Saturday, September 24, 2011

Buying a Waterfront Home

For homebuyers, deciding what you want – and need – in a home is crucial. Savvy buyers take time to research and gather information in order to make the most informed decision possible. For those interested in buying a waterfront home, knowing the ins and outs of this specialty market is absolutely essential. Whether drawn to the ocean shore or the river’s bank, the primer below will guide interested homebuyers on how to purchase that little slice of paradise by the water’s edge.
What is your waterfront lifestyle? As with any home, understanding your needs will help you better evaluate eligible properties. If you are considering the purchase of a waterfront property as a vacation or second home, you may want to get a feel for how active the vacation rental market is for the periods that you will not be using the home. However, if you are looking to find a waterfront home to serve as your primary residence, you will be less concerned about the local vacation rental market and likely more concerned with access to important services in the area.


Likewise, you’ll want to consider the types of activities you enjoy. This is of particular importance if you’re considering the home as a vacation getaway. Whether summer home or full-time abode, you want to make sure the property you choose makes it easy for you to enjoy your favorite pastimes.


  • Swimming – The thought of being able to step out one’s back door for a casual swim is enough to entice many to a home on the shore. If swimming is high on your list, you’ll want to evaluate potential properties both for the quality of swimming as well as ease of access and safety. For riverfront properties, how fast is the current during hot summer months? For coastlines, are there any rip tides or outbound currents that could present danger? Is the potential swimming area near boating lanes or docks? How easily can the shore be accessed (for instance, is the best potential swimming area down a steep trail or long set of stairs)? Remember to evaluate safety concerns not only in terms of you and your family, but your potential houseguests that may include young children.
  • Boating - For avid boaters, the size of the boat becomes a crucial part of finding a waterfront property. Many waterfront properties are not suitable for a larger boat due to river depth, oyster beds or tides. Even if the overall body of water is deep enough for bigger vessels, there may not be adequate access all the way up to your property. You will also want to consider the type of boating activities you like the most. Many smaller lakes do not allow waterskiing or jet skiing.
  • Fishing - Fishermen will want to stick to properties with easy access to the water. Talk to homeowners and residents throughout the area to get a feel for the quality of local fishing. From there, it largely depends on the type of fishing you like most.
  • Kayaking or canoeing - While large, active bodies of water are a good fit for many boaters, some buyers may be looking for a more intimate waterfront experience. Rivers and smaller lakes are especially good fits for kayakers or canoe enthusiasts, especially those who prefer to enjoy the quiet of nature rather than compete with jet skis and power boats.


Carefully evaluate the property – Some homeowners will fall in love with a waterfront home without paying much heed to the property it sits on. An idyllic waterfront home may turn out to be a disappointment if you later realize that views are obscured from inside, there is poor access to the water, or you’re 30 feet from a noisy public boat launch.


Don’t lose sight of the home itself – By the same token, it can be tempting to fall in love with a perfect patch of property that houses a less than perfect structure. Unless you have the appetite for a major remodel or teardown and rebuild project in the future, you’ll want to openly and honestly review each home independent of the surrounding property. Does the house meet the basic criteria you defined at the outset of your search? Does the home compliment the property? Is it someplace you could see yourself happily living?


Look into loans early - Many waterfront properties are more expensive than other properties and home loans can often fall into the jumbo mortgage category. Lenders will therefore only consider very qualified buyers. Begin the process of mortgage shopping sooner rather than later.


Weather the weather - In general, waterfront homes receive more abuse from the elements than the average home. Extra measures should be taken to protect homes near water, especially those along open coasts. Depending on the area, the home may need storm shutters, corrosion-resistant stainless-steel locks, and special landscaping measures.

What is the insurance like? Savvy buyers will investigate home insurance in the area in order to understand what they're getting into. Waterfront homeowners may be required to buy additional policies such as wind policies, flood policies and general hazard policies. In addition, obtaining standard homeowner’s insurance may be more complicated and costly due to the liabilities and hazards of living on or near a body of water.


