Saturday, September 18, 2010

How To Reduce Home Energy Costs By Sealing Air Leaks

Air leaks With Labor Day past, the autumn and winter months aren't far behind. It's a good time to reflect on your home's heating and cooling costs, and take steps to lower your energy bills. Finding air leaks may be a perfect first project.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30 percent can be cut from a home's energy costs just by reducing drafts. For example, a 1/16-inch gap unsealed gap around a window is equivalent to leaving the window 3 inches open.
That's a lot of wasted Brighton air.
The good news is that air leaks are rather simple to identify, and simple to fix. The key is to know where to look. And, to make the job easier, the government offers a complete DIY Guide To Sealing and Insulating a home.
Some of the key tips include:
  • Focus on the attic and basement, where most air is lost
  • Locate problem areas on a chimney
  • Check recessed lights which allow air flow between conditioned and unconditioned air
The government's website also provides a 13-page PDF with detailed images, instructions, and recommendation to help you with the work.
However, if the job is beyond your skill set, be sure to call a qualified contractor. Sealing your home from air leaks will reduce your monthly energy bill and the money spent to pay a professional will be just a fraction of what you'll save over time.
(Image courtesy: US Department of Energy)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How To Change A Showerhead

There's plenty of reasons to want to change a showerhead in your head. Perhaps you're trying to fix a leak in the faucet; or, remodeling your bathroom; or, trying to conserve water via a low-flow showerhead.
Whatever the reason, changing a showerhead can be a basic do-it-yourself project. The tools aren't complicated and the job is a quick one.
In this 2-minute video from AOL, you'll learn:
  • What tools you'll need to change the showerhead
  • How to remove your old showerhead
  • How to firmly attach your new showerhead to prevent leaks
If you get stuck, or just want to outsource, call a professional handyman to finish the job. Changing a showerhead should take less than a hour to complete.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Fed Is Meeting Today. Should You Float Or Lock Your Mortgage Rate?

Fed Funds Rate June 2007-June 2010The Federal Open Market Committee holds a one-day meeting today, its fifth scheduled meeting of the year, and sixth overall since January.
The FOMC is the government's monetary policy-setting arm and the group's primary tool for that purpose is an interest rate called the Fed Funds Rate.
The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed rate at which banks borrow money from each other and, since December 16, 2008, the Federal Reserve has voted to keep the benchmark rate within a target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
It's the lowest Fed Funds Rate in history.
Because the Fed Funds Rate is near zero, it's accommodative of economic growth, spurring businesses and consumers to borrow money on the cheap. This, in turn, fosters economic growth within a U.S. economy that is somewhat tentative and facing headwinds.
The Fed has said over and again that it will hold the Fed Funds Rate "exceptionally low" for as long as conditions warrant.  It's expect that the Fed will reiterate that message in today's post-meeting press release.
However, just because the Fed Funds Rate won't be changing today, that doesn't mean that mortgage rates won't.  Mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Reserve; open markets make mortgage rates.
Mortgage rates in Colorado tend to be volatile when the Fed is meeting. This is because the Fed's press release highlights strengths and weaknesses in the economy and, depending on how Wall Street views those remarks, bond markets can undulate and mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds.
When Ben Bernanke & Co. speak, Wall Street listens.
The Fed's press release today will be dissected and analyzed.  Talk of higher-than-expected inflation, or better-than-expected growth should have a negative effect on rates. Talk of an economic slowdown may help rates to fall.
Either way, we can't be certain what the Fed will say or do this afternoon so if you're floating a rate right now and wondering whether the time is right to lock, the safe choice is to lock before 2:15 PM ET today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Homes Sales Gain in June, But Gains Are Relative

New Home Supply June 2009 - June 2010
After a down month in May, the sales of newly-built homes appears back on track.
As published by the Census Bureau, June's New Home Sales report showed:
  1. A 24 percent sales volume increase from the month prior
  2. A 2-month drop in the supply of newly-built home
There are now just 210,000 new homes for sale nationwide.
June's data is a major improvement over May, but it's possible that the true "new home market" may be softer than the statistics suggest.  This is for several reasons.
First, we're comparing June's sales data to the worst month in New Home Sales history.
In May, sales of new homes totaled just 267,000 units nationwide. That's one-quarter fewer sales than in the previous worst month in New Home Sales history. May's sales levels were awful by any measure but June's improvement to 330,000 units remains second-worst sales levels ever posted.
Second, although much improved, June's new home supply of 7.6 months is elevated versus the historical norm near 6.0 months.  The last year has averaged 7.7 months.
For buyers of new homes in Henderson, Colorado, this combination of low sales volume and higher-than-normal inventory may be a positive.  It's the main reason why homebuilder confidence is reeling and the downturn has opened some doors for big discounts and deals. Free upgrades and closing cost credits can make a well-priced home even more attractive.
Plus, with mortgage rates at all-time lows and expected to rise, home affordability is may never be better.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sagging Homebuilder Confidence Opens The Door For Good Deals

