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DIY Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget: 5 Money-Saving Steps

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home, West Houston on August 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $65,000, and you’ll recover 62% of that cost come selling time.

Despite the big price tag, you’ll be glad you upgraded. In fact, homeowners polled for the “Report” gave their kitchen redo a Joy Score of 10 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

If you can’t afford the entire remodel all at once, complete the work in these five budget-saving stages.

Stage One: Start with a Complete Design Plan

Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.

Joseph Feinberg, vice president of Allied Kitchen and Bath in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Stage Two: Order the Cabinets, Appliances, and Lighting Fixtures

Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

Remember that it may take four to six weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

If you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.

You’ll have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You’ll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

Stage Three: Gut the Kitchen and Do the Electrical and Plumbing Work

Here’s where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6 to 10 weeks

Stage Four: Install Cabinets, Countertops, Appliances, Flooring, and Fixtures

If you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensive laminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1 to 2 weeks

Final Phases: Upgrade if Necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

By: Gretchen Roberts

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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What to Expect During a Home Inspection

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on May 11, 2018 at 6:39 pm

The first thing you need to know about home inspection: You’ll feel all the feels.

There’s the excitement — the inspection could be the longest time you’re in the house, after the showing.

Right behind that comes … anxiety. What if the inspector finds something wrong? So wrong you can’t buy the house?

Then there’s impatience. Seriously, is this whole home-buying process over yet?

Not yet. But you’re close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: It’s just too good for you, as a buyer, to skip. Here’s why.

A Home Inspector Is Your Protector

An inspector helps you make sure a house isn’t hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldn’t even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)

A home inspector identifies any reasonably discoverable problems with the house (a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc.). Hiring an inspector is you doing your due diligence. To find a good one (more on how to do that soon), it helps to have an understanding of what the typical home inspection entails.

An inspection is all about lists.  

Before an inspection, the home inspector will review the seller’s property disclosure statement. (Each state has its own requirements for what sellers must disclose on these forms; some have stronger requirements than others.) The statement lists any flaws the seller is aware of that could negatively affect the home’s value.

The disclosure comes in the form of an outline, covering such things as:

  • Mold
  • Pest infestation
  • Roof leaks
  • Foundation damage
  • Other problems, depending on what your state mandates.

During the inspection, an inspector has three tasks: To:

  1. Identify problems with the house
  2. Suggest fixes
  3. Estimate how much repairs might cost

He or she produces a written report, usually including photos, that details any issues with the property. This report is critical to you and your agent — it’s what you’ll use to request repairs from the seller. (We’ll get into how you’ll do that in a minute, too.)

The Inspector Won’t Check Everything

Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They won’t be tearing down walls or using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.

Inspectors also won’t put themselves in danger. If a roof is too high or steep, for example, they won’t climb up to check for missing or damaged shingles. They’ll use binoculars to examine it instead.

They can’t predict the future, either. While an inspector can give you a rough idea of how many more years that roof will hold up, he or she can’t tell you exactly when it will need to be replaced.

Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesn’t routinely include a thorough evaluation of:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wells
  • Septic systems
  • Structural engineering work
  • The ground beneath a home
  • Fireplaces and chimneys

When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces, for instance, most inspectors will open and close dampers to make sure they’re working, check chimneys for obstructions like birds’ nests, and note if they believe there’s reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.

If you’re concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about $125 to $325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

 

It’s Your Job to Check the Inspector

Now you’re ready to connect with someone who’s a pro at doing all of the above. Here’s where — once again — your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.

In addition to getting recommendations (friends and relatives are handy for those, too), you can rely on online resources such as the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) Find a Home Inspector tool, which lets you search by address, metro area, or neighborhood.

You’ll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:

  • Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each state’s requirements here.
  • How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience — it indicates more homes inspected.
  • How much do you charge? The average home inspection costs about $315. For condos and homes under 1,000 square feet, the average cost is $200. Homes over 2,000 square feet can run $400 or more. (Figures are according to HomeAdvisor.com.)
  • What do you check, exactly? Know what you’re getting for your money.
  • What don’t you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
  • How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted — normally five to seven days — so you’re on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
  • May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.

