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Homeowners Look to Reduce Energy Consumption for Earth Day

April 22, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2011--Retrofitting an existing home to be more energy efficient is an effective way to save energy and reduce cost of homeownership. Retrofitting includes a variety of projects from replacing old light bulbs to upgrading appliances and installing new insulation. Practical home improvement has become popular among savvy homeowners looking to save. According to Pike Research, expenditures for energy efficient home improvements will grow to over $50 billion by 2014.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 80% of homes built before 1980 were built with insufficient insulation. Old dishwashers waste up to 6,700 gallons of water per year-enough water to run an efficient dishwasher for seven years. Replacing old, single-pane windows can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars on energy bills.

"Retrofitting an existing home to make it more green and an energy efficient structure is easier than some homeowners might realize," says Jeff Kaliner, co-founder and chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania-based remodeling group. "With a few simple steps or home improvement investments, homeowners can reduce their energy consumption, save some money throughout the year-all while being friendlier to the Earth and helping reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil."

Below are tips for homeowners looking to make their home more energy efficient and environmentally friendly:

  • DIY Home Energy Assessment Homeowners can easily assess their energy usage through a do-it-yourself home energy audit. By searching for air leaks and checking things like insulation, lighting and heating/cooling equipment, homeowners can develop a list of problem areas. This list will help homeowners prioritize energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Windows Energy efficient windows are better insulated, allowing a home to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If homeowners are not able to replace their home's windows, closing cracks and seals with caulk to reduce air leakage is a great alternative. Homeowners can receive up to $200 in tax credits toward the purchase of windows in 2011.
  • Insulation According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for heating and cooling. Energy usage for heating and cooling is high because conditioned air often escapes through poorly insulated walls and attics creating a never-ending cycle of circulating air. Updating a home's insulation may allow homeowners to retain conditioned air and spend less to keep the home comfortable. Homeowners can receive up to $500 in tax credits for updating insulation in 2011.
  • Appliances Updating your home's appliances to ENERGY STAR rated appliances can save you money on both your water and electric bill. A new clothes washer alone may save you thousands of gallons of water each year. If replacing your appliances is out of the question, be sure to keep them clean and in good repair to reduce energy waste.
  • Doors Old or improperly sealed doors can significantly affect a home's energy efficiency by allowing conditioned air to easily escape. Installing a new door can provide more effective insulation than older ones. Homeowners can receive up to $500 in tax credits toward the purchase of new doors in 2011. Weather-stripping is another cost effective way to seal air leaks around an existing door.
  • Light Bulbs According to Energy Star , if every American home replaced just one light with an energy efficient CFL light bulb, enough energy would be saved to light three million homes for a year. With a cost of just over $2 per bulb, switching to CFL light bulbs is a very cost-effective Earth Day project.
  • Programmable Thermostat The U.S. Department of Energy reports that homeowners can save roughly 10% on heating and cooling bills by turning their thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature of a home while the homeowner is at work or asleep, making energy reduction easy.

For more information on how you can go green, visit

Tags: News

Global Events Affecting Economic Outlook

April 21, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 21, 2011--Global events during March, including ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, the surge in oil prices, and supply disruptions from the tragedy in Japan, have dampened U.S. economic growth in the first half of 2011, according to the April 2011 Economic Outlook recently released by Fannie Mae's Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. The slowdown in growth is expected to be temporary, however, with a modest acceleration in economic growth projected for the second half of the year. The group forecasts economic growth to average 3.1% for 2011, a downgrade from 3.5% projected in the prior forecast.

Home sales were weak in the first part of 2011, with distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) continuing to account for more than a third of total existing-home sales. In turn, a rising share of distressed sales and the winding down of various programs to support the housing market have caused home price measures to decline.

"Home price expectations have deteriorated during the past several months, which could cause some potential home buyers to remain on the sidelines-and further sharp cutbacks in housing demand would pose a risk to the fragile housing recovery," said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. "We expect a little more decline in house prices at the national level than we had thought previously, but expect prices to begin stabilizing later this year."

