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Making Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Your home is your place to rest, play, and spend time with your family. It should be a place of comfort, and this comfort need not come at a high cost. Many homes, however, waste a lot of energy in ways that can be prevented. Here are five ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

Replace or Weatherize All Windows

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat gain and heat loss in a home. Both heat gain and heat loss rob you of comfort and keep your energy bills higher than they have to be, whether during the summer or winter months.

Windows rank high on the list because of air leakage around the frame and the heat that transfers through windowpanes. Old single-pane windows provide little protection against heat transference. If you replace these windows with energy-efficient windows you should see immediate savings and improved climate control in your home.

When choosing windows, consider the frame and not just glass. Frame material and frame design matters. Hinged windows allow less air leakage than sliding, single-hung or double-hung do. Avoid metal because these conduct heat. Choose insulated vinyl frames or insulated fiberglass frames for the most efficiency and durability.

Pay attention to glass efficiency ratings such as the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. The right windows to choose depend largely upon regional climate. If you live in an area with hot summers and mild winters, you want glass that blocks out as much solar heat gain as possible.

Low-emissivity coatings on windowpanes reduce heat conduction through the glass, which benefits you by keeping hot air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. There are other coatings and tints available, but you should still look for the Energy Star label. Only products that have met strict requirements by the EPA qualify for this special certification.

Seal the Home’s Thermal Envelope

Air leakage through your home’s exterior is another source of energy waste. Air infiltration makes your heating and cooling system work harder to maintain climate control. In order to find all of the hidden leaks, schedule an energy audit with an HVAC company. Until you do, seal the noticeable leaks. These can usually be found in the following areas:

  • Around window frames and doors
  • Beneath baseboards
  • Around flues and chimneys

When sealing leaks in most areas, you can use caulk, weather-stripping or expandable spray foam insulation. Another method to control air leaks is to replace poorly fitting doors or other features and to use hardware with a type that creates a better seal. One example is barn door hardware. This kind of hardware can create a better air seal in some cases because the door slides into place instead of swinging open. This creates fewer opportunities for gaps between the door and the frame.

Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

If your home’s HVAC system is older than ten years, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient system that is Energy Star certified. Improvements in design make these systems far more energy-efficient than any in the past. If they are sized correctly and installed correctly, you should see lower bills and improved comfort and improved air quality.

Upgrade Insulation

Most homes have only the minimum required insulation. Older homes might even fall far short of the minimum simply because the insulation has become too wet, or it has become compressed or it has shifted.

Adding insulation to the attic will have the largest effects. It doesn’t matter which kind of insulation you use as much as it matters that it is properly installed, with no gaps, and that you use the recommended quantity for your region.

Adding insulation to exterior walls doesn’t have to be a big remodeling project. Much of the time, it can be blown into walls by a contractor.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

These thermostats make a home more energy efficient in the following ways:

  • You won’t have to remember to set the temperature lower or higher before you run out of the house each the morning, because you can program the thermostat to do it for you each day.
  • You can program different energy-saving temperature settings for special occasions, such as vacations, and you can still come home to a comfortable house.
  • Some new thermostats even allow you to check them remotely, sparing you from worrying about whether the home is getting too hot or cold while you are away.

By implementing these ideas, you have little to lose and a lot to gain in terms of comfort and savings. If it feels overwhelming or it is hard on your budget to make all of these changes at once, try to do them in steps. Each time you take even one step towards more energy efficiency, you will start saving money on energy bills.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Understanding Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Question. We are shopping around for a mortgage for our first home and are confused about the many loans that seem to be available. Interest rates are low, real estate appears to be picking up again, and the adjustable rate mortgage is of interest to us. We do not understand how that works. What exactly is an ARM, and do you have any advice on whether we should use this form of loan?

Answer. Interesting — and timely — question. For a number of years — especially since mortgage interest rates were very low — rarely did any homeowner even bother looking at creative mortgages. And there have been a lot of them. For a long time, it seems that every day, the mortgage financing industry came up with a new kind of mortgage — or at least a new twist on the old ones. Many of these mortgages have acronyms, such as as GEMs (Growing Equity Mortgages), RAMs (Reverse Annuity Mortgages), HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage — aka reverse mortgage), SAMs (Shared Appreciated Mortgages), and of course ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages).

Lets look at the Adjustable Rate Mortgage. This was created in the early 1980’s when lenders were hurt financially because homeowners were repaying their loans at 8, 9, or 10%, while the cost of borrowing that money was more than 15%.

