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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Can You See the Savings?

LED 200.jpgIf you’ve considered changing your light bulbs to energy-saving LED bulbs but decided not to make the investment because the prices were too high, you might want to investigate again.  The prices have come down considerably.

An initial investment now will generate immediate returns through energy costs and because they last longer, you won’t need to replace them for years.

The life of LED bulbs is projected to be from 35,000 to 50,000 hours compared to an incandescent bulb at 750 to 2,000 hours.  For normal home use, a LED bulb could last more than 20 years.

80-90% of the energy used by fluorescent and incandescent bulbs is wasted by the heat generated.  In contrast, cool LED bulbs converts 80% of the electrical energy to light energy.

• The color of LED lights is bright white, more like daylight, instead of the warm yellow of incandescent or the greenish tint of fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs light up instantly instead of building to their intensity like some of the fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs are more durable because they don’t have filaments or thin-glass bulbs like incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

Shop around to find the best price on LEDs. If the LED only lasted 20,000 hours, you might have to purchase 20 incandescent bulbs during that same period of time.  Using the chart below, you can see that the LED uses about 10% of the wattage without compromising on the brightness.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Perfect Last Minute Gift

seasons greetings.pngIt’s part of holiday tradition to celebrate with family and friends and to share gifts with our loved ones.  There’s no measuring how much is spent on the combined effort and money to find the perfect gift. 

The challenge is to identify the right gift in the right color and size; something they really want and need; and something that won’t break the budget. 

“Eight Gifts That Do Not Cost a Cent” are suggestions that have been offered on numerous Internet sites attributed to an anonymous writer.  They may be just what you need to find the perfect gift. 

• THE GIFT OF LISTENING...but you must really listen. No interrupting; no daydreaming; no planning your response; just listening.

• THE GIFT OF AFFECTION...be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds.  Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

• THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER...clip cartoons and share articles and funny stories.  Your gift will say “I love to laugh with you."

• THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE...it can be a simple "thanks for the help" note or a full letter.  A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime and may even change a life.

• THE GIFT OF A COMPLIMENT...a simple and sincere, "you look great in red" or "you did a super job" or "that was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day.

• THE GIFT OF A FAVOR... go out of your way every day to do something kind.

• THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE...there are times when a person wants nothing more than to be left alone.  Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.

• THE GIFT OF A CHEERFUL DISPOSITION...the easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone.  It’s really not that hard to say, Hello or Thank You. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Up to $500 for Doing Home "Work"

energy home.pngThe energy-efficient home upgrades tax credit is scheduled to expire on December 31st this year.  If you need to make improvements to your home, this could be an incentive to do it before the end of the year.  If you have already made qualifying improvements without realizing the tax credit is available, it may seem like a holiday gift you weren't expecting.

The equipment must be installed to qualify for the credit which can put you under a time crunch.  Heating and cooling systems, insulation, windows, doors, skylights, water heaters and home weatherization may qualify.

The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit has been available for purchases since January 1, 2011.  The tax credit is 10% of up to $5,000 of qualifying improvements which would make a maximum of $500 tax credit.

The cumulative maximum amount of tax credit that can be claimed by a taxpayer in the different years this law has been in effect is $500.  If it has been claimed in previous years, the taxpayer is not eligible for this credit for additional new purchases.

For more information, see energy.gov or talk to your tax professional.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Maintenance

home maintenance 250.jpgWith a 2,000+ mile long winter storm affecting much of the country, there are plenty of home owners who wish they were better prepared.  Even when you live in warm climates, some of these things are important to check periodically.

Preparing for the change of seasons can make your home more comfortable and protect your investment.  Regular maintenance extends the various components of a home and can generate savings in operating costs while avoiding expensive replacements.

  • Weather strips around doors and windows should be checked for possible air leaks.
  • Caulking around windows and doors should seal out moisture and air leaks.
  • HVAC should be inspected and serviced by a professional annually.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly.
  • Ductwork and supply lines from water heaters should be insulated.
  • Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned regularly and fireplaces should be inspected for cracks in mortar and to see if the damper closes properly.
  • Gutters should be free of leaves and debris to prevent rainwater build-up.
  • Tree branches touching or hanging over your roof should be trimmed.

Please contact us if you need a service provider recommendation.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Here's a little post-Thanksgiving eye candy - Grand Vie Magazine

Grand Vie Fall/Winter 2013

How to work with awkward windows!

