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Joanne Hiller

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Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 32

Clean Your Indoor Air by Cleaning Your HVAC System

by Joanne Hiller

When the temperature gets cooler, you shut the windows and turn the heat on in an effort to keep your house warm. But what you're also doing is sealing the air inside your house.

While a good tight seal is very important to staying warm and keeping your energy bill in check, it also can really have an impact on indoor air quality.

"When you flip that switch on your heater, there is a lot of dust and debris - collected in the coils over the summer months - that either burns into fumes or gushes into the house through your vents," says Aaron Marshbanks, board member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).

In addition, your heating system blends warm temperatures with air that can be moist, and which can be a haven for mold and mildew. Throw a fan on top of that, and the air quality inside your home can quickly plummet.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have been shown to act as a collection source for a variety of contaminants that have the potential to affect health, such as mold, fungi, bacteria and very small particles of dust. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The removal of such contaminants from your HVAC system is crucial to improve indoor air quality. Plus, a clean system can save you money on your energy bill.

Further research from the EPA found that HVAC system cleaning may allow systems to run more efficiently by removing debris from sensitive mechanical components. Clean, efficient systems are less likely to break down, have a longer life span, and generally operate more effectively than dirty systems.

"Heating and cooling uses up about half of the energy in your home," says Marshbanks. "But having a clean HVAC system can save you up to 30 percent in energy costs. Which means you have better air inside the house, and are helping the environment with an extra bit of cash in your pocket at the same time."

The top issues that affect a home's HVAC system, its efficiency and air quality are:

1. Filtration - Low-efficiency filters, lack of a filter replacement program and improperly sized filters can allow particles and debris to flow into a home or building.

2. Duct work contamination - It is estimated that about 90 percent of HVAC systems more than 10 years old will have some level of insulation deterioration. Over time, the insulation fibers are distributed and blown into occupied spaces every time the blower turns on.

3. Dirty evaporator coil - Over time, evaporator coils become matted with dust and dirt. During cold months, the heated air can flow over the dirty coils and be distributed into your home's interior space.

The best way to determine if your HVAC system is clean is to perform a visual inspection. If any dust or debris can be seen, the system needs to be serviced. Some of the things that may lead a home owner to consider more frequent cleaning include:

* Smokers in the household.
* Pets that shed high amounts of hair and dander.
* Water contamination or damage to the home or HVAC system.
* Residents with allergies or asthma.
* Home renovations or remodeling.

The most effective way to clean air ducts and ventilation systems is to employ source removal methods of cleaning. This requires a contractor to place the system under negative pressure through the use of a specialized, powerful vacuum.

NADCA has published an internationally recognized standard that specifies requirements for proper cleaning. NADCA is a widely recognized nonprofit trade organization representing certified contractors worldwide that sets standards and provides certification and training for the industry. For more information about HVAC cleaning and to find a certified and knowledgeable contractor, visit www.NADCA.com.

Create a Cozy Home This Fall with These Staging Tips

by Joanne Hiller

If you are selling your home during the fall, it is important to keep its exterior well-maintained and create a welcoming, cozy atmosphere indoors. Here are some ways to ensure your home appeals to as many prospective buyers as possible.

Yard Work
Mow your lawn and remove leaves and debris. Weed, get rid of dead flowers and trim back all branches and foliage so that everything looks neat, clipped and in keeping with the season. Give your flower beds a splash of color by adding some plants that flower in the fall, such as chrysanthemums, coneflowers, and salvias.

A Perfect Porch
Place seasonal flowers in large pots on both sides of your front door. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint and hang up a wreath made from seasonal flowers and foliage. This will provide the perfect finishing touch for your entrance area.

Exterior Excellence
Is your home exterior clean and free from paint chips or does it need to be pressure-washed and re-painted? Make sure the windows are clean. Do not forget to remove leaves, foliage and other wind-blown material from your gutters on a regular basis.

Inviting Interior
Remove clutter from all surfaces each day and keep as many personal items as possible out of sight. This can be a challenge now that the children have gone back to school, so ensure that they put away their school work, backpacks, and other school-related items each evening.