Find out what you can do with the property - If you are contemplating the idea of any changes to the waterfront property, such as adding a dock or a seawall, investigate the process before buying to ensure that these updates will be possible. Government agencies often have strict and unyielding land use regulations, and you don't want to commit to the considerable commitment of a home purchase without knowing that you can safely do what you want to make it your own. As mentioned above, you should check with local regulatory agencies to find out what kind of activities are allowed on the body of water, as some areas have restrictions on jet skis, speedboats and other watercraft.


Talk to neighbors and local residents – Ask neighbors and other locals whether or not they enjoy living in the community. Find out if there are any problems associated with owning waterfront property in the area. If at all possible, ask if there are any issues with the individual property or properties you are considering.


Check on the utilities – In many cases, waterfront properties are not necessarily on the beaten path. Buyers accustomed to the city or suburbs may assume that electricity, city water, septic system, cable and high-speed Internet will be readily available at their new waterfront home, but things may not be so simple. Many waterfront homes operate on well systems, and homes near bodies of water often have delicate plumbing. In addition, many rural waterfront areas are not wired for high speed internet or broadband cable. Adding some of these services may be expensive, or simply not possible.


How’s the view from there? More than anything else, the kind of view a waterfront home affords is the one attribute that can be universally enjoyed. A home with a picturesque view allows you to enjoy your waterfront setting regardless of whether or not you engage in activities in, on, and around the water. When looking at potential properties, consider how well the home takes advantage of available views. Are windows large and well placed? Are common gathering rooms situated around viewpoints, or are the best angles relegated to kitchen window peek-a-boos? Do outdoor patios, porches, or decks provide an open air view venue?


How level is the property? Often overlooked, the terrain of the home’s property is actually quite important. Flatter lots allow easier access to the water for people of all ages, and allow for a wider range of outdoor activities.


Privacy concerns – The amount of water frontage the property has will influence just how much privacy you and your family are afforded. Properties with 50 feet of frontage or less will offer very little privacy. At 100 feet of frontage, you will have more privacy, while 150-200 feet gives you a strong degree of privacy. In general, however, if you have a great water view it can work both ways – those on the water can also see you as well.


Bargains - Buying a waterfront home can be a pricey prospect. Here are a few simple strategies to save without heading for the hills.


  • Buy a street or two away from the water - Second-row beach and lake homes drop dramatically in price, yet usually are only a short trip away from the water. Homes farther from waterfront are also less affected by storm weather.
  • Go condo - Condos are traditionally good buys because developers can put more of them on a smaller amount of property, giving their investment a bigger payoff and passing some of the savings along to the buyers. Don't forget to consider maintenance and homeowners association fees when you calculate your payments.
  • Consider a duplex - Duplexes are particularly popular at the beach and are a great way to land a freestanding home at a lower price.

The article is taken from one of our recent Newsletters that was e-mailed to all registered subscribers, via our RE/MAX of New Jersey web site.

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA]
and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land). 



Copyright 2011 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.
  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Holding on to Good Tenants

Many property owners have been backed into the role of reluctant landlord in recent years, opting to hold their properties as rentals until the prospects of selling real estate improve. In the present landscape, landlords who have an existing relationship with a tenant who has proven his or herself both fiscally reliable and personally responsible count themselves lucky. Don’t get caught in the trap of taking a good tenant for granted. Below are some ways to encourage a favorable tenant to consider extending or re-signing their lease agreement.

Know the Area Rental Market

Many landlords who have current tenants don’t keep abreast of current rental trends in the area surrounding your rental property. Often, property owners won’t begin surveying the local rental market until after their tenants have already given notice that they won’t be renewing the lease – in which case it may already be too late to keep that tenant. Rather than being forced to react, take the initiative and begin studying local rental trends – even if your tenants have months and months left on the lease.

