Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Go green in remodel to get your money back

Just a few years ago, a real estate flipper could parlay a several-thousand-dollar upgrade into a substantial profit. A $30,000 investment in new kitchen tiles, countertops and appliances, for example, might reap $60,000 upon resale.
Those days are over. Contractors' phones are no longer ringing off the hook, and as housing prices continue to drop, cash-strapped homeowners are
remodeling in different ways.
One clear favorite? Going green. "Sustainable" and "renewable" materials and appliances are in high demand based on present trends, according to the American Institute of Architects.
A large part of that has to do with how people now view their homes. As flipping has stalled, and many would-be sellers are sitting out the market, they're turning to green changes as a way to reduce their energy bills and improve their quality of life. Based on AIA research in February that polled 500 architects in the residential sector, buyers are willing to pay $5,000 extra for an
energy-efficient home.
Kitchens have always been home-design hot spots, and that is unlikely to change. But instead of shelling out for a stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigerator or marble countertops, homeowners are opting for
renewable materials.
"There is a growing interest in eco-friendly features for kitchens, such as bamboo and
cork flooring, and concrete and bamboo countertops," says Kermit Baker, the AIA's chief economist. He says that this trend continues to the bathroom, where water-saving toilets and LED lighting have displaced demand for luxury installations like towel-warming drawers, double-sink vanities and whirlpool baths.
Radiant heating, though, is a luxury buy that for some is also economical. While outfitting an 800-square-foot space with such a system, which entails installing heatable coils below the floor surface, can run between $5,000 and $7,000, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that radiant heating saves 20 percent a year in energy costs.
energy-efficient features like these will undoubtedly require an outlay, many come with large tax rebates. In heating costs alone, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates as much as $465 in savings when EnergyStar windows are used to replace single-pane ones. What's more, you'll get a tax rebate of 10 percent of costs, up to $200.
But before you hit up your local home store, take heed. Appraisers stress that simple cosmetic touch-ups often have the highest rates of return.
"It can be as simple as making sure landscaping looks good, or that the exterior paint is fresh," says Alan Hummel, chief appraiser of Minneapolis-based Forsythe Appraisals. "Especially with median to luxury homes, curb appeal is very important."
That means
additions like carriage-style garage doors or a well-manicured flower bed. Garages, in particular, can take up one-third to one-half of a home's exterior, and a sharp door and drive might impress online house-hunters and create a favorable impression once they get there.
One final note: Given the current state of the market, you might have to settle for these improvements merely helping to
sell your home faster, as opposed to netting more cash at the bargaining table.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BBB offers winter checklist

In an effort to save money through energy efficiency, many people are looking for ways to ensure their homes are ready for the cold winter months. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering a checklist for homeowners to safely prepare their homes for winter and perhaps save a few dollars in the process.
“With energy costs on the rise, winterizing a home makes good economic sense,” says Beverly Baskin, of the Better Business Bureau. “A small up-front investment can pay dividends for months by increasing the energy efficiency of a house and reducing overall heating costs.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, home heating costs this winter are expected to rise by 23 percent for homeowners who rely on heating oil, 18 percent for homes relying on natural gas and 10-11 percent for homes heated by propane or electricity. Luckily, homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home before the harshest weather takes hold.

Below is the BBB home winterizing checklist for consumers to consult when preparing for the cold months ahead:
Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For younger furnaces, BBB recommends making sure the
furnace filter is clean, the thermostat is working properly and the pilot light is functioning. Homeowners can also hire an inspector to do the job and make sure the furnace is in safe working order.

Heating ducts. Ducts should be cleaned once every two years. Homeowners should also consider adding insulation to any exposed ductwork. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces.

Chimney. Before lighting up, homeowners planning on using their fireplace come winter should have the chimney inspected for animals, debris and leaves that may have fallen in. BBB also recommends installing a screen over the chimney opening.

Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to allow the house to "breath" correctly. Otherwise, air will stagnate and create an unhealthy environment.

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. BBB recommends testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and installing fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

Caulking and weather stripping. The average American home has air leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to the EarthWorks Group. To prevent leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors and check for cracking and peeling. In addition, BBB recommends ensuring that doors and windows shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn down weather stripping.

