9 Unexpected Energy (and Money) Savers

Here are a few surprising and simple ways to cut your energy bill this season.

Put lamps in the corners: Did you know you can switch to a lower wattage bulb in a lamp or lower its dimmer switch and not lose a noticeable amount of light? It’s all about placement. When a lamp is placed in a corner, the light reflects off the adjoining walls, which makes the room lighter and brighter.

Switch to a laptop: If you’re reading this article on a laptop, you’re using 1/3 less energy than if you’re reading this on a desktop.

Choose an LCD TV: If you’re among those considering a flat-screen upgrade from your conventional, CRT TV, choose an LCD screen for the biggest energy save.

Give your water heater a blanket: Just like you pile on extra layers in the winter, your hot water heater can use some extra insulation too. A fiberglass insulation blanket is a simple addition that can cut heat loss and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill.

Turn off the burner before you’re done cooking: When you turn off an electric burner, it doesn’t cool off immediately. Use that to your advantage by turning it off early and using the residual heat to finish up your dish.

Add motion sensors: You might be diligent about shutting off unnecessary lights, but your kids? Not so much. Adding motion sensors to playrooms and bedrooms cost only $15 to $50 per light, and ensures you don’t pay for energy that you’re not using.

Spin laundry faster: The faster your washing machine can spin excess water out of your laundry, the less you’ll need to use your dryer. Many newer washers spin clothes so effectively, they cut drying time and energy consumption in half—which results in an equal drop in your dryer’s energy bill.

Use an ice tray: Stop using your automatic icemaker. It increases your fridge’s energy consumption by 14% to 20%. Ice trays, on the other hand, don’t increase your energy costs one iota.

Use the dishwasher: If you think doing your dishes by hand is greener than powering up the dishwasher, you’re wrong. Dishwashers use about 1/3 as much hot water and relieve that much strain from your energy-taxing water heater. Added bonus: you don’t have to wash any dishes.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

The Price Is Right – Your Best House Selling Strategy

House PricesYou’ve decluttered the garage and repainted the kitchen, bathroom and hallways. You took your realtor’s advice about improving your house’s curb appeal, and the grass has never looked greener. Yet your house still has a “For Sale” sign in front, and potential clients aren’t clamoring to see the inside. What’s the problem?

Probably the most common problem shared by many sellers in today’s real estate market is an inflated price. It’s easy to make the mistake of zealously setting an idealistic price. You know exactly what money you’ve spent as well as the many hours of weekend “sweat equity” over the years….but clinging to that less than practical figure can cost you in the long run.

What’s the best way to set a fair price? Savvy buyers have a comparable market analysis (CMA) conducted on the house (or houses) they are most interested in. As a seller, you should do the same so that you’re prepared to negotiate. A good realtor can walk you through this step. Another strategy is to know your competition – is there an open house that’s sounds similar to yours in the MLS? Check it out! Is that seller asking more or less than you? After visiting, you may discover that the other guy’s floor plan doesn’t compare favorably to yours. Or that family has incredible storage space that may be a huge draw for many clients.

What if I go too low? Talk to your real estate agent, but in many cases, a price that’s a little lower than your competition can be a terrific strategy. More than once, I’ve seen such a situation generate a bidding contest that brought the price up above the original asking price.

If the price is fair, shouldn’t I expect to get the asking price? The answer to that one is: it depends. In today’s market, many buyers are quick to make an offer that’s lower than what you’re asking. Don’t be intimidated by a back and forth discussion, and take your time to consider your options. If you notice “For Sale” signs around town with “Price Reduced” toppers on them, you may be in the middle of a rapidly declining market, and prices may need to be reset. A good realtor can advise you of your best plan in the current situation.

Of all the potential pitfalls of selling a home, pricing the house fairly is by far the most common one – and the one issue many clients are reluctant to discuss. Yet the right price can make the difference of selling now or much, much later.

If you’re looking to sell your home in the Chapel Hill/Durham area, contact Crazy Viv Olkin athttp://www.crazyvivhomes.com. She’s the REALTOR who can help you say “The price is right!” and sell your home sooner instead of later. .

The Seven Steps To Finding The Perfect Home

Dream Home HappinessThe first simple step for you is to put into account what suits your liking and know the cost range of what you need. There is no real sense of looking at homes which don’t suit your budget and your needs

Second, take a tab of the features you require in a home, whether it be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a carport or a garage, formal dining room, family room and living room, and the size of the yard you’d want. These should be those things you absolutely couldn’t live without.