Sometimes you can find online reviews of inspectors on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, too, if past clients’ feedback is helpful in making your decision.

Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)

It’s inspection day, and the honor of your — and your agent’s — presence is not required, but highly recommended. Even though you’ll receive a report summarizing the findings later on, being there gives you a chance to ask questions, and to learn the inner workings of the home.

Block out two to three hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she will look at things like siding, fencing, and drainage.

The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge.

Get Ready to Negotiate

Once you receive the inspector’s report, review it with your agent.

Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs. These can vary depending on location. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:

  • Structural defects
  • Building code violations
  • Safety issues

Most home repairs, however, are negotiable. Be prepared to pick your battles: Minor issues, like a cracked switchplate or loose kitchen faucet, are easy and cheap to fix on your own. You don’t want to start nickel-and-diming the seller.

If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying “repair broken windows,” a request should say “replace broken window glass in master bathroom.”

  • If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then it’s full steam ahead toward the sale.
  • If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the seller’s counteroffer, or void the transaction.

At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work you’d be taking on. At this point in the sale, there’s a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you don’t feel comfortable, speak up.

The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent — they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.

That’s something to feel good about.

By: HouseLogic

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 You Probably Won’t Avoid Seller’s Remorse (But That’s Ok!)

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on March 20, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Selling your house can be scary: It’s been your home, where you’ve lived and made memories. Chances are good it’s your most important asset and your biggest investment so far. Wrestling with the emotional heft of putting your home on the market is a difficult byproduct of real estate — but once a closing date has been set, the hard work is done. Right?

Actually, it’s not uncommon for sellers to feel pangs of regret when a buyer gets serious. If you’re feeling remorse for your soon-to-be-former home, don’t panic: You’re far from alone.

“When you’re selling a house, you’re not selling an object,” says Bill Primavera, a REALTOR® in Westchester County, N.Y., and “The Home Guru” blogger. “A house provides shelter and is probably the biggest thing we ever acquire, so it has a bigger impact on our life.”

The Origins of Seller’s Remorse

Moving is one of life’s biggest stressors. According to Daryl Cioffi, a Rhode Island counselor and co-owner of Polaris Counseling & Consulting, it’s one of the biggest instigators for depression.

“There’s a lot of latent stuff that happens when change occurs,” Cioffi says. Are you feeling insecure? Are you wondering if you made the right decision? Those feelings are normal reactions to change — but when they get tangled up with the sale of your biggest investment, they can be downright terrifying.

Here are some things you can do to help you manage the emotional roller coaster that comes with selling your home:

Do the Emotional Work Beforehand

Doing the emotional work before it’s time to sell is the best way to avoid regret.

“Look at the flaws of what makes it not the perfect home for you,” Cioffi says. Is it just too small for your family? Does your Great Dane need a bigger backyard? Ask yourself, “How can I close this chapter?”

That doesn’t mean you have to develop negative feelings toward your current home. You’re just trying to remind yourself of why you decided to move on.

“Begin the detachment process by saying: ‘This works for me now, but it won’t work for me forever,'” Cioffi says.

Once you’ve processed your reasons for selling the home, give yourself space to grieve the house you’ve loved and the memories you’ve made inside its walls. It’s OK to be sad you’ll never step inside your child’s first bedroom again; conversely, that’s not a reason to stay in a home forever. You can even have fun with your grief. Why not acknowledge your feelings by throwing a goodbye party for your house?

Focus On the Future

Working through your feelings early will make the selling process smoother, but even if you spent time grieving before putting your home on the market, it’s still normal to feel some pangs of sadness during closing. While it’s easy to tell yourself you’re overreacting, getting past remorse isn’t a simple process.

How can you do it? Say goodbye to your old home and prepare yourself for what’s next. If you’re still feeling remorse after the sale has gone through, don’t overthink it: Even if you did make the wrong decision — and chances are good you didn’t — it doesn’t matter. The deed is, quite literally, done.

