Category Archives: Sell your home

Energy-efficient upgrades increase home values – Atlantic RE Brokerage

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Energy-efficient upgrades not only shrink your utility bill, they can increase the value of your home.

energy-efficientHomebuyers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of energy-efficient homes. In fact, they’re often willing to pay more for homes with “green” upgrades, says Sandra Adomatis, a specialist in green valuation with Adomatis Appraisal Service in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Just how much your home will increase in value depends on a number of factors, Adomatis says, like where you live, which upgrades you’ve made and how your home is marketed at sale time. The length of time to recoup the costs of green upgrades also depends on the energy costs in your area.

In 2014, upgraded homes in Los Angeles County saw a 6 percent increase in value, according to a study from Build It Green, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that works with home professionals. Upgraded homes in Washington, D.C., saw a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in 2015, according to a study Adomatis authored.

Consumer Reports suggests that upgrades like a gleaming new kitchen or a finished basement may give you more bang for your buck than energy-saving features. But if going green appeals more than adding quartz countertops, here’s where you can begin.

Find out how much energy your home uses

Getting a quick energy assessment or a more thorough energy audit can determine how much energy your home uses, as well as which upgrades would make the most sense for your home and finances. An audit may include an energy rating, a number that indicates how energy-efficient your home is and how much it will increase if you make recommended upgrades.

The Department of Energy (DOE) website lists ways to find assessors in your area. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program offers assessor and advisory services to help you determine what to upgrade. Your utility provider may also offer energy audits.

The cost varies depending on location and who’s providing the service. Your utility company may offer an assessment for free or at a discount. A full audit may run $300 to $500 depending on the complexity, according to Don Knapp, senior marketing manager with Build It Green. You may not want to foot the bill for a full audit unless you’re planning to take advantage of it with major upgrades.

Once you know where you can improve your energy use, begin by making the changes that are most affordable and have a quicker payoff, Adomatis advises. Then consider whether the costlier ones are worth the investment. Keep in mind that a variety of tax credits and financing options are available for energy-efficient improvements.

Common energy upgrades, from least expensive to most

1. Insulation. A 2016 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine found that the average attic air-seal and fiberglass insulation job costs $1,268, with an added value to the home at resale within a year of completion of $1,482. That amounts to a 116 percent return on investment. And according to Energy Star, homeowners can save $200 a year in heating and cooling costs by making air sealing and insulation improvements.

2. Appliances. Your appliances account for about 15 percent of your home’s energy consumption, the DOE says. Certified clothes dryers can save you $245 over the life of the machine, according to Energy Star. A certified dryer from General Electric can run from $649 to $1,399.

When upgrading, look at the kilowatt-hour usage of a new appliance and compare it to your current one — a good Energy Star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it will use less energy than your existing appliance, Adomatis says.

3. Heating and cooling systems. These systems account for about 43 percent of your energy bill, according to the DOE. Replacement costs for an entire HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — vary widely depending on equipment brands and sizing, but may run several thousand dollars. Energy Star estimates that you can save 30 percent on cooling costs by replacing your central air conditioning unit if it’s more than 12 years old.

According to Energy Star, a certified heat pump water heater has a payback time of two years and can save a four-person home $3,400 over its lifetime. A 50-gallon Geospring hybrid electric water heater from General Electric costs $1,399, plus installation.

While addressing your home’s heating and cooling systems, bear in the mind that leaky duct systems can be the biggest wasters of energy in your home, according to Charley Cormany, executive director of Efficiency First California, a nonprofit trade organization that represents energy-efficient contractors. The cost of a professional duct test typically runs $325 to $350 in California, he says.

4. Windows. Replacing the windows in your home may cost $8,000 to $24,000, and it could take decades to pay off, according to Consumer Reports. You can recoup some of that in resale value and energy savings. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report found that installing 10 vinyl replacement windows, at a cost of $14,725, can add $10,794 in resale value. Energy Star estimates that certified windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bill by up to 15 percent. If you’ve already tightened the shell of your home, installing a set of new windows may not be worth the cost. But the upgrade may be worth considering if you live in a colder climate.