Seasonal equipment. Homeowners won’t need their spring and summer equipment for a few months, so BBB recommends draining the water from garden hoses and air conditioner pipes and the gasoline from the lawnmower and other garden tools. It’s also time to pull out the snow shovels and plows and ensure they are in good repair.

Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. BBB recommends creating the same emergency kit for the car as well, including several blankets.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Increase your home's value - simply

These are the 10 home improvements that you can make that will increase the value of your home.

·         Clean / De-clutter: Remove clutter by storing items in basement, attic or friend’s home. Rent a storage space or sell excess items, if needed. Keep every room very clean during open homes. Do pre-open house cleanliness inspections.

·         Lighten & Brighten: Replace any burnt-out bulbs and use higher wattage bulbs, if possible. Have defective electrical components repaired or replaced. Make sure skylights are clear and keep drapes open during the day.

·         Yard: Store away personal effects from front yard. Hire gardener or landscaper to trim back the overgrowth and maintain yard. Make sure that your lawn has a healthy green appearance.

·         Plumbing & Electrical: Consider repairing or replacing any defective plumbing or electrical items in your home. 

·         Staging: Buy some fresh flowers, live plants and other decorations to liven up the home. Dispose of old furniture or other large items. Consider renting furniture or hiring a staging consultant.

·         Update Kitchen & Bath: Update kitchen and baths by resurfacing cabinets or painting with neutral color. Replace toilet seats, dated fixtures and drawer/cabinet handles. Freshly caulk and redo grout in counter-tops, sinks, tubs and showers.

·         Paint Interior: Repair any damaged interior walls by patching all chips, holes and cracks; then touch up or repaint interior walls with neutral color.

·         Carpeting: If carpets are only lightly soiled, shampooing and/or spot removal should suffice. If there are rips, fading, heavy wear, smells or deep stains, replace with neutral color.

·         Flooring: Repair and refinish damaged floors, or cover with neutral-colored wall to wall carpet and note damage in your disclosure.

·         Paint Exterior: Repaint or resurface the outside walls of house, as needed. Patch and repair any damaged areas.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Home Maintenance Club at home show

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. had its new Home Maintenance Club on display at the Jersey Shore Home Show in October. As a kickoff, there is a free prize drawing for a one year GOLD membership to the Club.
The HMC ladies, Marissa and Karyn, met with many homeowners throughout the weekend and discussed the various benefits the Home Maintenance Club has to offer.
More information about the Club and the free, no obligation entry to the prize drawing can be found on the website: 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bathroom Remodeling

When you are getting ready to remodel your bathroom, you need to do some research. Even though the bathroom is a relatively small room in the house and is not used every second of the day, it still needs sufficient attention. The bathroom is one of the wettest and most humid rooms in the entire home so the materials you use needs to be used to some abuse. It is important to do this room right because if you use porous materials or do not take the time to seal everything properly, you will have much more trouble down the road. By spending a little more money the first time around, you will save hundreds of dollars down the line by preventing any leakage or water saturation in the walls.
When it comes to bathroom remodel, you usually do not have much flexibility as to where certain items go. Unless you are willing to tear up the entire room and rearrange the plumbing, you may be stuck leaving the toilet, bathtub, and vanity in the same place. However, the design and style of these features can change completely. You can remove the old items and replace them with new ones. Even though the features may be in the same place, the room will look brand new.
It is time to go shopping! Start searching for a double sink bathroom vanity, enclosures for shower, and a toilet. It is best to start with the vanity because it is the centerpiece of the entire bathroom. It will affect your choice of towel racks, mirrors, and other accent pieces so it is best to have this piece chosen as soon as possible. It will make the several other choices you need to make much easier.
When it comes to the bathtub and shower feature, you need a set of beautiful shower doors. Glass is the most popular choice these days because it gives your bathroom an elegant and modern look in addition to making it seem more open and spacious. Enclosures for showers and shower columns are also easy to find, you can even purchase steam and jetted showers for great discount prices!
Putting a new bathroom together is not difficult, but you need to make sure you do it right the first time. Invest in high quality materials and experienced workers and you will be very pleased with the results.