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Archive for October, 2017|Monthly archive page

Understanding Energy Ratings for Windows and Doors

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on October 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Just because windows or doors are Energy Star-labeled doesn’t mean they’re eligible for a federal tax credit. And with costs running about $500 to $1,000 per window including labor, it’s wise to know something about the scientific lingo and numbers on the product labels you’re likely to encounter.

Here’s your pro-level label-decoding guide so you can be sure you’re buying qualified products.

Which Labels Matter?

The two labels you should look for: The U.S. Department of Energy’s blue-and-yellow Energy Star label, which specifies the climate zones the product is certified for, and the white National Fenestration Rating Council label. Nonprofit NFRC is the industry-recognized certifying body for windows and doors. It reports raw numbers only; Energy Star tells you whether those numbers constitute superior performance, putting its seal of approval on those products that meet its standards.

To confuse matters, DOE has issued a blue label that manufacturers can use to signify that a product qualifies for the tax credit. But DOE doesn’t require that manufacturers include it.

What You Need to Get the Tax Credit

For windows or doors to qualify for the credit, two NFRC-supplied measurements must each be equal to or less than 0.3, regardless of climate: U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). You must also have the manufacturer’s signed statement that the product complies with IRS requirements. This either comes with purchase or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Don’t be swayed by ratings the manufacturer may post on its own label. A window or door’s frame and other components (weather stripping, sidelights, transoms) can significantly affect its energy efficiency, so NFRC measures based on the entire unit, not just the window glass or door slab alone. Manufacturers, on the other hand, sometimes report values that don’t take the entire unit into account, according to Energy Star.

A Guide to Measurements

The NFRC label typically lists five measurements, including the tax credit-critical U-factor and SHGC. The other three are somewhat less important to energy performance, according to Energy Star, but can help you judge how well a window or door will perform in a particular application—for example, whether it’ll let in enough light.

Where you live affects which measurements are most important, but the tax credit requirements are uniform across the country. There are four Energy Star climate zones, differentiated by whether heating, cooling, or a mix of the two is most critical to energy performance.

1. U-Factor

Range: 0.20 to 1.20

The lower the number, the better an insulator the window or door is.

Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less

Efficient Windows Collaborative climate recommendations:

  • Northern: 0.35 or less
  • North Central or South Central: 0.4 or less
  • Southern: 0.60 or less

2. Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)

Range: 0 to 1

The lower the number, the less solar radiation—and heat—the window or door allows inside.

Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less

EWC climate recommendations:

  • Northern: The highest you can find (paired with a low U-factor) if cooling isn’t a significant concern; up to 0.55 if cooling is a significant concern.
  • North Central: 0.4 or less for climates with significant air conditioning; up to 0.55 for climates with moderate air conditioning.
  • South Central or Southern: 0.4 or less.

SHGC refers to the solar radiation a window or door allows inside. Seek the lowest possible SHGC rating in warm climates to minimize the use of air conditioning. Look for a slightly higher number in cooler climates so that the sun can help heat your home in winter, but be sure to balance SHGC with an efficient U-factor for your area.

3. Visible Transmittance

Range: 0 to 1

Lower number means the room will be dimmer; a higher number means the room will be brighter.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

This number applies to windows or doors with windows only. Visible transmittance is the amount of light a window allows to pass through. With older window glazing techniques, VT and solar heat gain were basically the same; the brighter a room, the hotter it got. But new technologies allow windows to let in lots of light while the room stays cool.

Consult VT numbers if you’re looking to reduce glare in a room or fill it with natural light, but be warned that a very low VT may mean you have to use artificial lighting even during the day.

4. Air Leakage

Range: N/A, but .0.3 is standard building code

The lower the number, the more airtight the window or door.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

This number, expressed in cubic feet per minute per square foot of window/door area, represents the amount of air that the window or door’s frame allows to pass through. Energy Star standards don’t consider air leakage because it’s difficult to measure accurately and can change over time as frame materials expand, contract, or warp in place, according to the EWC. Still, this measurement can help you compare similar products, especially if they’ll be buffeted by the elements.

