Monday, December 30, 2013

Get your home ready to sell

Maximizing exterior and curb appeal
Before putting your house on the market, take as much time as necessary (and as little money as possible) to maximize its exterior and interior appeal. Tips to enhance your home’s exterior and curb appeal:
·        Keep the lawn edged, cut and watered regularly.
·        Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds, and prune trees regularly.
·        Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling.
·        Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
·        Clean and align gutters.
·        Inspect and clean the chimney.
·        Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
·        Repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
·        In Northern winters, keep walks neatly cleared of snow and ice.
·        During spring and summer months consider adding a few showy annuals, perhaps in pots, near your front entrance.
·        Re-seal an asphalt driveway.
·        Keep your garage door closed.
·        Store RVs or old and beaten up cars elsewhere while the house is on the market.
·        Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
Maximizing interior appeal
Enhance your home’s interior by:
·        Giving every room in the house a thorough cleaning, as well as removing all clutter. This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Some homeowners with crowded rooms have actually rented storage garages and moved half their furniture out, creating a sleeker, more spacious look.
·        Hiring a professional cleaning service, once every few weeks while the house is on the market. This may be a good investment for owners who are busy elsewhere.
·        Removing the less frequently used, even daily used items from kitchen counters, closets, and attics, making these areas much more inviting. Since you're anticipating a move anyhow, holding a garage sale at this point is a great idea.
·        If necessary, repainting dingy, soiled or strongly colored walls with a neutral shade of paint, such as off-white or beige. The same neutral scheme can be applied to carpets and linoleum.
·        Checking for cracks, leaks and signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
·        Repairing cracks, holes or damage to plaster, wallboard, wallpaper, paint, and tiles.
·        Replacing broken or cracked windowpanes, moldings, and other woodwork.
·        Inspecting and repairing the plumbing, heating , cooling, and alarm systems.
·        Repairing dripping faucets and showerheads. Buying showy new towels for the bathroom, to be brought out only when prospective buyers are on the way.

·        Sprucing up a kitchen in need of more major remodeling by investing in new cabinet knobs, new curtains, or a coat of neutral paint.

Friday, December 27, 2013


    Incandescent bulb's days are numbered; on Jan. 1, 2014, most will have been phased out. We sure won't miss their influence on our utility bill though, the typical 60-watt bulb costs more than three times as much per year to run as a similar LED bulb.

The Best LED Bulbs for Different Fixtures

Don't assume the most expensive LED bulb is the best. Consumer Reports says these less expensive, LED options shined brightly compared to the competition:

For lamps and ceiling fixtures: For 60-watt replacements, Wal-Mart's Great Value Soft White LED ($10) the least expensive of the new bulbs in Consumer Reports' preliminary tests gives off a warm yellow light similar to an incandescent bulb. They also liked Cree's 9.5-Watt (60W) Warm White ($13) and the Philips 11W 60W Soft White 424382 ($14). The fully-tested, top-rated Samsung 60-Watt Warm White LED ($30) provides a bright, warm yellow light. For light that's warm but brighter, and is meant to replace 75-watt bulbs, the EcoSmart 14-Watt (75W) Soft White 726558 ($35) is an alternate choice. Personally I prefer a Daylight bulb, it’s natural light and brightens up everything like the sun is right in the room with you.

For recessed and track lights: In preliminary tests, Wal-Mart's Great Value Soft White BR30 is bright and dimmable, and is the least expensive replaces a 65-watt bulb and casts a warm yellow light.

For outdoor lights: The MaxLite 20Watt PAR38 100W ($40) offers bright white light in Consumer Reports' preliminary tests and can be used with some electronic timers, photocells and motion sensors. The fully-tested TCP 17W PAR38 Flood LED ($40) claims to last about 46 years when used 3 hours a day. I also use the Daylight bulbs in my carriage lights outside. When I come home at night I can see my house right away, it stands out from the other dull yellow lights on the street. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

FLORIDA has highest insurance rates in nation

The report breaks out homeowners insurance by various types of policies, but found the average premium of $1,933 for the main kind of multi-peril homeowner policy that is the most commonly purchased in Florida. That same report found that the average premium for insurance purchased by condominium owners in Florida was $804 – or nearly twice the national average.

The report also lists the 10 costliest catastrophes in U.S. history, which include five hurricanes that struck Florida – Andrew, Charley, Wilma, Ivan and Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina hit Florida before it slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi and was the most expensive catastrophe.

Some in the industry have contended that there are legitimate reasons for the current rates in Florida.

Joseph Petrelli, president of the ratings agency Demotech, wrote Atwater last month and said some insurers have purchased more reinsurance protection as the cost has gone down. He also said that overall repair costs continue to mount.

“Upward pressure on premiums from the underlying costs of repairs and the ongoing annual purchase of a substantive, conservative reinsurance program does not lend itself to across the board rate decreases,” Petrelli wrote.

Sean Shaw, the former insurance consumer advocate for the state who is now running for the Legislature, said it was time for “politicians in Tallahassee” to “get this under control.”

“Insurance companies haven’t let the lack of major hurricanes hitting Florida get in the way of jacking up rates on policyholders,” said Shaw, an attorney and founder of Policyholders for Florida. “Move to Florida for no income taxes, leave because you can’t afford property insurance, isn’t the way to have a stable, healthy economy.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

FLORIDA IS #1 AGAIN! Florida leads nation in luxury home foreclosures

Florida’s foreclosure rate for all housing units is the highest in the nation for October, but it is also home to the most high-end foreclosures in the country, according to a report released Wednesday by RealtyTrac.
Dubbed “ultra high-end homes” and defined as those valued at $5 million or more, the report shows Florida had 67 such properties in some stage of foreclosure through the first 10 months of the year -- nearly quadruple the 17 luxury homes in foreclosure all of last year.
Nationwide, there were just 192 high-end foreclosures total through October, an increase of 61 percent over all of 2012.
Most of the multimillion dollar homes in foreclosure are located in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Orlando-Kissimmee metro areas. Miami’s 47 high-end homes in foreclosure are the most among all metro areas, and the 12 luxury home foreclosures in the Orlando area rank it fourth among cities.  
The news of troubled expensive homes, however, isn’t necessarily all bad. The report suggests the spate of luxury foreclosures indicates banks can withstand the bigger losses brought by defaults on larger loans.
“This trend may indicate lenders are now financially stable enough to more comfortably weather the big-ticket losses that these properties potentially represent. In addition, animproving housing market means more prospective buyers, even for these ultra high-end homes. A bigger buyer pool translates into higher sales prices on these properties, allowing lenders to recoup more of their losses on these jumbo loans gone bad,” the report states.
But the owners of high-end homes are also more likely to have more resources to hold out against foreclosure than the owners of down-market properties, so the jump in luxury foreclosure activity may not be completely driven by lenders. Florida’s high-end foreclosures are the highest since 2009, after three straight years of declines.