Keep tabs on the overall vacancy rate in the area surrounding your rental property (not simply the immediate neighborhood). Maintain a strong knowledge of rent rates in the area, and of any seasonal rental trends that may be pushing rent up or down. When checking rental rates, don’t simply compare rent between your property and rentals of comparable size or amenity. You want to have a clear picture of what other properties are available on the market. For example, are there larger or more elaborate rentals listed just above your property’s rate that may tempt your current tenants? Are smaller rentals going at steep bargains, potentially swaying your renters to downsize?

Communicate and Strengthen Relationships with Your Tenant

Too often the only interaction a landlord will have with their tenant is during some transactional stage (initial property walk-through, lease signing, move-out inspection, etc.) or when a maintenance/emergency issue arises. This passivity can easily lead to a disconnect between the two parties, as each begins to see each other as just different lines on the monthly rent check. That kind of transactional relationship isn’t likely to inspire your tenant with any particular partiality towards you (any more than they would have, say, for their local utility company), and at the same time lends you no insight into the occupants needs or future plans.

While most renters don’t want the hassle of an overly nosy landlord (or perish the thought, a landlord who tries to act buddy-buddy with their tenants), tenants will generally appreciate a landlord who periodically checks in to see how things are going. Email is a convenient way to touch base with your tenants and is less intrusive than a phone call (never show up in person unannounced). Consider sending your tenant(s) an informal email message every six to eight weeks or so: anything more frequent runs the risk of becoming an annoyance, while checking in only a few times a year is not especially useful for either party.

Keep the tone of these messages friendly, asking if the tenant has had any problems with the unit or needs to suggest any needed or upcoming repairs. By positioning yourself as a helpful owner looking out for the occupant’s needs, you will help strengthen the landlord-tenant relationship. If nothing else, a tenant who views you as more than just a bill collector is more likely to give you additional notice if they have decided to move out.

The Going Rate

The value of a good tenant to a landlord is not simply measured by the monthly income generated from rent. The timely payment of rent also provides the landlord with a degree of financial stability, which can be rare in this time of seemingly volatile markets. In addition, responsible tenants serve as dependable stewards of the property itself, avoiding damage and alerting the landlord when repair or maintenance is needed. These factors, in addition to the current rental market, must be taken into account if you are considering any future change to the rental price.

Conventional wisdom tells a landlord to charge market value for rent. But when contemplating a future rent increase, consider whether you are willing to risk losing your current tenant for that potential bump in rent. If your current tenant isn’t willing to pay the increased rent, putting the rental back on the market entails built-in costs (cleaning or painting not covered in the damage deposit/rental agreement, plus the inevitable turnaround time that will leave the property vacant). You run the risk of having the property remain vacant for long stretches of time. At best, you may end up renting to a less responsible tenant who causes damage to the property or does not pay rent on time.

Simply put, now is likely not the time to increase rent based on motives of increased profit. If you must increase rent for legitimate reasons related to the property (skyrocketing property tax, for example), do your best to keep the rent increases minimal and provide your current tenant with as much information on why you are making the change as is possible (or prudent).

On the flipside, if you are able to keep the rent at the current rate or are in a position to lower rent to match current market rates (based on all that research you’re doing to stay current on rental trends…), make sure to call your altruism to your tenant’s attention. To many renters, not having to pay an increase in rent year after year is refreshing. Having rent lowered may feel like a small miracle in their eyes.

Make Timely Repairs

It can be too easy for property owners to view their rental units solely as investments, losing sight of the fact that for the occupants, that space represents their temporary home. When problems arise, as they always will, take charge and handle repairs both quickly and effectively. Nothing will erode a renter’s confidence in their landlord as much as the poor handling of maintenance issues.

Be prepared for potential problems by keeping a list of recommended repair companies and contractors in the area. Treat all reported issues seriously and communicate frequently with your tenant to fully understand the problem. Most importantly, prove your thoroughness by following up with both the repair crew and your tenant after the problem has been resolved.

