How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

By Jennifer Calonia

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.

A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.

How to find a personal loan

If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.

1. Assess your budget

 

The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)

Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.

2. Know your credit score

 

Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.

Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.

3. Compare rates and terms

 

When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.

Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.

To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).

4. Submit an application

 

If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:

  • Personal information
  • Income
  • Employment information
  • Reason for the loan
  • Amount you want to borrow

 

To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.

Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.

 

Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.

Posted on April 17, 2019 at 10:33 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Reality of Home Improvement: HGTV installment

Painting2On any given weekend in my house, at least a couple of hours will be spent watching the designers, craftspeople and entertainers on HGTV or its spunky sister station, the DIY Network.  The premise of these home-centered television networks is that somewhere, sandwiched between long commercial breaks for paint, faucets, flooring warehouses and something called “Slab Jacking”, you’ll find programming about real people making real decisions about their homes. Sometimes those decisions are about buying a home, while other times they may be about selling or remodeling a home.  In all of the situations, experts are brought in to help and a camera crew just happens to tag along, so the rest of us can enjoy the unfolding drama from the comfort of our couches.

Home improvement programming has been around for a long time and is generally considered reality TV, but a lot of the real life is lost between cuts. Here’s a quick guide of some of the more popular programs.

House Hunters – The formula is simple but always entertaining.  Each episode begins with someone unhappy with their living situation, so they call an agent and look at 3 properties.   After weighing the options, a home is chosen.  Of course, this show is over-simplified and leaves out the long weekends the buyer spends in their agent’s car driving from listing to listing.  What you do get is a sense of home values and styles in different regions, the humor of buyers’ reactions to homes, and the excitement new home owners feel as they take the keys to their dream home. You rarely get the type of tension home shopping can bring. The big climax of the show is when an offer is made: the narrator might say something like, “Though their offer was rejected the first time around, the other buyer ultimately backed out and they ended up getting the house for X amount.” But I don’t think they usually talk about it at all. For that kind of tension, you need to check out Property Virgins. The best part of the half hour happens in the last 30 seconds when you see how the new owner redecorates the home in their own style.

Property Virgins– Similar premise to House Hunters, except these first-time homebuyers walk through the basics. The best part about the show is the excitement (and sometimes clumsiness) of the virgin house-hunters. The worst part of this show is when would be homebuyers have unrealistic expectations for their first home.

House Hunters International – Comparable to House Hunters but everyone has accents and the kitchens are shockingly small.

Designed to Sell – Did you know that your spare bedroom filled with Grandpa’s taxidermy and the vintage 1950’s kitchen can be a turn-off to potential buyers? Valuable lessons like these are a just a few of the gems I’ve picked up on Designed to Sell.  Each episode features a home which has been racking up days on the market but no one is interested in buying.  That’s where the army of carpenters and designers step in. When they’re done, the house that looked like Grandma’s musty basement now looks like the lobby of a hip hotel, and they only spent a few hundred dollars.  I love this program for the inspiration but find it short on reality.  The listed prices of these improvements don’t seem realistic, and I often wonder if the costs include the lifetime of carpentry skills, design training, garage filled with power tools and time required to do the job. If you are looking for design ideas and hope for a home that isn’t attracting buyers, you’ll find some great ideas here, but take the true cost of those improvements with a grain of salt.

Real Estate Intervention – Being a real estate agent takes a lot of diplomacy, and this is never more important than that moment they suggest a market-friendly price to a home seller. On Real Estate Intervention, that diplomacy generally fails, sellers are unrealistic, and a stern man with a menacing mustache steps in for an intervention.  He dishes out tough love to the seller and paints a clear picture of market reality.  In a half hour he is able to change minds and make the seller feel good about the decision they made.

This Old House – This PBS staple wrote the book on home improvement programming.  With TOHyou’ll trade commercials for pledge drives, but you’ll also get a more cerebral home improvement viewing experience.  TOH does take patience, as it takes a full season to complete a home improvement project instead of 30 minutes on other programs.  If you are looking for the same quality instruction in a more digestible format, you can check out the spin off, Ask This Old House.