Holiday Decor
Don't let Holiday decorations overpower your home. Prospective buyers may find it hard to look beyond the decorations and see your home's true features and advantages. 

Keep It Cozy
Create a warm, cozy atmosphere that will encourage people to fall in love with your home. Adjust the temperature on your thermostat before each viewing to ensure that your home is comfortable and welcoming.

Add Some Warmth
Another way to create an inviting atmosphere is to add touches of warmth to each room. Place a fleecy throw on the arm of a comfortable chair, pile sumptuous pillows on your bed, and display fluffy towels in the bathroom.

Seasonal Decorations
Add some well-chosen seasonal decorations, such as a small basket of pine cones, long twigs in a terracotta vase, or a bowl of cinnamon-spiced potpourri.

Smells Like Fall
Do not neglect the scent of your home. Air fresheners and scented candles in such fragrances as apple, cinnamon, and vanilla will give your home an appealing atmosphere

5 Hot Home Decor Trends for Fall

by Joanne Hiller

Hot Home Trends

The weather may be cooling, but there are plenty of hot trends in home décor this fall. If you’re looking for a complete overhaul, or just a new way to freshen up a room or two, this fall features trends for every taste. No matter what your budget, there’s a trend to fit. Whether you hire an interior designer for a professional update, or hit the flea markets for an on-trend item or two, home décor is hot this fall.
 

1. Heavy Metal
Metal is making a comeback with everything from brass bathtubs, to stainless steel table bases, to tin backsplashes. Metal wall art, tabletop objects and bold picture frames are simple ways to try this trend without making a big commitment. Be careful not to overload on metallic, but a pop of shine here and there can take a room from drab to dramatic.

2. Light Wood
Dark wood has taken center stage for years. This fall, the pendulum on this trend swings the other way and lighter wood is making a comeback. An easy entry into this trend is a light wood accent chair. Available everywhere from high-end home stores to garage sales, light wood is making its way back into homes across the country.

3. Brighten up With Blue
Blues are back for fall and the hottest shade is turquoise. It’s a bold choice, but when done right it can brighten any room. From an accent wall, to bedding, to small appliances, turquoise is everywhere. Go big and paint an entire room, or start small with throw pillows. No matter where you incorporate turquoise, you can’t go wrong with this trend.

4. Pantone’s Predictions
Every year Pantone®predicts the hottest color palette. This year the choices are bold, and incorporating pops of color here and there in your home is simple. Colors include Radiant Orchid, Royal Blue, Aluminum and Aurora Red to name a few. Using one, or several of Pantone’s predictions can bring warmth and vibrancy into your home this fall.

5. Softer Black and White
Black and white have always been home design staples. This fall, the trend is toward softening these two hues. In their purest form, black and white can both be bold choices, but softening either turns a room from shocking to soothing. Whether it’s on the walls, upholstering the sofa or accenting a bathroom, try a softer side of black and white.

Try one, or all of these trends this fall and transform your house into your dream home.

5 Reasons to Sell BEFORE Winter Hits

by Joanne Hiller

5 Reasons to Sell BEFORE Winter Hits | Keeping Current Matters

People across the country are beginning to think about what their life will look like next year. It happens every Fall. We ponder whether we should relocate to a different part of the country to find better year round weather or perhaps move across the state for better job opportunities. Homeowners in this situation must consider whether they should sell their house now or wait. If you are one of these potential sellers, here are five important reasons to do it now versus the dead of winter.

1. The Demand is Strong

Foot traffic refers to the number of people out actually physically looking at home right now. The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any other time in the last twelve months which includes the latest spring buyers’ market. These buyers are ready, willing and able to buy…and are in the market right now!

As we get later into the year, many people have other things (weather, holidays, etc.) that distract them from searching for a home. Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There is Less Competition Now

Housing supply is still under the historical number of 6 months’ supply. This means that, in many markets, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.

There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future.

Also, new construction of single-family homes is again beginning to increase. A recent study by Harris Poll revealed that 41% of buyers would prefer to buy a new home while only 21% prefer an existing home (38% had no preference).