Spend on Upgrades

Property owners often will wait until the periods in between tenants to make improvements to the property, in many cases with the intent of charging higher rent for the next round of occupants. Landlords who are fortunate to maintain tenants for several years in a row may forgo both smaller and significant enhancements to the home. However, if the overall goal is to keep the property rented to a strong tenant for the most amount of time possible, making gradual improvements that improve the occupant’s home life (without causing undue disruption) can make a great deal of sense.

As a landlord, you can’t reasonably expect a tenant to put up with any changes or improvements that require major construction or losing use of a room/area for any significant amount of time. But many improvements and enhancements can be made in the period of a single workday with minimal disruption. For example, with the help of a good installer, a kitchen appliance or dishwasher can be replaced while your tenants are at work. Smaller-scale upgrades, such as changing out the hardware in a kitchen or bathroom(s), can also go a long way in improving the atmosphere for your renters. If you’ve established good communication with your renters, you may even consider asking them which areas of the home or appliances they feel need improvement.

Incentivize

If the rental market surrounding your property is dire enough that the loss of your current tenant almost certainly will result in a long stretch of vacancy, you may consider offering the current occupants significant incentives in order to sign a new lease. You may go as far as offering a month’s free rent, pay a specific utility, or pay for the upgrade to a current utility service (such as internet or cable/satellite).

Incentives don’t necessarily have to be of a monetary nature, however. If your tenants would be interested, you might consider allowing pets in the property (with or without an additional cleaning deposit) if you did not permit them previously. Another option would be to allow tenants to re-paint the interior walls and/or exterior of the home – even going so far as to help furnish paint and supplies. These non-cash incentives can help increase your renter’s sense of connection to the property.


The article is taken from one of our recent Newsletters that was e-mailed to all registered subscribers, via our RE/MAX of New Jersey web site.

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA]
and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land).  
Copyright 2011 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.
 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creating Your Very Own “Man Cave”

It wasn’t so long ago that many men chose the garage as a place of personal sanctuary-at-home, regardless of their interest in anything automotive. Often cramped and dimly lit, these makeshift hideaways were the stuff of folding-table poker and football games on the spare TV. Today the need for guys to carve out their own space at home is more widely acknowledged. As a result, more and more homeowners are converting their finished basements, attic spaces or spare rooms into masculine refuges. With a little bit of planning (and some savvy negotiation with the lady of the house), you too can create your own customized “man cave”.

The Many Styles of Dude Dens

While man caves often revolve around the time-honored rite of male bonding that is spectator sports, there is no single blueprint to a successful male refuge. Some guys turn their basements into full scale game rooms where pool, air hockey and arcade games rule the day. Movie buffs have been known to turn spare rooms into home theaters replete with surround sound and recliners on stadium risers. And a good many men aim to convert their extra space at home into their very own pub, outfitted in their own image.

Getting Started

The last thing you want is a room overly crammed full of anything and everything you can jam into it. Before you begin, start thinking exactly what kind of activities you want to plan around. Is your main goal to have a perfect place to watch the big game? Looking for a permanent home to poker night? Perhaps you want a place to work out in comfort, or even a workshop space. By figuring out the focus of your man cave, you’ll be able to tailor furniture, décor and space to match.

It may help to pick one element (home theater system, a pool table, jukebox, etc.) as both the centerpiece and inspiration for your man cave.

Space it Out

Carefully measure all dimensions of the space you have available, and do the same when considering the purchase of any furniture, hardware or stand-alone game systems. Maintain open walking paths throughout the room. If you’re centering the room around a home theater system, keep in mind that you’ll want to keep clear sightlines for the main seating areas in the room.

Durable Materials

Chances are your man sanctuary is going to go through its share of bumps, spills and accidents during game days, poker parties and guy’s nights. Choose granite, sturdy laminate or durable wood surfaces for bar countertops, end tables and coffee tables. Pick thicker commercial-grade carpet to withstand tough treatment, and stick with darker colors that won’t show every little spill. Thicker carpeting also helps with soundproofing, which will help keep the rest of the household happy.