5. Solar panels. EnergySage, a company offering an online marketplace for purchasing and installing solar panels, says the average cost of a solar panel system is $12,500. The payoff time and the amount you’ll save will vary depending on where you live. Estimated savings over a 20-year period in Philadelphia, for example, amount to $17,985, while it’s more than twice that amount in Seattle: $39,452, according to EnergySage.

Last: Let buyers know

When it comes time to sell, your real estate agent can help you market your home as energy efficient. Provide your agent with utility bills or your energy rating, if you received one with your audit, to include when describing the house on a multiple listing service, or MLS. There’s a growing trend in the real estate industry to make energy upgrades visible, Knapp says; energy disclosures are now a common practice in cities like Berkeley, California, and Chicago.

“If it’s reflected on the MLS, “it’s more likely to be reflected in the resale value,” Knapp said.

Bottom line: If you weigh the costs and savings carefully, going green can be worth the investment.

AP Logo Copyright 2016 The Associated Press, Michael Burge. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Email staff writer Michael Burge: mburge@nerdwallet.com. 

Quirky elements that can affect your home’s value

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Your home's valueBesides the obvious factors, there are some quirky elements that can affect your home’s value. Find out what they are. By Laura Agadoni 

Surprise! You might know more about real estate than you think. For example, you know that square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, and location determine home value: A 4,000-square-foot, five-bed, five-bath beachfront home for sale in Miami, FL, will almost always be worth more than a 2,000-square-foot, two-bed, two-bath home on a quarter-acre lot 20 miles inland.

But those obvious factors aren’t everything you need to calculate your home’s property value estimate. Other, less obvious features can negatively or positively come into play — features you might not have considered. Here are eight frequently overlooked (and not always fixable) things that, for better or for worse, can impact the value of your home.

1. The name of your street (really!)

People typically prefer the street they live on to have a name versus a number. It’s true nationwide (with the exceptions of New York, NY, and Atlanta, GA, where there is no difference, and Denver, CO, where numbers are favored). According to a study by Trulia, “street” is the least expensive address suffix by price per square foot, and “boulevard” is the most expensive.

2. Your house number

Ever heard of house numerology? This is the practice of assigning a single-digit number to your home based on its address. Let’s say your address is 1219 Main St. Add 1 + 2 + 1 + 9 to get 13. Then add 1 + 3. Your house would be 4: good for investments and security but bad for adventure and excitement. While this type of house numerology may be passed off as a superstition, buyers who subscribe to this theory may overlook potential homes because of their numerology calculations. However, whether or not you’re into numerology, house numbers do matter. If your address is 13 (a universally unlucky number), you might choose to price your home slightly less than your neighbor at number 12 did.

3. Sketchy neighbors

The closer you live to your neighbor, the more important it will be for your tastes, habits, and personalities to jibe with theirs. “In a condo, the last thing a potential buyer wants is to purchase a unit where the neighbors above are noisy or inconsiderate,” says Thomas Miller, who specializes in Washington, DC, real estate. Owners of single-family homes can thank fastidious neighbors with good taste to increase the values of all nearby homes. But, of course, the opposite is also true: “I know a homeowner who had great difficulty selling their home because their next-door neighbors constructed a giant memorial dedicated to Michael Jackson on the front lawn,” says Miller. The next time you want to complain about your homeowners’ association, picture that image.

4. Mature trees

Tree-huggers and environmentalists unite! It’s common practice for developers to cut down most of (or all!) the trees on a property to build homes. But mature trees almost always enhance property values. Still don’t believe it? Check out the National Tree Benefit Calculator to see the full benefits of planting specific types of trees. If you have the space, make a trip to your local nursery to discuss the best tree options for your home.

5. Crown moldings

If you’ve worked hard to select just the right neutral and serene paint color scheme that will probably attract the most buyers, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you neglect one important element: crown moldings. “People love crown moldings,” says Alexander Boriskin, a New York, NY, agent. “Of course, everyone loves high ceilings too,” he says. Although you can’t do anything about how high your ceilings are, you can put in crown moldings — even with lower ceilings. Just make sure they work with the scale of the room, and don’t veer too far into the trend zone.

