What You Need to Earn to Live in the Cheapest and Priciest Metros

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Ever wonder how much bacon you need to bring in to live comfortably in some of our country’s largest metros? HSH.com recently revealed the salaries needed to live in a median-priced home in 50 of the hottest areas of the U.S., and the numbers may surprise you. While the national average of median home prices cost $255,600, requiring a salary of just over $56,000, the salary difference between the least expensive and the most expensive is nearly $200,000 (!!).

5 Least Expensive Metros

  • Pittsburgh: $35,329.29
  • Cleveland: $36,553.26
  • Indianapolis: $37,429.34
  • Oklahoma City: $37,854.04
  • Memphis: $37,964.05

5 Most Expensive Metros

  • San Jose: $221,363.63
  • San Francisco: $181,341.49
  • San Diego: $116,875.11
  • Los Angeles: $101,531.66
  • New York City: $99,136.79

It’s no real surprise that four of the five priciest metros are all in the state of California. Get the full results from HSH.com and see how realtor.com broke down what is occuring in the “Best Places” housing markets.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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4 Real Estate Deal-Breakers and How to Fix Them Efficiently

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The real estate sales process can be stressful and seemingly complicated. Even a relatively smooth process can take ample negotiations and may require weeks to pass before you can close on the transaction. Some deals are increasingly complicated, and major roadblocks may develop that threaten the entire project. These are a few of the more significant factors that buyers and sellers may run into during the real estate sales process that could potentially prevent the deal from going through as planned.

Unpleasant Decor
Unpleasant decor is something that buyers notice immediately, and some will only make an offer on the home contingent to some decorative updates being completed before closing. For example, some buyers may detest bold paint colors on the walls or may feel that the decor in the kitchens and bathrooms is too outdated; however, sellers may believe that the home is priced appropriately for the as-is condition and that they should not make concessions because of decor. Both real estate agents need to review sales comps in the area to determine if other homes selling in this price range have similar decor or if they have recently been upgraded. The agents should make the buyer and seller aware of realistic expectations based on market conditions, and one or both parties may need to make concessions based on a sales price and property condition that is justified by the market.

Major Repair Issues
Home repair issues may be known by both parties before a property inspection is complete, but the inspection report can potentially reveal more issues that have not been discussed. Many buyers may try to negotiate to have repair work completed before closing. You may consider taking a course on renovations (like Rules of Renovation) and other significant home improvement projects before you agree to take on any huge projects as a buyer or a seller. These courses can help you to better estimate the cost and time it will take to complete the work that is needed.

A Low Appraised Value
Many buyers will apply for a home loan to pay for their purchase. Mortgage lenders typically offer a loan amount that is a percentage of the sales price or appraised value, and they will take the lesser of these two figures into consideration. This means that an appraised value that comes in lower than the sales price could reduce the loan amount to an uncomfortable amount for the buyer. More than that, the buyer may not want to pay more money for a house than it is worth. The feasible options are for the seller to lower the sales price or to work with the appraiser to increase the appraised value.

Title Issues
It is customary to review the title history on a property before finalizing a purchase, and this is a required step for anyone who is applying for a mortgage loan. This process essentially determines if the seller clearly holds title to the property or what obstacles need to be cleared before the seller can convey title to the buyer at closing. Some issues are minor and can easily be dealt with prior to closing by the title company and the seller. In some cases, however, a real estate lawyer needs to be contacted to resolve the matter.

Many real estate deals will close without a hitch, but many others will develop one or several of these issues. Many issues can be overcome when the buyer and seller work together and when enough time and patience is given to resolve the issues. You may also have to use third-party services, such as a title company or real estate lawyer, to address the issue properly.

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What to Do if Your Home Doesn’t Sell

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By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Has your property been on the market for months with little buyer interest? With a competitive fall market ahead, it may help to reassess the condition of your home, make necessary updates, then
re-list a new and improved staged property to generate new buzz and buyer interest. Here are some questions sellers should ask themselves to get their home on top of the list and ahead of the competition.

