Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 751-760 of 815

Five Ways to Cut Heating Costs


  If you're thinking it's time to do something about your cold house and your high heating bills, here are five win-win suggestions that will help you do both.

A clogged filter makes your furnace work harder to deliver the same amount of heat, which wastes energy by keeping the furnace on for a longer period in order to bring the house up to the requested temperature.

If you have a central heating system (used for heat only), replace the filter once a year, at the start of the heating season. If you have a heat pump or a furnace with central air conditioning, replace it twice a year, at the start of the heating season and at the start of the cooling season. While replacing the filter, always use a shop vacuum to clean up as much dust and debris within the filter cavity as you can reach.

Programmable thermostats work a whole lot better than your memory. They give you the ability to have a lot more control over your heating and cooling systems, and they will add both convenience and energy savings by raising and lowering the heat at preset times so you don't have to remember to do it.

A programmable thermostat will bring the system on and shut it off based not only on temperature, but on time as well. For example, the thermostat can be programmed to turn on the heat to a certain level at 6 a.m. when you get up, and turn it down again at 8 a.m. when you leave for work. It can also be set for different cycles on different days of the week, and can be overridden with the touch of a single button to temporarily raise or lower the heat.

Since the ducts are running through an unheated space, whether in your attic, crawlspace, basement or garage, duct insulation is a huge part of the system's ability to retain heated air within the ducts until it gets delivered into the house. All of the ducts in unheated spaces should be completely wrapped without any gaps, and the insulation should be of sufficient thickness to provide good insulating value -- typically around R-8, which is approximately 2 1/2 inches of fiberglass.

As with a central furnace, it's very important that wall heaters and baseboard heaters be cleaned at the start of every heating season. Before cleaning, however, first try to minimize the potential for dust buildup in the heaters. This might be done by rearranging furniture, increasing fresh air in the room, or increasing air flow in front of the heaters.

To clean baseboard heaters, first shut off the circuit breaker that supplies power to the heater. To be certain you have the correct breaker, turn the thermostat up to high for 30 seconds or so and make sure that the heater does not come on. Remove the front cover and use a vacuum to clean out the inside of the heater, being careful not to damage the aluminum fins inside the heater. If you notice that the fins are bent, you can use a fin comb, available through many heating contractors and other retailers of heating equipment, to straighten them out again.

For wall heaters, shut off the circuit breaker for the heater, and verify that it's off as described above. Remove the screws that hold the grill in place, and remove the grill. Wash the grill in hot soapy water, dry it, and set it aside. You can then clean the inside of the heater using a vacuum, taking care not to touch the heating elements, or you can blow out dust using the blower side of your shop vacuum.

Note: Be sure to refer to the instruction book that came with the heater, or check with the manufacturer's Web site for specific cleaning instructions and safety precautions.

If you have a room air conditioner that sits in a window or mounts into an opening in the exterior wall, they have the potential to leak a lot of air. If the air conditioner is in a window and is easy to remove, your best bet is to remove it, clean it and then store it for next summer.

If it's not easily removed, then examine the unit carefully to see if there is any daylight coming in around it. You can use foam tape, expandable spray foam or other weatherstripping materials to close up the gaps around the case. Finally, buy or build a cover that will slip over the unit from the outside and prevent cold air from coming through it and into the house.

Home Buyer Tax Credit: How It Works

by Chicago Tribune, Mary Umberger (12/28/2008)

Home Buyer Tax Credit: How It Works
First-time homebuyers in 2008 can take an income-tax credit on their purchase, thanks to passage in Congress earlier this year of the first-time home buyer tax credit.

The definition of first-time homebuyer is generous. To get the credit, the homebuyer cannot have owned a home in the previous three years. The home must be a principal residence and purchased between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009.

The credit is equal to 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $7,500. Single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income up to $75,000 and couples with MAGI up to $150,000 will qualify for full credit. Singles with MAGI up to $95,000 and couples with MAGI up to $170,000 will get a reduced amount. Those with higher incomes don’t qualify.

If the amount of tax a homebuyer owes is less than the amount of the credit, they get to keep the difference in the form of an IRS refund.

The homebuyer must begin to repay the credit in two years in increments of about $500 a year over a 15-year period for those who received the full credit

Homebuyers who sell their home before the credit is repaid must pay off the loan with any profits. If they sell the home at a loss, the loan is forgiven.

Editor's Note: The credit is set to expire in mid-2009, although industry groups, including the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, are encouraging Congress to extend it. NAR is also encouraging Congress to make the credit available to all buyers and to eliminate the repayment requirement.

Mortgage Applications Steady in Latest Week

by Mortgage Bankers Association (12/31/2008)

The number of mortgage applications filed last week was essentially unchanged from the week before – at least on a seasonally adjusted basis.

This week’s index stood at 1245.7, compared to 1245.4 the previous week, adjusted for the Christmas holiday. On an unadjusted basis, the index decreased 40 percent compared with the previous week and was up 155 percent compared with the same week a year ago.

The refinance shore of mortgage activity declined to 82.3 percent of total applications, down from 82.9 the previous week.

Mortgage rates declined slightly:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 5.03 percent from 5.04 percent
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.79 percent from 4.91 percent
  • One-year ARMs decreased to 6.15 percent from 6.36 percent

10 Real Estate Predictions for 2009

by Desi Sowers

2009 is likely to be a year of continuing adjustment to a changing real estate marketplace. Prepare yourself and your business with these predictions from HGTV’s Web site.