Lenders made a basic decision several years ago. The shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate would be. Thus, today you can still obtain a fixed-rate, thirty year mortgage, meaning that you will be guaranteed that the mortgage payment will be the same every month. But the fixed rate, thirty year mortgage — although still quite low today — carries about the highest interest rate going.

The Adjustable Rate Mortgage is guaranteed to stay on the books for thirty years, but the interest rate is adjusted periodically. There are many variations on the adjustable rate theme. There is the so-called 7-23, where the rate is fixed for the first seven years, and then adjusts thereafter for 23 more years. If the rate is adjusted for five or seven years, the initial rate will be lower than the one for a fixed rate thirty-year mortgage, but higher than an adjustable rate mortgage that is adjusted every year.

Today, the most common ARMs are the one-year, the three-year adjustable, or the 7-23. But even with these common ARMs, consumers should shop around for the best deal.

Here is what you should do:

  • Determine the initial interest rate. It is defined as the rate on which your loan will be based in the initial period — whether it is 1, 3, 5, 7 or even 10 years.
  • Ask if the ARM is based on a negative-amortization schedule. Although my experience is that most ARMs currently are not amortized on a negative basis, I still have seen some loans with a negative factor built in. This means that although you may be paying a lower interest rate for the first few years — let’s say two or three percent — the interest still is being charged on your loan at a higher rate — for example 4 or 5 percent.. If this is the case, the extra interest payment (the difference between what you are paying and what is being charged you), is added to your mortgage balance. Under no circumstances can I recommend the negative amortization mortgage.
  • Determine what the rate adjustment will be. Find out if there is a cap on the periodic increases, and determine what index the lender uses as a base for calculating changes in the adjustable rate.

Generally, lenders use one of three indexes: (1) the weekly average yield on Treasury Bills, which is published by the Federal Reserve Board, (2) the 11th District cost of funds index — called COFI, or (3) the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) The lender then adds to that index number a rate adjustment (called a margin) and if the adjusted rate is higher than the old one when your adjustment period comes due, your interest will be modified accordingly for the next set of payments.

Another point to consider is whether there is a ceiling on the overall amount that your rate can increase. Lenders realize that an ARM without such a ceiling is a potential disaster for consumers. If you start with a 3 % loan, for example, and there is a 2% point cap on the yearly increases, it is conceivable that at the end of the fifth year you would be facing a mortgage rate of 13%.

Most lenders, therefore, are putting an overall ceiling on the amount that your interest rate can rise. And it is usually limited to 5- 6 percentage points. Thus, if your initial rate is 3%, the most you will ever pay would be 8 or 9%. Make sure you understand what the ceilings are, and get them in writing, before you commit yourself to an ARM.

This analysis is equally valid for the various kinds of ARMs, whether the three year, the 5-25, the 7-23 or even the 10 year ARM.

There are also serious problems with interpreting how the rate adjustment works after you get the loan. Anyone with an ARM is advised to carefully review their original loan documents, to determine whether the lender has properly and correctly assessed the new adjustable rate, when the adjustment period comes due.

And keep in mind: depending on the cap, at some point in the future, you may be required to make more monthly payments than you can afford.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

The First Offer May Be The Best Offer

Sometimes when everything goes right we have trouble accepting that fact. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more clearly illustrated than in the case where a seller receives a good offer right away.

The annals of real estate are well stocked with stories of sellers who refused to take a good, but not perfect, first offer, and who then waited a long, long time before finally accepting something else at a considerably lower price. And most agents who have been around for a while know to shudder when a good strong offer is made almost at the outset of a listing; for the seller’s reservations are almost inevitable. “Did we list it too low?” “If someone will offer this much so soon, maybe we should wait a while and see if we can get more.” Etc.

When we read of Silicon Valley listings routinely selling at above list price, and while we are still in a period when multiple-offer situations are commonplace, it is understandable that such thoughts come to mind. Nonetheless, they are generally unfounded, especially if the market is anywhere near “normal”, as ours is today.

As an antidote to the ill effects of the “curse of the first offer”, a couple of observations might be kept in mind.

First, the fact that an offer is received early in the listing period — even in the first few days — doesn’t mean that the property has been listed too low.

It is easy to overlook how very efficient the residential real estate marketplace has become. Modern multiple listing systems (MLS) provide agents, and thus their buyer clients, with virtually instant access to information about existing inventory and about what has newly come on the market. In the old, old days a buyer’s agent did not become aware of new listings until “the book” (i.e. the compilation of MLS listings) was published. There might have been a lag time of ten days or more from the time the listing was taken.