On the upside, recent employment reports have been very strong, with more than 230,000 private sector payroll jobs added in each of the last two months. "We anticipate there will be continued reasonably good news in employment through the rest of the year," said Duncan. "If that continues, we expect housing to move in a similar positive direction-hopefully by the second half of 2011."

For more information, visit

Tags: News

How to Decide Whether to Purchase a Home Elevator, Stair Chair or Wheelchair Lift

April 21, 2011 1:31 pm

By Michael Walsh

RISMEDIA, April 21, 2011--Residential elevators and chair lifts are an extremely smart investment to make for your life, your future, and your home. Over the last 20 years, residential elevator technology has advanced considerably; today's models are quieter, more energy efficient and come in a variety of styles designed to perfectly suit your home. Whether you are considering a home elevator, stair chair, or wheelchair lift, a number of important details should be taken into account; these will determine the best possible vertical transportation solution for your needs. Some of these aspects include, your daily needs, lifestyle, budget, safety concerns, the architectural plans or structure of your home, and the logistics of the actual installment and construction.

Home Elevators

Home elevators take up a bit more room than stair chairs and wheel chair lifts, so when considering which option is best for yourself or your family, take that into account. If you are thinking about vertical transportation options for a family, home elevators are a great one. Do you live in a large house with multiple levels and have small children? Need to make multiple trips up and down the stairs with laundry, kids, or groceries? Home elevators make it all a snap. Or are you elderly and considering age-in-place options? A home elevator might just be for you; they will add value to your home and convenience to your family's lifestyle. If you are elderly, a home elevator will let you stay in your residence as you age. Today's home elevators are safe and can be customized to blend perfectly with your home's design; they can be built into a new home or your current residence.

When shopping for a home elevator, make sure it has all the necessary safety features such as a door interlock, cable safety device, emergency light, alarm and phone. Keep in mind that home elevators require regular servicing and maintenance to ensure their safety and reliability. Regular maintenance will also protect your investment for years to come.

Stair Chairs

One of the leading causes of falls in the home for people of all ages is walking up and down the stairs. Stair chairs can prevent the normal strain on knees, hip joints and ankles. Installing a stair chair in your home is a wonderful preventative measure to ease the stress on your body as you age or if you are currently managing an ongoing painful condition such as arthritis. If you find that climbing an entire set of stairs in your home is very difficult on a regular basis, then a stair chair is for you. It will provide you with independence and comfort, and as a result, your daily tasks will become much easier.

What's great about a stair chair is that it is easy to have installed and will not change the structural integrity of your home-your mobility and accessibility issues will be resolved through convenient means. Plus, stair chairs are very economical and have low maintenance costs.

Wheelchair Lifts

Wheelchair lifts are also known as vertical platform lifts or vertical lifts. They are generally more aesthetically pleasing than wheelchair ramps and are a great, affordable alternative to home elevators. The modern styles of wheelchair lifts are streamlined and designed to be lighter with optimized performance. They are efficient and customizable solutions for expanding residences with limited mobility and access. Make sure you select a wheelchair lift that comes with all the necessary safety features and is ADA compliant.

Tags: News

Going Green? Tips on Making Eco-Friendly Improvements to the Bathroom

April 21, 2011 1:31 pm

By Keith Loria

RISMEDIA, April 21, 2011-Most real estate experts will tell you that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. A bathroom is also one of the easiest places in the home to upgrade to become environmentally friendly. For those looking to appeal to potential home buyers who consider "green" improvements a priority, there are several options you can focus on.

"When remodeling, you should use fixtures that save water; replace old windows with new energy-efficient windows; and add counter tops and flooring made from recycled materials, such as recycled glass mosaic tile," said Jennifer Powers, an interior designer with New York-based Scott-Ulmann.

Considerable water and money can be saved when you make a bathroom as water-efficient as possible. Saving water is easy with the addition of a low-flow showerhead, a low-flow faucet aerator, or a dual-flush toilet, which can save thousands of gallons of water each year.

"The low-flow aerator adds air to the water and helps to spread the water over a larger area so less water is needed," said Jim Byrne, a member of the organization Tree Living. "They restrict the overall flow of water but increase the force and pressure, making a small amount of water very effective."