Essentials

Most man caves will in some way involve three key elements – comfortable seating, a big TV and refreshments just a few steps away.

Seating – Wrap-around couches are a great way to welcome your buddies in style. And there’s no going wrong with the classic man cave throne: the recliner.

Theater-Style TV’s – Large flat screen televisions have become much more affordable in recent years, and with the expansion of HD sports broadcasts, blue ray and high def gaming systems, the technology is tailor-made for a guy’s paradise.

Beverages – With refreshments nearby, you won’t be forced to step away from the big game or fold that hand just to get another beverage or grab some more snacks. If you’re not able to swing a full enclosed bar, you can purchase smaller portable bars in a variety of styles, or just go with shelving or built-in cabinets to store snacks. Either way, you’ll absolutely want to include a small refrigerator in the plans.

Finishing Touches

While you're dreaming big, why not consider a few extras to put your man cave over the top:
  • Sports Memorabilia
  • Big Screen TV
  • Couches
  • Recliner
  • Bar area
  • Neon signs
  • Bar games: Pool, Darts, Air hockey, Shuffleboard, Foosball
  • Vintage signs
  • Poker table
  • Humidor

The article is taken from one of our recent Newsletters that was e-mailed to all registered subscribers, via our RE/MAX of New Jersey web site.

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA
and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land).
 

Copyright 2011 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.
 

Monday, January 24, 2011

CRL Provides A Couple of Useful Resources for Borrowers

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) contains a couple of useful resources for borrowing consumers:

Signs of Predatory Lending

and

A Shopper's Guide to Better Banking


Visit my web site for real estate services and support:
LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Recent Reports from ULI Look to Future

Two recent reports have been released by the Urban Land Institute(ULI), one looking to next year and the other looking further into the future.

"After three years of dislocation and unprecedented loss, commercial real estate industry investors and professionals hint at hopeful signs of tempered commercial real estate market improvements, according to respondents of the Emerging Trends in Real Estate® 2011  report, released today by PwC US and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). "

In the midst of economic uncertainty, there are still some elements of certainty – such as  demographic shifts, financial industry restructuring, global competitiveness, and sustainable building – that will guide real estate investment and reshape urban growth trends in the years ahead, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).  

Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times, a collection of commentaries from ULI’s five senior resident fellows Stephen Blank, Edward McMahon, John McIlwain, Thomas Murphy and Michael Horst, examines trends in population growth, consumer housing preferences, employment, real estate finance, environmental conservation, energy efficiency, venture capital investment and public leadership. These factors, according to Finding Certainty, are converging to shape a new era of urban economics within which cities and urban regions will have to compete in order to be successful in the 21st century. “These trends will continue regardless of location, of which political party is in power, and of how quickly we recover from the recession,” says the report. “Taken collectively, they will create the ‘new normal.’"
Source: ULI

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fannie Mae Launches "Refi Plus" Program

Fannie Mae launched their "Refi Plus" program, which is designed to provides streamlined refinance processing.  It is an effort to help homeowners lower the cost of their mortgages through refinancing. For more details and to access their refinancing calculator, got to:

LowerMyBills.com Home Refinance Calculator page.


Visit my web site for real estate services and support:
LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Report October 2010 Report

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that, on balance, national economic activity continued to rise, albeit at a modest pace, during the reporting period from September to early October.

Manufacturing activity continued to expand, with production and new orders rising across most Districts. Demand for nonfinancial services was reported to be stable to modestly increasing overall. Consumer spending was steady to up slightly, but consumers remained price-sensitive, and purchases were mostly limited to necessities and nondiscretionary items. New vehicle sales held steady or rose during the reporting period; sales of used automobiles were strong as well. Activity in the travel and tourism sector picked up.

