Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Home Ownership and Energy Efficiency

Nearly 7 years ago,I accomplished one of my life goals and purchased a home of my own.While I had owned a condo,this would be my first change to own a home and not have to get condo association approval regarding how and when to make repairs,what plants to grow in my yard and pick what color would be used for the outside of my home.Like so many other home owners, I was price bound enjoyed certain home styles and wanted to live in one geographic area. I also wanted a home that could be updated to my own tastes and would have a space where I could garden. Part of my goals were to help make the home more energy efficient. My plan to use less energy and water would not only help me save money and help create long term value in the house but would also be more enviremently friendly. One of the first tasks I completed after moving into the house was to get a free energy audit provided by the Mass Save Program.As part of their work, they did an initial site audit and provided me with a free CFL for every light fixture and a programmable thermostat for my house. They also arranged for insulation to be blown into my walls and seal many of the air leaks in my house.The programmable thermostat helps control temperature in the house and helps lower the oil use at home. Much of this work was either free or done at a reduced rate. The old inefficient hot water tank and fridge was replaced along the way. While they were an added expense, I received a rebate on both and reduced my gas and electric use along the way. Part of the process of lowering my energy usage entails cleaning the filters in my furnace on a monthly basis and having it tuned up every other year. This helps it run more efficiently and use less energy. Using CFLs and learning to turn off lights and electric gear is also saving electricity. I have just agreed to have some solar panels placed on the roof of my house. While this is a major expense, tax breaks, energy produced and other factors will eventually greatly reduce my electric usage. My passion for gardening is slowly being fulfilled. The garden is slowly taking shape.Not only are the plants and flower beds taking shape,but they are helping to bring back wildlife to the house. but helping to make the house more attractive. Plant cuttings and yard waste not only keep the plants healthy, but also are part of my recycling plan. Many of the native plants were planted to not only be attractive but to serve as wind breaks during the winter and help shade the house during the summer. Both are attractive ways to save heating and cooling costs. It was never my intent to create a Net Zero House or to be Energy Star Rated. There are still steps to be taken in order to further reduce my energy consumption. The steps already taken have greatly reduced my energy usage(and costs) but hopefully will make my house a more comfortable one as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wake Up Call

Today my furnice kicked in for the first time this year.For me this a sign that winter is just around the corner and its time to get my house ready for the cold weather. Usually the first thing I do is get my furnice tuned up.The tune up helps it run more efficiently,use less fuel and save on maintance. After that,I get the storm windows out and ready to be put on. The next step is getting my garden ready for the winter. Usually this means doing my final transpalnting of plant and mulching. This allows me to fill in the gaps in my garden so it will look better in the spring. Mulch helps to retain water in the ground and prevents the newly planted material from heaving. Most importantly,its a good time to prune the plants.It helps them look better and creates better growth in the spring.Latter on in the year,I will take all of the leaves and dead material from my plants and add it into my compost heap. I can use the material from my compost heap as mulch and fertalizer. It will help create a cleaner and healthier garden Most inportantly,I make sure that all of my gutters are clean and in good shape. This helps prevent water and melting snow from the roof to flow into the ground. Lastly,I drain most of the water from my rain barrel out. I would hate to see it burst when the water turn into ice. These chore are a lot of work,but will help save money, make your house more comfortable.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Preparing for The Winter

The first week of August is usually viewed as a time for summer vacation,yard work and possibly getting the children ready for the upcoming school year.However,many people also view this time as a great time to start preparing the house foe the winter time. Many of this work can include weeding the flower beds,pruning trees and bushes or general yard work. However its important to start many of the chores related to upkeeping the house. Painting the outside of the house(if needed) and repointing brick and stone work is best done before the weather starts to get too cold. Its also a good time to make sure that the storm windows are in good repair and ready to help keep oy the cold winter air. Late summer,early fall is also a good time to start tuning up and cleaning your heating system. While this is an expence, this work will help extend the life span of this system and help lower fuel consumption. Also,it might be a good time to have a home energy assement for your house offered by programs such as Mass Save. This program offered by the utilty company will provide the home owner an assesment of their home and free CFLs,water saving shower heads and a thermostat. These free tools if used correctly can save costs associated with water,electric and fuel costs. Many home owners will also receive insulation and air sealing at greatly reduced prices. This work can help reduce heating costs and help the house feel comfortable. Aside from saving money on heating and cooling expences, this work will help increase the value of your house. Since many people are involved with other things during the summer time, its easier to get an appointment for a free evaluation

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thoughts on the Real Estate Market

