Thursday, April 28, 2016

SHOULD YOU BUY A FIXER UPPER?

It looks so simple on TV: Find a diamond-in-the rough with "good bones," hire a few telegenic workers, perhaps squabble with your significant other about the interior paint color and presto – the home has doubled in value. The reality, of course, is not so easy. Here are a few things to consider before investing your money – and time – in a fixer upper.
1. Can you afford it?
After consulting an experienced building inspector to assess the home, a contractor for a time and money quote on the work to be done, and a Realtor to make sure the renovations are in line with what buyers want, do the math. Be sure to include materials and add an extra 10-15 percent for renovation "surprises" that may arise. Once you have the general price tag, you can calculate whether you have the funds to cover the cost of renovation or need (and are qualified) to take out a renovation loan.
2. Do you have the time?
Even if you plan on hiring contractors to do most of the work, coordinating with with them still takes a big chunk of time. If you just started a job, are expecting a baby or simply don't want to commit the necessary hours to the project, it might not be prime time for a fixer-upper.
3. Do you have skills? (Or handy friends?)
Doing the labor yourself can save you money. A lot of renovation work, especially cosmetic projects, is not rocket science. But if most encounters you've had with power tools have ended at the ER, it may be best to go with a contractor.
4. How do you feel about living in a construction zone?
Unless you're able to live elsewhere during renovations, think long and hard about whether living in an unfinished house, complete with workers and a power tool soundtrack, will drive you nuts.
Before you dive into a fixer-upper, talk with a Realtor who can help you identify promising homes and emerging neighborhoods where you might get the most bang for your building bucks.  I'm ready to help...let's nail it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Best Ways to Save Tons of Money on Your Home in 2016

It’s New Year’s resolution time—when we vow to drop 18.5 pounds, start training for a triathlon, cut back on sodium, and maybe even give up our crippling HGTV addiction. What’s that you say? You want to make a resolution you might actually keep?  OK, try this on for size: Resolve to save buckets of cash by making simple changes around your home, sweet home.

Whether you live in a mansion or a condo, homes consume a ton of expensive energy—whether in the form of electricity, water or gas. The good news? You can lower these bills—freeing up cash for all kinds of other pursuits such as that new kitchen reno you’ve been dreaming of or even a vacation far from home. What’s more, these changes are far from painstaking; some are as simple as switching your lightbulbs or tweaking the settings on appliances.

Collectively these tiny changes can add up to huge savings. Try a few or all to reap the benefits of a fatter bank account in 2016—and beyond.

Get an energy audit

Consider this a checkup for your home: Many local utility companies offer energy audits (often for free), where experts assess your home’s energy consumption patterns looking for improvement areas where you could cut back on guzzling electricity, gas, or water (and also lower your utility bills). Auditors may do this remotely by poring through your records, or they visit your home to examine everything from its windows to duct work to shower heads—saving you as much as 30% of your monthly bills.
For more information go to energy.gov, or head to the Residential Energy Services Network, where you can enter your ZIP code to find an auditor near you.

Adjust your water heater

Most people set their water heaters on high. The amount of energy needed to keep gallons of water at scalding for no reason? A lot. Lowering it by just 10 degrees Fahrenheit will save you from 3% to 5% on your heating costs. Also, buy your heater a nice blanket to keep heat in and tack on an additional 4% to 9% in savings.

Swap your lightbulbs

Switching to low-energy lightbulbs is a quick and easy way to reduce lighting costs. A 60-watt bulb retailing for $6 will save between $30 and $80 over its lifetime. The average household has 50 bulbs—so that’s a minimum $1,500 in savings! But there’s no need to go out and buy $300 worth of lightbulbs all at once. Swap out the bulbs you use every day—kitchen and bedroom—and leave the barely used ones in basements or attics until they burn out.

Kill your home’s energy vampires

Those little lights all over your house that indicate printers and chargers are on but not in use? They’re “energy vampires” sucking dollars out of your wallet, an average of $165 a year for a typical U.S. household. The low-tech solution? Unplug these items before bed, which will save you as much as 10% on your energy bill. The high-tech solution? Power cords such as the Embertec Emberstrip AV+ ($79.95) that will turn off equipment when it senses they’re not in use.

Wash your clothes this way

Switch to cold water washes. Yes, your clothes will still get clean—some stains come out more readily in cold water—and you’ll save about $60 a year. As dryers account for 12% of energy in an average household, consider line-drying clothes in nice weather to save you almost $200 per year. Or, if you do use a dryer, clean your vent, which will reduce energy costs by $9 to $12 per month, says Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance.

Strip your windows in the winter

In the winter “even the smallest gaps around a window or door frame allow air to leak inside,” says Mark Liston, president of Glass Doctor. “An eighth of an inch gap under a 36-inch wide door will let in as much cold air as a 2.4-inch diameter hole punched in a wall!” That means in the winter, sealing cracks around windows and frames is a no-brainer that can bring down the heating bill between 10% and 15%.

Film your windows in the summer

And as for the summer, when the sun beats through your windows and bakes your home? For that, you can add window films—an imperceptible layer that acts like sunglasses, filtering out infrared and UV rays. A whole roll of it will run you around$25 but can translate to an average of 20% to 25% reduction in energy costs via the AC. Added benefit: It keeps colors in paintings and carpets from fading, says Mike Byrd, program manager for Madico, which provides window films for the Smithsonian, the Louvre, and many other architectural landmarks.

Cut the cord

Getting rid of cable and your landline will save you about $100 a month. Keep your fast Internet and consider buying a $35 Chromecast—a device that slings streaming shows from your cellphone to your TV.
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.