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HOME OWNERSHIP RATES: ARE THEY CRASHING?

“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

 

Homeownership Rates: Are They Crashing? | Keeping Current Matters

The Census recently released their 2014 Home ownership Statistics, and many began to worry that Americans have taken a step back from the notion of home ownership.

Easy… Chicken Little

The national homeownership rate peaked in 2004, representing a 69.2% of Americans who bought vs. rented their primary residence. Many have noticed a decline in rates since then and taken that as a bad sign.

However, if you look at the national rate over the last 30 years (1984-2014), you can see that the current homeownership rate has returned closer to the historic norm. 2014 ended the year with a rate of 64% just under the rate in 1985 and 1995.

Homeownership Rates Historically | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

With interest rates and prices still below where experts predict, evaluate your ability to purchase a home with a local real estate professional.

WHY BUYERS AND SELLERS SHOULD USE REALTORS

home for sale Buyers need a Realtor to guide them through the process of buying a home.  Every so many years, forms are updated, rules change and lending practices change.  A buyer can’t navigate all of this alone, they need someone who is up to date on all the rule changes – that is where a Realtors come in to play.  Realtors need to take a certain amount of continuing education every year, so Realtors can remain on top of their game.

Click this link to read the 175 reasons a buyer should use a Realtor.

Sellers also need a Realtor when it comes time to sell their home.  The average person only sells a home two or three times in a lifetime.  A Realtor does it for a living and closes many transaction per month.  Wouldn’t you rather have someone who knows what they are doing than trusting your closing to just yourself and the buyer.  Check out the infographic below (from “Keeping Current Matter”)  for why you should not be a “For Sale By Owner”!

FSBO-2014

 

10 WAYS TO STAY WARMER AT HOME WITHOUT KILLING YOUR HEATING BILL

fl girl budled up

                  Brrr, It’s Cold!

As a New Yorker, I thought I was used to the cold.  It seems the cold in Florida however is different.  It could be 68 degrees in New York and we would be out in tee shirts.  But 68 degrees in Florida means we get out the jackets and long pants.  I don’t know for sure that it’s a different cold, or my blood just got thinner after 23 years of living here.

Below is a link with 10 tips to stay warmer without killing your #heating bill.

10 Tips to Stay Warmer Without Killing Your Heating Bill

HAS YOUR IDENTITY BEEN STOLEN?

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

STOLEN IDENTY

If you find that your identity has been stolen, there is hope! Please visit the following website to take action and get your good name back!

Steps To Repair Identity Theft

WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

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WHAT EVERY NEW HOME MUST HAVE

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”  –  Chinese Proverb

Are you thinking of building your home? There is something you are going to need whether you realize it or not, because every new home has to have one – a building plan. Did you know that you can pick and choose your own set of plans, quickly and easily, using the Internet?

Building plans are typically found in home magazines, but now you can go to a new site, Allplans.com, and find the largest database of home plans in the country. Boasting over 15,000 building plans, with over 24,000 more plans to be added over the next six months, Allplans offers home plans directly from the nation’s top home designers, the same designers and plans that the custom and volume builders use.

Picking your own plans assures that you and your builder will build the home you really want. If a builder buys a set of plans, he or she can use the same set of plans to build the same home dozens of times. The advantage for the builder to use the same plans over and over is that he or she can estimate and control costs more easily and repeat the best ways to finish out the plan’s idiosyncratic details. The advantage of using the builder’s plans is not as good for the home buyer.

When you choose from among your builder’s inventory of plans, you have less inventory from which to choose. You may also see your home again and again in the same subdivision or town. That could spoil the fun in owning a custom-built home, or a customized volume-builder home.

Using your own set of plans won’t cost you any more money as far as the builder is concerned, so there’s no reason not to pick out your own plans. “About 80 percent of home plans sold are to individuals,” says Ron Lester, marketing director for Allplans. “and 80 percent of those plans are sold to women. Women control the pocketbooks and they are also typically the design person of the family.”

Allplans.com is the brainchild of Bob Chatham, owner of Chatham Home planning in Mobile, Alabama. He and his staff realized over two years ago that there was a growing shift of buyers seeking information about new homes toward the Web. The company digitized the plans they already had on hand, and promoted the idea to other designers. The site has a partnership with the American Institute of Building Design’s (AIBD.) and offers home plan digitalization services to the organization’s 1,400 members. Allplans.com is now the go-to site for independent access to the top home designers in the country, which number approximately 6,000 nationwide.

Home plans are easy to search at Allplans.com. The inventory is not organized by designer but by the type of home, such as Colonial, Contemporary, Traditional, or Tudor; square footage; number of stories, and; number of bedrooms and bathrooms. The site guides you to homes of your interest level, and then if you find the plan of your dreams, you can buy it online. The plans are overnighted for next business day delivery.

Note: Before you buy home plans, be sure to show the plan you have in mind to your builder online, so you both can make sure that the plan suits your building site as well as the building specifications of the division or neighborhood where you will be living.

WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR NEW HOME WALK THROUGH

“Change your thoughts and you change your world. “ – Norman Vincent Peale

Boxes are packed; utilities are all arranged, and the moving van will pull up in a few days to transport your worldly belongings to your brand new home. There are a number of formalities to deal with, however, and once they’re out-of-the-way, you’re “home free”, so to speak. After all, you have watched this home go up stick by stick, delighted in that special warm beige Berber carpeting being installed, and have a tough time sleeping these past few nights because of the intense anticipation of the move.

Aside from the escrow appointment to take in the remainder of your down payment and record title, making it “official”, you are about to participate in the walk-through, or new home orientation, as many builders now refer to it. The builder may have given you literature explaining how long it takes, its purpose, and how they return afterwards to make touch-ups and corrections. What they may fail to hit home with, however, is the immense importance of this tour as a learning tool for you as you spend the next odd number of years of your life there. Getting the most from your new home orientation can take some planning and research; viewing it as a mere formality may see you regretting taking it so lightly someday. This is usually your last opportunity to have uncompromised time with the builder itself, whether dealing with the superintendent in charge of having your home-built, or a customer service quality-control representative. And since there is such a large investment at stake, why not look upon it as important as most other major events in life that prepare you for the future?

View this event as more than a hunt for hairline cracks in drywall, unpainted trim and crooked moldings. It’s important to remember that a new home is a handmade product, touched by literally dozens of individuals before its completion, making it an inexact science. As they say, nothing is perfect in our physical world.

First, see if it is possible to get a copy of the builder’s warranty book ahead of time. This is not a common request with many builders, so it may take some prodding through the builder’s salesperson. Telling them that you want to study it so that you are prepared for the orientation may make them less defensive.  Then, peruse it for a while, noting what items are included in the builder’s structural claims, and what warranties expire well before the ten years or so the builder is “on the hook”, so to speak, for the big stuff.

On the day of the orientation, take a clipboard and even a video camera if you must, to document and to learn about the care and maintenance of your new home, and use the manual to give you insight into what to ask about during the orientation. For instance, what does the builder say about the windows that have been installed? Dual-paned windows are oftentimes replaceable indefinitely through the manufacturer if the gas seal is compromised between the panes and moisture gets in. Other products in the new home have stated one-year warranties through their manufacturers. It’s important to note that many products that are installed within your new home carry individual warranties that are passed on to you when you close escrow. Failing to fill out and send in applicable warranty cards, as tedious and unpleasant as it may be, may cause you heartache in the future if something goes haywire. (Check to see if many of these manufacturers have on-line warranty registrations now, as this process may not be as unpleasant as filling out cards.)

There may be a list of items that the builder will be returning for over the period of the next few weeks or so. Most builders want to get this part over with, so they will schedule the work to be done as quickly as possible. If you miss an appointment to be on hand for a repair, it will be your loss if the builder’s schedule is now booked up for weeks to come for a return visit. Instructions regarding maintenance are among the most important parts of this meeting. Care of floor surfaces, how often to change heating and air conditioning filters, how to keep standing water away from the foundation of your home and maintain the builder’s original grade, the importance of sealing grout in tile areas, and warnings about disturbing insulation in crawl spaces; all these and more prepare you for the future, helping to keep your home “new”, preserving its value. Using your thermostat setbacks for efficient energy savings is important to your pocketbook, no doubt, and the care and use of your fireplace may help it serve you better for many years to come.

Common sense definitely comes into play here; builders are oftentimes called on to the scene to unclog toilets only to find foreign objects have been stuffed down them. After your own orientation, it may be advisable to conduct your own “kid” orientation, instructing your children on what constitutes “abuse” of your new home and how to respect it as well. Apart from the warnings about appropriate toilet functions, giving an elementary course on how to properly use systems and items installed in your new home may go a long way in eliminating future warranty and expensive repairs calls.

In the longer scheme of things, buy a special “house” calendar and folder, and mark down important dates for warranty follow-ups and regularly scheduled maintenance. If your builder has given you paper work to be filled out quarterly for the first year, mark down when it needs to be faxed or mailed by. Write down workmen’s appointments, and keep copies of warranty follow-up paper work with the calendar, noting the work that was done, assurances made, and items still on order for replacement. Note when manufacturer’s warranties were sent in and take copies if you can.

Take this appointment to learn about your new home as seriously as you would learn from a physical examination. Get a relative to watch the kids, tell friends and family members that they are welcome to visit at another time, and take more than the customary amount of time off work for it.

It’s safe to say that you will get from your new home orientation what you are willing to put into it. Seeing yourself and the builder of your new home as “partners” in this process will help eliminate finger-pointing when emotions are high before, during, and after the move.

SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

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SETTLING IN: PRE-MOVE POINTERS FOR TAKING STOCK

“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event.” – Gaston Bachelard

Despite all of the hassle moving represents, when the anxiety is gone and the dust has cleared, most of us have to admit that it’s a liberating experience. It forces us to rid ourselves of the clutter accumulated in the house we’re leaving. Whether or not you buy new furniture for your new residence, the motions of packing up and heading for different surroundings is a positive experience for most movers. It’s an opportunity to start over.

