More Than a Yard: Finding the Right Home for Your Pooch

by Guest Author, Sharon Elbert, Professional Dog Trainer and writer for Wileypup.com

For many house hunters, a dream home isn’t complete without being a good fit for the family dog. Some might see the fenced in yard, and consider the box checked. However, if you are looking for your next home, you may want to look a little deeper to be sure the fit is right before signing on the dotted line.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to consider your pooch in a little more depth. Here is a quick checklist of considerations to be sure you find the right fit for your canine companion:

 

What’s in a Yard?

 

A fenced yard is, of course, ideal for many dog owners. It gives you the ability for off-leash play, a must for meeting the exercise needs of active breeds such as Border Collies or Labradors. But not all yards are the same. Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for:

  • Check the fencing to be sure it is secure. Factor in any repair costs into the cost of the home since they will need to be addressed right away.
  • Are there flower beds with potentially toxic plants that will need to be moved outside of the fenced area? Examples include many spring bulb favorites such as daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as some bushes such as azaleas.
  • Is there a nice shady spot so your pooch can find shelter from the heat on a hot summer day?
  • Is there access to water for an outdoor bath?
  • Will delivery people be able to access your main entrance when the dog is outside without entering the fenced part of your yard? It is easy to overlook, but this can become a major annoyance if you do a lot of online shopping.

 

Indoor Space Considerations

 

It won’t always be a beautiful sunny day, even in your dream home. Make sure your new home will have enough space for a little indoor play on rainy days and during colder winter months. A long hallway can make a great runway for a game of fetch when getting outside just isn’t practical.

Likewise, consider the needs of aging or injured dogs. Does the layout of the home require going up and down stairs to get to the most used areas of the home? This can be a major problem for some special needs dogs, and a deal breaker for some pet owners.

Finally, most dog trainers recommend that every dog has a little space to call their own during times of stress. This may be as simple as a corner of the living room with a comfy dog bed or crate. If you have a puppy, however, a space that can be puppy-proofed and cordoned off (with appropriate flooring for potential accidents during potty training) is in order.

 

Go for a Walk

 

It may be impractical to include a dog walk for every home you look at while searching for your dream house. However, once you are down to a short list, it is time to actually take your dog on what is likely to be the daily walk route. Make sure this is a walk you would feel comfortable making every day, or even letting the kids take.

Be on the lookout for hazards: A dangerous intersection, a portion of the walk that requires walking in the road, or a neighbor who lets their dog run right up to the curb with invisible fencing (a recipe for territorial fights with leashed dogs passing by). A drive through is unlikely to reveal these walk spoiling annoyances. In addition, look for evidence of good lighting for evening or early morning walks.

 

Nearby Canine Amenities

 

If you are moving to a new part of town or relocating to a new state altogether, it is worth doing some research to find out where the pet services are located. Depending on the services you tend to use, it can make a big difference in your quality of life to be able to take advantage of nearby conveniences.

Think about what services you are likely to use most, and check on Google Maps to locate:

  • Veterinarians
  • Dog boutiques (particularly important if you buy specialty food)
  • Grooming services
  • Doggy daycare and boarding
  • Pet sitting and dog walking services
  • Dog-friendly restaurants (BringFido.comis a great research tool for this)
  • Dog parks and dog-friendly paths for long walks

 

Flooring

 

Although luxurious hardwood flooring adds a great deal of ambiance to a home, it will have the opposite effect if it gets scratched up from the nails of a rambunctious canine. Large and even medium sized dogs can easily create unsightly scars in hardwood floors that can only be fixed by a professional who will need to sand away the wood then stain and refinish it. It’s a costly fix!

Modern carpets can generally hold up to doggy traffic. However, think about where you will be coming in and out of the house with your pooch to be sure you have a place to wipe muddy paws first on rainy days. A mudroom or garage entrance can easily stow a few extra towels for the job.

Tile and high-quality laminate flooring are the most durable as both will resist scratching and are easy to clean.

 

Consider Pet-Friendly Condos and Planned Communities

 

If you have a truly pampered pooch, one way to go the extra mile is to ask your realtor about dog-friendly communities in your area. Many condominium complexes, for example, have pet services right on site. Pet grooming, pet-sitting, dog walking services, and even a fenced in dog park and/or pool is available in some areas.

Work with a Knowledgeable Realtor

 

Make sure to let your agent know upfront that you have a canine member of your family to consider during the house hunt. If there are certain “musts” such as a fenced yard, or proximity to veterinary services, be sure to put that on the table upfront to help your realtor find a home that works for you and your furry friend.