6. Yankees paraphernalia

Yankees fans, relax. We’re not picking on just you. Although this anecdote from New Jersey real estate agent Kevin Lawton happens to be about the New York baseball team, you could insert any team here. “Everything in the home was Yankees,” he says. “[The sellers] even had carpeting in the family room that had baseballs on it.” The verdict? Many people were turned off, especially Red Sox fans. If you don’t want to alienate a potential buyer, you might want to stash the fan gear away while your home is on the market.

7. Starbucks

And Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. If you have any of those establishments close by, typically within a mile, up goes your property’s value. “Homes near Trader Joe’s have increased in value by an average of 40% since purchased,” says Chris Leavitt, a South Florida and New York, NY, agent and past star of the TV series Million Dollar Listing Miami. “Nearby Starbucks and Whole Foods Markets also enjoyed double-digit gains on home value.”

8. A death on the property

In some states, such as California, sellers must disclose whether there was a death on the property, which can be a deal breaker for some buyers. California agent Tracey Hampson once showed a home where a fatal drug overdose had occurred in the master bedroom. “On average, once the buyers found out there had been a death on the property, two out of five buyers that were interested suddenly said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

There’s even a name for a home someone died in: stigmatized. “It refers to a home that has been the site of a murder, suicide, or paranormal activity or haunting,” says Michigan agent Kelly Jo Choate. But even if your state doesn’t have a death disclosure requirement, certainly if someone asks, you should fess up. It’s the right thing to do.

 

Multiple Offers, Now What?

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multiple offers

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly, and perhaps multiple offers. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process.

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines.

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process.

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally.

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term.

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures — such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments — to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the downpayment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attach a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative.

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.

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By: G. M. Filisko

Published: February 10, 2010

 

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.

Spring Cleaning Mistakes – Atlantic Real Estate Brokerage

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spring cleaning

spring cleaning

If your first instinct is to open the windows and bring in the fresh air … Don’t do it.  The biggest spring cleaning mistake is just that, opening your windows and letting in the fresh air…  and the dreaded allergens that are rampant this time of year.

If you’re an allergy sufferer (and who isn’t?), that’s the last thing you want to do, says Dr. Neeta Ogden, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “It will allow pollen to settle in your home.”  If you really can’t skip that spring breeze, avoid opening them in the morning, pollen counts are highest in the morning; they decrease late in the day and at night.

 

And that’s not the only common spring-cleaning mistake homeowners make. Here are eight more to avoid:

1. Not Looking Up

You’ve worked up a sweat and everything’s starting to sparkle, but then you realize your ceiling fan is coated in dust. Uh, oh. Once you start wiping the fan, dust will scatter on what you’ve already cleaned. That’s why you should always look up to see what needs dusting before you start cleaning at eye level. Tackle hard-to-reach places like the tops of bookshelves, crown molding, and window ledges.

2. Starting to Clean Without a Plan

You wake up motivated — today you’re going to get all your spring cleaning done! But by noon, your house is in disarray, and not one single room is finished. Ugh. That’s why Briana Norde, owner of Caliber Cleaning Inc. says it pays to break up the biggest cleaning project of the year into smaller, more manageable tasks.

She recommends conquering your hardest job first, like the kitchen, which she calls the “most time-consuming room.” With that first accomplishment under your belt, you’ll have the momentum to take on the remaining tasks. The key is to give yourself plenty of breaks. And there’s nothing wrong with spreading it out over several days.

3. Ignoring That Weird-Looking Vacuum Attachment

Don’t let your carpet hog the vacuum. The crevice tool, Norde says, “is not used nearly enough.” Use it between your wall and refrigerator to get out the accumulated dust that’s otherwise unreachable, and run it around the edge of your baseboards to clean where standard upright vacuums can’t reach.

4. Skipping the Mattress

Think of how much time you spend in your bed. Yet, you probably clean the top of your fridge more often than your mattress. Your mattress harbors millions of dust mites, which cause various respiratory conditions including sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes (not to mention just being plain gross).

