clients.

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at 866-977-7623.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


5 Home Updates to Make before Fall

5 Home Updates to Make before Fall
September’s cool winds are just around the corner. Below are a few home maintenance tips to smooth your transition from summer to fall.

Service your systems. Checking your furnace and changing your furnace filter before the cold creeps in will put you ahead of the game. Make an appointment with a professional to have your heating system tune up.

Freeze-proof your faucets. The mere mention of a busted water pipe is enough to make any homeowner cringe. The pipe that is most likely to freeze is your outdoor faucets for hoses and sprinklers. To avoid cold-weather damage, install a freeze-proof faucet and sleep soundly.

Weather-proof those windows. Solidly sealed windows will help control your home’s temperature. When is the last time you checked your window’s weathering? Before fall, weatherstrip and caulk your windows to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. As soon as the temperatures begin to drop, replace those breezy summer drapes with heavier versions to keep your living space cozy until spring.

Clear gutters. It’s best to clear out your gutters at the change of every season. Before fall begins dropping its leaves, give your gutters a purge.

Sweep that chimney. Do you have a working fireplace? If so, it’s best to have a professional chimney sweep come take a look to make sure you don’t have any dangerous build up that could cause damage when you strike that first match come fall.

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at 866-977-7623.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


Consumers Beginning to Embrace Smart-Home Technology Even If They Don’t Know It Yet

Consumers Beginning to Embrace Smart-Home Technology Even If They Don’t Know It Yet
From wireless speakers to automated vacuum cleaners, advanced “smart” devices are becoming increasingly common in the homes of Americans, aiming to make life simpler for all. However, language counts for a great deal when it comes to consumer attitudes and familiarity; nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say they don’t know much about smart-home technology, while Nielsen’s Connected Life Report—a bi-annual study of consumer needs, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors around new and emerging technologies related to connected cars, homes, and wearables—finds that just over half of household decision makers (53 percent) say they know what connected home technology does.

This confusion may, however, be rooted in category headings more than in specific products. When asked generically about smart-home technology, just 7 percent of Americans say they own such a device; however, when presented more specifically with a list of devices from the smart-home category, 34 percent of Americans—nearly five times as many—indicate they already have at least one in their home. This disconnect signals a need for consumer engagement and education in this budding industry.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,225 adults surveyed online between May 20 and 26, 2015. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be found here.

Self-described early adopters are more likely than their counterparts to have one or more devices in their homes (59 percent vs. 37 percent mid-adopters and 20 percent late adopters).

The most popular devices currently owned are wireless speaker systems (17 percent), smart thermostats (11 percent), and smart/wireless home security and monitoring systems (9 percent), with many of the same devices making repeat appearances atop the list of devices Americans would consider for future purchases: smart thermostats (40 percent), smart lighting (37 percent), wireless speaker systems (35 percent) and smart/wireless home security and monitoring systems (35 percent).

Consumers appear hesitant to purchase certain devices despite respectable awareness levels, indicating there may be ample room to better communicate the benefits of these devices. Nearly half (48 percent) say they’ve heard of smart-home security systems and don’t want one, while nearly six in ten (58 percent) say the same about domestic robots and 46 percent say the same for smart/connected refrigerators.

On the other hand, for several devices, the largest barrier appears to be awareness itself. Over half (51 percent) have never heard of water detectors that connect to Wi-Fi and 42 percent say the same for smart/connected laundry machines.

With 88 percent of Americans believing these devices are too expensive, it should come as no surprise that, when probed on potential “tipping points” when they will be likely to consider purchasing such technology, the highest percentage by a wide margin (37 percent) say they will consider purchasing smart-home technology when it drops to a price they think is reasonable. Another 9 percent will wait until the “bugs” have been worked out and 12 percent will never consider buying smart home technology.

Matures and Baby Boomers are more likely to say they’ll never consider buying smart-home technology compared to their younger counterparts (20 percent Matures and 17 percent Baby Boomers vs. 10 percent Gen Xers & 6 percent Millennials).

Notably, two in 10 (21 percent) Americans are not sure at what point they would consider purchasing this kind of technology—further signaling confusion in this still-new market segment.

Potential Perks

A majority of Americans believe there are perks for homeowners in smart-home technology, with over six in ten (61 percent) saying household devices that can connect to the Internet are good for homeowners.

Vast majorities of adults feel it’s important that smart-home technology saves money (91 percent), conserves energy (90 percent), helps keep them and/or their family safe (89 percent), and protects property from theft/vandalism (88 percent).

However, far fewer Americans believe the technology currently offers these benefits. Just half (50 percent) believe the technology currently helps save money, while six in ten or fewer say smart home technology currently conserves energy (59 percent), helps keep them and/or their family safe (55 percent), and protects property from theft/vandalism (57 percent).

Three quarters of Americans also feel it is important that this technology save them time (78 percent) and offer the ability to adjust to their preferences and behaviors (74 percent), while just 42 percent each say the technology currently offers these benefits. Americans are nearly split on whether it’s important that the technology enable them to better care for pets (55 percent important vs. 45 percent not important) and reducing the likelihood of running out of household products (53 percent important vs. 47 percent not important), which is good considering less than two in ten feel the technology offers these benefits (17 percent and 18 percent, respectively).

