Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
February 22, 2012 4:40 pm
In our last segment, I began exploring how to size your home up to install solar electrical generating panels. Picking up from there, the folks from residentialsolarpanels.org suggest you calculate up-front costs vs. the long-term savings you could enjoy.
For nearly everyone, the upfront cost of a photovoltaic solar system will be a major factor. However, with the yearly utility savings and the government incentives, it can be well worth the initial investment.
Considering a single solar panel can generate 21.294 kWh/month, if your electricity company charges an average of 20 cents per kWh, you would save about $512 per year. If that system costs $20,000, solar Government rebates / Tax Credits could cut that cost as much as 50 percent, so you’ll have to pay back $10,000.
That means it will take you about 19.5 years for 10 x 2 m² solar panels to pay off the system and begin truly saving. And if you consume 1,000 Kw /Month it will reduce your typical energy bill by about half.
Finally, if all the numbers work out— it's time to plan your photovoltaic system placement. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the correct tilt of solar panels is to find out the approximate latitude of your area and set the panels at an angle equal to that latitude.
This should maximize the amount of solar radiation absorbed all year. If the southward facing roof on which the panels will be installed is slanted beyond the angle of your area’s latitude, then the panels should be lifted at the bottom edges, in order to achieve the best radiation angle, whenever possible.
For flat roofs, any of the four sides can be elevated to match the latitude angle.
Finally, to start a power purchase agreement with your local utility, you will have to start filling out paperwork to get approved. One of the first things that you will have to submit is your current electric bills.
This is to show what your normal consumption is. If you get approved, you could get some solar renewable energy credits for every megawatt hour you are producing.
If your state offers money for these credits, it could add up to some nice pay for you, according to the folks at residentialsolarpanels.org.
February 22, 2012 4:40 pm
Your roof is your home’s largest investment, which could explain why homeowners have some pretty specific roofing expectations. In the 2011 DaVinci Roofscapes’ Homeowners Exterior Preferences Study, more than 1,000 homeowners overwhelming indicated that durability and longevity were the two key aspects that will influence the type of roof they purchase for their homes in the future.
Results of the nationwide consumer study, conducted by Harris Interactive©, show that 88 percent of the respondents indicate that the durability of a roofing product will have “a lot of influence” on the product they select when it comes time to purchase a new roof.
“Extreme weather events have increased in frequency and severity in the past decade and that has changed the way people think about their roofs,” says Ray Rosewall, CEO and president of DaVinci Roofscapes. “It used to be that if you lived in the southern states, winter weather was mild. Now those same states routinely experience the damaging winds and hail that were only seen in the warmer months in the past.
“These weather events are increasing in frequency and severity and are now occurring in almost every state. With the dramatic weather changes we’ve experienced recently it’s no wonder homeowners name durability as their number one influencer when considering the purchase of a new roof.”
When do homeowners plan to replace their roofs and what influences that decision? In the same study, 65 percent of homeowners indicated they would be prompted to replace their roof if it became damaged from severe weather. Another 23 percent reported that their current roof is old and will soon need to be replaced, with an additional 13 percent indicating that their roof is near the end of its warranty and needs to be replaced.
Top 10 Influencers
Homeowners ranked the following factors as having “a lot of influence” in the decision-making process for the type of new roof to purchase:
88 percent – Durability
83 percent – Longevity/Built to Last
72 percent – Low/No Maintenance
71 percent – Resistant to Severe Weather
69 percent – Has a Warranty
57 percent – Fire Resistancy
55 percent – Material Roof is Made Out of
50 percent – Price
41 percent – Colors Available
24 percent – Complements the Neighborhood Setting
“Everyone is cost conscious but it’s interesting to see that homeowners are putting more value on the inherent quality and durability of the alternatives when looking at the cost of a new roof,” says Rosewall. “We believe this truly reflects the thought process of the homeowner that a roof is an investment in their home, and as such, they will get more value from a quality roof versus a lower cost bargain-basement priced roof.
February 22, 2012 4:40 pm
That bad credit decision you made in college can haunt you for the rest of your life. However, if you’re smart about it, you can restore your good credit and make things like applying for a loan to purchase a home an easier task.