5. Condensation Resistance

Range: 1 to 100

The lower the number, the more condensation the window or door allows to build up.

Tax credit qualification requirement: none

Condensation resistance is a measure of how much moisture a window or door allows to build up on the surface (which can drip onto wood and cause mold or discoloration) or between glazing layers (which can’t be clean and blocks your view). Energy Star-rated windows tend to resist condensation well, so this number won’t likely affect your purchase decision.

By: Karin Beuerlein

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 .

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7 Hot Home Trends That Make Your Home Work for You

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on October 19, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Today’s home improvement trends show that we like our houses to work harder and smarter for the money we spend maintaining and improving their value.We no longer want bigger; instead, we want space that’s flexible, efficient, and brings order to chaos.

  • We no longer want bigger; instead, we want space that’s flexible, efficient, and brings order to chaos.
  • We’re watching our wattage with monitors and meters, and guarding our weekends with maintenance-free exteriors.

Here’s a look at seven hot home improvement trends that improve the way we live with our homes

Trend #1: Maintenance-Free Siding

We continue to choose maintenance-free siding that lives as long as we do, but with a lot less upkeep. But more and more we’re opting for fiber-cement siding, one of the fastest-growing segments of the siding market. It’s a combination of cement, sand, and cellulosic fibers that looks like wood but won’t rot, combust, or succumb to termites and other wood-boring insects.

At $5 to $11 per sq. ft., installed, fiber-cement siding is more expensive than paint-grade wood, vinyl, and aluminum siding. Still, it’s a solid investment. If you should decide to sell your house, you’ll recover 79% of the project cost, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Maintenance is limited to a cleaning and some caulking each spring. Repaint every seven to 15 years. Wood requires repainting every four to seven years.

Trend #2: Convertible Spaces

Forget “museum rooms” we use twice a year (dining rooms and living rooms) and embrace convertible spaces that change with our whims.

Foldaway walls turn a private study into an easy-flow party space. Walls can consist of fancy, glass panels ($600 to $1,600 per linear ft., depending on the system); or they can be simple vinyl-covered accordions  ($1,230 for 7 ft. by 10 ft.). PortablePartions.com sells walls on wheels ($775 for approximately 7 ft. by 7 ft.).

A Murphy bed pulls down from an armoire-looking wall unit and turns any room into a guest room. Prices, including installation and cabinetry, range from $2,000 (twin with main cabinet) to more than $5,000 (California king with main and side units). Just search online for sellers.

And don’t forget area rugs that easily define, and redefine, open spaces.

Trend #3: A Laundry Room of Your Own

Humankind advanced when the laundry room arose from the basement to a louvered closet on the second floor where clothes live. Now, we’re taking another step forward by granting washday a room of its own.

If you’re thinking of remodeling, turn a mudroom or extra bedroom into a dedicated laundry room big enough to house the washer and dryer, hang hand-washables, and store bulk boxes of detergent.

Look for spaces that already have plumbing hookups or are adjacent to rooms with running water to save on plumbing costs.

Related: 10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Laundry Room

Trend #4: Souped-Up Kitchens

Although houses are trending smaller, kitchens are getting bigger, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey.

Kitchen remodels open the space, perhaps incorporating lonely dining rooms, and feature recycling centers, large pantries, and recharging stations.

Oversized and high-priced commercial appliances — did we ever fire up six burners at once? — are yielding to family-sized, mid-range models that recover at least one cabinet for storage.

Since the entire family now helps prepare dinner (in your dreams), double prep sinks have evolved into dual-prep islands with lots of counter space and pull-out drawers.

Related: Kitchen Remodeling Decisions You’ll Never Regret

Trend #5: Energy Diets

We’re wrestling with an energy disorder: We’re binging on electronics — cell phones, iPads, Blackberries, laptops — then crash dieting by installing LED fixtures and turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.

Are we ahead of the energy game? Only the energy monitors and meters know for sure.

These new tracking devices can gauge electricity usage of individual electronics ($20 to $30) or monitor whole house energy ($100 to $250). The TED 5000 Energy Monitor ($240) supplies real-time feedback that you can view remotely and graph by the second, minute, hour, day, and month.