Posted on February 10, 2019 at 11:13 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Maui Lifestyle |

Investing In a Green Home Will Pay Dividends In 2019

by John Trupin

As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.

 

While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.

There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:

Cool roof

Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.

 

Fuel cells

Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.

For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.

 

Wind turbine

A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.

But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.

 

Green roof

Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.

 

Hybrid heating

Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.

 

Geothermal heating

Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.

 

Solar power

Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.

In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).

 

Solar water heaters

Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.

 

Tax credits/rebates

Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.


Posted on January 28, 2019 at 9:40 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Home Improvement, Real Estate Trends, Selling Your Home |

What’s in a Condo? The In-Between Style of Home That Might Be the Right Fit for You

by John Trupin

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits. Here’s some background information to help you decide whether purchasing a condo is a good match for you.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.  If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds upkeep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Part of it depends on your lifestyle. Condominium living may not be optimum for large families with active kids. The other factor is personal style. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that the majority of homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear the sound of your neighbors.

Space: With the exception of very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amout of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. Laws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive. If you long to paint your front door red or decorate your deck with tiki lanterns, condominium living might not be for you.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect beachfront getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

Where would you like to live?

Some people love the excitement and sophistication of urban living. Others dream of skiing every weekend. Whether it’s the sound of the surf or the lure of the golf course, a condominium home affords you the ability to live a carefree lifestyle in virtually any setting.

What amenities are most important to you?

The variety of condominium amenities increases each year. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Parking can be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

 


Posted on December 20, 2018 at 2:42 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Real Estate Trends |

5 Reasons Rising Interest Rates Won’t Wreck the Housing Market

by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate 

Interest rates have been trending higher since the fall of 2017, and I fully expect they will continue in that direction – albeit relatively slowly – as we move through the balance of the year and into 2019. So what does this mean for the US housing market?

It might come as a surprise to learn that I really don’t think rising interest rates will have a major impact on the housing market. Here is my reasoning: 

1. First Time Home Buyers 

As interest rates rise, I expect more buyers to get off the fence and into the market; specifically, first time buyers who, according to Freddie Mac, made up nearly half of new mortgages in the first quarter of this year. First-time buyers are critical to the overall health of the housing market because of the subsequent chain reaction of sales that result so this is actually a positive outcome of rising rates.

2. Easing Credit Standards

Rising interest rates may actually push some lenders to modestly ease credit standards. I know this statement will cause some people to think that easing credit will immediately send us back to the days of sub-prime lending and housing bubbles, but I don’t see this happening. Even a very modest easing of credit will allow for more than one million new home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.

3. Low Unemployment 

We stand today in a country with very low unemployment (currently 4.0% and likely to get close to 3.5% by year’s end). Low unemployment rates encourage employers to raise wages to keep existing talent, as well as to recruit new talent. Wage growth can, to a degree, offset increasing interest rates because, as wages rise, buyers can afford higher mortgage payments.

4. Supply

There is a clear relationship between housing supply, home prices, and interest rates. We’re already seeing a shift in inventory levels with more homes coming on the market, and I fully expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. This increase in supply is, in part, a result of homeowners looking to cash in on their home’s appreciation before interest rates rise too far. This, on its own, will help ease the growth of home prices and offset rising interest rates. Furthermore, if we start to see more new construction activity at the lower end of the market, this too will help.   

5. National versus Local

Up until this point, I’ve looked at how rising interest rates might impact the housing market on a national level, but as we all know, real estate is local, and different markets react to shifts in different ways. For example, rising interest rates will be felt more in expensive housing markets, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Orange County, but I expect to see less impact in areas like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Detroit, where buyers spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing. The exception to this would be if interest rates continue to rise for a prolonged period; in that case, we might see demand start to taper off, especially in the less expensive housing markets where buyers are more price sensitive. 

For more than seven years, home buyers and real estate professionals alike have grown very accustomed to historically low interest rates. We always knew the time would come when they would begin to rise again, but that doesn’t mean the outlook for housing is doom and gloom. On the contrary, I believe rising interest rates will help bring us closer to a more balanced real estate market, something that is sorely needed in many markets across the country. 


Posted on November 11, 2018 at 8:38 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Interest Rates, Selling Your Home |

5 Dangers of Overpricing a Home

by a Windermere Guest Author

It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:

 

If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.

Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.

An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.

An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.

 

Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.

The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.

 

You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.

A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.

 

The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.

Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.

 

Setting a realistic price for your home from the start is critical. If you’re thinking of selling, our highly trained experts at Windermere Real Estate can provide you with a comprehensive pricing analysis based on current market conditions.


Posted on November 11, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Selling Your Home |

Home Valuation Tools – How Reliable Are They?

by Tania Harmon

What’s my home worth?

A quick Google search of that questions will get you dozens of sites offering a home valuation tool that makes valuing your home, well, easy as pie. Online tools like these have become most sellers (and buyers) first step in the selling (and buying) process. But how accurate are they?

By nature, these valuation tools have their limitations. Each market has unique characteristics that influence home values. Maui is no exception. Each online valuation tool relies on different sources for their information. One of the most popular, Zillow, does not have access to the Maui MLS and therefore relies on user reporting for sold data. Other sites rely on limited shared data and public records, but this can also lead to gaps. If you spend just a little time on the site you may find discrepancies in key data points, such as bathroom count and square footage, which can greatly skew values. And they will acknowledge these limitations – you just have to dig a little.

Scroll to the bottom of the website page and click on one of the ‘fine print’ options – the site disclosure and Q&A sections – and you’ll discover quickly the acknowledged error rate alone should cause you to take pause. Zillow discloses it’s “Zestimate” offers a National median error rate of 4.3%. That may not sound like much, but in Maui County, where the median single family home price is currently $700,000, that equals a difference of more than $30,000. Dig even deeper and you’ll discover that for Maui County the “Zestimate” is within 20% of the actual sales price less than 95% of the time and within 5% of the actual sales price less than 67% of the time.

While automated home valuation tools can be useful as a starting point to your home buying or selling process, nothing compares to the knowledge and expertise offered by a licensed Realtor. An automated tool can’t possibly provide you with the expertise that comes from a real estate professional’s knowledge of the neighborhood, a home’s unique characteristics and local market buying trends. Kihei alone has 15 subdivisions and 84 condo developments. Each one has unique characteristics and market trends that effect each properties value.

If you’re interested in finding out what your home might be worth, give us a call. We are happy to come meet with you and offer a free Comparative Market Analysis to give you a more accurate idea of your home’s value in today’s market.


Posted on October 11, 2018 at 2:38 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Selling Your Home |

A Beginner’s Guide to Securing a Mortgage Loan

by John Trupin

Entering into debt is a concept I grew up diametrically opposed to. I was raised, like many with frugal family members, to understand that anything you couldn’t pay for on the spot was something you couldn’t afford. But as we age we learn the pathway to financial growth requires a commitment beyond what many of us can deliver up front. Building and stabilizing wealth is, for many families, tied to home ownership. To reach that initial threshold, most aspiring homeowners will need to apply for a mortgage loan. That process can be daunting, but the long-term rewards of securing your home are worth it.

Step One – Break down your budget

A major financial decision like this can’t be made lightly. Many experts recommend a 50-20-30 style plan for finances, particularly for first-time homeowners. That means 50% of your budget is committed to core, unavoidable, monthly expenses like rent, groceries, loan payments, utilities, insurance, etc. The 20% segment is savings, placed in reserve towards a general or specific future financial goal. The final 30% (at maximum) is left as a remainder for personal spending, however, is most desired. Once this is set, you’re ready to evaluate the rate at which you can repay your loan and adjust accordingly.

Step Two – Take the time to get it right

It’s exciting to be in a position to purchase your first home, but if you find the right spot and realize the funds aren’t there yet it can be a huge disappointment. That’s what makes seeking pre-approval for a loan a must – particularly if it’s your first time. Having your credit in order, along with all key financial documentation (bank statements, tax returns, debt copies, prior records of significant ownership). If your credit isn’t in a great place, it’s likely worth taking the time to amend it before applying for your mortgage loan. When you earn lower interest rates and more manageable monthly payments you’ll be thankful for your prudence.

Step Three – The bigger the down payment the better

It’s rare that first-time homebuyers have significant cash on hand, but whatever you can muster makes a difference. Typically, the greater a down payment you can muster, the lower your subsequent interest rates will be. For many, there’s only so much that’s tenable as a bulk sum up front, of course. If that fits your situation, seeking a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can earn you a healthy loan for a down payment of just 3.5% of your home’s total value. To calculate the limitations of your target home’s loan options, you can input your information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website here.