Housing markets remained weak with most Districts reporting sales below year-ago levels. Reports on prices suggested stability, however. Conditions in the commercial real estate sector were subdued, and construction was expected to remain weak. Lending activity was stable in most Districts. Agricultural conditions were generally favorable, and above-average yields were expected in most reporting Districts. Activity in the energy sector continued to expand.

Input costs, most notably for agricultural commodities and industrial metals, rose further. Shipping rates increased, and retailers in some Districts noted rising wholesale prices. However, prices of final goods and services were mostly stable as higher input costs were not passed on to consumers. Wage pressures were minimal.


In the Third District, business activity has been mixed since the last Beige Book. Manufacturers, on balance, reported slight decreases in shipments and new orders in September. Retailers posted modest year-over-year increases in sales during the back-to-school shopping period. Motor vehicle dealers generally reported steady sales in September and year-over-year gains for the month. Third District banks reported level loan volume outstanding in the past few weeks. Residential real estate agents indicated that sales of existing homes have edged up in the past few weeks, but homebuilders indicated a mostly flat sales pace for new homes. Contacts in the commercial real estate sector said there has been practically no change in market conditions since the last Beige Book. Service-sector firms reported mostly marginal increases in activity in the past month. Business contacts indicated that prices of most goods and services have shown no change, although there were continued reports of rising prices for metals and new reports of increases in lumber prices. Some retailers said there have been increases in some wholesale prices and international freight charges.
Source Beige Book

The outlook among Third District business contacts is positive, on balance, but not robust. Manufacturers forecast a rise in shipments and orders during the next six months. Retailers expect sales to expand slightly through the end of the year. Bankers expect only minimal growth in lending in the near term. Contacts in both residential and commercial real estate expect flat to slowly rising activity into the middle of 2011. Service-sector companies also expect slow growth during the next six months.



Click here for the Federal Reserve October 2010 Beige Book [Beige Book Archives]

See related blog articles:
Federal Reserve Beige Book For Economic Conditions (What is the "Beige Book"?)

The Federal Reserve - Making Sense In Plain English


Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PAand visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land).


Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EIA Expects Modest Rise in Home Heating Costs This Winter

The October 2010 Short-Term Energy Outlook, released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), forecasts a modest rise in heating bills for many U.S. consumers.
"EIA expects household bills for space-heating fuels will be about 3 percent higher than a year ago, with the average household spending $986 in the October through March winter heating season, an increase of $24 from last winter," said EIA Administrator Richard Newell.

The higher bills primarily reflect higher fuel prices, although expected colder weather than last winter in the Northeast will also contribute to more fuel use. EIA expects the largest increases in fuel expenses to be in households using propane and heating oil. Households using electricity for space heating,
particularly in the South, should see lower average fuel bills, in part due to expected warmer weather.
These average forecasts provide a broad guide to changes from last winter, but fuel expenditures for individual households are highly dependent on local weather conditions, the size and efficiency of individual homes, their heating equipment, and thermostat settings.
Key points:
  • EIA expects the lower-48 States to be 3 percent warmer during the October through March winter heating season compared with last winter and 1 percent warmer than the 30-year average (1971-2000), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's most recent projections of heating degree-days. Regional heating degree-day projections vary widely.
  • EIA expects households heating primarily with natural gas to spend an average of $27 (4 percent) more this winter than last winter. The 4-percent increase in natural gas expenditures reflects a 6-percent increase in prices and a 2-percent decrease in consumption. About 52 percent of all U.S. households depend on natural gas as their primary heating fuel.
  • EIA expects households heating primarily with heating oil to spend an average of about $220 (12 percent) more this winter. The Northeast accounts for 80 percent of U.S. heating oil consumption. EIA forecasts the average Northeast household will spend 13 percent more ($259) than last winter as a result of a 5-percent increase in consumption and 8 percent higher regional prices than last winter.
  • Households heating primarily with electricity can expect to spend an average of $18 (2 percent) less this winter. The 2-percent decline in electricity expenditures reflects a 2-percent increase in prices and a 4-percent decline in consumption. About 37 percent of all U.S. households rely on electricity as their primary heating fuel, ranging from 13 percent in the Northeast to 61 percent in the South.
  • EIA expects households heating primarily with propane to spend an average of $136 (8 percent) more this winter, but that increase varies across regions. About 6 percent of all U.S. households heat with propane.
  • Energy prices remain volatile, reflecting uncertainty, or risk, in the market. To measure this uncertainty, the Outlook reports confidence intervals around the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) crude oil and natural gas futures prices using a measure of implied volatility derived from the NYMEX options markets (see Energy Price Volatility and Forecast Uncertainty).
Short-Term Energy Outlook can be found at: http://www.eia.gov/emeu/steo/pub/contents.html  


Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 11, 2010

HouseLogic Launches Campaign to Help Military Families Sustain Homeownership

The National Association of Realtors®’(NAR) HouseLogic, a free, comprehensive consumer website about all aspects of homeownership, today launched Operation Home Relief, a new Facebook Causes campaign. The campaign aims to increase awareness, rally support and raise funding for USA Cares, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling and financial foreclosure assistance to post-9/11 active duty U.S. military service personnel, veterans and their families.
 

HouseLogic will donate $1 to USA Cares every time someone “likes” the Operation Home Relief Cause page on Facebook and will match individual donations made to the cause, up to $20,000.
 

“Owning a home is part of the American dream, where we make memories, build our futures, and feel comfortable and secure; and any family who loses that dream to foreclosure is one family too many,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “HouseLogic’s Operation Home Relief aims to help sustain homeownership for military families who have already given so much to support our country, and we hope others will join together with us to support this worthy cause.”
 

When people lose homes to foreclosure, the community, the housing market and the economy all suffer. HouseLogic’s Foreclosure Guide highlights personal stories and offers information and tips to help homeowners facing foreclosure make smart, proactive decisions about what steps to take, where to find help and the alternatives to foreclosure. The guide also includes ideas for how others can get involved to combat foreclosures in their community.
 

“U.S. military service members bravely face danger around the world every day on behalf of all Americans. Yet, some military service members and their families also face financial dangers and hardships at home,” said William H. Nelson, executive director, USA Cares. “USA Cares’ sole mission is to help these service members and their families in their time of financial need. To that end, we’re excited to have the support of HouseLogic and the National Association of Realtors®. Their new Facebook Causes campaign highlights the work USA Cares is doing, reminding Americans of the many challenges faced by U.S. military service members and their families, and generates support via Facebook for the help that we’re offering every day.”
 

For more information on sustaining homeownership, and many other housing topics, visit HouseLogic at www.houselogic.com.
 

HouseLogic is a free source of information and tools for homeowners from the National Association of Realtors® that helps homeowners make smart decisions about all aspects of their home. HouseLogic helps homeowners plan and organize their home projects and provides timely articles and news; home improvement advice and how-to’s; and information about taxes, home finances and insurance.
 

USA Cares is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that helps post-9/11 military and their families with basic needs, assists veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families and works to prevent private military home foreclosures and evictions. In seven years, USA Cares has received over 24,000 requests and responded with more than $7 million in grants. Military families anywhere in America can apply for assistance through the USA Cares web site, www.usacares.org or by calling 800-773-0387. For more information on USA Cares contact John Revell, jrevell@usacares.org or call 270-352-5451.
 

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section.
    
 

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
 
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Pending Home Sales Show Another Gain

Pending home sales have increased for the second consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®(NAR).
 

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI),* a forward-looking indicator, rose 4.3 percent to 82.3 based on contracts signed in August from a downwardly revised 78.9 in July, but is 20.1 percent below August 2009 when it was 103.0. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
 

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the latest data is consistent with a gradual improvement in home sales in upcoming months. “Attractive affordability conditions from very low mortgage interest rates appear to be bringing buyers back to the market,” he said. “However, the pace of a home sales recovery still depends more on job creation and an accompanying rise in consumer confidence.”
 