Also, if your toilet was installed prior to 1994, it uses two to seven times more water than modern toilets. Any toilet bought after 1994 uses 1.6 gallons per flush or less. That's a great reason to upgrade.

For lighting in the bathroom, consider making the switch to fluorescent with electronic ballasts or halogen lighting. Adding energy-efficient large windows can also allow for great natural light.

Not everything has to be a big expense. There are plenty of low-cost improvements that can be done to make the bathroom greener. "An easy fix is to replace your shower curtain with one made from an eco-friendly product," Byrne said. "More attention is being paid to the toxic vapors that come from soft plastics, and shower curtains are no exception. Those interested in a green solution may want to use linen or cotton instead."

An energy-efficient bathroom should also have a properly functioning vent fan to draw out the hot, moist air from the bathroom. This will keep your summertime cooling costs under control.

The addition of a vapor barrier is also recommended, as it will separate the room from the rest of the house so that heat from the bathroom doesn't affect your home's cooling costs.

Powers said to also consider using natural stone products that act as a natural insulator and can help keep floors cool during the summer and warm during the winter months.

Tags: News

Appraisal Institute Issues Earth Day 'Call for Collaboration' to Real Estate Community

April 20, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011--In celebration of Earth Day, the Appraisal Institute today called on the world's real estate community to join in helping ensure reliable valuations for sustainable "green" buildings. The Appraisal Institute is the nation's largest professional association of real estate appraisers and has members in 60 countries.

"The Appraisal Institute is the world's leading authority on green valuation, but producing reliable property valuations requires a collaborative effort," said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA. "Data is vital for appraisers to do their jobs, and we often need cooperation from others involved in real estate transactions to get it. Earth Day is the perfect reminder for us all to work together. When we do, everyone will benefit, including homeowners and buyers."

Earth Day will be celebrated April 22. Growing out of the first celebration in 1970, Earth Day Network works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Magdziarz said that appraisers need to have all information from underwriters, builders, real estate agents and home inspectors related to energy efficient features in order to recognize them and to make appropriate, market-based adjustments. Appraisers frequently ask for ratings information, blueprints and specifications of properties' conservation features but are not provided the information - either because those involved in their construction, sale or financing mistakenly believe they are not applicable to the appraisal process, or because the data are not generally available.

Magdziarz acknowledged that misconceptions about green valuation exist among many non-appraisers, including a failure to realize that cost does not always equal value.

"It's not yet clear how well the market recognizes the actual or perceived benefits of a green building," Magdziarz said. "Do potential buyers view green features as enhancements to a property's market value or as over-enhancements? The answer likely depends on the particular property and the local real estate market."

Magdziarz pointed out that that appraisers don't determine the market; they reflect what's happening in the market.

"If appraisers have access to the data they need, they can produce more reliable opinions of value," he said. "Then builders and consumers would begin to see the return on investment, and the demand for new green construction could increase. This will drive the market toward a more sustainable building process, which holds immeasurable environmental benefits for all involved. This Earth Day, that's worth celebrating."

For more information regarding the Appraisal Institute, please visit

Tags: News

How to Prevent Break-ins

April 20, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011--With Spring comes warmer temperatures, open windows and less time indoors--all tempting aspects for burglars prowling the neighborhood looking for a score. With a little extra thought, there are many ways you can deter burglars and prevent a break-in from happening at your home. Keep the following in mind to burglars from ravaging your home:

Avoid using a catalog-bought hiding place. Refrain from hiding your keys outside in fake rocks, statues, or other commonly known catalog hiding places. Burglars are always on the hunt for these dead giveaways. In fact, experts recommend not hiding a key anywhere outdoors at all.

Check and repair your locks or add new ones. Your home is only as secure as your locks. The most common type of forced-entry tends to be from damaging doors. Multiple deadbolts with one-inch throw bolts will keep your home safe and deter amateur burglars from the scene.

Examine the exterior of your home. Look for easy hiding places in your yard that burglars may try to make use of. Trim extremely large bushes or shrubs and remove overhanging branches that a burglar could use to get to an upper balcony or window. For extra security, add multiple motion-detecting lights around the yard to illuminate your property if a lurker attempts to enter. Try to think like a robber and use that mindset to strengthen your home's outdoor security.