The next step is distraction. If you’ve already moved into your new home, throw yourself into fixing it up. Redo the shelving in the kitchen. Start a garden. Primavera recommends taking your mind off of homes completely by picking up a new hobby or exploring your new neighborhood to find fun activities, like yoga or pottery classes.

“Keep your mind focused on what’s ahead,” says Cioffi. “The fact is, it’s done. Now what? Look forward and focus on how you can make this new place something to be excited about.”

If you’re still having problems adjusting to your new life, your old home might just be a stand-in for bigger problems: Perhaps a depression worsened by moving, or it has triggered anxiety about your life in general. A long-term struggle to resolve your grief indicates you should speak with a professional counselor about your situation.

Cioffi says a good therapist will help you answer the questions, “What’s going on that you can’t let go?” and “What’s keeping you from moving forward?”

No matter how deep your seller’s remorse may be, uncovering the reasons behind it and focusing on the future are the best ways to let go of the stress of leaving a former home behind. Give yourself time to get used to the change and focus on creating new memories. After all, the happy life you had in the home you sold was the reason you loved it so much. Someday, with a new set of memories made, you’ll love your new home just as deeply.

By: Jamie Wiebe

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 .

What Home Improvements Are Tax Deductible?

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on February 15, 2018 at 3:55 pm

The federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017, may affect home ownership tax benefits described in this article. The new law goes into effect for the 2018 tax year and generally doesn’t affect tax filings for the 2017 tax year. Here’s a detailed summary of the changes.

It’s no secret that finishing your basement will increase your home’s value. What you may not know is the money you spend on this type of so-called capital improvement could also help lower your tax bill when you sell your house.

Tax rules let you add capital improvement expenses to the cost basis of your home. Why is that a big deal? Because a higher cost basis lowers the total profit — capital gain, in IRS-speak — you’re required to pay taxes on. In other words, you might have a tax break coming. Here’s how to know what home improvements are tax deductible.

The tax break doesn’t come into play for everyone. Most homeowners are exempted from paying taxes on the first $250,000 of profit for single filers ($500,000 for joint filers). If you move frequently, maybe it’s not worth the effort to track capital improvement expenses. But if you plan to live in your house a long time or make lots of upgrades, saving receipts is a smart move.

What Home Improvements Are Tax Deductible?

Some examples of home improvements you can deduct may include:

  • New bathroom
  • New addition
  • Basement finishing
  • New furnace
  • Master suite addition

Although you may consider all the work you do to your home an improvement, the IRS looks at things differently. A rule of thumb: A capital improvement increases your home’s value, while a non-eligible repair just returns something to its original condition. According to the IRS, capital improvements have to last for more than one year and add value to your home, prolong its life, or adapt it to new uses.

Capital improvements can include everything from a new bathroom or deck to a new water heater or furnace. Page 9 of IRS Publication 523 has a list of eligible improvements.

There are limitations. The improvements must still be evident when you sell. So if you put in wall-to-wall carpeting 10 years ago and then replaced it with hardwood floors five years ago, you can’t count the carpeting as a capital improvement. Repairs, like painting your house or fixing sagging gutters, don’t count. The IRS describes repairs as things that are done to maintain a home’s good condition without adding value or prolonging its life.

There can be a fine line between a capital improvement and a repair, says Erik Lammert, former tax research specialist at the National Association of Tax Professionals. For instance, if you replace a few shingles on your roof, it’s a repair. If you replace the entire roof, it’s a capital improvement. Same goes for windows. If you replace a broken window pane, repair. Put in a new window, capital improvement.

One exception: If your home is damaged in a fire or natural disaster, everything you do to restore your home to its pre-loss condition counts as a capital improvement.

How Capital Improvements Affect Your Gain

To figure out how improvements affect your tax bill, you first have to know your cost basis. The cost basis is the amount of money you spent to buy or build your home including all the costs you paid at the closing: fees to lawyers, survey charges, transfer taxes, and home inspection, to name a few. You should be able to find all those costs on the settlement statement you received at your closing.