Have another list for your other preferences such as the number of stories you’d want, the age of the home, and other amenities such as a pool, a veranda, or a fireplace. These are those things nice to have but are not necessary requirements.

The next step is to think carefully about what neighborhoods you would like. It is most preferable for a home to be located in an up-and-coming and well-cared-for area where green is also present. Homes in other areas that might be in a state of decline may lose its value and never recover.

Consider also the crime rate in the area and know the local neighborhood crime statistics as well as accessibility to police or fire assistance. Go to the local police or sheriff’s department and gather information about the place. Also, have the knowledge of the response time for medical and emergency services in terms of distance and traffic in the area.

The next step is to take time and see as many different homes that fit your price range as you can. You can do it on your own or you can consult a real estate agent who specifies on a particular area you like. Write down as many features and important items with each home to help you remember it. Take also into consideration how your present belongings will look in each home. Will the furniture blend or match the style of the home? Or will you have to spend money on new furniture? Will your hobbies and social liking fit with the family room or lounge area?

The seventh and last step is, take the plunge! There is absolutely nothing as rewarding than having the perfect home.

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Five Things Everyone Should Know Before Buying A Home

Realtor with FamilyA few years ago, a home buyer could almost buy the first home they looked at and be assured that it would be worth more when it came time to sell. In today’s real estate market, you have to be a more savvy buyer, you need to be more selective in what you buy, and where. In short, you need to know more now before you jump into a purchase.

Here are five things you need to know, and do, before you purchase your first, or next, home.

1) Know your Options for Financing

Bad financing has burned many a buyer in the last couple of years. Your Realtor can refer you to a number of reputable home loan professionals in the area, home loan companies that have been around for a long time and will be here for years to come.
If you have a loan representative help you determine how much you can afford, it will save you a lot of frustration and wasted time. There are dozens of loan programs available. Discuss your needs and objectives with your loan professional. Review the loans and rates available in your area, and based on your income and existing debt, determine how much you can afford.

You need to make an informed decision about which loan is right for you today, and in the long term. Things to consider include: First Time Buyers programs, Government backed loan programs, Down Payment options, Locking in the Interest Rate, length of escrow, and direct payment options.

2) Understand What A Buyers Agent Does

The buyers agent works for you, and represents your best interests. Your agent should provide you with a Buyers Representation Agreement, which clearly outlines what the agent will do and how you will be represented. In most cases the representation of the buyers agent will not require payment from you, as the buyers agent is paid out of the commission charged to the seller of the house that you buy.

3) Know What Affects the Value of Homes

Real Estate is a major investment. Things change, neighborhoods change. People move more frequently today than they have in the past. You have surely heard it before, but the most important thing affecting the value of a home is LOCATION! Some other things to consider include:

Is the neighborhood being kept up or is it slipping?
How is the home in relation to others in the area? Is the home the smallest home in a neighborhood of big homes, or the most expensive home in a neighborhood of cheaper homes?
How might things change in the future? Those open lots behind your home, are they zoned to become a park, a school, a convenience store, or more homes?
How has the area appreciated? What is the future potential?
Are there any environmental issues with the ground water?
Any history of flooding?

These are the kind of questions you need answered before signing on the dotted line. Which leads us to…….

4) Have a Professional Home Inspection

Sometimes called a “Whole House Inspection”, it can be written into your offer on the home that the offer price is based on the successful results of the home inspection. If the inspector finds a defect, the owner will have to fix it, or you can negotiate a modification to the price. If you can’t work it out with the seller, you do not have to proceed with the transaction. By having a professional “Whole House Inspection” you might save yourself thousands of dollars and many hours of frustration from future problems with the house. There are also available home warranties that a buyer can purchase. These cover the appliances in the home and other items for the first year after you buy the home. This allows you to relax knowing that if anything goes wrong with the house after you move in, it will be taken care of. Ask your Realtor for details.

5) Know How the Purchase Will Affect Your Taxes and your Household Budget

There are many tax benefits to owning a home including deduction of mortgage interest and loan points in certain instances. Check with your tax adviser or accountant to make sure you understand them. You need to know the effects on your taxes and budget before you buy the home to prevent surprises later on. The tax laws change frequently, so get the latest updates. And how will your new monthly mortgage payment impact your overall household budget. You may have to adjust your spending habits in order to adapt.

Don’t go into the home purchase without being armed with the facts. It could cost you thousands of dollars!

Vicki Walker is a Coldwell Banker Realtor, working with buyers and sellers of Davis California Real Estate. She has over 20 years of Residential and Commercial Real Estate experience. http://www.davishomes2sell.com/selling.php.