Writer Kate Raidt of www.SWparents.com knows all about restoring her good credit. Raidt filed for bankruptcy in 2001, and 10 years later has not only officially removed it from her credit score, but she now has a credit score of an impressive 820! Read on as Raidt lets us in on how she went from one of the worst credit histories a human being can possibly have to one of the top 1 percent of credit scores in America.
First, here are the facts about credit scores:
• A credit score is primarily based on credit report information, typically from one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Income is not considered by the major credit bureaus when calculating a credit score.
• The most common score comes from FICO and can range from a score of 300-850
• In 2010, the average FICO credit score in America was 723
• Less than 1 percent of Americans have a credit score over 800
• In 2009, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts determined that there were 1,412,838 non-business bankruptcy filings in America that year
Here are the steps Raidt took to re-build her credit and earn a credit score over 800, as written on SWparents.com
1. I had a big “Come to Jesus” wake-up talk with myself. The day I walked into bankruptcy court I swore to myself this will never happen again. Ever. Ever. I had to admit to myself that I was living way beyond my means and my credit card debt was nobody’s fault but my own.
2. I had to completely change my spending habits. Cash only. I had to live by the old rule If you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it! Boy, ain’t that the truth? Every time I walked in a store, I had to ask myself “Do I really need that? Why do I want to buy that? To fill an emotional void? Keep up with the Joneses? Walk away, Kate. Walk away. YOU DON’T NEED THAT.” Today, if it’s not me having this conversation with myself, it’s my husband.
3. I had heard horror stories about people who had filed for bankruptcy who couldn’t get a car or even an apartment to live in. About a year after I filed for bankruptcy, my car was stolen and I had to purchase a new one. The credit manager said my interest rates would be a little higher, but other than this I had no problems buying a car. Years later, I became a homeowner – no problem at all. The lender didn’t even mention my bankruptcy! Why? This takes me to my next step…
4. I was a ninja at repairing my credit. I paid ALL bills on time. I got copies of all three credit reports and found mistakes on all of them that were costing me points. I wrote letters to all three credit bureaus and asked for these mistakes to be removed. Unfortunately, in this country, you have to have debt to have positive credit history. I applied for ONE credit card with a very low limit of only $1,000 and I started playing the credit game: Put very small purchases on a credit card (gas, groceries) and pay it in full every month. If you do this over and over (and never get close to your credit limit), then you will be declared a person who can manage a credit card responsibly and your credit score will fly in a positive direction. If you start to play the credit card game and you see yourself falling into old habits, destroy your credit card immediately and stop the game. The majority of people I know who have filed for bankruptcy end up in even bigger debt 7-10 years later. Why? Because they never learned how to control their spending habits.
5. My final biggest step? I married a man who is a ninja about finances (thank you, Daniel!). He is tougher on me than I am on myself. He never spends what we can’t afford and is a big believer of living below our means (he doesn’t care about the Joneses). Another trap for people trying to get out of debt is that they have a spouse who is a big spender. What if dad was in recovery for alcohol abuse, but mom kept the fridge stocked with Budweiser? How successful do you think dad’s recovery will be? Same rule applies to money. If you are trying to hunker down and get your finances in order, but others around you are sinking your ship, then BOTH of you need a Come to Jesus talk, a Dave Ramsey course or a slap in the rear by Suze Orman.
To read the original article, click here.
February 22, 2012 4:40 pm
As is. Said of property offered for sale in its present condition with no guarantees as to quality and no promise of repair or fix-up by the seller; property is purchased in exactly the condition in which it is found.
February 22, 2012 4:40 pm
Q: How do growing equity mortgages work?
A: Also called GEMs, these fixed-rate mortgages have monthly payments that increase in increments of 3 percent or more to reduce the principal loan amount. They are often written by the lender at a below-market interest rate and have shorter terms.
A GEM lets you pay off the mortgage earlier, save tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments, and build equity quickly. A 30-year GEM, depending on the interest rate, can normally be paid off in 15 to 20 years.