Next, you’ll need to account for any subsequent capital improvements you made to your home. Let’s say you bought your home for $200,000 including all closing costs. That’s the initial cost basis. You then spent $25,000 to remodel your kitchen. Add those together and you get an adjusted cost basis of $225,000.

Now, suppose you’ve lived in your home as your main residence for at least two out of the last five years. Any profit you make on the sale will be taxed as a long-term capital gain. You sell your home for $475,000. That means you have a capital gain of $250,000 (the $475,000 sale price minus the $225,000 cost basis). You’re single, so you get an automatic exemption for the $250,000 profit. End of story.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Had you not factored in the money you spent on the kitchen remodel, you’d be facing a tax bill for that $25,000 gain that exceeded the automatic exemption. By keeping receipts and adjusting your basis, you’ve saved about $5,000 in taxes based on the  15% tax rate on capital gains. Well worth taking an hour a month to organize your home improvement receipts, don’t you think?

Related: Tax and Home Records Checklist: What to Keep and For How Long

The top rate for most homesellers remains 15%. For sellers in the 39.6% income tax bracket, the cap gains rate is 20%.

Watch Out for These Basis-Busters

Some situations (below) can lower your basis, thus increasing your risk of facing a tax bill when you sell. Consult a tax adviser.

  • If you use the actual cost method and take depreciation on a home office, you have to subtract those deductions from your basis.
  • Any depreciation available to you because you rented your house works the same way.
  • You also have to subtract subsidies from utility companies for making energy-related home improvements or energy-efficiency tax credits you’ve received.
  • If you bought your home using the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, you’ll have to deduct that from your basis too, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

By: Donna Fuscaldo

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 LEASE LISTING! 1214 Forest Home Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 38555945

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Terry Hershey Park on January 19, 2018 at 8:50 pm

NEW LEASE LISTING! 1214 Forest Home Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 38555945

Beautiful updated one story in heart of Energy Corridor. Huge living room with new wood tile flooring with custom built in bookshelves opens to kitchen with granite tops and tons on cabinets. Family room with picture sliding glass doors lead to peaceful backyard retreat. Remodeled bathrooms and master retreat with two large walk in closets. Walking distance to Barbara Bush Elementary and John Paul, Terry Hershey Hike and Bike Trails.

HAR Link: http://www.har.com/1214-forest-home-drive/rent_38555945

If you are interested in leasing, 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 .

NEW LEASE LISTING! 2110 Hickory Lawn Drive, Houston,TX 77077 – MLS# 50123177

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Selling your home on November 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm

NEW LEASE LISTING! 2110 Hickory Lawn Drive, Houston,TX 77077 – MLS# 50123177

Open flowing floor plan with beautiful wood laminate and tile throughout first floor has soaring ceilings, French doors and tons of double pane windows make this home light and bright! Chef’s kitchen with gas stove and granite counter tops open to family room that leads to shady covered patio perfect for entertaining or family fun. Master retreat downstairs with French doors to backyard retreat. Three spacious rooms upstairs with one over sized room great for game, media or study. Updated home stayed totally dry in Harvey!

HAR Link: http://www.har.com/2110-hickory-lawn-drive/rent_50123177

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 .

FOR SALE! 2110 Hickory Lawn Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 12928940

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Parks, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home, Terry Hershey Park on November 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

FOR SALE! 2110 Hickory Lawn Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 12928940

Updated home stayed totally dry in Harvey! Open flowing floor plan with beautiful wood laminate and tile throughout first floor has soaring ceilings, French doors and tons of double pane windows make this home light and bright! Chef’s kitchen with gas stove and granite counter tops open to family room that leads to shady covered patio perfect for entertaining or family fun. Master retreat downstairs with French doors to backyard retreat. Three spacious rooms upstairs with one over sized room great for game, media or study.

HAR Link: http://www.har.com/2110-hickory-lawn-drive/sale_12928940

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 .

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on November 1, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

1.  Have a Home Inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2.  Get Replacement Estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3.  Make Minor Repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems — sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets — as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4.  Clear the Clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5.  Do a Thorough Cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.

If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.

Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a Chicago brownstone with the best curb appeal on the block. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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 .

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 .

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 .