Before you move, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your belongings and consider what place they’ll have — if any — in your new home. After all, when you moved into your current home, your family’s needs were different. Since then, its occupants have become older, hobbies have been abandoned, tastes have changed, and now, suddenly, items you once thought you’d die without don’t seem that wonderful anymore.

* Taking stock of your furniture is a good place to start; after all, if you decide to get rid of a piece or two, you can save yourself the considerable expense of moving them. In addition to your furniture, take a good look at your lamps, rugs, pillows, and other accessories — particularly the ones you’ve stored away for months — and decide whether they really reflect your tastes anymore. Some of them may serve little purpose other than to clutter your closets and collect dust. Rid yourself of them, while reminding yourself that everything you pack means more boxes, more packaging and labor costs, and more to unpack later.

* An effective strategy is to draw on paper the floor plan of your new home. Sketch in the designated spots for your furniture, making sure you’ve noted where such obstacles as fireplaces, windows, built-in shelves or desks, etc., are located. Remember where your electric outlets, telephone jacks, and television hookups are located, and make sure you’ve considered the direction in which your doors open. If you’re looking for a more exact plan, with square footage taken into account, take a note from Better Homes and Gardens Online, which suggests using graph paper to draw your rooms to scale. Each square translates to one foot of available space.

Here’s where your creativity takes over: After measuring the size and shape of each major piece of your furniture, draw them on graph paper using the same one-square-per-foot scale as you did for the rooms in your new home. Then cut the shapes and arrange your miniature furniture within your various room floor plans. Once you’ve made a decision about what suits you and where, attach the shapes onto the page.

While this process requires a little patience and a little more creativity, planning ahead enables you to avoid either moving heavy furniture yourself, long after the movers have left; or having your movers pause upon entry into a room, shouldering a heavy load as you decide where that 300-pound dresser should be placed. (Of course, you’d be lucky to find such a tolerant mover.) You’ve got a plan of attack that makes your life and your movers’ lives easier. You can point them in a direction and move on to the next item. The bottom line is that you’re paying by the hour, and a little sketching and cutting now will save you labor costs later. Take the trouble to draw only your major pieces of furniture; your smaller items and accessories can be placed anywhere for now, until you have time to consider the perfect spots for them.

This strategy also allows you to experiment with various arrangements that you may have considered in the past, but abandoned because it seemed like too much effort to pursue. And trying out new configurations is a consolation for not being able to purchase new furniture. Even if you’ve resigned yourself to a sofa that doesn’t thrill you anymore, arranging your furniture in a different manner may provide you with a completely new outlook on belongings that once seemed tired. That variety, combined with a new place of residence, is bound to inspire you. And don’t restrict your furnishings to the rooms in which you’ve traditionally placed them. For example, the chest of drawers sitting in your bedroom might look even better in your new living room. This move is your big chance to experiment — and you don’t even have to move the furniture yourself.

And while you’re laying out your plans on graph paper, you might want to determine the focal point of each room first — a fireplace, a large window, anything that grabs you when you first enter the room. Then arrange your furniture around that focal point. And while it’s a given, it’s well worth repeating that you should consider how each room is going to be used before you design its layout. For example, when you’re planning your living room, if you plan to spend a lot of time entertaining there, you’ll want to place chairs and/or sofas close together and provide plenty of walking room, as well.

After you’ve taken inventory of your current home, take stock of your home-to-be, starting with the kitchen and its appliances. With any luck, you’ll have ensured that all of those kitchen appliances are in good, safe, working order long before your move. Make sure the hot water system is both working and the correct size for your family’s needs. If the answer to either of those questions is no, replacing the unit will save you both considerable energy and money. Then investigate your new home’s heating and cooling system, which is going to represent a predominant percentage of your monthly energy expenses. To figure out if it’s running in top condition, determine the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating for your air conditioning and heating unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system. A rating under 8 is considered relatively inefficient. Also check your ductwork to ensure that its size is appropriate and that it’s clean. Finally, make sure your thermostat and controls are operating correctly.

Home owners often forget that clothes washers and dryers eat up energy, particularly when stackable units are involved. Because users can’t fill them with much clothing, they’re forced to run more loads though the units, resulting in increased energy consumption and subsequent expenses. On the other hand, units that are too large may use excess water or heat. Regardless of the type of unit in your new home, make sure that the washer drains properly and that your dryer is vented out of your home.

And speaking of energy consumption, study all doors, windows, vents, and other passages to the outside for cracks. If you see any gaps or if you feel any air streams, seal them either with caulk or weather stripping. And check your windows to find out if they’re double-paned and fit tightly.

Finally, if you can’t paint your new home’s interior prior to your move-in date, don’t unpack until you do. And be sure to consider the direction of light in your home — where it hits the walls and the shadows it creates. Painting your dining room a deep shade of forest green, for example, could backfire on you if your lot is heavily treed, or if the room generally doesn’t receive much sunlight. The color that seemed vibrant in the can may leave you simply depressed once it’s covering the walls of an already dark room.

Written by Courtney Ronan
May 27, 1998

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