February 21, 2012 2:36 pm
Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year. But home security systems are not all alike.
Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.
If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:
• Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives.
• Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
• Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.
• Get written estimates from several companies.
• Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.
• Ask lots of questions:
• Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
• What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
• How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
• Does the company call you before notifying the police?
• How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
• What happens if the alarm company can't reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
• What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
• What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
• Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
• Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smartphones?
February 21, 2012 2:36 pm
Guess what has caught the eye of the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT)? Distracted driving. The agency is calling for automakers to step up and restrict or ban texting, Facebook, Internet browsing, and other electronics in cars.
This news comes as many new vehicles are being built with a variety of electronic options installed in their dashboard. These hands-free devices are often popular additions to vehicles and attractive options for car-buyers.
But these options can become fatal as distracted driving can lead to car accidents. Individuals who take their eyes off the road—even for a split second—could wind up hurt.
According to the NHTSA, there were 3,092 individuals involved in car accidents related to distracted driving in 2010. This accounts for 9.4 percent of fatalities on the road.
And it's possible that with more gadgets in cars, the number will only increase. In fact, there are 29 percent more new cars this year with smartphone and embedded-connectivity units in North America.
For now, the DOT is only urging for voluntary compliance. They believe this will net a faster impact compared with a compulsory rule, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The rules will limit users' ability to key in addresses into navigation systems, input phone numbers, or "visual manual" text message unless the car is stopped, reports USA Today.
The NHTSA is fielding comments and input about their new regulations. The agency will be holding hearings nationwide.
One can only hope the new stance taken by the DOT will reduce distracted driving. However, it remains to be seen whether or not automakers will comply with the voluntary guidelines.
February 21, 2012 2:36 pm
Americans are regaining confidence in their financial security. The COUNTRY Financial Security Index® increased for the third straight month. Higher savings rates and more positivity about debt repayment pushed the reading up one point to 65.8, the highest level since December 2009.
Confidence in several aspects of financial security rose to its highest level in at least two years.
• Half of Americans were able to set aside money for savings, up six points to a three-year high.
• Eighty percent are confident in their ability to pay debts, up three points since December. This is its highest reading since October 2008.
• Americans rating their overall financial security positively increased two points to 41 percent. Confidence in the ability to retire comfortably rose three points to 58 percent. Both are at their highest level since December 2009.
"It's been a while since Americans were feeling this optimistic. Steady improvements since September could signal people are breaking the recession mindset," says Keith Brannan, vice president of Financial Security Planning at COUNTRY Financial. "Now's the time to create or revisit a financial plan that addresses both short- and long-term goals, which can help maintain this optimism."
Middle Income Earners Feel More Secure
While other income groups' financial sentiments remained stable or declined, middle income earners grew more upbeat. Forty-eight percent with an annual household income of $60 - $75K and 53 percent with an income of $75 - $100K rate their overall financial security positively. These are up five and nine points from December, respectively.
30-39 Year Olds Drive Overall Optimism
Of all the age groups, 30 to 39 year olds showed the largest uptick in their confidence this month.
• Fifty-eight percent were able to set aside money for savings, a 15-point jump.
• Sixty-one percent are confident in their ability to retire comfortably, up eight points.
"Financial security is achievable no matter your age or income," adds Brannan. "The key is simply to establish financial goals and stick to them."
February 21, 2012 2:36 pm
As home values fell again at the end of 2011, more and more people are looking to renting as an affordable, flexible lifestyle option, causing apartment vacancies to fall to their lowest point in 10 years. Reis reported that the apartment vacancy rate dropped to 5.2 percent in Q4 of 2011, down from their reports of 5.6 percent in Q3 of 2011. This higher demand for apartment housing means increased renting costs across the nation. In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey of more than 3,000 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2012 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, why they are opting to rent versus own, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search.
Supporting a growing trend, 33.6 percent of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are previous homeowners (up from 20.5 percent in 2011). From the survey respondents who said they are homeowners looking to rent in 2012, 26.3 percent are doing so because they believe renting is a more affordable option and 21.2 percent prefer the flexibility renting offers in choosing where to live.
Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses their website visitors provided as to why they are choosing to rent versus own in 2012:
1. Renting is a more affordable option: 26.3 percent
2. Flexibility to live where I choose: 21.2 percent
3. To relocate for employment: 20.5 percent
4. Cannot afford to keep up with homeownership expenses: 10.5 percent
5. Lost home due to foreclosure and change in marital status: less than 4 percent each
"The fact that more renters are entering the market continues to create a series of challenges for the potential renter, including fewer apartments to choose from, which can drive rent rates higher," says Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. "It's more important than ever for apartment seekers to be informed and savvy shoppers by utilizing all the online resources available to search for apartments within their budget."
More than 35 percent of respondents indicated they are moving out on their own —whether for the first time or back into their own place—which may be a sign of an improving economy and job market, especially in the rental demographic. Reinforcing that idea is the fact that 23 percent of renters surveyed reported they are relocating for employment opportunities—making that the number one reason for moving in 2012, as it was in 2011. However, the desire to have more space, to save money and to live in a more desirable neighborhood also topped the list. Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses as to why their website visitors are moving in 2012:
1. Relocating for employment opportunities: 23 percent
2. Looking for a bigger apartment: 11.9 percent
3. Shopping for a less expensive apartment: 11.3 percent
4. Wanting to live in a more desirable neighborhood: 10.6 percent
5. Change in marital status: 8.8 percent
As part of their due diligence, this survey finds renters tapping multiple resources during their apartment search. While the majority of survey respondents rely on Apartments.com and online apartment classified listings websites, such as Craigslist to find a new place, there has also been a notable 9.2 percent uptick in the number of respondents who are using review websites this year over last. In addition to the dominant choice of Apartments.com, of which 100 percent of survey respondents were utilizing at the time of taking the survey, renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows:
1. Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle): 70.4 percent
2. Search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, Bing): 45.3 percent
3. Review websites (e.g. ApartmentRatings.com, Yelp!): 32.6 percent
4. Word of mouth: 31.5 percent
5. Local newspapers: 26.7 percent
Apartment seekers currently in the market for an apartment are encouraged to read the following tips, from Apartments.com, to help them find the perfect place to live.
• Identify "Need to Have" Versus "Nice to Have" Amenities: Before beginning an apartment search, identify which features and amenities are must haves. Different apartment styles and locations appeal to a variety of renters, depending on the demands of their day-to-day routine. Amenities like newer kitchen appliances and marble countertops, laundry or workout facilities may result in a more expensive apartment. People who are new to a big city may be surprised to find parking hard to come by or an additional expense. The best way to go about finding a place that meets the needs of one's lifestyle is to create a list of necessities and conduct an online apartment search against that list.
• Budget Wisely: When looking for a place, experts suggest rent should not exceed 25-30 percent of one's annual wages. Take a look at income after taxes and subtract expenses. Be sure to include food, car payment, credit card, entertainment and phone bills as part of the expenses. Whatever is left is what apartment shoppers can afford for their new place. Keep in mind this budget will need to cover rent and other services like gas, cable, electricity and garbage pickup, if these are not already included in the rent. If it's not already included, ask the landlord or property manager to put what is covered and what is not into the rental agreement.
• Inspect an Apartment: Most shoppers wouldn't buy a car without taking it for a test drive. So, why would anyone rent an apartment without seeing it first? Especially when a lot of the information to help narrow down the search, including apartment photos and videos, can be found online. On Apartments.com, walk-through video tours guide viewers through the interiors of apartments to help them pinpoint the places that meet their needs before scheduling an appointment. Once interested renters have arrived at the apartment, they should ask the landlord or property manager to give a tour and double check the appropriate safety fixtures (e.g. smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors) are installed and working. Also, test faucets, toilets and other pipes under cabinets for leaks in plumbing. Run a hand along the outside of the window to check for drafts. If there are any items that need to be repaired or replaced, make sure these are addressed before signing the lease.
February 21, 2012 2:36 pm
Appurtenance. Whatever is annexed to land or used with it that will pass to the buyer with conveyance of title, such as a garage or fence.