By: Christina Hoffmann Published: January 24, 2013
Now that the housing market is back, home improvements are, too. And they’re paying off better than in years past.
2013 is shaping up pretty sweetly for home owners.
First, there were the home owner-centric tax benefits (energy tax credits, PMI deduction, mortgage debt forgiveness) that Congress and the President extended through 2013; and now, we’re seeing that our home improvement dollars are working harder.
After several bruising years, spending on remodeling projects is up and so too is your return on your remodeling dollars. The national average percentage recoup on all 35 projects in Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report rose since last year.
What a different story from 2012, when the ROI dropped in all but three categories.
The annual report is based on a survey that asks REALTORS® around the country to estimate what specific projects, from adding an attic bedroom to installing new windows, would recoup in their market at resale under current conditions.
Of course, what you recoup depends on the specifics of your project, your market, and when you sell. But the report offers a great bird’s-eye view of project costs and returns.
So which projects offer the best value for the money?
Exterior projects like siding, window, and garage door replacements took seven of the top 10 spots in this year’s list.
See a slideshow with the cost-vs-value details on exterior remodels.
Makes sense since REALTORS® always say curb appeal is half the battle when you’re trying to sell.
Although it’s not in the top 10, I was gratified to see that the backup generator project is up about 5 percentage points since 2012. One of our bloggers, Lisa Kaplan Gordon, invested in a portable generator last year after one too many storms and power outages, and despite the learning curve, she was glad she did. She had power when a lot of her neighbors didn’t; she even shared power.
Indoors, the top-10 projects include a minor kitchen remodel (involving cabinet refacing and new countertops and appliances), which recouped 75.4% nationally.
Kitchen redo aside, replacement projects, such as installing an entry door or new siding, tend to have a higher cost-to-value ratio than remodeling projects. But now that housing has turned a corner, home owners are stepping up their remodeling plans.
Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies saw 9% growth in remodeling in 2012 and predicts that trend will continue as more and more distressed properties are bought and rehabbed.
The housing group says interest in energy-efficiency updates will keep on trucking, too. It’s the one area where spending on remodeling projects rose during the recession.
I’m betting the revived energy tax credit will add fuel to that trend.
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By: G. M. Filisko Published: February 10, 2010
Be sure you’re walking away with all the money you’re entitled to from the sale of your home.
Avoid a dispute with the buyers after closing over things like fees for the cable service you forgot to discontinue. Contact every utility and service provider to end or transfer service to your new address as of the closing date.
If you’re on an automatic-fill schedule for heating oil or propane, don’t pay for a pre-closing refill that provides free fuel for the new owner. Contact your insurer to terminate coverage on your old home, get coverage on your new home, and ask whether you’re entitled to a refund of prepaid premium.
Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks before the closing. Also notify credit card companies, publication subscription departments, friends and family, and your financial institutions of your new address.
Scrutinize your moving company’s estimate. If you’re making a long-distance move, which is often billed according to weight, note the weight of your property and watch so the movers don’t use excessive padding to boost the weight. Also check with your homeowners insurer about coverage for your move. Usually movers cover only what they pack.
Title company employees are only human, so they can make mistakes. The day before your closing, check the math on your HUD-1 Settlement Statement.
Are all mortgages being paid off, and are the payoff amounts correct? If your real estate agent promised you extras—such as a discounted commission or a home warranty policy—make sure that’s included. Also check whether your real estate agent or title company added fees that weren’t disclosed earlier. If any party suggests leaving items off the settlement statement, consult a lawyer about whether that might expose you to legal risk.
Be sure the settlement company properly credited you for prepaid expenses, such as property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. If you’ve prepaid taxes for the year, you’re entitled to a credit for the time you no longer own the home. Have you been credited for heating oil or propane left in the tank?
End your home sale closing with nothing unresolved. Make sure the title company releases money already held in escrow for you, and avoid leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow to be dickered over later.
Fax: 419 891-1092
VM: 419-897-2700 ext. 303
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
By: Carl Vogel Published: August 5, 2010
Before you put your home up for sale, use the right comparable sales to find the perfect price.
Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.
Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:
Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.
Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.
Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?
Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.
Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.
Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.
An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.
If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).
Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?
If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.
A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.
Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.
How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.
So you have to rely on your REALTOR’s® knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.
VM: 419-825-5217 ext. 228
What’s the Value of a View? Research from Texas Christian University
Carl Vogel, a freelance writer and former editor of The Neighborhood Works magazine, lives in a home in Chicago that is not typical of those nearby, so he appreciates a savvy comp.
By: G. M. Filisko Published: October 15, 2010
Don’t let pet odors derail your home sale.
Air your house out. While you’re cleaning, throw open all the windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate and sweep out unpleasant scents.
Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. Crate your dog when you’re out or keep it outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room, if possible. Remove or replace pet bedding.
Scrub thoroughly. Scrub bare floors and walls soiled by pets with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10 to $25.
Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage, like cement floors or walls.
Got a stubborn pet odors covering a large area? You may have to spend several hundred dollars to hire a service that specializes in hard-to-clean stains.
Wash your drapes and upholstery.Pet odors seep into fabrics. Launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture.
Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.
Clean your carpets. Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25 to $50 per room, depending on their size and the level of filth embedded in them. The cleaner will try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.
If deodorizing doesn’t remove the pet odor from your home, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. Unless the smell is in the subfloor, in which case that goes next.
Paint, replace, or seal walls. When heavy-duty cleaners haven’t eradicated smells in drywall, plaster, or woodwork, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, or replace the drywall or wood altogether.