The choices buyers have will continue to increase over the next few months. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. The Process will be Quicker

One of the biggest challenges of the 2014 housing market has been the length of time it takes from contract to closing. Banks are requiring more and more paperwork before approving a mortgage. Any delay in the process is always prolonged during the winter holiday season. Getting your house sold and closed before those delays begin will lend itself to a smoother transaction.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by over 19% from now to 2018. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30 year housing expense with an interest rate in the low 4’s right now. Rates are projected to be over 5% by this time next year.

5. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take back control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps, the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

A Homeowner's Net Worth is 36x Greater than a Renter!

by Joanne Hiller

Homeowner's Net Worth is 36x Greater Than a Renter | Keeping Current Matters

Over the last six years, homeownership has lost some of its allure as a financial investment. As homeowners suffered through the housing bust, more and more began to question whether owning a home was truly a good way to build wealth.

The Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances, every three years, and just released their latest edition this past week.

Some of the findings revealed in their report:

  • The average American family has a net worth of $81,200
  • Of that net worth, 61.4% ($49,856) of it is in home equity
  • A homeowner’s net worth is over 36 times greater than that of a renter
  • The average homeowner has a net worth of $194,500 while the average net worth of a renter is $5,400

Bottom Line

The Fed study found that homeownership is still a great way for a family to build wealth in America.

5 Questions you Should Ask your Real Estate Agent

by Joanne Hiller

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Real Estate Agent | Keeping Current MattersWhether you are buying or selling a home, the process can be challenging. That is why we always suggest that you take on the services of a real estate professional when embarking on a potential home move. However, not all real estate agents are the same. A family must make sure they hire someone who truly understands the current housing market and, not only that, knows how to connect the dots to explain how market conditions may impact your decision.

How can you make sure you have an agent who meets these requirements?

Here are just a few questions every real estate professional should be able to answer for their clients and customers:

  • Are home values approaching a new bubble or will prices continue to appreciate?
  • Is it better for a first time buyer or a move-up buyer to wait until they save a bigger down payment before they purchase a home?
  • Where will 30-year mortgage rates likely be in 12 months?
  • Why do I need an agent when I can just as easily find the house online myself?
  • Is buying a home still a good investment for my family?

Make sure you hire an agent that can answer questions like those above. That will guarantee the home buying or selling process will be much easier for you and your family.

Thinking of Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home? Why Wait?

by Joanne Hiller

The sales of vacation homes skyrocketed last year. A recent study also revealed that 25% of those surveyed said they’d likely buy a second home, such as a vacation or beach house, to use during retirement. For many Baby Boomers, the idea of finally purchasing that vacation home (that they may eventually use in retirement) makes more and more sense as the economy improves and the housing market recovers.

If your family is thinking about purchasing that second home, now may be the perfect time. Prices are still great. If you decide to lease the property until you’re ready to occupy it full time, the rental market in most areas is very strong. And you can still get a great mortgage interest rate.

But current mortgage rates won't last forever.

According to FreddieMac, the interest rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at the beginning of April was 4.4%. However, FreddieMac predicts that mortgage rates will steadily climb over the next six quarters.

Let’s assume you want to purchase a home for $500,000 with a 20% down payment ($100,000). That would leave you with a $400,000 mortgage. What happens if you wait to buy this dream house?

Prices are projected to increase over the next year and a half. However, for this example, let’s assume prices remain the same. Your mortgage payment will still increase as mortgage rates climb to more historically normal levels.

This table shows how a principal and interest payment is impacted by a rise in interest rates:

Cost of Waiting $400K

5 Eco-friendly Flooring Options

by Joanne Hiller

Is your carpet harboring a million-strong population of dust mites? Are your vinyl tiles cracked and faded? Have your ceramic tiles broken into hundreds of tiny shards? It might be time for a new floor.