NAHB Housing Market Index July 2008-2010Builder confidence in the housing market slipped this month, according to the National Association of Homebuilders' monthly Housing Market Index.
The Housing Market Index is actually a weighted composite of 3 separate surveys. One measures current single-family sales; one measures projected single-family sales; and one measures traffic of prospective buyers.
All three surveys were down in July:
  • Single-Family Sales : From 17 (June) to 15 (July)
  • Single-Family Project : From 22 (June) to 21 (July)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : From 13 (June) to 10 (July)
The HMI's July reading of 14 puts confidence at its lowest point since April 2009.
For home buyers in Henderson, Colorado , a drop in builder confidence could create an opportunity for negotiation.
Remember, it wasn't too long ago that most builders were flush with home inventory, unable to find willing buyers. To help move product at that time, builders dropped prices and offered incentives including free upgrades. If confidence continues to sag going forward, home purchase deals of that nature may return -- especially as the foreclosure market gets larger.
See, in the past, builders' main competition for buyers were the existing home sellers.  Today, builders compete with the existing home sellers and the banks with REO.
It's a terrific time to be a home buyer, in other words -- sellers are fighting for you. It's no wonder sellers have little leverage anymore. Couple that with all-time low mortgage rates and affordability for homes is at an all-time high.
If you're planning to buy a home later this year, you may want to consider moving up your time frame. The market looks ripe for good deals this summer.

Foreclosure Activity Slows Again In June 2010

Foreclosures per capita, June 2010
313,841 foreclosure filings were made in June, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac. The figure represents a 3 percent drop from May and 7 percent drop from June of last year. However, foreclosure filings remain relatively high nationwide.
June marks the 16th straight month the filings topped 300,000. 1 in every 411 U.S. homes received some form of notice last month with foreclosure density varying wildly from state-to-state.
Like everything else in real estate, it seems, foreclosures are a local phenomenon.
The states with the highest foreclosures per capita were:
  • Nevada : 1 foreclosure filing per 88 homes
  • Florida : 1 foreclosure filing per 171 homes
  • Arizona : 1 foreclosure filing per 189 homes
The states with the lowest foreclosures per capita were:
  • Vermont : 1 foreclosure filing per 26,051 homes
  • West Virgina : 1 foreclosure filing per 8,058 homes
  • South Dakota : 1 foreclosure filing per 6,528 homes
Overall, 40 states beat the national Foreclosure Per Capita average and 10 states fell below. The sheer volume of REO, though, is creating interesting buying opportunities for first-timer buyers, move-up buyers, and real estate investors in Denver.
Homes bought from banks are usually less expensive than non-foreclosure homes. This is one of the major reasons why distressed sales account for roughly 30 percent of all home resales. Less expensive, though, doesn't always mean "cheaper". Foreclosed homes are often sold as-is and may be defective or otherwise uninhabitable.
Making repairs to get these homes into "living condition" can be costly.
Therefore, if you're buying a foreclosed home, make sure you know what you're buying before you make your bid. Have a certified professional inspect the home to check for damage, and consider enlisting the help of a real estate agent to assist with negotiations and management of the contract.
The process of buying a foreclosed home is different from buying a typical resale. Make sure you do your homework.

Monday, July 19, 2010

25 Cities In Which To Get A Bang For Your Homebuying Buck

Affordable cities for homebuyersHome affordability is at an all-time high. Home values are still in recovery while mortgage rates continue to make new lows. But where are homes the most affordable? recently ran a piece titled "Where Homes Are Affordable", listing 25 communities around the U.S. in which median incomes are relatively high and median homes are relatively low.  It's a housing market "bank for your buck" list.
The top 10 cities as listed by the editors:
  1. Deerfield Beach, FL
  2. Lafayette, IN
  3. San Antonio, TX
  4. Deltona, FL
  5. Spring, TX
  6. Glendale, AZ
  7. Avondale, AZ
  8. Bolingbrook, IL
  9. Fishers, IN
  10. Des Moines, IA
Of the top 10, 2 picks are from the Southeast; 4 are from the Midwest; and 4 are from the Southwest.  2 are "major" cities and the rest are suburbs of bigger cities.  Lafayette stands lone as a college town.
The rest of's 25 cities follow a similar pattern -- larger suburbs geographically concentrated in the Midwest and Southwest. Surprisingly, though, New Jersey and Virginia do find themselves represented.  Even the expensive Eastern Seaboard has its good buys.