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Category Archives: home improvement

THE 50 SHADES OF GRAY FOR A HOME’S EXTERIOR

“You can make all the excuses you want, but if you are not mentally tough, and you’re not prepared to play every night, you’re not going to win. “ ~ Larry Bird

 

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GREAT LAUNDRY ROOM IDEAS

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Are you thinking about adding a laundry room or perhaps re-vamping your existing laundry room? In the following article, there are some great examples of laundry rooms which service more than just laundry. The picture to the left also doubles as a dog washing/grooming area.

Click on the link below to view many more ideas .

3 ATTIC INSULATION MUSTS

3 ATTIC INSULATION MUSTS
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Following is a good article from Inman News.  Saving money on your energy bills never got easier and these tips work equally well whether it is hot or cold outside.  So just click on the link below and start saving money.

3 attic insulation musts.

“SHORT SALE” Great Starter Home!

“SHORT SALE”  Great Starter Home!

This is a great home for the price.  The neighborhood is excellent and the lot is one of the larger lots in the area.  All in all,  this little brick gem is a great deal! I sold this home to the owners originally, and now it is time for them to move on.  So here I am selling the home once again. It is adorable and whoever buys this home will be very happy in it as my sellers are. To view more pictures of this home click on the link below.

“SHORT SALE” Great Starter Home!.

5 EVENTS THAT ROCKED HOUSING IN 2011

5 EVENTS THAT ROCKED HOUSING IN 2011

“A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” –  Bob Hope

Re-printed from Trulia
January 3, 2012|Tools & Trends|No Comments
Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist

5 events that rocked housing  in 2011; by Jed Kolko

Government, lending changes, and forces of nature all shook the housing market in 2011. They had both an immediate impact and slow-burning effects. They set the stage for a bumpy 2012 with more foreclosures, political battles and local market risks – which will affect the industry and how agents do business.

1) Robo-Signing Reverberations

The “robo-signing” scandal – where banks were accused of approving foreclosures with incomplete or incorrect documentation – exploded in October 2010, but where are we now? Banks want a settlement in order to avoid costly, drawn-out lawsuits. One is shaping up that could reduce loan balances or interest rates for current homeowners, give payments to people who lost their homes and establish new mortgage servicing standards for the future.

Even if you think there’s money coming to you because you lost your home, don’t start spending against your settlement windfall just yet. One estimate from the Wall Street Journal is for a settlement of $25 billion if all states participate. Another report from TIME says that will translate into $1,500-$2,000 for households who were mistreated in the foreclosure process. A couple thousand dollars will give people some breathing room, but it won’t change anyone’s financial lives. And, be patient: it could be months before a deal is reached, an administrator is in place and the details are finalized.

Until that’s all figured out, here’s the immediate drama: who’s in and who’s out? Some states might hold out for a better deal or decide to sue these mortgage servicers directly, as Massachusetts has. California was the first and most vocal state to back out, and New York, Delaware, and Nevada have spoken out, too.

What Really Mattered: The threat of robo-signing lawsuits made banks gun-shy about pursuing foreclosures in 2011, which left many homes stuck in the foreclosure process. But once a settlement is reached, we’ll see a rush of foreclosures in 2012.

What It Means for Agents: More foreclosures will hurt prices and consumer confidence. Short sales could be harder to get approved if the foreclosure process gets easier.

2) The Debt Ceiling and the Budget Deficit

The federal government is running a deficit — it is spending more than it collects in taxes and other revenue – so it borrows to cover the gap by issuing debt. When there’s a deficit, we add to the pile of debt. To shrink this pile, the government needs to collect more than it spends (or, if you prefer, spend less than it collects) and use the surplus to reduce the debt.

In August, the government played a game of chicken over whether to raise the debt ceiling – which is really just a formality acknowledging that the deficit requires issuing debt to keep the government going. However, the right way to deal with the debt is to reduce the deficit – not by fighting over the debt ceiling.

Long before the debt ceiling debate and Standard & Poor’s federal credit-rating downgrade, we all knew that the federal budget was in bad shape. The debt ceiling debate rattled the markets and consumer confidence temporarily but interest rates stayed low. The important effect was that Congress created a bipartisan supercommittee to tackle the deficit – but it couldn’t reach agreement by its November deadline.