It's hard to say where the world's off-center windows come from. Often they're the result of a moved or added partition wall during a renovation. Others were designed that way. But many homeowners who inherit this asymmetrical setup have trouble designing around it. After all, symmetry is an important part of good design. So what are you supposed to do? First of all, don't lose heart. Where there are problems, there are solutions.

Motivated Sellers, Better Prices and Less Competition

winter house 250.jpgThe Winter Home Buyer Report conducted in the second week of November by REALTOR.com® revealed the sentiments of current home buyers expecting to buy a house during the winter months.  It appears that there is pent-up demand with buyers who were unable to purchase a home recently.

Most cited as an impediment to purchase was the challenge of low inventory.  Strong demand coupled with short supply explains why home prices have been increasing.

"This summer and spring home buying season was particularly challenging for buyers, especially first-time home buyers trying to compete with all-cash offers and bidding wars because of reduced inventory.  In fact, a quarter of the winter home buyers revealed they are in the market now because they were unable to find a home during this last home buying season," said Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications at REALTOR.com®.  "While buyers are still experiencing challenges with inventory and approximately one in five buyers plan to put down all cash, there are advantages to looking for a home in the winter. Motivated sellers, better prices and less competition between buyers are some of the top reasons winter home buyers are interested in purchasing a home during the colder months of the year."

Traditionally, the industry has found that the fourth quarter of the year has a lower sales volume and is generally attributed to distractions from the holidays and not wanting to make a move during consistently inclement weather.  Even in areas that are not affected by extreme winter weather, there seems to be a mindset about moving in the winter.

Indications are that it may be advantageous for sellers to put their home on the market now rather than wait until after the first of the year.

We are in town through the end of the year if you're ready to list or buy - or want to get a jump on the new year!

Warmest regards,

 

Peggy and Dave Millheiser

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving is Always in Season

Thanksgiving250.jpgMost school children would probably say that Thanksgiving dates back to the Pilgrims at Plymouth as early as 1621. By the late 1660’s, it had become traditional to hold a harvest festival in New England.

President George Washington declared the first nation-wide thanksgiving in 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

One hundred fifty years ago during the Civil War, in October, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving.

William Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, drafted the proclamation: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

Even though the country was in the middle of the costly Civil War, the people of America started an enduring tradition to give thanks. In 1941, Congress determined that Thanksgiving will be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

We wish you peace and happiness this Thanksgiving.

 

Peggy and Dave

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Refinance to Remove a Person

refinance 250.jpgMost people are familiar with the various reasons a homeowner refinances their home which generally result in two major benefits: saving interest and building equity. 

There is however another reason to refinance which may not be as common which is to remove a person from the loan. In the case of a divorce, when one party wants to keep the home and the other party wants their equity out of the home, it is possible for the remaining party to refinance the home. If the equity is sufficient to justify it and the remaining owner can qualify for the new loan, the refinance can provide the proceeds to buy out the other spouse.

Refinancing to remove a person from the loan could also involve a situation where two or more heirs jointly own a property and have differing opinions on when to sell. The same situation could apply to a rental property with multiple owners and the refinance would provide a way to buy out a partner.

Sometimes, it’s not about taking cash out of the home to buy out the other party. If a person’s name is on the mortgage, they’re responsible if it goes to default. One party may be willing to deed the home to the other party but it doesn’t necessarily relieve them of the liability of the mortgage they originated.

Many times, once a person has made their mind to move on, they’ll take the fastest and easiest way out. Removing a person from the deed or a mortgage is a reason to consider obtaining legal advice to protect your interests. Refinance Analysis calculator.

Reasons to Refinance

1. Lower the rate
2. Shorten the term
3. Take cash out of the equity
4. Combine loans
5. Remove a person from a loan

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who's Paying Your Mortgage?

who is paying your mortgageAs a homeowner, you obviously pay for your mortgage but as an investor, your tenant does.  Equity build-up is a significant benefit of mortgaged rental property.  As the investor collects rent and pays expenses, the principal amount of the loan is reduced which increases the equity in the property.  Over time, the tenant pays for the property to the benefit of the investor.

Equity build-up occurs with normal amortization as the loan is paid down.  It can be accelerated by making additional contributions to the principal each month along with the normal payment.  Some investors consider this a good use of the cash flows because interest rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposits are much lower than their mortgage rate.

In the example below, is a hypothetical rental with a purchase price of $125,000 with 80% loan-to-value mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years compared to a 3.5% for 15 years.  The acquisition costs were estimated at $3,000, the monthly rent is estimated at $1,250 and $4,800 for operating expenses. 