On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.
Place potpourri or scented candles in strategic locations. Put a bow on your deep clean with potpourri and scented candles. Don’t go overboard and turn off buyers sensitive to perfumes. Simply place a bowl of mild potpourri in your foyer to create a warm first impression, and add other mild scents to the kitchen and bathrooms.
Control ongoing urine smells. If your dog uses indoor pee pads, put down a new pad each time the dog goes. Throw them away outside in a trash can with a tight lid. Remove even clean pads from view before each showing.
Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.
Relocate pets. If your dog or cat has a best friend it can stay with while you’re selling your home (and you can stand to be separated from your pet), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets have to stay, remove them from the house for showings and put away their dishes, towels, and toys.
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer whose former mutt Marley no doubt created a wet-dog aroma in her condo that still remains. A regular contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
Contact Beth Ann here
Fax: 419 592-7021
Facebook’s IPO and subsequent stock value points up a simple truth: It’s easy to get caught up in the notion of getting rich quick. But there’s no surer way to wealth than home ownership.
As Facebook’s IPO (http://abcnews.go.com/Business/facebook-ipo-roadshow-poised-hit-road/story?id=16263419#.T6LGAZpYtXA) approached, it was easy to start traveling down the “what if” path:“What if I had equity in Facebook?!? How rich would I be?”
If my parents had only bought me Berkshire Hathaway stock for my first birthday in 1962, I’d have made some serious money in stock equities.
Alas, they didn’t recognize the hot stock of their era any more than I would recognize the hot stock of mine.
Like most Americans, it’s home equity (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/equity-loans/home-equity-line-tips/), not stock equity, that will pad my bank account when I hit the retirement finish line.
About two-thirds of Americans invest in home ownership (http://www.houselogic.com/home-topics/the-home-ownership-matters-blog/), but only half of us invest in stocks. (I suspect this is in no small part because we have to make our mortgage (http://www.houselogic.com/home-taxes-financing/home-loans-mortgages/) payments every month or the bank comes and takes our houses back.)
The fact is, more of us are getting rich by buying and paying off our homes than by picking the next Facebook.
Here are some interesting facts from the National Center for Real Estate Research:
•6 in 10 of us have more home equity than stock equity.
•One-fifth of Americans’ total net worth is home equity.
•Home owners accumulate, on average, $167,000 in their lifetimes, compared to $42,000 for renters.
•The median wealth for the poorest American home owners, those earning less than $20,000, is 81 times that of renters with similar income.
In a recent study that took into account falling home prices, buying was still more likely to generate wealth than renting, simply because renters are more inclined to spend instead of save and invest in stocks (http://kenhjohnson.com/tag/wealth-accumulation/#19_1).
The bottom line is this: Even if renting appears cheaper on a spreadsheet, the forced savings of home ownership leads to wealth more reliably than renting. Many of us simply don’t have the willpower or motivation to save our discretionary income and invest it in stocks.
So unless you’ve got the inside track on the next hot future IPO, keep making your mortgage payments.
What’s worth more right now, your
IRA or your home?
Call Susan Langendorfer Today
Fax: 419 891-1092
VM: 419-897-2700 ext. 229
Father’s Day Gift Match Guide: Great Tools for 5 Dad Types
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon Published: June 7, 2012
Before you buy your dad another power drill for Father’s Day, decide what type of DIYer he is. Then let that — and our gift suggestions — be your guide.
There’s a tool for every dad, but not every dad is right for every tool. So before you hunt for a Father’s Day gift for Mr. Fixit (real or imagined), figure out your dad’s tool type. Then, take a look at these gift ideas that will fit him like a glove — a Mechanix Original glove ($25), to be exact.
Your dad can do it all, and so can the versatile Micro-Max 19-in-1 Series ($10-$15) multi-tool — an itty-bitty 2-inch wonder that Dad can easily slip into his pocket. Armed with this little sidekick, he’ll be able to tighten, loosen, wire, drill, cut, file, and measure to his heart’s content. Included are: 2 hex wrenches, 6 screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutter, wire stripper, wire crimper, hand drill, file, bottle opener, 2 rulers, and 2 ruler extensions.
If your dad likes to look the part of a handyman (more than actually do the work), he’ll love Occidental Leather’s Adjust-to-fit Pro Framer Tool Belt ($258-$264) made from grain leather with copper rivets. It’s adjustable — from 32 to 41 inches — and sports 21 pockets and tool holders. Encourage Dad to strap on that bad boy, fill the holsters and pouches with every tool he owns, then parade around as if he knows what he’s doing. After that, time for a Father’s Day nap.
Techno-savvy dads that love high-tech toys to help them around the house will adore DeWalt’s Self-Leveling Line Laser ($160). This smart tool will help Dad hang cabinets, install crown moulding, and mount picture frames so everything’s absolutely plumb and level. It features a magnetic bracket so it mounts easily on metal, and it’s a one-button operation.
Your enviro-friendly dad will love the RazarSharp Organic Shredder ($350) that reduces yard waste, turning small branches, weeds, and even kitchen scraps into mulch that your compost pile can easily digest and your garden beds will happily host. It’s electric, so no messing around with gasoline and pull cords. Come fall, the shredder will mulch your leaves, which Dad can spread on garden beds and let decompose during winter.
For the dad who has every tool known to man (but nary a clue what he did with them), the Craftsman 26” Wide 5-Drawer Quiet Glide Bottom Chest ($240) is the perfect gift. Five generous drawers store all kinds of tools. The chest sits on casters for mobility and has a lock for security.
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