What Really Mattered: The deficit-reduction supercommittee teased us with some policy proposals that will surely rear their heads again. One idea that both Republicans and Democrats didn’t totally disagree about was reducing the mortgage interest and other tax deductions. If and when that happens, high-income homeowners with mortgages would pay a lot more in taxes.

What It Means for Agents: Scaling back the mortgage interest deduction would lower the offers buyers – especially high-income buyers – will make on homes. And some buyers will drop out of the market if the deduction, which favors homeownership, shrinks or vanishes.

3) The Expansion of HARP

In October, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said seriously underwater homeowners will be able to refinance through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Originally, refinancing under HARP required a loan-to-value of less than 125% — that is, you couldn’t be more than 25% underwater – but that rule goes away for fixed-rate mortgages. But there’s a catch! Loans must be guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and – more importantly – borrowers must be current on their payments and must not have missed a payment in the last 6 months.

What Really Mattered: Some seriously underwater borrowers who fell behind on their payments in hopes of negotiating a loan modification are now kicking themselves because those missed payments make them ineligible to refinance. But those who can and do refinance will have lower monthly payments and extra money to spend — which will help stimulate the economy.

What It Means for Agents: Even if easier refinancing may not affect the home-purchase market directly, it will stimulate the economy a bit, which will raise housing demand and give buyers more confidence.

4) Natural Disasters Cause Insurance Disaster?

In 2011, several tornadoes, floodings and a hurricane temporarily halted what little construction there was to begin with, but this was just a short-term slowdown. The bigger long-term effect was the near-collapse of the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Still struggling financially under debt amassed after Hurricane Katrina, the NFIP’s insurance premiums don’t fully cover insurance claims when disaster strikes. August’s Hurricane Irene and its flood damage returned this problem to center-stage.

What Really Mattered: In flood-prone areas, you can’t get a mortgage if you don’t have flood insurance. Without NFIP, housing markets in these areas would skid to a stop. Could the program actually expire? It could, but as part of last week’s payroll tax agreement, the program got a last-minute extension until May 2012. No doubt, the political fight over this program’s long-term future will continue in into next year.

What It Means for Agents: Those working in flood-prone areas should be aware of private-sector flood insurance options for buyers in case the federal program lapses after May. And agents in these areas should follow the debate over NFIP on websites and blogs that cover the insurance industry.

5) Lowering the Conforming Loan Limit

Starting in October, the government lowered the upper limit for loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) from $729,750 to $625,500. Why? Government agencies now back or insure most loans, but it’s time to make the housing market less dependent on the feds. Lowering loan limits is one step in that direction; however, the real estate industry has urged the government to push the loan limits back up. And you know what? They scored a half-win in November, raising the loan limit back up for FHA loans but not for Fannie and Freddie.

What Really Mattered: Mortgage lenders are willing to charge lower rates for loans that are backed by Fannie or Freddie; with a lower conforming loan limit, a small number of loans that used to qualify for federal backing no longer do. As a result, homes that are now on the wrong side of the conforming loan limit will see fewer potential buyers and lower sales prices. This will matter more in California, New York, and other high-cost areas.

What It Means for Agents: Agents need to know the local loan limits, which may be different for FHA insurance and Fannie/Freddie backing. Homes for which loans will be above the new limits might see less buyer interest and price reductions.

XERISCAPING – A FUNNY WORD!

XERISCAPING – A FUNNY WORD!
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  – Khalil Gibran

According to Wikipedia, Xeriscaping “refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptance in other areas as climate patterns shift.”

Xeri, comes from the Greek “xeros,” meaning dry, and “scape,”  is a kind of view or scene. When you put the two words together you have a  landscape with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape.  Xeriscaping will also reduce the high cost of your water bills and comes in very handy during the drought periods we sometimes have in Florida.

For an in-depth explanation with lots of suggestions for choosing plants please click on the following link – xeriscaping. This link will bring you to the IFAS website, which looks like a newsletter.  There is a plethora of helpful information other than gardening and landscaping.  For example, you can find helpful information on energy, water conservation, waste management, wildlife, natural history, food and other local information.