Among pet owners, 71 percent feel it’s important that smart-home technology enable them to better care for their furry, scaly or feathery friends while only 22 percent believe the technology currently offers this benefit.

Regardless of the status of these current and potential benefits, many Americans believe smart-home technology will start to have an impact on them within the next five years. Over half (51 percent) say smart-home technology will improve their quality of life within the next five years and 43 percent say it will have a big impact on how they manage their home within the next five years. Education efforts focused on more clearly communicating and demonstrating the benefits of these devices may help to drive further consumer excitement.

Remaining Questions and Concerns

While it may be clear what the expected and perceived benefits are, with 78 percent of Americans saying they expect newly built homes to include smart-home technology within the next five years, it’s no surprise that some concerns still remain. Seven in ten Americans believe smart-home technology makes it easier to steal personal information/data (71 percent) and wonder whether smart-home devices will perform basic functions as well as their traditional counterparts do (70 percent).

Despite the concerns and questions that exist, most Americans clearly believe this technology is on its way and here to stay, with less than three in ten (27 percent) doubting that smart technology will catch on.

To see other recent Harris Polls, visit TheHarrisPoll.com.

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact us at 866-977-7623.


Is It Time for a New Water Heater?

Is It Time for a New Water Heater?
Water heaters are energy-intensive appliances. In fact, they are the second largest energy user in the home, and as they age, they become less efficient, according to the Propane Education & Research Council.

If you don’t know the age of your current water heater, or think it may be reaching the end of its lifespan, it may be time to replace it, says home improvement expert Danny Lipford, host of “Today’s Homeowner.” Lipford advises keeping these three factors in mind when evaluating your water heater:

1. Cost
– According to U.S. Department of Energy estimates, the average family spends $400 to $600 each year on water heating costs, and as an older unit ages, its efficiency continues to erode. Rising water heating costs year after year could be a sign that it’s time to replace your unit. By switching to a new energy-efficient water heater or a new energy source, you could save hundreds of dollars each year.

Depending on where you live and how often you use your water heater, a tankless water heater could drastically lower your annual water heating costs compared with electric storage tank models, which are working to heat water even when it’s not needed. In comparison tests with electric units, propane-powered tankless water heaters saved more than $300 annually.

2. Lifespan – Most water heaters should be replaced every 10 to 12 years. To make the right choice for replacement, you should factor in the annual cost of ownership, which is the cost of original equipment, installation and expected annual energy costs divided over the unit’s lifetime.

Both high-efficiency propane storage tank heaters and tankless models deliver lower annual ownership costs than electric or heating oil. At the same time, tankless water heaters also have a much longer lifespan than storage models — they can last 5 to 10 years longer than storage water heaters.

3. Carbon Footprint – Upgrading to a newer, more efficient model means reducing your carbon footprint. Compared with standard efficiency electric storage tank models, propane produces two times fewer emissions. The difference amounts to about 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of driving a car more than 18,000 miles.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at 866-977-7623.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


Homeowner’s Insurance Costs Twice as Much with Poor Credit

Homeowner’s Insurance Costs Twice as Much with Poor Credit
Homeowners with poor credit pay exactly twice as much for homeowner’s insurance as people with excellent credit, and homeowners with median credit pay 32 percent more than those with excellent credit, according to a new insuranceQuotes.com study.

People with poor credit pay at least twice as much as people with excellent credit in 38 states and Washington, D.C. West Virginia’s 202 percent increase is the highest in the nation, followed by D.C. (185 percent), Ohio (185 percent) and Montana (179 percent).

Three states prohibit insurers from using credit to calculate homeowner’s insurance premiums: California, Massachusetts and Maryland. Insurance companies are technically allowed to consider homeowners’ credit scores in Florida, but insuranceQuotes.com found that credit does not typically affect premiums there.

“In most states, insurers are putting more emphasis on credit scores this year,” says Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com’s senior analyst. “The impact of a poor credit score is higher now than it was last year in 29 states and Washington, D.C., while it is lower in just 17 states. It’s more important than ever for people to maintain a solid credit rating by paying their bills on time, keeping their balances low and correcting errors on their credit reports.”

The greatest differences between excellent and median credit were observed in Montana (66 percent), Washington, D.C. (61 percent) and Texas (55 percent).

More information, including the results from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., is available here.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


August Shows Rise in Mortgage Credit Availability

August Shows Rise in Mortgage Credit Availability
Recent news shows that mortgage credit availability increased in August, moving 0.5 percent to 126.1, which suggests a national loosening of credit.

This news comes from the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), a study from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) which reports that the index was benchmarked to 100 in March 2012. Of the four component indices, the Jumbo MCAI saw the greatest loosening (up 0.7 percent over the month) followed by the Conventional MCAI (up 0.5 percent), the Government MCAI (up 0.4 percent), and the Conforming MCAI (up 0.3 percent).

“Mortgage credit availability increased in August and has increased in eight of the last nine months,” says Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Chief Economist. “While much of the loosening has been for jumbo loan products, the availability of conforming conventional mortgage credit has also somewhat increased, including for mortgages with higher loan-to-value ratios and borrowers with lower credit scores.  Fannie Mae recently announced changes to their affordability suite of products, but these changes have not yet impacted the MCAI.”



For more information, visit www.mba.org.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.