Be warned that the home improvement bug often bites soon after watching any of these programs.  After a long HGTV bender, I find myself wandering through the paint sample aisle and making trips to home improvement stores that aren’t on my way home from the office.  Sometimes life does imitate art and the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “They make it look so easy.”

What about you? Do you find home-improvement shows useful or do you think they set unrealistic expectations? What are your favorite home-improvement resources?

by Justin Waskow

Posted on March 14, 2019 at 3:00 pm
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

What You Need To Know About Buying a Bank Owned Home

SalePriceRecently, news about how to purchase a real-estate owned (REO/bank owned) home, foreclosure property or short sale is everywhere. Bank owned homes are sold directly from the lender after the foreclosure process is complete, and while you may save quite a bit of money by choosing to go for this type of home, it is not without trials and tribulations. The process of purchasing a home directly from a lender can be long and arduous, but could very well be worth it in the end.
If you have your sights on a particular home or are looking to find a deal on your first, working directly with the lender may be your only option. Purchasing a bank owned home is not for the faint of heart, here are some tips for negotiating the REO process:

1. Be prepared: The condition of bank owned properties is usually poor and hard to show. Past owners may have left angry and left the home in bad condition with foul smells, missing appliances, wires taken from breakers, gas fireplaces gone, even bathrooms without toilets and sinks.

2. Understand the costs: Maintenance or repairs may be necessary, since these homes have been vacant for an unknown period of time–sometimes months or years. Keep in mind, when they were occupied the owners could have been under a financial hardship, preventing them from doing regular seasonal care or repairs when needed. Remember as well that the bank is trying to sell the house immediately, so you will receive a financial break in the price rather than a willingness to negotiate on the maintenance and repair issues.

3. Accept the unknown: In traditional real estate transactions, homeowners fill out Form 17 regarding important information about the history of the house. A bank owned home is either exempt or marked with “I don’t know” throughout the document. Not having the accuracy of this 5 page disclosure form could leave you with a lot of unanswered questions on the history of the home.

4. Know what is non-negotiable: The pricing on the house may not get much lower. Some of these properties can be “a dream come true” if you get them at an amazing price, or they could be your worst nightmare. Do your due diligence researching any property, and conduct all necessary inspections to safeguard yourself. Some major repairs may be negotiable, but will likely not reduce the home price.

5. Make a clean offer: The higher the price you can offer, the better. Include your earnest money, keep contingencies to a minimum, and suggest a reasonable closing date. The simpler your offer is, the higher chance you have of the bank accepting your offer or countering in a reasonable time period.

6. Be patient: Consult with a professional who handles bank owned home purchases to help you negotiate the pathway to homeownership. The process of purchasing a bank owned, foreclosed or short-sale home is typically longer than a typical real estate sale.

What do you want to know about purchasing bank owned, foreclosure and short-sale properties?

Tonya Brobeck is a Broker at Windermere Lake Stevens. She has a total of 17 years combined residential real estate and worldwide resort sales & marketing experience.

Posted on March 11, 2019 at 11:30 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, Colorado Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , ,

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Posted in BuyingSelling, and Living by Guest Author 

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

 

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

 

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

 

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.

Posted on March 4, 2019 at 8:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, For Buyers, For Sellers, Mortgage | Tagged , , , , , , ,

5 Deal Breakers that can blindside home buyers

Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well prepared home buyer.  You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home.  Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.

    1. Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
    2. Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing.  If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
    3. Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
    4. IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”.  Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
    5. Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a data base of insurance claims for both people and property.  Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.

When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles.  By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.

What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.

Posted on February 21, 2019 at 5:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , ,

What’s in a Condo? The In-Between Style of Home That Might Be the Right Fit for You

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits. Here’s some background information to help you decide whether purchasing a condo is a good match for you.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time home buyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.  If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds upkeep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Part of it depends on your lifestyle. Condominium living may not be optimum for large families with active kids. The other factor is personal style. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that the majority of homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear the sound of your neighbors.

