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Archive for February, 2010

Roofing Materials Matter
February 26, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

When looking for a home, there are a plethora of things one must consider. One of the most important, is the condition of the roof, and the materials used for the roof. Knowing and understanding a little about some common roofing materials, as well as how long they usually last is important and could save you money in the long run. The following will discuss some of the pros and cons of eight common roofing materials.

Asphalt or composite shingles.  This is often the most widely used choice when it comes to roofing. Asphalt or composite shingles work well with almost any style of house and are relatively easy to install. Lower end 3-tab shingles usually last about 15-20 years, while the heavier, higher construction grade, costlier “architectural” shingles can last nearly 40 years. The downside to the heavy, more costly shingles, is that it is more difficult to find matching replacement shingles should there ever be a need. Also, less expensive choices may end up devaluing a high-end home.

Clay Tile RoofingClay tiles and concrete. This roofing material, while more unusual, looks very stylish on certain homes such as Spanish or Mediterranean styled homes. Clay tiles and concrete are usually found in warmer climates since clay heats up slowly. This has a moderating effect on hot temperatures. Tiles tend to be lighter weight than concrete, but tend to be more fragile. These materials can last 50 – 100 years. However, clay tiles and concrete are usually more expensive than asphalt shingles to install, take longer, and require a knowledgeable contractor.

Metal. A more modern, and unique choice in roofing. Ruggedly charming, metal roofs come in many colors and weather handsomely. Usually manufactured in shapes, from shingles to panels, some come in unique textures – some even resemble dragon scales. Metal shingles or panels can be louder than other types of roofing when it rains and unless there is sufficient sound proofing in the ceiling. Metal roofing is also among the more expensive choices when it comes to roofing materials, copper being the most high-priced. However, metal roofing can have a life span of easily 50 – 100 years.

Synthetic. There has been a recent influx of new polymer products coming on the market. Synthetic roofing materials are heralded as durable, light weight, and fire resistant. Much like synthetic hardwood floors, composite products can resemble a broad range of roofing materials, all the way from cedar shake to slate. Even though they aren’t the real thing, they still can be on the pricey side. Synthetic materials also haven’t been around long enough to stand the test of time.

Slate RoofingSlate. Among the most expensive choices for roofing materials, the installation process for slate is very time consuming and requires a seasoned contractor to install. However, the cost of installation and materials is offset by it’s being unmatched aesthetically. Slate has a very “exclusive” look to it as well as unique coloring to make the roof look amazing. Slate can last 50-plus years.

Planted “green” materials. More often used in commercial settings than in residential homes. Planted roofs offer ecological progress. Planted materials work best on flat roofs, can be costly to install and maintain, as well as become quite heavy to support once all the material is in place. Before installation, an engineer should inspect the foundation and other support structures to ensure that the roof is capable of handling the stress of the greenery’s weight. Despite this, a well maintained planted roof gives your home the look of an embrace of nature and a very earthy, green, and natural persuasion.

Wood shakes and shingles. These natural materials look great on most homes, whether traditional or contemporary. They also last up to 50 years. However, they must be treated to withstand fire, and some states building codes don’t permit them. They can sometimes be quite costly, almost as much as slate. The installation process is less time consuming than it would be for slate though.

Solar shingles. The ever more popular roofing adventure. Dow Chemical Co. will soon be releasing the PowerHouse Solar Shingle, which can be incorporated into existing home roofing systems along with standard asphalt shingles. They will cost less than solar panels, and be much easier to install and maintain.

All of the options above present unique and interesting roofing materials. When one is considering replacing their roof, or deciding what type of roof they want to have, most of these options ought to be weighed and considered, keeping in mind location and cost of installation and materials.

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More Cash Back for Going Green
February 26, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

Home with solar panels.Going green is the way to go. Under a $300 million federal rebate program that began in December, consumers can trade in old, energy-inefficient appliances for more efficient models. However, that’s not the only thing you can do to get some cash back from the government for going green. Even something as simple as adding more insulation can not only save you money in the long run from lesser heating bills, but also, by refitting insulation and thus consuming less energy during the winter months, the state utility program will pick up nearly half the bill. As was the case with Megan Blank who was spending nearly $500 a month to heat her three-bedroom home. When it was discovered that there was no insulation in the walls, and only a smattering of it in the attic, it cost her $5,300 to retrofit her house, with the state utility program picking up nearly half the tap because Blank will be cutting her energy consumption by nearly 25%.

The rebate program is influence by each state, so, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, DSIRE, has on it’s site a list of all available incentives and rebate programs by state at www.dsireusa.org.

Also, investing in making your home green has lasting benefits. First, the act of installing and purchasing green equipment, solar panels, windmills and the like, have a ripple effect in the economy. It stimulates growth. However, at present, times are tight on money for many so the upgrades aren’t possible. But, if you install energy efficient systems in your home, over time, you’ll gradually earn back the money you might have spent from the old energy guzzling appliances. With solar panels or wind-powered energy, you’ll also be producing your own energy, that will slowly earn it’s keep over the years. Not to mention it increases the value of the home. Lastly, after the spending and saving, people will in the long run end up with more money to spend thus further helping the economy improve, and stabilize. 

Here is a local Seattle company who has been helping homeowners go green since the 1990’s. It’s great to be green!

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Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams
February 23, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

When times are difficult, you’ll often find that’s when scams of all kinds are put to work. In our current situation, it’s the housing market. Scammers are taking advantage of homeowners in distress, and making an already difficult financial situation worse, by taking money from those desperate for help.

Quoted directly from the Federal Trade Commission website, “Fraudulent foreclosure ‘rescue’ professionals use half truths and outright lies to sell services that promise relief and then fail to deliver. Their goal is to make a quick profit through fees or mortgage payments they collect from you but do not pass on to the lender.” Don’t let this happen to you! Arm yourself against these shady people with the information below.

How the Scams Work

The foreclosure rescue firms utilize a variety of tactics to discover who is vulnerable. They can take a personalized approach by sifting through public foreclosure notices in newspapers, dig through public files at local government offices, and then send personalized letters to homeowners. Others can take a much broader approach by allowing the homeowners in distress to come to them. By posting ads in newspapers, internet web sites, television, or even posters on telephone poles, median strips, and at bus stops. They use simple to the point messaging like:

“Stop Foreclosure Now!”
“We guarantee to stop your foreclosure.”
“Keep Your Home. We know you home is scheduled to be sold. No Problem!”
“We can save your home! Guaranteed. Free Consultation.”

Once they have your attention, they employ a number of tactics to get at your money.

Phony Counseling or Phantom Help

The scam artist tells you that through his firm, or through him, he can negotiate a deal with your lender to save your house. The catch, you must pay a fee first. Do not do this, ever. Even though the situation is desperate, this is a #1 sign of a scam. You may be asked to not contact your lender, that all the details will be handled by the scam artist. Then, once the fee is recieved, you’ll never hear from them again.

In some cases, the scammer may ask that all mortgage payments be made through him as well. This just allows him to collect several months rent before disappearing with the intial fee and your hard earned mortage payments.

Bait-and-Switch

You are made to believe that you’re signing new loan aggreement documents, when in reality, you’re signing over the title of your house, in exchange for a fake rescue loan.

Rent-to-Buy Scheme

You’re told to surrender the title of your house as part of a deal that allows you to remain in your home as a renter, and to buy it back again during the next few years. Some of the reasons that may be fed to you is that if you surrender your title, someone with a better credit rating will be able to obtain better financing than you would.

What will end up happening are several things. The terms of these deals usually are too difficult to maintain so that buying back your home becomes impossible. You lose the home, and the scam artist walks off with all or most of your home’s equity. Worse yet, when the new borrower defaults on the loan, you get evicted.

A variation to the above is that the scammer raises the rent over time to a point that the former homeowner is unable to afford it. As soon as the former homeowner misses several rent payments, they’re evicted, and the “rescuer” is free to sell the home.

In a yet similiar situation, the scam artist offers to find a buyer for your home, but only if you sign over the deed and move out. The scam artist then promises to pay you a cut of the profits when the home sells. Once you tranfer the deed, the scammer simply rents out the home, and pockets the proceeds while your lender proceeds with the foreclosure. In the end, you lose your home – and you’re still responsible for the unpaid mortgage. Transferring the deed does nothing to transfer your mortgage obligation.

Bankruptcy Foreclosure

The scam artist may promise to negotiate with your lender on your behalf if you pay a fee up front. Instead of contacting your lender, the scammer starts the process of bankruptcy in your name.  This stalls or stops the foreclosure process but only temporarily. The bankruptcy process is time consuming and expensive. Bankruptcy has many disasterous consequences, as it stays on your credit report for 7-10 years. A bankruptcy can make it difficult to obtain credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.

Where to Find Legitimate Help

If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage or you have gotten a foreclosure notice, contact your lender immediately. You may be able to negotiate a new repayment schedule. Remember that lenders generally don’t want to foreclose, it costs them money.

You can also contact a credit counselor through the Homeownership Preservation Foundation that operates a 24/7 toll-free hotline 1-888-995-HOPE. More information is available at www.hopenow.com.

Red Flags

Below are some very critical red flags you should be watching for.  Avoid any business that:

  • guarantees to stop the foreclosure process – no matter what your circumstances
  • instructs you to not contact your lender, lawyer, or credit or housing counselor
  • collects a fee before providing you with any services
  • accepts payment only by cashiers check or wire transfer
  • encourages you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time
  • tells you to make mortgage payments directly to it, rather than your lender
  • tells you to transfer your property deed or title to it
  • offers to buy your house for cash at a fixed price that is not set by the housing market at the time of sale
  • offers to fill out paperwork for you
  • pressures you to sign paperwork you haven’t had a chance to read thoroughly or that you don’t understand

If you have been having trouble making your mortgage payment, contact your lender immediately.

Please see www.ftc.gov for more information.  Also, have a look at www.ftc.gov/credit for more information on financial education.

There’s help out there, just be wary of those that might be looking to take advantage of your situation.

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South Lake Union – City and Vulcan Pushing for Higher Height Limits
February 22, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under News

Vulcan recently hosted a get-to-know us party last month in the midst of contentious plans to push for higher height limits on their buildings.  The company holds nearly 5 million square feet of undeveloped property in South Lake Union. Company executives hoped that a casual social gathering would help residents of South Lake Union see the advantages of the increased height of the structures.  Below are some pros and cons to increasing the height limit of the buildings.

Pros:

  1. City Leaders want to add a new community center.
  2. Potentially 16,000 new jobs accompanying the buildings.
  3. 8,000 housing units by 2024.
  4. Increased local development and jobs during the building process.
  5. Vulcan will remain a developmental force in the neighborhood for years to come, not a hit and run.
  6. Economic stimulus.
  7. Vulcan and Paul Allen’s vision of South Lake Union as a biotech hub has created an econmic anchor, helping the area rally and fight the effects of the recession. Vulcan can build for the long term.
  8. According to talks Vulcan has had with the city, if the building height limits are increased, Vulcan plans to add condo units for affordable housing.

Cons:

  1. Possible increase in traffic and congestion.
  2. Decreased views of the lake and Space Needle.
  3. Potential over-commericalization of a once, quiet neighborhood.
  4. New residents may just be those that migrate from other parts of the city. If so, the area may not see as large of an economic increase as a new resident from outside the city would.
  5. Increase in construction and noise.
  6. Increase in pollution.

The city will need to weigh the benefits and negative aspects of the proposed increase in building height limitations. It will be interesting to see what the public as well as city officials determine the best of course of action to take is.

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Ten Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
February 16, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips

Home Inspection When trying to determine whether or not you should buy a house you’ve been looking at, you will come across a point where you will need to have it inspected. The following will hopefully help you ask the questions that are important, and relative to what you need.

  1. What are your qualifications? Are you a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors or National Association of Home Inspectors? It is very important to establish whether or not the inspector has credibility. The safest bet is to go with a inspector who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
  2. Do you have a current Washington State Home Inspector Licencse? While this may seem like an obvious question, when it comes to an accurate inspection, it is still worthwhile to ask.
  3. How many inspections of properties such as this do you do each year? If they are not familiar with the type of home that you would like them to inspect, it may be better to look for an inspector who has experience with your type of home.
  4. Do you have a list of past clients I can contact? Before you hire someone to inspect your home, always make sure they have a happy client base. Listening to what others have said about an inspector is often a good gage of how well they perform their job.
  5. Do you carry professional errors and omission insurance? May I have a copy of the policy? If the inspector isn’t covered with insurance, then it would be difficult to hold them accountable for any mistakes made during inspection. It’s always a good idea to make sure that whoever you hire is licensed and bonded.
  6. Do you provide any guarantees on your work? If an inspector can’t guarantee their work, it may be difficult to trust them to do the job right.
  7. What specifically will the inspection cover? Always know what will be covered and inspected. Not knowing what is not the best way to ensure a quality inspection.
  8. What type of report will I receive after the inspection? There would be little point to an inspection if there wasn’t documentation to define and outline what was inspected, as well as an explanation of the results. Don’t accept a sticky note that says “good to go” on it. Get the facts.
  9. How long will the inspection take and how long will it take to recieve the report? Your time is important. Ensure that the process will be done efficiently, and with awareness of your time needs.
  10. How much will the inspection cost? Agree upon cost before-hand.

There’s a good deal that you will need to ask the inspector, and hopefully, all these important questions will be answered to your satisfaction. Following the above questions will hopefully help you obtain a quality, efficiently done inspection, and will help you move forward on your potential new home.

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Picasso At The Seattle Art Museum
February 11, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Local Events, News

Pablo Picasso The Seattle Art Museum will be presenting Pablo Picasso’s work starting October 8th 2010 and will continue until January 9th, 2011. Pablo Picasso is one of the most radical and influential artists of the 20th century. The exhibition will showcase nearly every phase of Picasso’s artistry and career. Not only will his paintings be on display, but also his genius, style, unending inventiveness, and unique creative process.

The collection of his paintings will be drawn from the Musee National Picasso in Paris. The Musee National Picasso is the largest repository of Picasso’s work in the world. The exhibition will feature over 150 awe-inspiring paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs. Due to the Musee being closed for renovation, it has allowed the worldwide tour of an event of such unprecedented measure. This is the first, and may very well be, the last opportunity for an event of this nature to occur.

This particular collection of Picasso’s work is especially significant because it represents Picasso’s own personal collection. The paintings and other art that he intended to use to build his own artistic legacy.

This event is an opportunity of a lifetime. Even if you’re not an art buff, it’s a window to the mind of one of this century’s greatest artistic minds. Mark this event for your calendar’s folks.

To stay informed about this once-in-a-lifetime event, sign up for the Picasso e-newsletter.

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10 High-Impact, Low-Cost Remodeling Projects
February 2, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

1.  Tidy Up Kitchen Cabinets.Kitchen Cabinets

Potential buyers can and do look inside your kitchen cabinets. Keeping your kitchen cabinets clean and organized not only gives the illusion of more space, but it also helps potential buyers imagine how they can use that space. 

2.  Add Or Replace Tile

Retiling inexpensively can make a room look much cleaner than it really is.  Stained or dated tile can be inexpensively replaced or added to make surfaces look brighter, new, and finished.

3.  Add A Breakfast Bar

When a wall separates a kitchen from a family room or dining room, consider cutting out an opening and adding a breakfast bar.  This adds to a look of spaciousness and openness, not to mention the added convenience of a new surface and a place where people can sit at the adjacent kitchen bar.

4.  Install Granite Tile Instead of SlabGranite Tile

Many people get very excited about having granite countertops.  The problem is that granite countertops can cost upwards of $5,000.  However, home owners can buy 12-inch granite tiles for about $300.00 and get a huge impact for the money invested.

5.  Freshen Up a Dated Bathroom

For a relatively small investment, a home owner can install a new medicine cabinet for less that $150.  A new clean medicine cabinet presents a clean and well kept place to organize ones things.  New light fixtures, which can run up to $100, are a great way to bring a unique lighting instrument and increase the brightess of a room.  The addition of a faucet for $50 and a vanity for around $250 add to the clean look of the room.  Remember, clean, light, and bright is what sells.

6. Add a Room

Adding a bedroom by looking for large spaces in the home and condensing them efficiently can net a huge profit.  More bedrooms appear to potential buyers as better utilized space.  Beware though of creating a new room where there isn’t enough space.  A dinky off room won’t be attractive. 

7. Spruce Up the BasementBasement Redone

If a home has a cement block basement with only gray and cracks in the concrete, it looks like a dungeon.  Have  contractor use hydraulic cement to shore up any cracks in the walls, and then paint with waterproofing paint.  It’s also sometimes to paint the basement floor which can make the place look much more open and clean.  Despite a basment not being finished, a little paint can make it look less like a dungeon.

8.  Refinish Cabinet Fronts

Despite a larger investment, cabinets, mainly those in the kitchen, are where many people spend their time.  Having dated, stained, or dirty cabinetry fronts are a turn off for potential buyers.   Depending on if you do it by yourself, and the number of cabinetry in the kitchen, the process can cost between $3,000 and $12,000.  Despite the seemingly high cost, refacing of cabinetry traditionaly has a very high rate of return on the money invested.  Typically a kitchen cabinetry remodel has returns ranging from 112.1 to 119.1 percent.

9.  Replace Light FixturesLight Fixture

Replacing old and bland light fixtures can add a lot of ambience and action to a room.  Using a pendant lights over a kitchen island or peninsula adds depth and variety to a room.  Putting lights in some rooms on a dimmer can also be a great wait to add ambience

10.  Add Some New Technology to the Garage

For a relatively small investment, a remote touchpad entry can be very appealing.  The added technogy, despite the cost, and if done right, can make it look high-end.

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