Deal with the patio door. Sliding patio doors are also a common entry point for intruders. Place dowels in newer sliding doors to keep them from opening wide. Older doors with plastic bumpers are easy to knock off track. Reinforce them by adding flat-head screws far enough in to make up for the extra slack.

Don't leave packages outside for too long. Having any expensive electronics delivered to your house? Try to bring packages inside as soon as possible. Conversely, don't leave broken down cardboard boxes for these items outside for pickup. Doing so basically announces to everyone in passing that you just purchased an expensive item. Cut it up and bag it or dispose of it elsewhere.

In addition, keep in touch with neighbors regarding neighborhood safety. Starting a Neighborhood Watch is a great way to get everyone in your neighborhood on the same page. Report any suspicious activity to the police and trust your instinct. By keeping these things front of mind, you will hopefully keep your home and family safe and secure.

Source: Consumer Reports

Tags: News

HUD to Offer Grants to Fix Housing-Related Health Hazards

April 20, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is making grants available to help eliminate lead-based paint and other housing-related health hazards from lower income homes. The funding will help protect young children as well as other vulnerable populations.

HUD is making these grants available through its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control, Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration, Healthy Homes Production and Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grant Programs.

"These grants are critical for states, counties and cities who are on the front lines of protecting our children from lead hazards and other residential hazards," said Jon Gant, director of the office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. "While we have made remarkable progress toward eliminating lead poisoning in children nationwide, now is the time to focus on reaching the finish line. We look forward to communities applying for these grants so that they can help make older housing safer and healthier for children."

HUD is making grants available through the following programs:

-Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control (LHC) and the Lead Hazard Reduction (LHRD) grant programs - These grants will identify and control lead-based paint hazards in eligible, privately-owned housing for rental or owner-occupants. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

-Healthy Homes Production - This grant program is modeled after the previously successful Healthy Homes Demonstration and Lead Hazard Control grant programs, and will enable public and private grantees to address multiple housing-related hazards at the same time. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

-Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grant - These grants will develop, implement and evaluate multifaceted programs for the control of asthma among residents of federally assisted multifamily housing. HUD is targeting asthma because it is a common illness that especially affects disadvantaged populations, and because multi-pronged interventions, such as reducing exposure to environmental triggers, can help control the disease. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

HUD is providing an opportunity for applicants through its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program. Prospective grantees will be able to apply for supplementary funding to promote and develop a local Healthy Housing initiative, building on their lead hazard control program, to address multiple housing-related health hazards in accordance with best practices HUD has identified.

HUD requires prospective grantees to submit their applications electronically via Any changes to HUD-published funding notices will be made available to the public through a Federal Register publication and published on Applicants are urged to sign up for's notification service to receive periodic updates or changes to this grant offering.

For more information, visit

Tags: News

Consumers Have the Motivation - But Lack the Money for Home Improvement

April 19, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011--The arrival of spring brings not only warmer weather, but also spring cleaning and the undertaking of do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects. Much to the chagrin of home improvement stores, the DIY home improvement market has seen a 21% decline from 2005-2010 according to the latest research from Mintel, and more than a quarter (28%) of DIYers say they would like to undertake a major renovation or addition to their home, but they just don't have the funds.

Surprisingly, the percentage of high-income consumers who can't afford renovations is even higher. Thirty-two percent of DIYers in households making between $75-99.9K say they lack the money to undertake a major home improvement project. Meanwhile, 17% of those surveyed who have completed a DIY project in the last year say they lack the skills to tackle a major renovation and 12% say they don't have the proper tools.

"When the housing market collapsed, many consumers chose to make minor improvements to their homes instead of pursuing large, complicated renovation projects that would drain their wallets," says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. "However, positive fourth-quarter sales suggest a thawing in consumer spending and the release of some pent-up demand."

According to Mintel research, despite their monetary shortcomings, consumers have a positive view of home improvement projects. In fact, 39% of DIYers say making a major home improvement is the best long-term investment they can make.

"We forecast growth to accelerate in 2011 and, presuming a stabilization of the housing market, to remain positive through 2015," adds Bill Patterson. "Pent-up demand, ongoing need for repair and maintenance, retro-fitting, and renovations from Boomers approaching retirement and demand from Millennials should all propel DIY spending."