Space: With the exception of very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain about of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. Laws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive. If you long to paint your front door red or decorate your deck with tiki lanterns, condominium living might not be for you.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect beachfront getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

Where would you like to live?

Some people love the excitement and sophistication of urban living. Others dream of skiing every weekend. Whether it’s the sound of the surf or the lure of the golf course, a condominium home affords you the ability to live a carefree lifestyle in virtually any setting.

What amenities are most important to you?

The variety of condominium amenities increases each year. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Parking can be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 5:30 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , ,

10 Steps to Get Your Home Clean and Ready for Spring

Warmer months are ahead, so now is the time to plan for spring cleaning and maintenance. A clean home offers a fresh start for the year, and a checklist of tasks guides your efforts towards efficiency. For many homeowners, spring cleaning can be a personal challenge. It can also be one accomplished with the help of the rest of the family or other residents. In some occasions, however, professional assistance may be advised, or even necessary. Regardless, regular home maintenance not only increases your home’s value, but it can also make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.

Indoors

Check Your Attic

Once summer arrives, it can be too hot in many regions to comfortably perform an inspection. Use late winter and early spring to ensure the following: there’s ample insulation (10 to 14 inches), there are no signs of mice or rats (droppings, strong odor, nests), there are no bugs (flying, crawling, or otherwise), and there are no signs of roof leaks (water stains, etc.).

Schedule HVAC Maintenance

Annual tune-ups on your heating/cooling equipment will reduce your energy bill and help ensure you can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Fix the Window Screens

It won’t be long before you’ll want to throw open the windows for fresh air, or relief on a warm afternoon. Take time now to ensure your window screens are ready for the challenge. Many traditional neighborhood hardware stores still offer re-screening services. Contractors also specialize in this service and are available for house calls.

Clean the Ceiling Fans

During the warm weather and the cold, ceiling fans can help moderate the temperature and better distribute the air. But your fans will be far more efficient if you give them a good cleaning a couple times each year. For fans mounted up to 10 feet in the air, you can use a ladder to access the tops of the fan blades. For those mounted on vaulted ceilings, use a long-handled duster.

Apply Weather Stripping

Many homeowners think of weather stripping as a cold-weather commodity, but it’s just as important during summer. To keep the cool air in and the hot air out, use any of the many filler materials available to seal gaps around windows, doors, exhaust fans, and any other point where you can see light peeking through.

Outdoors

Look for Damaged Roof Shingles

Use binoculars (with your feet safely planted on the ground) to scan for roof shingles that are curling, broken, or missing. If anything seems compromised, have a roofing company perform an inspection and provide a bid. If you or any members of your family are enterprising drone users, a camera-affixed drone can also be a useful aid in this reconnaissance effort.

Wash the Exterior

An easy way to extend the life of your exterior paint – and make your house look better than ever – is to give the siding a good washing. Use mostly water (to avoid harming any plants) and a stiff pole brush.

Search Out Rotten Wood

While you’re washing the exterior, keep an eye out for areas where there may be rot. Use a screwdriver to gently but firmly press on any siding or trim where you see black mold, missing paint, or exposed gray wood. If the area you’re probing feels mushy or bone-dry, contact a contractor to assess and stabilize the situation.

Clean the Gutters

All it takes is a handful of leaves to clog a gutter downspout and cause overflow and flooding. Hire a professional to give the gutters a thorough cleaning and you’ll avoid the very real dangers of working from a ladder. If you live in an area with lots of trees, consider getting quotes for some of the leaf-less gutter systems.

Prepare Your Lawn to Grow

The winter sets impediments for your lawn, and it takes preparation to help it shine. Rake away any dead grass and aerate the whole lawn to allow nutrients to access the roots. Reseed bare spots and apply a spring fertilizer to ensure your lawn has the fuel it needs to grow strong and beautiful.

Posted on January 25, 2019 at 5:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers | Tagged ,

Investing In a Green Home Will Pay Dividends In 2019

As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.

While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.

There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:

Cool roof

Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.

For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.

Wind turbine

A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.

But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.

Green roof

Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.

