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Archive for August, 2017|Monthly archive page

5 Ways to Create an Energy-Efficient Home for Under $500

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on August 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Summer is a time filled with good times and warm weather. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for many homeowners when energy costs skyrocket as they attempt to keep their homes cool and comfortable. Thankfully, there are many things that can be done to help keep homes cool while saving energy and money. These five tips will help make the most of energy-efficient home situations this summer, and all cost less than $500.

Find and Fix Air Leaks
According to Energy.gov, air leaks are responsible for as much as 20 percent of the energy used to heat and cool the home. Stopping air leaks around doors and windows through weatherstripping is a fast and inexpensive way to help lower energy bills year-round, while stopping drafts and making the home more comfortable.

How Much Does It Save?
It’s common to see a drop in energy bills of about 20 percent after sealing up air leaks. The average cost of this project is around $168, and it will pay for itself over time with lower energy bills.

Upgrade the Thermostat
Another way to lower energy bills is to invest in a programmable thermostat. Thermostats are responsible for controlling when the air conditioner goes on and off. However, many people forget to turn them off when they leave for the day, resulting in higher than necessary bills. A programmable version that can learn the habits of the residents in house will let the system use energy more efficiently, keeping bills down.

How Much Does It Save?
Programmable thermostats cost around $200-$250 to install, and can often save roughly $180 a year on heating and cooling costs. Over time, this will help pay for the upgrade.

Update Light Fixtures
If the house still has incandescent light bulbs in its fixtures, then it’s likely using much more energy than it needs to. Energy-efficient LED and CFL bulbs use just one-third to 1/30 of the energy that a traditional bulb does. These bulbs also work in any traditional light fixture, although it is possible to install new lights made just for these types of bulbs to save even more if desired.

How Much Does It Save?
CFL bulbs cost about $10-$12 while LED bulbs cost around $15-$25. While this may sound pricey, consider this: incandescent bulbs use about $15 worth of electricity a year per bulb, while LED and CFL use less than $5. Added up, this can be a tremendous savings over time.

Change the Air Filters
HVAC systems need to be clean and free of dust and dirt in order to work properly. For that reason, it has a filter installed at its intake to keep out contaminates. Over time, the filter will become clogged with dust, dirt and hair, causing the system to work harder to pull air through. Most filters should be changed once a season, but many people overlook this simple task, which in turn results in higher energy bills, and expensive HVAC and AC maintenance.

How Much Does It Save?
Replacement air filters typically cost around $15-$60. Choose from reusable filters that only need regular cleaning. Changing the filter every three months will save roughly 15 percent on energy bills.

Clean Air Vents
AC and HVAC units will also work harder if their air vents are dirty. The more debris and dirt inside the system, the harder it needs to work to pull air through, raising energy costs by as much as 5-15 percent over time, and causing the system to age faster, requiring more maintenance and repairs.

How Much Does It Save?
Having dirty vents cleaned costs between $300-$500; however, this can save up to 15 percent on your energy bills, and save on expensive HVAC repairs, as well.

Remember, most of the things done to lower energy bills this summer will be effective year-round, keeping energy bills down in the winter months as well and increasing the amount that is ultimately saved. The home will also be more comfortable, and current and future homeowners will be able to avoid unexpected maintenance and repair costs, in many cases.

To find out how much more can be saved, visit the Fixr Cost Guides.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .

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The Basics of Buying Investment Properties

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on August 18, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Everyone wants a magic and immediate path to wealth. The bad news? The path doesn’t exist. Wealth is attainable through more conventional means. If you come to understand the real estate industry and if you deepen your own firsthand experience as you buy and sell investment properties, you’ll be on the road to success.

Along the road, there are six core principles that will make or break each real estate investment deal. They are the most important concepts you will learn. I call them the Big Six. With each successive deal I negotiated, I grew to recognize the common elements. The Big Six are part of a sequenced step-by-step formula that enables you to identify and purchase the right income property at the right price.

The elements of the Big Six Formula that will guide you into the basics of buying income properties are the following:

Location
Location is the single most important component of any real estate deal. It is crucial in determining your investment success. Look for properties that are situated in an “A” location. Such locations include the socioeconomic levels of the people who live or work in a particular neighborhood, its proximity to shopping centers, public transportation, crime levels, the nearness of prestigious universities and medical facilities, traffic congestion, zoning restrictions, the quality of schools, fire and police protection, and even the reputation of the local government and its officials.

Building Quality and Design Efficiency
Design efficiency interfaces with building quality. When you find an investment property you’d like to buy, you will need to scrutinize both elements. Look for properties that far exceed minimum construction requirements and that have useful and innovative design elements. This will not only make the property attractive to tenants but will add value to the property in the future. Design features on apartment complexes that stand the test of time include walk-in closets, large kitchens with windows, and his-and-her bathrooms. In an office building, a common area factor of 15 percent is desirable as well as a ratio of four parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of rentable space.

Tenant Profile
Tenants can represent either an asset or a liability in an investment. When you invest, your mission is to make sure your tenant profile is the former and not the latter. Just as you want a well-constructed and well-designed property, you’ll want stable tenants who are a good match for your property and have appropriate lease agreements. Find out how much rent is generated and whether it is at market rate or under market. You want to focus on finding an income property that offers the opportunity to increase rental income and, by doing so, multiply the value of the property so that you can resell it at a substantial profit.

Upside
This fourth element refers to the cash flow growth possibilities offered by a particular property along with the likelihood that the property will increase in value. A property may cost $1,500,000 to construct, but if it brings in only the income of a $900,000 property, then it is worth only $900,000.  The key to increasing value lies in buying a solid Class B property in an “A” location where the rents are under the market, the leases are short term, and there are no options to renew the leases.