Family Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Does it Make the Best First Impression?

The key is to look at your home from the perspective of the buyer. With more than 97 percent of homes sold on the internet, the first point of engagement for buyers today is the online listing. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to feature professional quality photos using the best lighting to encourage buyers to schedule a showing. Once they arrive, be sure that your curb appeal and front entry are well maintained, tidy and welcoming by trimming bushes, cleaning walkways, making repairs and adding seasonal touches to the front porch.

Kitchen Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Does it Appeal to The Target Market?

According to a National Association of Realtors recent trends report, 66 percent of today’s first-time buyers are Millennials and they are looking for a home that is in move-in ready condition. These buyers will turn away instantly if the home is dated and gives the impression that it’s in need of renovation. They will, however, ultimately pay more for a home that looks fresh and inviting. Be sure that necessary repairs and cosmetic updates are made such as freshening walls and cabinets with a coat of neutral paint, polishing hardwood floors, replacing lighting, hardware, appliances, etc.

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Dining Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Can Buyers Visualize Living in This Home?

Whether selling an occupied or vacant home, keep in mind that If buyers can’t emotionally connect, it won’t be memorable. Consider renting furniture for vacant properties to show buyers how they can use their own furnishings in the space. For occupied properties make sure there are no distractions such as personal items on walls, shelves and tables. Showcase every key room from the entry to the basement with a clean look and minimal accessories such as colorful pillows, wall art and simple vignettes.

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Family Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Are Key Features Highlighted?

Be sure that your home’s best assets are not hidden. Is your stone fireplace covered with a cluttered mantle or distracting wall art? Are hardwood floors covered up with dated carpeting? Are floor to ceiling windows hidden behind heavy curtains? Are built-in shelves cluttered with old books and photos? If so, remove and simplify to show these features off, bring new life and increase perceived value to your home.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

PattiABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Stern has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR® Magazine’s Styled, Staged and Sold. For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or patti@pjstagingdecorating.com

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Live in a Loud Area? Here’s How to Reduce Sound Inside Your Home

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Have you ever wished you lived on a remote island somewhere? A tranquil, calm and—most importantly—quiet place just for yourself? If so, you’re certainly not alone.

Depending on where you live, whether in an urban city or in the suburbs, overpopulation remains an issue, and dealing with noise pollution has become a real responsibility.

Whether sound comes from loud neighbors, lumber trucks, domestic animals or construction workers, we live in a noisy world which can affect us where we need it least—in our homes. These days, we barely even notice the sounds of everyday occurrences such as lawnmowers and nearby roads, but if you think back to pre-industrial times, this amount of external stimulation would have made our distant ancestors nervous wrecks.

Take a moment to consider what you deal with every day regarding external noise. Perhaps it might be time to take action through these easy steps to protect you and your loved ones from unnecessary stress, or even poor sleep.

Close Up Your Gaps
The old advice rings just as true today as it did when you first heard it: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Ensuring as tight an envelope as possible is imperative to reducing the external noise in your neighborhood from invading your privacy and comfort, and this means closing all possible gaps.

Starting with the obviously visible holes and cracks, grab some flexible polyurethane or latex caulk to make your walls and window gaps airtight. Even the slightest of open areas around windows will allow sound to infiltrate. Be as thorough as possible in closing them all up. Perhaps you have an issue with exposure around the openings for pipes and wires where they enter the house—if so, use expanding foam or putty to tighten up your house.

Invest in High-Quality Windows
High-quality windows are one of the most important elements for a soundproof home. Opting for models with seriously thick glass will be your saving grace, and that’s why many noise-conscious individuals choose storm windows with sturdy frames and decent weather stripping.

Some things to watch out for: the larger the airspace between your original window and the storm window, the better (i.e., three to four inches). DIY-ers with double-hung and gliding windows tend to gravitate toward storm windows, as they allow the easiest installation; however, there are various options to make window installation an easier job, regardless of the category of your existing windows.