  • Sellers will continue to face falling home values in the new year because they’ll be competing with banks and builders who are slashing prices to sell off the still-huge inventory of foreclosures and new homes.
  • The Obama administration will act on its plan to crack down on abusive lending practices.
  • Mortgage holders in danger of losing their homes will receive more assistance from a variety of programs since the Senate's Joint Economic Committee has predicted two million foreclosures in 2009.
  • Banks' restructuring should bring increasing calm, making loan modifications and short sales easier to obtain. Eventually this will lead to a decrease in the number of bank-owned properties on the market.
  • Mortgage applications will continue to receive a comprehensive review, requiring borrowers to provide extensive income and debt documentation. Those with the best credit will get the best rates.
  • The foreclosure crisis has created wiser consumers, with a deeper understanding of real estate, mortgages, and credit enabling better decision-making going forward.
  • Green is good with increasing numbers of buyers opting for smaller homes that are within walking distance of school and work.
  • Buyers and sellers will be more and more tech savvy, relying on tools like video, webcasts, and mobile search. Consumers and practitioners will benefit from being ahead of the curve.
  • Prices will be low as will interest rates, creating great buying opportunities, and likely, inspiring reluctant buyers to make their move.
  • The recession will end and buyers will regain confidence in the market.

Source: (12/03/08)

Is Now a Good Time to Refinance?

by Desi Sowers

Refinancing now sounds appealing, but for lots of people, it isn’t all that easy.

Applications for refinances tripled earlier this month after the Federal Reserve promised to buy up $600 billion of mortgage debt. And rates for 30-year fixed mortgages are falling below 5 percent – the lowest in 50 years – but many home owners will have trouble doing the deal.

Having at least 20 percent equity in a home is important. A credit score of at least 720 and a debt ratio that is less than 43 percent are both essential.

Jumbo mortgages are still expensive. A 5/1 adjustable-rate with an initial interest rate for five years and an annual reset is averaging 6.6 percent. Traditional 30-year fixed are at 7.49 percent. Home owners in this situation may have to just ride it out.

Mortgage Rates Plunge to Record Lows

by The Wall Street Journal, Steve Kerch (12/19/08)

Mortgage Rates Plunge to Record Lows
In response to the Federal Reserve's cut in the federal funds rate to near zero, Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 5.17 percent during the week ended Dec. 18--down from 5.47 percent last week and the lowest since the survey's inception in 1971.

Interest on 15-year fixed loans slipped to 4.92 percent from 5.20 percent.

Meanwhile, the five-year hybrid adjustable mortgage rate dropped to 5.6 percent from 5.82 percent; and the one-year ARM dipped to 4.94 percent from 5.09 percent.

A year ago, the 30-year fixed rate stood at 6.14 percent, the 15-year fixed rate at 5.79 percent, the five-year hybrid ARM at 5.9 percent, and the one-year ARM at 5.51 percent.

30-Year Rates at Lowest in 4 Years

by Desi Sowers

Freddie Mac reports a decline in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to 5.47 percent during the week ended Dec. 11 from 5.53 percent last week and 6.11 percent a year ago.

Some lenders are locking in even lower rates as they build on momentum started when the Federal Reserve announced plans last month to purchase a substantial number of mortgage-backed securities. HSH Associates and Inside Mortgage Finance are reporting interest on 30-year fixed loans at 5.33 percent and 5.09 percent, respectively.

Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says mortgage rates also were driven downward by the recession and rising unemployment.

Source: The Washington Post, Dina ElBoghdady (12/12/08)

Say Hello to Digital TV

by Desi Sowers

 Effective Feb. 17, 2009, televisions stations in the U.S. will stop broadcasting in analog and convert to100 percent digital broadcasting. For millions of Americans who are already hooked up to cable or satellite, or who have televisions with built-in digital tuners, the transition should be relatively smooth. But homeowners who still receive analog signals through a rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears" may need to purchase additional equipment or services to keep their televisions operating properly., or call 1-888-DTV-2009.

Homeowners with analog TVs can either 1) connect to a converter box; 2) sign up for cable or satellite service; or 3) purchase a TV with a built-in digital tuner.

Through a program backed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, households can get two $40 coupons to help defray the cost of the converter boxes, which cost between $50 and $70 each.

Congress approved the switch to digital broadcasting to help free up channels for police, fire and emergency personnel. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the nation’s airwaves, says the digital transition also will open the door to new wireless services for consumers, improve TV picture and sound quality, and enable TV stations to broadcast several programs at the same time.

For more information or to order coupons online, visit

Top Tax-Friendly Communities for Retirees

by Desi Sowers

Spending the least amount possible on taxes is smart money-saving strategy for retirees.

To find the most tax-friendly places to retire, U.S. News & World Report sifted through more than 2,000 U.S. locales to find spots with low taxes and the amenities that are important to retirees like an economical cost of living, good recreational opportunities and attractive cultural amenities.

Here are the magazine’s top 10 communities:

  1. Billings, Mont.
  2. Cheyenne, Wyo.
  3. Doral, Fla.
  4. Henderson, Nev.
  5. Juneau, Alaska
  6. Manchester, N.H.
  7. Nashville, Tenn.
  8. Sioux Falls, S.D.
  9. Spokane, Wash.
  10. Stafford, Texas

Mortgage Rates Take a Big Dip This Week

by Desi Sowers

For the week ended Dec. 3, Freddie Mac reported the lowest interest on 30-year fixed home loans since late January.

The rate came in at an average of 5.53 percent, down from 5.97 percent the previous week and 5.96 percent a year ago; while 15-year fixed mortgages settled at 5.33 percent compared to 5.74 percent last week and 5.65 percent in the year-earlier period.

Borrowing costs for short-term loans also were lower, with one-year adjustable-rate mortgages dipping to 5.02 percent from 5.18 percent a week ago and 5.46 percent a year ago.

Five-year hybrid ARMs, meanwhile, fell to 5.77 percent from 5.86 percent last week and 5.75 percent during the same period of last year.

Displaying blog entries 751-760 of 815




Each Office Independently Owned and Operated