But before you replace your carpet with traditional hardwood, consider purchasing green flooring. Environmentally friendly cork, bamboo, and linoleum may cost a bit more than the box of laminate flooring at the big box store, but these green options are beneficial to both you and the environment. Some types of flooring put a strain on the earth's resources; certain carpets are made from petroleum oil, and certain hardwood floors are harvested from clear-cut forests. These flooring options could also harm your health. Newly-installed carpets and hardwood floors can emit formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs); this effect, known as off-gassing, can pollute the air inside your home. By purchasing green floors, you can live in a healthy home on a healthy planet. Here are your green flooring options.

Hardwood
Hardwood is the perennial flooring choice.
Just ask any real estate agent - hardwood floors are a selling feature. Hardwood comes in a range of colors and finishes; no matter your decor, you'll find a flooring that suits your home. Hardwood floors are also a great option for anyone with allergies. Since dust mites can't live on hard surfaces, you'll breathe in fewer allergens.

But not all hardwoods are created equal. Off-gassing is a major concern; hardwood floor stains and sealants typically contain formaldehyde and VOCs. When buying a hardwood floor, look for products labeled low-VOC or no-VOC; make sure that the adhesive used to glue down the floor is also low-VOC. If you're having your floors stained, look for a product made from natural pigments. Also look for the Forest Stewardship Council certification. The FSC sets standards that protect the health of forests around the world; the certification guarantees that your hardwood floor was sustainably harvested without damaging healthy ecosystems.

Bamboo
Bamboo is a type of fast-growing grass;
a crop of bamboo can replenish itself in just three to five years. A forest, meanwhile, takes decades - even centuries - to replenish itself. Bamboo is clearly the green choice. It's also a smart design decision. Since bamboo plank flooring is harder than most hardwoods, it holds up well in high-traffic areas. It is also more resistant to moisture than traditional hardwood floors, making it the perfect fit for bathrooms and kitchens. Bamboo is also quickly becoming the affordable option; bamboo floors are much less expensive today than they were ten years ago.

But not all bamboo flooring is environmentally friendly. Some producers clear-cut forests and burn grasslands to make way for bamboo crops. Check with the flooring manufacturer to make sure their bamboo growers harvest their crops sustainably. Alternatively, look for the Forest Stewardship Council certification. You'll also want to make sure the bamboo flooring and adhesive don't contain formaldehyde; the air in your home should be as clean as the air in the bamboo field.

Cork
Most people are familiar with cork - it tops most wine bottles.
But this natural material also makes for a great floor. Cork holds up well in damp rooms. It is hypoallergenic and mildew-resistant. A cork floor dampens sounds and vibrations, making it the perfect flooring choice for apartments and townhouses. Suberin, a natural substance in cork, acts as a fire retardant and a bug repellent. It is a hard-working floor - and floors that work overtime are typically expensive. Cork is one of the priciest flooring materials. If you love the look of cork, contain it to the rooms in your home where you'll be on your feet for a while, like your kitchen, since standing on cork won't cause lower back pain.

Cork is sustainably harvested from the cork oak tree; a tree can withstand around 20 harvests during its lifetime. But for every upside, there is a downside - cork is a Mediterranean crop. Transporting cork flooring to countries around the world creates carbon emissions, slightly tarnishing cork's green credibility.

Concrete
Concrete is not just for factories anymore.
This flooring choice is synonymous with modern; lofts and contemporary houses feature concrete floors in keeping with the look of streamlined simplicity. But concrete flooring is not just for modern interiors. Professional installers can finish concrete in countless ways, mimicking stone, tile, and even linoleum. Concrete floors are incredibly durable. If sealed annually, they can last a lifetime, saving you the cost of repairing worn-out floors every ten years. Concrete floors are also easy to clean - you can literally hose them down. And since installing concrete floors doesn't require adhesives, the air in your home will be free of VOCs and other harmful chemicals.

Yet concrete does have its drawbacks. The hard surface is not kind to backs; home cooks who prepare dinner standing on a concrete floor will be prone to back pain. Consider installing it in bedrooms and dining rooms, places where you will be sitting or laying down. While concrete is kind to your home's air, it does have a large carbon footprint. Concrete's raw materials are mined, a process that releases carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Also, concrete is not readily recyclable - be ready to commit to your concrete floors for a long time. Lastly, when figuring out the price of concrete floors, you'll need to factor in the cost of installation. Since concrete is hard to install, DIYers shouldn't attempt the job themselves.