There is a home on NW 8th Avenue in Gainesville that makes use of one aspect of xeriscaping.  All the plants have been strategically planted so that the water runoff on the property goes to these plants. It is truly a zero maintenance yard in spite of the variety of plants growing there.This home sits next to Rattlesnake creek and boasts a magnificent variety of trees such as:

  • Japanese persimmon
  • grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Satsuma tangerine
  • an avocado tree from Mexico and
  • Three varieties of olive trees
    1. green olive
    2. black olive
    3. brown olive
  • a Hong Kong Orchid tree and/or Mountain Ebony
  • camellias
  • two kinds of Bougainville’s
  • Paw Paw trees, and of course
  • Saw Palmettos

If having all this fruit isn’t enough, the home itself is an architects’ delight with  2 story soaring windows in the family room, an updated kitchen, a mother-in-law suite, a loft overlooking the pool area and a free form salt water pool.

There is a ravine along the back portion of the property, where rattlesnake creek runs, which has a cross-country trail system running through it.   This ravine sustains the life of, and breeding habits of, 60 of the 65 varieties of dragon flies found in Florida.

This home has over 3000 square feet of heated and cooled living space and is located only 8 blocks from the University of Florida in Gainesville. This is not only a great home, but you can purchase it at the great price of only $219,000.00.  This is a pre-approved short sale and the home will not last long on the market. For more information about this great home, please click on the following link: MLS# 329532.

Regarding the slide show below, the smaller pictures are of the home cleaned up when someone who cared about the property was living there.  The larger pictures are of the home in its current condition.  It can very easily be restored to the way it used to look – all it needs is some elbow grease and trimming of the yard. If you would like to take a tour of this property, please call for an appointment at the numbers below.

Jocelyne Grandjean-Brown

CDPE Trained

RE/MAX Professionals

Gainesville, FL 32606

Office: 352-375-1002

Cell: 352-870-9929

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14 TIPS FOR FURNACE AND FIREPLACE SAFETY

“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam

Beware of the ‘silent killer’

By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Reprinted from:  Inman News™

Q: Our house was built around 1940; the fireplace is original; and we installed forced-air gas heating about 10 years ago. We haven’t had the fireplace or furnace inspected. What do you guys recommend to get the fireplace and the furnace ready for winter?

A: Regular inspection and servicing of fireplaces and furnaces adds to comfort, makes them more economical and most important, keeps them safe. Regular inspections can prevent a deadly house fire or the introduction of a silent killer: carbon monoxide.

Here’s our checklist to keep you cozy and safe during the winter months:

Wood-burning fireplaces

1. Inspection by a certified chimney sweep is a must. For heavy use, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually. Go up to five years if the fireplace is used only occasionally. The sweep should inspect for proper operation of the damper and for cracks in the flue liner, as well as sweeping the flue to remove creosote and other combustion byproducts.

2. Close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.

3. Install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one. You don’t want creatures building their nest in your flue.

4. When starting a fire, “prime” the flue by holding lighted newspaper at the back wall of the firebox to start the warm air rising.

5. Burn aged, dry hardwood if possible. Fir or pine burns hot and deposits creosote in the chimney. Don’t burn construction debris. It may contain toxic chemicals that will vaporize in the fire and could enter the living space.

6. Do not clean out the fireplace when the ashes are still hot. And dispose of the ashes in a place where wayward embers won’t start a fire.

Fireplace with gas starter

1. If the flame goes out, wait at least five minutes before attempting to relight the fireplace. This allows time to clear the fireplace of gas.

2. Be alert for unusual odors or odd-colored flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly. In such cases, contact your dealer or licensed technician for servicing. Contact the gas company if you smell gas when the unit is off.

Gas furnace maintenance

1. An annual maintenance check of a gas furnace extends the life of the appliance and ferrets out any hidden problems. A qualified heating contractor should vacuum out the unit, inspect the blower motor, inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, check the electronics and perform a multipoint checklist to make sure the furnace is operating properly.

2. Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently during the heating season. This ensures that air returning from the inside of the house is unobstructed and clean when entering the combustion chamber.

3. Keep vents, space heaters and baseboards clear of furniture, rugs and drapes to allow free air movement.

4. Ensure there is free airflow around your furnace and make sure there are no storage items obstructing airflow.

5. Do not store or use combustible materials, such as chemicals, paint, rags, clothing, draperies, paper, cleaning products, gasoline, or flammable vapors and liquids in the vicinity of the furnace.

6. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and lethal gas that can occur any time there is incomplete combustion or poor venting. Any home that contains fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace or furnace, should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Copyright 2011 Bill and Kevin Burnett

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