Trend #6: Love That Storage

As we bow to the new god of declutter, storage has become the holy grail.

We’re not talking about more baskets we can trip over in the night; we’re imagining and discovering built-in storage in unlikely spaces– under stairs, over doors, beneath floors.

Under-appreciated nooks that once displayed antique desks are growing into built-ins for books and collections. Slap on some doors, and you can hide office supplies and buckets of Legos.

Giant master suites, with floor space to land a 747, are being divided to conquer clutter with more walk-in closets.

Related: 7 Clever Solutions to Maximize Your Home’s Storage Space

Trend #7: Home Offices Come Out of the Closet

Flexible work schedules, mobile communications, and entrepreneurial zeal are relocating us from the office downtown to home.

Laptops and wireless connections let us telecommute from anywhere in the house, but we still want a dedicated space (preferably with a door) for files, supplies, and printers.

Spare bedrooms are becoming home offices and family room niches are morphing into working nooks. After a weekend of de-cluttering, basements and attics are reborn as work centers.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

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 .

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on October 13, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Home not selling? That could happen for a number of reasons you can’t control, like a unique home layout or having one of the few homes in the neighborhood without a garage. There is one factor you can control: your home price.

These six signs may be telling you it’s time to lower your price.

1. You’re drawing few lookers.

You get the most interest in your home right after you put it on the market because buyers want to catch a great new home before anybody else takes it. If your real estate agent reports there have been fewer buyers calling about and asking to tour your home than there have been for other homes in your area, that may be a sign buyers think it’s overpriced and are waiting for the price to fall before viewing it.

2. You’re drawing lots of lookers but have no offers.

If you’ve had 30 sets of potential buyers come through your home and not a single one has made an offer, something is off. What are other agents telling your agent about your home? An overly high price may be discouraging buyers from making an offer.

3. Your home’s been on the market longer than similar homes.

Ask your real estate agent about the average number of days it takes to sell a home in your market. If the answer is 30 and you’re pushing 45, your price may be affecting buyer interest. When a home sits on the market, buyers can begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with it, which can delay a sale even further. At least consider lowering your asking price.

4. You have a deadline.

If you’ve got to sell soon because of a job transfer or you’ve already purchased another home, it may be necessary to generate buyer interest by dropping your price so your home is a little lower priced than comparable homes in your area. Remember: It’s not how much money you need that determines the sale price of your home, it’s how much money a buyer is willing to spend.

5. You can’t make upgrades.

Maybe you’re plum out of cash and don’t have the funds to put fresh paint on the walls, clean the carpets, and add curb appeal. But the feedback your agent is reporting from buyers is that your home isn’t as well-appointed as similarly priced homes. When your home has been on the market longer than comparable homes in better condition, it’s time to accept that buyers expect to pay less for a home that doesn’t show as well as others.

6. The competition has changed.

If weeks go by with no offers, continue to check out the competition. What have comparable homes sold for and what’s still on the market? What new listings have been added since you listed your home for sale? If comparable home sales or new listings show your price is too steep, consider a price reduction.

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 .

NEW LISTING! 14218 Sandfield Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 24831115

In Buying a Home, Environmentmentally Friendly Homes, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home, Terry Hershey Park on October 3, 2017 at 2:54 pm

NEW LISTING! 14218 Sandfield Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 24831115

One story beauty completely remodeled. Step into your spacious living room with high-grade wood laminate and wall of windows for plenty of natural light. Dining area has courtyard views opens to kitchen with granite countertops and new Stainless Steel appliances. Huge flexible room with peaceful backyard view, perfect for study or a third bedroom. Remodeled master retreat with built ins and walk-in closet. Environmentally friendly landscaped front and backyard retreat with nice shady trees and patio. New Air Handler and inside pipes replaced. Never flooded. In Houston’s Energy Corridor. Walking distance to beautiful Terry Hershey Hike and Bike Trails.

HAR Link: http://www.har.com/14218-sandfield-drive/sale_24831115

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