“[Dust mites’] food is human skin scales, so the bed is just heaven for them,” says Ogden.

She recommends using a vapor steam cleaner to root out the itchy devils, then wrapping it in an anti-allergen mattress protector.

At the very least, sprinkle your mattress with baking soda and let it sit for awhile. Then (using the attachment mentioned above) vacuum it up.

5. Relying on Harsh Cleaners

There’s a reason many commercial cleaners have the words “danger,” “hazard,” or “caution,” on their labels. Something in the ingredients is toxic in one form or another, and most all could aggravate allergies and asthma. So, “don’t go crazy with cleaners you don’t need,” says Ogden. Moldy bathrooms may scream for bleach, but most surfaces do not. Ogden recommends making your own solution of water and vinegar (use a fifty-fifty ratio), which will keep most surfaces clean and germ-free.

6. Using Chemical Air Fresheners

You want your home to smell fresh, so it’s tempting to reach for that mountain-rain-spring-fresh-scent in a can. But aerosol air fresheners contain high levels of toxic pollutants like phthalates, which can affect hormone levels, cause reproductive abnormalities, and increase allergies and asthma. Yikes. Try homemade (and less-expensive) alternatives, such as potpourri, or essential oils and water in a spray bottle.

7. Leaving the Clutter

All of the spring cleaning tips and advice are useless if you don’t declutter first.

“We tend to not clean well around clutter,” says Ogden. “You’re not going to reach the dust there.”

Make sure toys are put away, books are back on the bookshelf, and paperwork is filed before you begin the cleaning process. Otherwise, you’re leaving room for dust and pollen to hide — making spring cleaning all for naught.

8. Treating It Like a Chore

If you dread spring cleaning, this should make you feel better: a Harvard study found those who treated cleaning as beneficial exercise saw a decrease in weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and more. That’s what we call a trifecta: living in a clean home, breathing allergy-free air, and feeling great!

Jamie Wiebe is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”

 

5 Problems Uncovered in Home Inspections | Atlantic Real Estate Brokerage

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black bird5 Problems Uncovered in Home Inspections

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Even a house that seems perfect may not be so when it comes to a home inspection, which is meant to discover potential problems with the home’s systems, appliances, and structure.

“Depending on the age, location, and type of house, the potential for problems will vary,” according to an article by the Ferris Property Group. “It’s also important to note that all houses — even brand new ones — will have issues show up on the inspection. Certain issues may be a deal breaker, like a collapsing foundation, but many other issues can and should be repaired after negotiation with the seller.”

Here are some of the most common problems inspectors say they uncover:

  • Defective plumbing: Leaky faucets or problems with the efficiency of pipes can greatly affect the cost of a home’s utilities.
  • Water damage: This can be caused by any number of issues, such as erosion of external grading material that has caused a slow leak into a basement. Water leaks also can lead to damage in a foundation or mold growth.
  • Faulty roofing materials: Variable temperatures can cause cracks in some roofing materials, while other materials may be prone to rots or leaks.
  • Cracked foundation: Foundation problems can surface from any number of issues, such as water damage, termites, rotting, or structural inadequacy.
  • Over-worked electricity system: This also can represent a big safety issue. Inspectors say when they find an overcrowded wiring system it’s typically due to previous owners making adjustments to the electrical wiring.

Source: 5 Problems Uncovered in Home Inspections | Realtor Magazine

Sellers, Get rid of Smells – Atlantic Real Estate Brokerage

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Sellers: You Can’t Detect These 4 Stinky Smells, But Your Buyers Sure Can. Here’s How to Sweeten Your Home

By: Stacey Freed

otis

Home sellers, you can’t smell your home’s odors because you’re noseblind. Here are the smelly culprits and how to eliminate them.

Stand in your kitchen and take a deep breath. Smell that? From last night’s fish to your son’s nasty lacrosse pads (why did he leave them on the table?), you probably can’t detect any of your home’s rankest odors. You’ve got nose blindness.