Step Four – Stick to the plan!

After all the effort you’ll go through to secure a mortgage loan, you’ve earned the home it’s helped you purchase. That loan, like any loan, is contingent on your continued monthly payments. It can feel daunting and dispiriting after a time to continually be paying for a home you’re already living in, but maintaining your financial balance is vital. You’ll never be able to predict every expense that comes up but maintaining your budget towards paying off your mortgage loans will set you up to be more financially flexible in the future. Should you ever hope to purchase a second home or other major investments requiring of loans, having a record of consistent mortgage loan payment can help you secure far more favorable interest rates in the future.

A mortgage loan, like any loan, is a major commitment, but entering into homeownership is a massive step towards financial stability and future life-planning. With proper patience and focus, you can get the loan you need at the rate you can afford.


Posted on July 21, 2018 at 9:57 am
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying |

A Day of Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Tania Harmon

 

Last Friday, Top Maui Homes along with 30 of our colleagues took the morning off to do something vitally important. What could be so important that an entire Real Estate Brokerage would take a full day out of the market? To give back to our community.

 

Every year Windermere Real Estate offices across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona,  and Hawaii take a day off from selling homes to help make a difference in their local communities. Since 1984, Windermere associates have dedicated a day of work to complete neighborhood improvement projects. You’ll find Windermere Realtors doing a variety of projects, such as cleaning, landscaping, and painting at local senior citizens centers, facilities for homeless children and adults, public parks and schools, low-income housing, and emergency shelters, and volunteering at food banks, to name just a few.

 

This year Wailea Realty chose a service that is near and dear to our hearts and vital to our local community and economy. Wailea Realty partnered with Pacific Whale Foundation to clean up one stretch of our island’s shoreline. It was only later we realized that our Windermere Community Service Day just so happened to fall on World Oceans Day – how apropros!  In a few short hours we collected all of this!

 

Although we did find quite a few large pieces, a good portion of what we collected were cigarettes, bottle caps, and micro-plastic. As clean as our beaches are there is always work to be done. Every piece counts. You too can make a difference. Every time you step onto the beach, commit to pick up 3 – just 3 pieces of trash or plastic. Imagine the impact we could have if we all just picked up 3!


Posted on June 14, 2018 at 8:04 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Community, Nature |

A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build

by Kenady Swan 

 

 

Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

 

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

 

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one of more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

 

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

 

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

 

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square food if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per food in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

 

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.


Posted on May 24, 2018 at 4:44 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Architecture, Home Improvement, Selling Your Home |

Three Deck Design Ideas to Get Your Yard Ready for Summer

by John Trupin 

A delightfully warm spring in many parts of the Western U.S. has many folks brushing off their summer clothing early. While this is exciting for all who love the outdoors, public spaces like parks and beaches may be overcrowded. What better time, then, to focus on ways to maximize the space you have in your own home. There’s no one ideal way to design or set up your deck, but we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas to help inspire your next redesign.

Multi-level Decks

Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV

Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV

  • Especially if your square footage is limited, tiering your deck into multiple levels is a great way to incorporate extra outdoor space into your home.
  • By separating your deck into multiple levels, even slightly, you can create a cozy sense of separation between spaces.
  • Give yourself options for privacy. Depending on your property, the base level of your deck may be below your fence-line. If you have a view you’d like to enjoy with your barbecue, consider a second tier.

Built-in Seating

Credit: lizmarieblog.com

  • A simple way to save space and hassle is to build in your seating spaces during your deck’s construction. 
  • It’s important to consider what you will predominantly be doing on your deck. Lounging while reading? A corner bench is a great fit and can be outfitted comfortably. Potlucks and cookouts? Consider higher benches or fences with wide tops for easy plate placement.
  • Consider your environment. If your deck will weather rain, sand, or wind consistently, don’t write off surfaces like brick and concrete, which can be framed as appealingly as wood or other stone.

Custom Lighting

Credit: istikharawazifa.com

  • As the sun fades, your deck’s utility can shine or fade with it. Including discreet lighting within the construction of your deck is a small step that can pay huge dividends.
  • Increasingly popular low-voltage systems have made a well-lit backyard and deck drastically more affordable.
  • Depending on your location, solar powered lighting is a worthwhile investment that can help accentuate your stairs, fences, and other outdoor decorations.

Posted on May 24, 2018 at 4:36 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Home Improvement, Outdoor Living, Selling Your Home |