Although Yun expects a continuing steady rise in home sales from favorable affordability conditions and some job creation, he cautioned any sudden rise in mortgage rates could slow the recovery. “Current low consumer price inflation has helped keep mortgage interest rates very attractive this year. However, recent rising trends in producer prices at the intermediate and early stages of production, along with very high commodity prices, are raising concerns about future inflation and future mortgage interest rates,” he said. “Higher inflation would mean higher mortgage interest rates. In the meantime, housing affordability is hovering near record highs.”
 

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.9 percent to 60.6 in August and remains 28.8 percent below August 2009. In the Midwest the index rose 2.1 percent in August to 68.0 but is 26.5 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South increased 6.7 percent to an index of 90.8 but are 13.1 percent below August 2009. In the West the index rose 6.4 percent to 101.1 but remains 19.6 percent below a year ago.
 

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months. There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.
NOTE: The next Pending Home Sales Index will be released November 5 at 12:30 p.m. EDT from NAR’s 2010 Conference & Expo in New Orleans; a news conference there begins at noon EDT, which also will cover the 2011 housing and economic forecast. Existing-home sales for September will be reported October 25.
NAR’s statistical news release schedule for 2011 is being distributed October 5. Dates for existing-home sales and the pending home sales index are being moved up, and there will be an additional release this year for pending home sales on December 30, 2010.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data, tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.
Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

IRS Provides Relief for Homeowners with Corrosive Drywall

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today issued guidance providing relief to homeowners who have suffered property losses due to the effects of certain imported drywall installed in homes between 2001 and 2009.
Revenue Procedure 2010-36 enables affected taxpayers to treat damages from corrosive drywall as a casualty loss and provides a ”safe harbor” formula for determining the amount of the loss.

In numerous instances, homeowners with certain imported drywall have reported blackening or corrosion of copper electrical wiring and copper components of household appliances, as well as the presence of sulfur gas odors. In November 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that an indoor air study of a sample of 51 homes found a strong association between the problem drywall, levels of hydrogen sulfide in those homes and corrosion of metals in those homes.
Revenue Procedure 2010-36 provides the following relief:
  • Individuals who pay to repair damage to their personal residences or household appliances resulting from corrosive drywall may treat the amount paid as a casualty loss in the year of payment. 
  • Taxpayers who have already filed their income tax return for the year of payment generally have three years to file an amended return and claim the deduction.The amount of a loss that may be claimed depends on whether the taxpayer has a pending claim for reimbursement (or intends to pursue reimbursement) of the loss through property insurance, litigation or otherwise.
  • In cases where a taxpayer does not have a pending claim for reimbursement, the taxpayer may claim as a loss all unreimbursed amounts paid during the taxable year to repair damage to the taxpayer’s personal residence and household appliances resulting from corrosive drywall. 
  • If a taxpayer does have a pending claim (or intends to pursue reimbursement), a taxpayer may claim a loss for 75 percent of the unreimbursed amount paid during the taxable year to repair damage to the taxpayer’s personal residence and household appliances that resulted from corrosive drywall. 

A taxpayer who has been fully reimbursed before filing a return for the year the loss was sustained may not claim a loss. A taxpayer who has a pending claim for reimbursement (or intends to pursue reimbursement) may have income or an additional deduction in subsequent taxable years depending on the actual amount of reimbursement received.

For purposes of this revenue procedure, the term “corrosive drywall” means drywall that is identified as problem drywall under the
two step identification method published by the CPSC and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in their interim guidance dated January 28, 2010.

Further details and limitations can be found in
Revenue Procedure 2010-36 on IRS.gov.

Source: IR-2010-102

Visit my web site for real estate services and support: LawrenceYerkes.com [NJ/PA] and visit Besthomes-NJ.com to find the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (Residential, Commercial, Multi-Family, Farm, Land, Investment).
Copyright 2010 by Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.