Financing
In the musical Cabaret, there is a song with the lyrics “Money makes the world go around.” It could just as easily be used to describe real estate’s role in the economic landscape. The free flow of money and access to credit is what adds vibrancy to property investment. Before you get started, you’ll need to get a number of finance-related items in order. The first thing you should do before applying for a mortgage loan is to review your credit reports and your credit scores. Also, learn the terms, understand the components of a mortgage and how they interact, and be open to the full range of financing options available. Banks and other financial institutions make money from mortgages. They are willing to negotiate. Be creative—you may be surprised at the terms you’re able to obtain from a bank or insurance companies, especially in today’s low interest rate environment.

Price
The successful evaluation of a property’s price has to do with how much information you can gather about a seller and the property than it does about the price tag on the real estate deal. You must look at the value of the property, which is not the same thing as its price. The crucial concern is not just how much the property costs, but what kind of income it can generate for you. A property may be architecturally perfect and engineeringly sound, but if you’re locked into long-term, under-market lease rates, the value will be eroded.

If you master these principles, wealth will be within reach. However, it’s not enough to just understand and utilize the Big Six. You must execute them in order. That’s because they all fit together snugly to form your customized real estate formula.

Author Kenneth D. Rosen, CCIM, is a real estate investor.

Investing in Income Properties, The Big Six Formula for Achieving Wealth in Real Estate, Second Edition is currently available at InvestingInIncomeProperties.com in both hard back and digital versions. It is also available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate in the Energy Corridor, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on August 9, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Here are eight ways to help your home put its best face forward.

Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.

The way your house looks from the street — attractively landscaped and well-maintained — can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.

Related: Gorgeous Landscaping for Your House Means More Than Just Looks

Tip #1: Wash Your House’s Face

Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.

A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate — TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers — dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds — depending on the size of the house and number of windows — but will finish in a couple of days.

Tip #2: Freshen the Paint Job

The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

Tip #3: Regard the Roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.

You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $7,600.

Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

Tip #4: Neaten the Yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.

Tip #5: Add a Color Splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.

Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.

These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: Appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.

Related: Colorful Plants with Curb Appeal

Tip #6: Glam Your Mailbox

An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.

High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

Related: 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

Tip #7: Fence Yourself In

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

Tip #8: Maintenance Is a Must

Nothing looks worse from the curb — and sets off subconscious alarms — like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.

Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:

  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows

© Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .

New-Home Sales Improve Slightly in June

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Investment Real Estate, new homes houston energy corridor, Real Estate Investment on August 8, 2017 at 5:46 pm

New-home sales improved in June, with sales of new, single-family homes eking up 0.8 percent to 610,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The average new-home sales price was $379,500, while the median was $310,800. New-home listing inventory was 272,000—5.4 months supply.

“Although we saw modest gains this month, new-home sales have risen nearly 11 percent since the start of 2017,” said Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in an NAHB Now update. “Our members remain optimistic as the single-family housing market continues to recover.”

“We saw new-home sales edge up a slight 0.8 percent in June solely because last month’s figure was revised downward, but this still reflects a recent increase in new construction resulting in new-home sales up 9.1 percent over the past year,” says Joseph Kirchner, senior economist for realtor.com®. “While that’s not enough to ease the shortage, there is some good news when it comes to new-home prices. Median sales prices dropped to $310,800 from $324,300 in May, though that’s still 3.4 percent above the same time last year. Builders have been focusing on more expensive homes, but the increase in low- to moderately-priced new-homes on the market will help millennials, first-time and moderate- to low-income homebuyers.”

“Both of June’s numbers aren’t statistically significant, so we should take them with a grain of salt,” wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia, in a Trulia Trends blog. “A less volatile number to look at is the 12-month rolling total, which is up 14.1 percent year-over-year. This represents the most since June 2008—a nine-year high.”

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate in the Energy Corridor, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .

Why Won’t My Agent List My Home at the Price I Want?

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on August 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Putting your house on the market? Like most homeowners, you’ve probably got a set idea of what your home is worth and what you should be able to sell it for. After all, you know in intimate detail the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into making your home what it is today. You also know how happy you’ve been there, the advantages of your location and all the great features of the community. So no one has a better idea of how to price your home than you, right?

Not necessarily.  Your local real estate agent has the expertise you will need to price your home correctly to yield the best possible results, both in terms of time and money. Here are the factors your agent will look at to price your home; these factors probably never occurred to you, but they matter a lot when it comes to determining a price for your home:

What other homes in your neighborhood recently sold for. This creates a threshold of what your market will currently bear.

The specifics of your street. Are you on an appealing cul de sac or a busy main road?

The number of bathrooms and bedrooms. Regardless of your home’s square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms impact the sales price of your home.

The year your home was built or renovated. You might love the charm of your historic home, but if it means the new owners will have to invest in updates, it could drop your listing price.

Energy efficiency. Many of today’s buyers want a home that saves them money, so if you’re lacking in energy efficient windows, appliances and heating/cooling systems, it may affect your price. Conversely, features such as solar panels could positively affect your price.

Smart home technology. From controlling your lights and thermostat remotely, to using voice commands to operate your audio-visual equipment, smart home features are a big plus with today’s buyers and help support a higher selling price.

Most important of all, be sure to choose a professional real estate agent who is experienced and comes recommended. Once you’ve selected the right person, follow his or her advice on pricing your home and you’ll be on your way to a satisfactory sale.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate in the Energy Corridor, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .