Giving Back: Honoring Our Wounded Warriors this Independence Day

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As some of you, and all of my clients, know I donate a portion of every commission to the charity of the buyer or seller’s choice. A recent buyer asked that I donate the commission from his new home to the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP).

My father proudly served 27 years in the U.S. Army and so it especially warms my heart to contribute to WWP. It is with great pride and honor that we were able to give back to this wonderful cause.

Wounded Warrior Project® serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.

With the support of donors, Wounded Warriors has helped over 100,000 service members, secured $96 billion in entitlement benefits, put over 10,0000 of our wounded warriors back to work, and so much more.

In honor of all of our veterans this Independence Day, I encourage you help make this the most successful generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. To learn more about this organization, please visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Also, please be mindful that fireworks can trigger flashbacks, anxiety, and worse in for those who have served in combat and have PTSD. Suggestions include limiting fireworks to the day of the 4th and alerting service members in your neighborhood if you plan to use fireworks.

Military with PTSD offers free signs for veterans stating, ‘Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please be Courteous with Fireworks.’

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July! Feel free to leave your comments below.

Listing on Your Own: Does it Add Up?

FSBO

You see the signs on yards around town – For Sale by Owner. In fact, 10% of home sales were FSBO just a few years ago, down from almost 20%.

It is an intriguing idea. Why not save the thousands of dollars in commission and put it in your pocket? Well, there are many compelling reasons to use a REALTOR.

Visibility

I am sure you are capable of writing an enticing description of your home, BUT recent studies have shown that 88% of buyers begin their search for a home online. A licensed REALTOR will have multiple online ways to showcase your house, greatly increasing exposure to potential purchasers. Forty three percent of all home sales find their home through an internet listing on professional sites.

Paperwork

The number of FSBO homes has dropped in recent years due to the mandatory industry disclosures and regulations. Are you ready to navigate frequent changes and deal with the dramatically increased amount of required documentation?

Negotiations

There are at least five crucial people a real estate agent deals with when selling a home, the majority of whom do not have the seller’s best interests in mind.

            The buyer who wants the lowest possible price

            The buyer’s agent

            The buyer’s attorney (in some areas of the country)

            The home inspection companies

            The appraiser

Bottom Line

The most compelling reason, perhaps, to utilize a REALTOR is this:

            The average house sold by the homeowner sells for $208,000

            The average house sold by an agent sells for $235,000

If FSBO seems an attractive option to you, I urge you to take the time to discuss your home and selling situation with a real estate professional and see what they have to offer before putting up that sign. P.S. – the neighbors hate those signs.

As always, feel free to leave comments or questions below and contact me via email for a consultation or see how I can be of help.

Home Energy Conservation

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If you have purchased a home, bought new appliances, windows, or simply shopped at the hardware store of your choosing in the past few years, you have most likely noticed the buzz over energy efficient products and features.

Energy efficiency is important for so many reasons, including conservation, reduced environmental pollution, energy independence, and job creation.
While these are all critical reasons to become more energy efficient, perhaps the biggest question homeowners have is ‘Will it Save Money?

The simple answer is yes; saving energy saves you money. In many cases, household energy bills can be cut by as much as 20-30% by making energy efficiency upgrades. Save money and benefit the environment by taking a few simple actions such as switching to LED bulbs or using ENERGY STAR® appliances.

Buying ENERGY STAR appliances saves up to 30% on electricity bills.
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient halogens, CFLs or LEDs saves 30-80% on energy bills.

In addition to larger purchases, there are multiple ways to quickly and easily reduce household energy usage. Some are as simple as unplugging computers and other electronics when not in use. The This Old House website offers 22 painless ways to go green and save your green.

Do you conserve energy in your household? Send in your tips and tricks and let’s start saving energy and money!

Solar Power: Is it the Right Choice for You?

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Solar power is perhaps one of the most talked about, and certainly one of the most visible, components of energy conservation. Since President Obama took office, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 17.5 GW as of the end of the third quarter of 2014. That’s enough to power the equivalent of 3.5 million average American homes.

While the initial cost of installing solar panels is not insignificant, the monetary and environmental savings are immediate. With the cost of energy on the rise, now is the time to consider if utilizing solar energy is the right choice for you and your household.

In the Valley, there are two groups that are working to make solar panel installation as easy and affordable as possible.

Solar Trail is helping the Crozet community go solar through consultation, assessments, group discounts, and installation. They recently joined Habitat for Humanity and completed a home in Waynesboro, Virginia featuring a solar energy system.

                Sign up for a free Solar Site Assessment by Jun 30th, 2015. 

Solarize Nelson is a grassroots community-based outreach aiming to make going solar easier and more affordable. The nonprofit organization, LEAP, in partnership with the Nelson County, and the UVA Community Credit Union provide education, installations, and financing for local solar projects.

Don’t forget the 30% Federal Tax Credit!

Be sure to check back next week for ideas on going green!

Comments welcome, as always.

Remembering the Meaning of Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is more than a day marking the unofficial start of summer. Memorial Day is, first and foremost, a time to pay tribute to the men and women who have proudly and bravely served our country.

Whether grilling on the BBQ, swimming in the just-opened pools, or simply relaxing and enjoying the weather and a day off, please remember our fallen heroes who have insured that future generations of Americans will continue to enjoy the privilege of freedom.

At 3 p.m. today, please pause with Americans across the country and the world for one minute during the National Moment of Remembrance. As a small token of gratitude to the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces and paid the ultimate price, we are asked “to voluntarily and informally observe in our own ways a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever [we] are doing for a moment of silence or listening to the playing of ‘Taps.’”

The soldiers we honor this Memorial Day are all those who have served this nation from its founding 239 years ago, as well the over 1.4 million who defend us now.

Please allow me to thank you Service Members and wish you a wonderful weekend. May we never forget the courageous men and women who have served and sacrificed so much in past wars so we could enjoy the freedoms and liberties we hold dear, just as we honor those who stand duty today to keep us safe.

Please feel free to leave a tribute to a Service Member, personally known or not, in the comments below. 

Moving On Up

Moving Up

After purchasing a first home, the next big big decision is when to sell and move up to the house that more closely matches your dream. If you have visions of a larger yard, more bedrooms, a different neighborhood, or an all together different location, here a some reasons to consider buying today instead of waiting.

The two major components that determine the cost of a home – the current market price and the current mortgage rate – are both on the rise.

Buyer Demand is High & Inventory Is Low

Recent numbers show that buyer demand is at the highest peak experienced in years. Listing your current home now can increase exposure to potential buyers who are actively looking and seeking to buy now while interest rates are still low.

“Demand in many markets is far exceeding supply, and properties in March sold at a faster rate than any month since last summer,” said The National Association of Realtors, Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun.

Prices Will Continue to Rise

The most recent Home Price Expectation Survey projects appreciation in home values over the next five years to be up to 27.5%.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting for your current home’s value to increase before selling could price you out of your new home if you aren’t careful.

Mortgage Interest Rates Remain at Near Record Lows

Current interest rates remain at or below 4%, a near-historic low, making this an ideal time to buy before the inevitable increase.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the National Association of Realtors all project that interest rates will rise over the next 12 months.

As discussed last week, even a moderate an increase of half a percentage point will impact your monthly mortgage payment. Whether you are moving up or buying your first home, your housing expense will be more a year from now if a mortgage is necessary to purchase your home.

If you have determined that moving up to your dream home (or closer to that ideal) is right for you and your family, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings and a sound investment.

If you have experience with or questions about buying your next home, feel free to comment below or contact me directly.

The Cost of Waiting to Buy

Waiting pic

Whether you are a first time buyer or looking to move up to your next home, you should consider the housing experts’ projections in two major areas – home prices and mortgage rates.

The housing market is still in the early stages of recovery, and a rise in interest rates can make a big difference in your monthly mortgage payment. Even a very modest increase from 3.9% to 4.5% on a $200,000 home will increase monthly payments more than $70.  

Most real estate analysts concur that by the end of the year there will be a 4% appreciation in home values and an increase of a full point in interest rates. While interest rates will still be low, now is a great time to take that leap and invest in your future.

If you have been thinking about buying a home, now is the time; supply is high, interest rates are low, and housing prices are lower than they are expected to be in the upcoming months. As more homes are purchased, supply decreases, so there is the potential for home prices to continue to increase.

While it is often wise to wait and find the best possible deal (especially with large purchases), it is not necessarily prudent in the current real estate market. I encourage potential home buyers to be decisive and to act quickly when you find the property you have been looking for.

Below is a chart that puts a price tag on the cost of waiting just eight months.

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Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments below. If you have any questions, please contact me directly and I will be happy to discuss your particular housing concerns and needs.