Linoleum
Linoleum is not just for grandmothers' kitchens anymore.
This natural material comes in a wide range of colors and styles; if you want a one-of-a-kind floor with intricate patterns, linoleum might be the floor for you. Linoleum is made from flax and natural resins. Since linoleum is a natural product, it won't emit dangerous chemicals. It's also biodegradable, eliminating the environmental impact of recycling it or throwing it away at the end of its life.

Linoleum is hypoallergenic and mildew-resistant. It can withstand high traffic and high humidity; the product hardens over time, meaning linoleum can easily endure the punishment a growing family inflicts on it.

You want to create a comfortable home for you and your family. But that comfortable home shouldn't come at the expense of your family's health or the health of the planet. Fortunately, environmentally friendly floors are beautiful and affordable. With so many green options for sale, you can find a floor that suits your home and your lifestyle. So trade in your dusty carpet and peeling vinyl tiles for a green floor that is comfortable under your feet.

Buying a Home is 38% Less Expensive than Renting!

by Joanne Hiller

In Trulia’s 2014 Rent vs. Buy Report, they explained that home ownership remains cheaper than renting throughout the 100 largest metro areas in the United States; ranging from an average of 5% in Honolulu, all the way to 66% in Detroit, and 38% Nationwide!

The other interesting findings in the report include:

Even though prices increased sharply in many markets over the past year, low mortgage rates have kept home ownership from becoming more expensive than renting.

Some markets might tip in favor of renting later this year as prices continue to rise faster than rents and if – as most economists expect – mortgage rates rise, due both to the strengthening economy and Fed tapering.

Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven’t been that high since 1989.

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense. Rental costs have historically increased at a higher rate of inflation. Lock in a mortgage payment now before home prices and mortgage rates rise as experts expect they will.

Kitchen and Bath Trends for 2014

by Joanne Hiller

Designers have been installing eco-friendly cabinets and flooring in kitchens and bathrooms for years, but green design is fast becoming the most popular design trend of 2014. Energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs are being phased out in favor of LED bulbs; dishwashers, refrigerators, sinks, and vanities are all incorporating these high-impact, low-wattage bulbs. And designers are making space in kitchens for integrated trash and recycling storage.

Lower Water Bills
But the biggest trend in kitchen and bath design is water conservation. Touchless faucets conserve gallons of water. So do most dishwashers on the market today, since most consume less water than hand washing a load of dirty plates. In the bathroom, whirlpool tubs have fallen out of favor with many homeowners; instead, designers are specifying large, walk-in showers in the master bathroom, equipped with water-saving shower heads.

A Standout Fridge or a Hidden One
When it comes to kitchen appliances, stainless steel is still the finish of choice, followed by economical white. But some designers are taking a more daring approach by specifying colored appliances in all shades of the rainbow. Integrated appliances are also popular design choices in 2014; designers are hiding refrigerators and dishwashers behind cabinetry to give open-concept spaces a more welcoming feel.

Safety First
The population is aging, and kitchens and bathrooms are being redesigned to accommodate the needs of the elderly. Wide, zero-threshold doorways are easier for wheelchairs and walkers to glide over, while pull-down shelves and cabinetry make reaching for high objects easier for those with mobility issues. Showers are also getting a makeover, with grab bars and hand-held shower devices. As an added benefit, these universal design upgrades make homes safer for both older and younger generations alike: young children unsteady on their feet will also benefit from a trip hazard-free home.

Kitchen Must-Haves
Every kitchen cabinet should have soft-close hinge hardware, since this is now the industry standard. And quartz countertops have trumped granite as the industry favorite; quartz countertops have fewer seams and are nonporous, so homeowners can forego the sealing process. Homeowners who spend their budget on these upgrades will see a return on their investment when it comes time to sell.

Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 32

Contact Information

Joanne Hiller
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate
110 Island Way
Clearwater FL 33767
(727)460-5721
Fax: (727)446-2691