Shape Up Your Insulation
Not only for the sake of your heating and electricity bills, good quality insulation in your home will significantly reduce the internal disturbance from external noise pollution. Attics and walls are usually most vulnerable to noise infiltration due to under-insulation—start there first! Once again, quality, as opposed to speed, is of the essence with this procedure, as only meticulously installed fiberglass batt and blown-in insulation will ensure your sound pollution from the environment remains low.

Of course, installing insulation can still be a bit of a procedure, but there are plenty of guides online to help you perform a world-class job at a fraction of the price.

Homeowners with DIY abilities often choose to install insulation between floor joists, and as long as you pay particular attention to safety such as dust masks, safety goggles, gloves and protective clothing, you should be good to go.

Consider Your Own Noise Contribution
In the process of fixing up your house to protect it from future external sound infiltration, you will require the use of power tools. Spare a thought for your neighbors and choose your weapons wisely. We sometimes can be so accustomed to tolerating a noisy environment ourselves that we become oblivious to our own contribution to noise pollution.

The additions to your home can be a labor-intensive process, and power tools will certainly make your renovations much faster and easier. Chris Knuffman, reciprocating business line manager at Quincy Compressor, explains how you can be efficient while keeping home improvement noise to a minimum.

“Pneumatic tools powered by compressed air help complete tough and noisy jobs faster and more efficiently than manual options,” explains Knuffman. “Robust air compressors properly sized for such tools offer quicker recovery and are quieter work site solutions, delivering lower decibels and less fatigue than misapplied models.”

External noise has more of an effect on your quality of life than you think, and taking these simple steps will surely make a considerable difference to your comfort and sense of security in your own home. As the jobs are relatively easy within the world of active DIY-ers, the trick is ensuring you are as meticulous as possible with each alteration, as sound certainly does travel.

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Driving the Smart Home Surge

More homeowners are adopting automation, according to a recent survey by CEDIA, a trade association, and HomeAdvisor, relying on professionals in a “smart home surge.” Seventy-five percent of the professionals surveyed, in fact, say they have received more smart home inquiries in recent months, and requests for maintenance once per month or more.

“This report shows that when it comes to smart home technologies, homeowners are migrating away from DIY to more of a ‘do it for me’ mindset,” says Dan DiClerico, smart home strategist at HomeAdvisor.

Smart home devices permeate every part of the home, including doors and windows, landscaping and security, the survey shows. Most professionals report including smart home technology in a larger renovation.

Over 1,400 smart home professionals were surveyed for the report.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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Driving the Smart Home Surge

More homeowners are adopting automation, according to a recent survey by CEDIA, a trade association, and HomeAdvisor, relying on professionals in a “smart home surge.” Seventy-five percent of the professionals surveyed, in fact, say they have received more smart home inquiries in recent months, and requests for maintenance once per month or more.

“This report shows that when it comes to smart home technologies, homeowners are migrating away from DIY to more of a ‘do it for me’ mindset,” says Dan DiClerico, smart home strategist at HomeAdvisor.

Smart home devices permeate every part of the home, including doors and windows, landscaping and security, the survey shows. Most professionals report including smart home technology in a larger renovation.

Over 1,400 smart home professionals were surveyed for the report.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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Hurricane Irma Damaged Properties Now Face Mold Contamination Concerns

As the scope of damage caused to properties across Florida becomes clearer, state officials are warning residents from some of the hardest hit areas to stay away until further notice. This is the case for parts of the Florida Keys where Hurricane Irma first made contact with land as a Category 4 storm. Estimates of the damage to properties statewide vary, but a recent projection of insured losses by one risk forecaster put the figure at $40 billion. The total for uninsured losses remains…

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=213687

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Fall Maintenance for Your Rental Properties

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Do you own a rental property or several rental properties? Routine maintenance will ensure that your properties are protected from the harsh fall and winter elements, and most can be done without detracting too much from your time or pocketbook.