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Notice that both properties have a positive cash flow before tax.  The cash on cash return is the revenue less expenses including debt service divided by the initial investment to acquire the property.  The 15 year mortgage will obviously have a smaller cash flow and lower cash on cash but the equity build-up is significantly higher.

If the goal of the investor is to pay off the property to provide the highest possible cash flow at a later date, a shorter term mortgage with a lower interest rate will help them achieve that.  A simple definition of an investment is to put away today so you’ll have more tomorrow.  Sacrificing cash flow now, during an investor’s earning years, is a reasonable expectation to provide more cash flow in the future when it might be needed more.

Contact me if you’d like to explore rental property opportunities.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Emerging Trends of Today’s Global Buyer

International Luxury Real Estate
The world continues to grow smaller for today’s luxury buyer and as it does we can observe certain trends among the affluent of a given country. London, for instance, has become a hotbed for Russia’s elite, while buyers from Hong Kong are swooping up property in Sydney. The search for the foreign buyer has been one of real estate’s hottest topics of late. For more on the subject, check out this piece recently published in the Wall Street Journal – a must-read for anyone interested in the matter.

Last month, Luxury Portfolio members from around the world gathered in Venice for our annual International Symposium to discuss the latest in global luxury real estate and share insights and trends. The meeting featured sessions and panels from members around the world led by members from everywhere from Dubai, Mauritius, Istanbul, Bucharest and more. The consensus was that international buyers are looking for a “safe” investment. Traditional destinations of the world’s jet set, such as New York City and Paris, are the obvious markets being referred to here, but they’re not the only ones by any means. Delving closer into the subject, one such characteristic that remains prevalent among these safe markets is the presence of established academic institutions. Simply put, overseas education has become a driving factor behind the relocation of the world’s affluent.

University cities like Montreal, Vienna and Boston are experiencing their own wave of international buyers who invest in high-end real estate while their child is attending school and often turn a profit after graduation. Whether it’s luxurious “student housing” or a place for family to crash when in town, these purchases are fast becoming common practice for wealthy foreigners. In a recent interview for the Financial Times, Beverly Sunn, president of Luxury Portfolio’s Chinese member-broker Asia Pacific Properties, reinforced this notion. “Investors at the luxury sector are highly sophisticated and look to invest in major cities to meet the educational requirements of their children,” remarks Sunn.

Of course, cities with strong academic reputations aren’t the only place experiencing an influx of foreign activity; it’s just where the smart money is investing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All Dollars Not Equal

home money.jpgThe division of assets between the spouses is an important decision to finalize a divorce.  The exercise looks relatively simple: assign a value for each of the assets and divide them based on a mutual agreement between the parties.

The challenge is to make a fair division which requires an analysis to determine their value after they’re converted to cash.

Assume the two major assets in the example, a retirement account and the equity in the home, are equal at $100,000.  It might seem logical to give the home to one spouse and the retirement account to the other.  However, if the person receiving the home decides to sell the home, the net proceeds could be considerably less than the spouse receiving the retirement account.

Let’s pretend that the spouse with the home negotiates a lower price of $475,000 due to current market conditions.  The former couple had owned the home for many years and refinanced several times, pulling money out of the home each time.  When the remaining spouse sells the home, there could be a considerable gain that was never recognized.

As a single person, he or she is now only entitled to $250,000 exclusion and would have to pay tax on the excess gain.  After paying the sales costs, outstanding mortgage balance and the taxes due on the gain, the remaining spouse would have net proceeds of $24,375 compared to the $100,000 that the former spouse received in the settlement.

The message in an example like this is to examine and consider the potential expenses that may be involved with converting the assets to cash after the divorce. Obviously, expert tax advice is valuable in making such decisions.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Real Estate 411

411.pngWhen you’re buying or selling, the obvious source to get your real estate question answered is your agent but where do you go the rest of the time?  As a homeowner for many years to come, you’ll need reliable help and solid suggestions.

Our approach is to have a select group of our friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We want to earn that trusted position so they’ll enthusiastically refer their friends to us.  Our plan to achieve this is simply to help you with all of your real estate needs not just when you buy or sell but for all the years in between.

Throughout the year, we offer reminders and suggestions by email and social media that benefit your homeowner experience.  When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along.  You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate.  If we don’t have the answer you need, we’ll point you in the right direction to find it.

We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future.  Please let us know how we can help you.