Its the middle of the summer and most of us are thinking about going to the beach or taking a fun trip during our summer break. As a Realtor,my thoughts are taking me in the same direction,but summer time is one of the peak work periods for me. Home buyers have more free time during the summer months to look at homes to buy and do the work needed to purchase a property and make the big move into their home. We are in an interesting time to purchase a home. Home prices are off their highs that we saw 5-6 years ago but appear to be rising. While interest rates for a 30 year fixed mortage have risen to a little bit over 4%, they are well below the 8% rate that I saw 21 years ago at the start of my real estate career. The number of distressed properties(Short sales and foreclosed) have decreased and fewer people are selling their homes for a loss.The number of homes for sale seem to be higher than we saw during the spring time and buyers do not have the rushed feeling we saw a few months ago. It is my feeling that we have seen the bottom of the real estate market but still have a ways to go before home prices are no longer affordable. In the near future,its unlikely that we will see a quick rise in home prices that were seen in the 2000-2008 time frame. However,if people are looking to live in their homes long term, they will see a modest rise in their home values. While there are many indications that its a good time to purchase a home,the timing of purchasing a home is an individual matter. Home ownership is a major commitment. Having the finances needed to purchase and maintain the home are key to the process. Its also important to learn about the home buying process by talking to a Realtor and/or taking a first time home class.Unlike renting an apartment,home ownership needs to be viewed as a long term commitment. Home ownership incorporates a major financial commitment with a place to live. While the indicators are pointing to the buy sign, the buy side is clearly dictated to individual timing

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Keeping Cool In The Summer

Many of us have taken steps in the winter time to help keep our heating costs diwn by using tools such as programable thermostats and keeping our heating systems tuned up.However,most of us do not realize that summer time in New England is another period where we spend a lot of money keeping our homes cool. Most of this money is spent running air conditioning units during the summer time.While this is helpful,many people have switched to using ceil fans as an energy saving alternative.Creating a draft in your home by keeping windows open(not while using the ac) helps vent out the warm air. Keeping blinds and window shades closed mid day will block out the heat created by the sun. Shading the ac units and the roof with trees are also great passive means to help prevent your house from the suns heating rays. Summer can also be a great time to take advantage of the free energy audit and other services offered by the Mass Save Program ( if you are going to purchase air conditioning units and other appliances,look for ones that are Energy Star Rated. They tend to have lower energy useage than other appliances and may come with a rebate. In any event try to keep cool during the summer

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Changes in the Real Estate Market

One of the most frequently asked questions for a Realtor is "How is the Real Estate Market?" I realize that it may sound trite,but it really depends on the area.Recent reports indicate that prices in Phoenix have increased over 50% while prices in Metro Boston is increased a mere 12% over the last year.Does that mean that the Phoenix Market is more attractive than the Boston based market? Like any other question,the answer is relative. Its more inportabt to look at over all price changes. In Phoenix,prices dropped more quickly than Bostons and the upward price adjustment simply responding to market trends. Sharp price increases or declines are key to your plans to hold the property. For an investor or person(s) looking on the short term horizon, price swings paly a much more critical role than somebody holding a home for the long term. While its always nice to be able to purchase a home when prices are relatively low, long term home owners are in a much better position to ride out the swing in prices. Homes are a financial investment as well as an investment in your future. On one hand,a home provides shelter and a place to invite friends to visit. On the other hand,its inportant to realize that home ownership is a finacial investment. Having the financial resources to purchase the home and ability to maintain it( mortgage plus operating expences such as heating,utility and maintance costs) is key to purchasing a home. Each person(s) plan to buy a home should be based on current market conditions, planned length of ownership and ability to purchase the home

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Real Estate Market

By many accounts,we have already entered whats known as the spring market for real estate sales. While there is no official start or end of this market,this period is when most homes are marketed for sale and the lions share of home sales occur.In Metro Boston,we have noticed an increased number of buyers at our open homes and offers being made on them.In fact,for the last few months, we have seen numerous offers on homes being made on the properties. While this is normal for this time of year,there are a number of differences between this year and the same time period in 2012. The National Association of Realtors and Banker and Tradesman are reporting that prices have been rising in Metro Boston. This is largely due to the limited number of homes for sale including a reduced number of foreclosed upon homes or short sales. This has lead to a shift from a buyers market to a sellers market. Low interest rates with the expectation that rates will rise in the not to distant future has added to this trend. In order to take advantage of the fact that hopes are relatively affordable, should be prepared to act quickly in order to secure their property. Peole should have a check list of home features that mirror their needs when looking at aproprty.Home buyers should be preapproved for a mortgage and be willing to act quickly when then locate a home that suits their needs. While there are some Realtors that correctly sugguest that offers should be uncomplicated, these offers still should have a mortgage contingency(unless you are lucky enough to be able to pat cash) and have a home inspection. There are many other points to consider when buying a home and its best to have a Realtor knowledgeable in the area to assist you in your home search and purchase.