Begin With a Tenant Check-In

It’s important to consistently check in with tenants and ensure that they are maintaining the rental unit to lease standards. Seasonal maintenance is the perfect time to inspect the unit for issues that should be addressed. Ask tenants if they have questions or concerns.

Checking in is also the best way to establish open communication. Good communication is the foundation of a healthy tenant-landlord relationship. Not to mention, when a tenant feels that there is a direct line of communication, they are much more likely to report on a minor but time-sensitive issue before it becomes an expensive repair.

Complete Indoor Maintenance

  • Windows and Doors:Apply weather stripping or caulk to any needed areas along windows and doors. This will prevent against overtaxing your heating system on those blustery fall days, and will keep your tenant’s utility bills down, ensuring satisfaction with the unit.
  • Fireplace:If your unit has a fireplace, check that the chimney is swept and free of debris. A blocked chimney is an easily avoidable a fire hazard and a smoke inhalation risk. If you don’t already have one, take the time to install an animal-proof chimney cap to prevent further blockage from nesting critters.
  • Smoke and CO Alarms:Regardless of whether you require your tenants to change the batteries, it is crucial to check that they have indeed kept up with the task, and, moreover, did not remove them altogether. Ensure your tenant’s safety—and your legal protection—by ensuring that the alarms are in working order.
  • Attic:Check your attic’s insulation. Poor insulation can lead to expensive roof repairs. Inspect for signs of small animals that can sneak in looking for a warm place to nest—they can destroy crucial insulation that prevents against ice-damming on your roof.

Complete Exterior Maintenance

  • Gutters:Fall leaves can lead to clogged gutters. Clogged gutters can create ice dams in freezing weather, and this can cause the gutters to break entirely. Trim trees or install gutter guards where necessary to ensure that your gutters will appropriately channel water away from the property and prevent water damage to the foundation or structure.
  • Animal-Proofing:Attics and basements are very enticing to rodents and small animals who seek shelter from the cold weather. The Humane Society has recommendations to prevent nesting in your property: ensure animals are not inside the home already (you don’t want to seal them in) and then caulk small holes and staple hardware cloth over larger holes. To stand up against stronger animals, opt for 16-gauge, 1×1 steel mesh.
  • Stairwells, Walkways and Patios:Verify that all supports, stairs, and handrails are secure. Make sure that the handrails can support a person who is slipping due to rain or sleet.
  • Irrigation Systems:Fall weather means that sprinkler systems can often be reset, since seasonal rains will keep the foliage appropriately hydrated. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to winterize your sprinkler and irrigation systems. This will protect the functionality of the system and ensure your property looks its best.
  • AC Units:Depending on where your rental unit is located, be prepared to wrap the outside box units in order to protect it from rust or weather damage.
  • Trees and Shrubs:Now is an excellent time to trim any branches or vegetation that touches the exterior of the building, as they can lead to damage over time. Protect your investment and ensure that all foliage is maintained before the wet season gets in way.

Hire a Professional

For some costly items on your list, it will pay to have a professional inspect them. Big-ticket items like your HVAC system and your roof should be inspected yearly to ensure that any slight damage is dealt with proactively, before a serious issue occurs.

HVAC: Have it serviced, inspected and cleaned. Proper maintenance will extend the life of the furnace, so be sure to remind your tenants to change the filters. To be certain the task is done, consider supplying some extra filters yourself. This makes the task simple for tenants, and is a minor expense for you compared to an expensive system replacement.

Roof: Extreme temperatures and general exposure to the elements can wreak havoc on your property’s roof. Have a licensed, certified roofing professional inspect the condition of your roof. Simple repairs like loose or damaged shingles can lead to water exposure that can lead to deterioration of insulation, wood and drywall, or make electrical or plumbing systems vulnerable. It’s much simpler to deal with a repair now than an emergent leak come winter.