“You adapt to the smells around you,” says Dr. Richard Doty, the director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania. On a sensory level, your processing mechanism becomes less sensitive to the continuous stimuli. Or, on a cognitive level, you can become habituated to the smells and basically learn to ignore them. Or you can do both.

But on a I-don’t-want-my-house-to-stink level, you don’t have to be resigned to living with odors — even if you can’t smell them yourself. Here are some of the most common nose blindness culprits, and how to ban them from your home.

1. Love Your Pet. Destroy Their Smells.

There’s one easy way to tell if your home smells like pets: Do you have them? Then yeah, unless you’re an obsessive cleaner and groomer, your abode has at least some Fido funk. It could be pee, but more likely it’s just hair, gunky ears, and weeks-old slobber.

The first step to cleaning up pet smells is — sorry, pets — cleaning the pets themselves. Bathe and groom them regularly.

Then, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. If they have a favorite couch or cushion, cover it with a blanket and run it — and the cushion cover — through the wash weekly. Every time you vacuum, start with a hearty sprinkle of baking soda on the carpet. And use that crevice tool liberally; pet hair loves tight spaces like the border between the carpet and the wall, the edges of your steps and that little crack of space between the stove and your cabinets.

Hopefully urine isn’t the issue, but to be sure, you can use a black light to out any dried stains your pet was hoping you’d never notice. Use more of that baking soda followed by a half-water, half-vinegar solution to neutralize the odor. Lots of people also swear by store-bought neutralizers, like Nature’s Miracle.

2. Battle Basement Mustiness . . . With Onion?

Fortunately, nose blindness only affects one of your senses, and you don’t need your nose to verify a basement with a musty smell. Mustiness is caused by mildew and mold, which — for better or for worse — your eyeballs can easily detect. Do a careful inspection of your basement, from the darkest corner to the surface of every cardboard box or bookshelf. If you find gray or white splotches anywhere, it’s probably mildew. If it’s fuzzy, (oh no!) it’s mold.

First, you’ll want to bust up those existing odors. Then, you’ll want to make sure they never return. A solution of one-part bleach to four-parts water and some elbow grease will help you scrub away mildew. Although bleach can be used to clean mold too, it usually isn’t necessary. A regular household cleaner can do the trick.

To prevent mildew and mold from returning, consider running a dehumidifier or improving air circulation and sunlight exposure in the affected area if possible. For chronic mustiness, you can deodorize rooms by setting out bowls of vinegar, cat litter, baking soda, or — as crazy as this sounds — an onion also will do the trick. Cut one in half and let it sit in a bowl in the room. The onion smell goes away in a few hours, and so will the dankness.

3. Mind Mattress Smells

Similar to pet odors, knowing if your mattress could smell is easy: Do you have a human body with skin and oils? Do you sleep on it? Eventually, all the dead skin and body oils you shed while sleeping are going to build up, and stink they will, especially if your bedding is older.

You can’t exactly toss your mattress in the washing machine, so you’ll have to deal with it where it lies. But it’s an easy fix: Sprinkle baking soda on it, let it sit for an hour or more, and then vacuum up the soda. (This works for memory foam, too.) Add a couple drops of essential oil to the soda (drip directly into the box and shake it well to mix evenly) for a pleasant smell. Bonus: Lavender has been shown to help you sleep.

4. Fade Fridge and Freezer Funk

It’s your fridge and freezer’s job to keep your food fresh, but they need a little help staying fresh themselves. Itty bitty food bits hang out long after you’ve tossed the item from which they came. Although you might not notice the odor creep, you may notice your ice starting to taste funny or see those food morsels start to accumulate in the corners of your fridge shelves. If you see or taste something icky, you can bet others can smell something icky.

To zap odors from from your freezer and fridge, unplug and empty them and do a thorough cleaning with a mix of hot water and baking soda. You can sanitize with a solution of one tablespoon bleach and one gallon of water. Let it air out for 15 minutes. Try wiping it down with vinegar for extra odor eliminating, or even leave the door open for a few days. What better excuse is there for a long weekend away, or to treat yourself to takeout?

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When you are ready to sell, call Atlantic Real Estate Brokerage.  We can help !!