Hybrid heating

Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.

Geothermal heating

Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.

Solar power

Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.

In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).

Solar water heaters

Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.

Tax credits/rebates

Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.

Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.

Posted on January 11, 2019 at 5:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

Making Your Home Smarter With Smart Appliances

Products that let you control every aspect of your home remotely are growing at a rapid rate. Smartphone-connected devices and appliances are increasingly common and deliver a stylish, effective design. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.

While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are a few types of devices we found that found the mark for function and style:

GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER

Photo Credit: GE Appliances

Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.

 

LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

Photo Credit: Logitech 

More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smartphone into an additional remote.

 

FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER

Photo Credit: Frigidaire

A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smartphone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!

 

SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR

Photo Credit: Samsung

A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5-inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 5:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, Housing Trends | Tagged

Bringing Your Plants Inside for Winter

Winters in many parts of the Western U.S. can easily see temperatures that dip down below freezing. For many gardening homeowners, this can be troublesome when precious plants are concerned. Covering your plants with sheets may not be enough to save a plant from succumbing to freezing temperatures. Check out these ways to bring your plants inside for winter:

Take Inventory of Plants

Unless you have planted exotic plants that are definitely not going to survive cold temperatures, there are probably more than a few plants within your yard that should be okay. Healthy native plants are used to the climate of your area and should be able to withstand the winter temperatures without any issue. Those plants that are better suited for a higher growing zone will need to be cared for in order to best survive the season. Consider every plant within your yard and access their health, maturity, and location in order to choose which plants to bring indoors.

Indoor Placement

Exotic plants love the sun and should be placed near southern facing windows that aren’t drafty or cold. Create a spot within your home that is far from drafts or cold breezes from open doors. Spread plastic sheeting to protect flooring and create a little greenhouse group of plants that will still receive plenty of sunlight. Refrain from placing plants too close together in order to allow for equal access to sunlight and air flow.

Container Issues

Many potted plants can easily be moved indoors without having to transplant them. Easily place potted plants in a group to ride out the winter season. In-ground plants within your landscape will need to be transplanted to a container in order to bring them indoors. Make sure that you consider the size of the plant and use a container that is big enough around for the root ball of the plant. Using a container that is much too large for a plant is better than one that is too small and could damage the plant’s root system.

Keep the Fan On

Many indoor plants enjoy being near a window but will also need adequate air circulation to prevent soggy soil conditions. It is a good idea to keep the ceiling fan on in the room, at a low speed, in order to keep the air moving within the room. Don’t place plants too close to heating vents in order to keep them from becoming too hot and overheated. Plants that produce browning leaves will need to be moved to a room with a humidifier in order to keep them in good condition as well.

Keep Pets Away

Many indoor plants can become curious items for an indoor pet. Make sure to keep pets away from plants in order to keep both safe. Some tropical plants are toxic for animals and some pets can prove damaging to plants. Create a barrier between plants and animals so that both are kept safe during the winter season.

Water & Dust

Keeping your plants watered indoors may look different than what it receives in an outdoor environment. Make sure to consider the plant before watering in order to keep it in soil that it prefers. Many winter climates will not see a lot of added water so choosing to water your indoor plants at a minimum will help mimic those conditions that it would receive outside.

Also, check the plants for accumulating dust that can easily be found after a few weeks indoors. Dust off plants on a regular basis in order to keep them healthy and able to absorb important nutrients. Use a wet cloth to gently wipe down leaves in order to keep dust free from indoor plants.

There are many things to consider when choosing to bring plants indoors for winter. Make sure to choose plants carefully and monitor their progress as the winter season wears on. Consider all of these tips for bringing your plants inside for winter in order to keep them from freezing outdoors.

Kelly Holland is a gardening and landscape design writer who loves experimenting in her kitchen. Her quirky nature loves a bright color palette so naturally, her coveted garden is covered in a rainbow of fruits, vegetable, and flowers. 

Posted on December 14, 2018 at 5:00 am
Fort Collins | Category: Blog, Buyers & Sellers, Fun Facts | Tagged