Today, a good buyer’s agent will have electronically entered a “profile” of his client’s needs and price range into the system. Then, whenever he logs on to the MLS, he will be notified if a listing has been entered that matches that profile. In a low-inventory market such as we have had recently, buyers’ agents will log on a half-dozen times a day, or more, to see if an appropriate new listing has been entered. Moreover, in most systems the buyer’s agent is able to place the buyer himself on a similar notification.

The point is that potential buyers learn quickly of the existence of an appropriate new listing. Thus a flurry of activity at the outset of the listing does not necessarily imply a too-low price; rather, it reflects the efficiency of the system.

Secondly, an early first offer does not imply that the seller should hold out for full price.

We all know that there is typically a bit of a dance in the pricing and negotiating for a property. Sellers, with the concurrence of their agents, will usually list their property for an amount that is both higher than what they believe its value to be and higher than what they would be satisfied to receive. Why? Because they know that buyers almost always want and expect to pay less than the listed price

However, when an otherwise acceptable offer comes in near the outset of a listing period, sellers are frequently tempted to hold out for full price, or much closer to it than would normally be expected. Caution should be exercised in this regard.

For one thing, as we have noted, exposure of the property to buyers occurs pretty quickly nowadays, and sellers shouldn’t assume that there are going to be more, much less higher, offers as the listing period progresses.

Secondly, there often can be a transactional benefit to “leaving something on the table.” A real estate transaction is a process. These days, with inspections and disclosures, there are almost always “second negotiations” during the course of escrow. A buyer who feels ground down in the purchase negotiation may well be more difficult to deal with as other issues arise.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

10 Totally Free Tips For Getting Your Home Sold Quickly

Staging your home is a critical step in getting it sold, but all the recommended updates and upgrades can get pricey. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to make your home look bigger, better, and brighter, without spending a dime.

1. Fix up your floors

Don’t want to pay to replace or refinish your floors? No prob. Grab a brown crayon to fill in divots. A one-to-one mix of olive oil and vinegar rubbed directly on scratched areas will also help make it look new. You can also use canola if you don’t have olive, but then use a one-part vinegar, three-part oil mixture. Or, try this hack that uses walnuts to fix scratches. No, seriously.

Floors look great but don’t sound so hot? “Fix creaky wood floors with a generous dusting of baby powder,” said One Crazy House. “Work it into the cracks until the floor is no longer noisy.”

2. Make it sparkle

Presumably, you already have cleaning supplies, sponges, and paper towels in the house. Now all you need is some elbow grease to make your home look shiny and new.

When selling your home, you need to take the cleaning beyond your typical weekly run-through. Think “Spring cleaning” turned up a notch or two. Remember that potential buyers will be looking everywhere, including inside drawers and cabinets. Make sure they’re crumb-free and well organized. They may also open your refrigerator. While this can seem intrusive, you don’t want to give them a reason to walk away, so make sure to tidy up the inside, wipe up any spills, throw away rotten food, and put a nice big box of Baking Soda in there to absorb any leftover smells.

3. Let the light in

Everyone is looking for “natural light,” so show off what you’ve got by opening up those blinds and drapes. Did you just reveal a bunch of dirty windows and sills? Ewww. Grab that cleaning spray and make them shine. An old toothbrush is a great way to get gunk out of corners and in window tracks.

If your place isn’t light and bright, even with all the blinds and drapes drawn, you’ll need to depend on artificial lighting. This is no time to have lightbulbs out. Go hit that stash in your laundry room cabinet and switch out for fresh bulbs.

4. Declutter

Home stagers will tell you there is no more important step when preparing your home for sale. “If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story,” said Houzz. “It’s not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative’s garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble.”

Do a walk-through with an outsider’s eye, or ask a friend or family member to help since they’ll be more objective. Anything that isn’t used regularly or is taking away from the open feel of the house can be packed away. Small appliances and anything else hanging out on countertops can be put in a cabinet if you’re not ready to stick it in a box. You want people to see the bones of the house, not your blender.

5. Depersonalize

While, you’re decluttering, keep personalization in mind. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and they might not be able to do so if they can’t take their eyes off your wall of taxidermy.

6. Create closet space

Even if you have the world’s largest walk-in closet in the master bedroom, you can give buyers the impression that there isn’t enough space by overfilling it. Stagers recommend taking half of your clothes and shoes out and packing them away to create some airiness. Does the idea of packing up your stuff freak you out? You’re going to have to do it when you move, anyway. This is just giving you a head start.