Furthermore, 61% of consumers say they've completed a DIY project in the last 12 months and the average respondent has undertaken a little over four projects.

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Tags: News

Tips for Choosing the Best REALTOR for the Job

April 19, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011--When choosing a REALTOR for your real estate needs, it's important to find one who will always have your best interests in mind. A dependable and knowledgeable agent can save you time, money and headaches. Your road to success depends on your ability to find the person for the job. Here are a few key tips to finding the right REALTOR for you:

A good rapport is key. Since your REALTOR will be helping you make one of the biggest decisions and transactions of your life, having good chemistry with them is important. You need to generally like the person you are conducting business with because there is no doubt that you'll be spending lots of time communicating with him or her. Communication should be easy and reliable, meeting the standards of both parties. If you find you are uncomfortable with an agent for any reason, it may be time to find a new one.

Keep your eye on conflicts of interest. A large red flag: an agent who only steers you to their own office's listings. Beware of dual agents as well. One who works for the buyer and the seller is legally obligated to report back to the other party. With these types, you must be careful what you say, as anything could weaken your negotiating position. Try to eliminate any trace of conflict in your transaction.

A proven track record and proper credentials are things you should look into before agreeing to go through an agent. The agent should be licensed by your state, meeting minimum levels of education, training and testing. Also, look into what extra designations the REALTOR has, such as CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) or GRI (Graduate REALTORS Institute). How many homes did the agent sell or find for buyers in the previous year? All of this information could be a make or break for your decision to use them as your real estate professional.

Don't hesitate to interview different agents. In addition to questions regarding credentials, ask questions like the following: How long have you been working in residential real estate sales? Is it your full-time job? How many days does it take you to sell the average home? How close to the initial asking prices of the homes you sold were the final sale prices? By interviewing potential agents, you can get a better feel of their work practices and successes and better judge whether or not you want to work with them.

Neglecting to carefully select your real estate professional is a rookie mistake any buyer and seller can easily avoid. With the right agent, you can set yourself up for success when buying or selling a home.

Sources:, Reuters, National Association of REALTORS

Tags: News

HUD to Address 'National Origin' Housing Discrimination during National Fair Housing Month

April 19, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 19, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it will launch an effort to better address national origin-based housing discrimination during Fair Housing Month in April. HUD will initiate a national media campaign and a series of community discussions on topics ranging from rental practices to mortgage lending.

"The new Census data demonstrate that newcomers are settling not only in traditional gateway states. They reside in communities across the Midwest and South. Through this education campaign, HUD will work with communities to prevent housing discrimination and promote immigrant integration into the broader society," said John Trasvi a, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental, sales or home lending transactions based on a person's national origin. This includes discrimination based on a person's ancestry, country of birth outside the United States, and the language they speak. National origin discrimination often involves immigrants or non-English speaking individuals, but can also involve native-born U. S. citizens based on their family ancestry. This type of discrimination may also occur in conjunction with the other protections of the Fair Housing Act against race, color, religion, gender, disability, and family status discrimination.

One part of HUD's "Live Free" national media campaign is a print advertisement featuring a Latino worker looking into the horizon, with a caption in Spanish reading: "You have the right to live where you choose. Report housing discrimination."

HUD also recently awarded nearly $41 million to 108 fair housing organizations and non-profit agencies across the country to educate the public and combat housing and lending discrimination. Many of the groups will use the grants to address discrimination against immigrants, Latinos, non-native English speakers and minority communities.

Some examples of how the grants will be used to combat national origin discrimination include:

- The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Calif., will test for discrimination in the sale and rental of housing units in the area of national origin;

- The Equal Rights Center in Washington, DC, will investigate 240 new complaints of housing discrimination alleging violation of federal fair housing laws with an emphasis on national origin;

- The Idaho Legal Aid Services will broadcast public service announcements in Spanish about FHA lending information; and

-Prairie State Legal Services in Rockford, Ill., will focus on educational outreach to Spanish-speaking residents, a group recognized statewide as at-risk.

More information about HUD and its programs is available at and

Tags: News

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