Seasonal maintenance is a chore, but being proactive will ensure that your rental property remains in good shape and your investment is protected for years to come.

Brentnie Daggett is a contributor for Rentec Direct.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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Understanding Energy Costs

I was recently contacted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which provides consumers with unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues. Its affiliates represent sectors from the energy industry, academia, small businesses, conservation groups to travel-related industries.

The CEA recently released a sweeping study of energy consumption across the country, and analyzed various regions, states, even major municipalities promoting ideas to enhance efficiency and preserve an uninterrupted flow of energy based on expected future population shifts.

To the end consumer, the report paints a fascinating picture of who is paying what for their energy, and why it costs so much, or, in some regions, so little.

According to the CEA study, the average mid-continent family currently enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. While these low costs are attributable to the region’s access to natural resources and booming energy production, the report suggests that could end in only a few years unless new infrastructure and pipeline
projects are hastily approved.

This planning is especially important, as some of the nation’s poorest communities like Camden, Ark.; Opelousas, La.; Deming, N.M.; Commerce, Okla.; and San Benito, Texas, dot the mid-continent region. The average household income in these communities is $24,857—55.43 percent less than the national average, the CEA report states.

Even small increases in energy prices could have a devastating effect on families in the mid-continent region where median household incomes are $10,000 to $25,000 less than the national average. In this region, the CEA reported that low-income households pay roughly 22 percent of after-tax income on residential utility bills and gasoline.

While most mid-continent families currently pay, on average, a rate roughly 9 percent lower than the national average of 12.90 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is also home to states like Texas, where the average monthly bill is 17 percent higher than the national average.

In addition, the study found:

  • The bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their income solely on electricity—more than seven times what the top 20 percent pays.
  • Of those low-income earners that spend 10 percent of their income on power bills, half are African-American families.
  • The average household in the U.S. currently pays 13 cents per KwH using, on average, 901 KwH per month totaling $116 in electricity bills. That represents almost one-fifth (4.78 percent) of the average income of the poorest mid-continent families.

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Understanding Energy Costs

I was recently contacted by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which provides consumers with unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues. Its affiliates represent sectors from the energy industry, academia, small businesses, conservation groups to travel-related industries.

The CEA recently released a sweeping study of energy consumption across the country, and analyzed various regions, states, even major municipalities promoting ideas to enhance efficiency and preserve an uninterrupted flow of energy based on expected future population shifts.

To the end consumer, the report paints a fascinating picture of who is paying what for their energy, and why it costs so much, or, in some regions, so little.

According to the CEA study, the average mid-continent family currently enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. While these low costs are attributable to the region’s access to natural resources and booming energy production, the report suggests that could end in only a few years unless new infrastructure and pipeline
projects are hastily approved.

This planning is especially important, as some of the nation’s poorest communities like Camden, Ark.; Opelousas, La.; Deming, N.M.; Commerce, Okla.; and San Benito, Texas, dot the mid-continent region. The average household income in these communities is $24,857—55.43 percent less than the national average, the CEA report states.

Even small increases in energy prices could have a devastating effect on families in the mid-continent region where median household incomes are $10,000 to $25,000 less than the national average. In this region, the CEA reported that low-income households pay roughly 22 percent of after-tax income on residential utility bills and gasoline.

While most mid-continent families currently pay, on average, a rate roughly 9 percent lower than the national average of 12.90 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is also home to states like Texas, where the average monthly bill is 17 percent higher than the national average.

In addition, the study found:

  • The bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their income solely on electricity—more than seven times what the top 20 percent pays.
  • Of those low-income earners that spend 10 percent of their income on power bills, half are African-American families.
  • The average household in the U.S. currently pays 13 cents per KwH using, on average, 901 KwH per month totaling $116 in electricity bills. That represents almost one-fifth (4.78 percent) of the average income of the poorest mid-continent families.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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