7. Remove the stink

Does your home greet guests with a big whiff of cat box? Potential home buyers might just turn right back around and get in the car. You also want to make sure your animals aren’t irritating those who are touring or impeding them from entering certain rooms. Don’t want to board them? Surely you have a friend or family member who’d love to watch your pets during showings, right?

8. Pull those weeds

You really can’t overestimate the importance of curb appeal today. Even if you don’t want to spring for a few bags of mulch and some colorful flowers to frame your door, there are easy and free steps you can take to give buyers a great first impression. Dispose of any visible weeds, leaves, and other unwanted stuff hanging out in the yard. Give your bushes a trim and mow the yard. If you can’t power wash your home, at least wash the outside of the exterior windows that are within eye level.

And don’t forget about the area closest to your front door. Sweep that stoop and make sure your welcome mat is actually welcoming, instead of dusty and dirty.

9. Address your furniture

Some of the most common problems in homes when it comes to furniture: 1) It’s ugly; 2) It’s old; There’s too much of it; The arrangement is uninviting. Ugly and old might be hard to overcome when you’re trying not to spend money, but the rest you can do something about.

“Sometimes when sellers are trying to make a small room seem like it’s more spacious, they have a tendency to push all of their furniture against the walls to leave a big open space in the middle. This type of arrangement may leave a lot of open space, but ultimately leaves the interior design looking unfinished — a big turn off for buyers. In this situation, it’s better to create furniture groupings. First, envision the way the space should be used,” said Freshome. “Do you have a huge flatscreen TV that requires a lot of seating? Is there a corner in your living room that would serve perfectly as a reading nook? Group the furniture in ways that would make sense for the intended use. Then, make sure that there are clean and direct pathways through the room. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home and one of the quickest ways to do that is by creating a cozy seating area that’s fit for conversation.”

If the problem is that you’ve created a crowded space by using too much furniture, ditch a few pieces in a friend’s garage for the time being (or, even better, donate them!) to create an intimate seating area. You can always bring those pieces back into your new home.

10. Borrow stuff

If, at the end of the day, your home still isn’t looking show-ready, maybe it’s time to raid a friend’s house. Have a loved one who has an extra couch that’s more neutral than yours or a couple of great accessories? It’s time to test their love for you.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Phoenix Real Estate Market Report ~ March 2017

The current real time market profile shows there were approximately 12,191 new listings (up 2,192 listings from last month) on the market in March 2017 and 9,365 sold transactions (up 2,827 listings from last month). The overall inventory of homes on the market in March 2017 is 22,246 homes (down 366 listing from last month) which is down -14.7% as compared to the number of home on the marker in August 2014. In December 2015 there were 23,353 homes, in December 2014 there were 26,270 homes and in December 2013 there were 26,463 homes for sale on the market. Due to the large spike in the number of sold transactions and the decline in average days on market this shows buyer’s demand is strong where inventories may continue to be low and drive up prices.

Since November 2016 after our new president took office the average sales price has increased from approximately $281,000 to $289,000 or an appreciation rate of 2.7%. Since the Federal Reserve last increased interest rates by .25 basis points mortgage interest rates have gone down due to the anticipation of a possible war. It appears the interest rate increase has not slowed down the Phoenix market and it has actually increased buyer’s demand for housing as evident with a 43.2% increase in the number of sold transaction from last month. Since March 2016 (12 months ago), the average sold price has increased +6.4%, the average days on market has increased approximately +0.0% (down from last month) and the number of sold transactions has increased approximately -10.9% (up from last month).

The volume of foreclosure purchases since March 2016 (12 months ago) has increased approximately +6.0% and the volume of short sales increased of approximately +2.4%. Since August 2013 the number of foreclosures have decreased -188.3% and the current percentage of foreclosure sales is only 2% of the market which indicates a healthy market. Also, since August 2013 the number of short sale transactions have decreased -430.2% and the current percentage of short sales sold is only 2% of the market. Unfortunately, some homeowners who bought between 2005 and 2007 are still up-side-down as shown in the annual average sold price chart above.

Since March 2016 (12 months ago), the number of homes for sale on the market have decreased approximately -11.6% or 25,169 homes for sale on the market to a gradual decrease of 22,246 homes (Down 366 homes from last month). The total number of listings is low as compared to 26,076 listings in August 2014. This decrease in the number of homes for sale indicates we are currently in a seller’s market (low supply and increased demand).

Real estate prices are still relatively low (near 2008 prices), interest rates are planned to increase in 2017 and the macroeconomic market is improving both in terms of prices and the overall economy. Give us a call to discuss your best buying or selling strategy, TODAY!!

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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