Monday, September 27, 2010

Homeowners can save money and improve quality of life by using free conservation tips.

Turning lights off and reducing water usage will make a big difference.

This summer was hot. And humid. And uncomfortable. Those temperatures are moderating, but the utility bills are flooding our mailboxes. Keeping cool in Missouri can be an expensive undertaking. We know that energy efficiency for our homes is the way to go now, not only from an expense standpoint, but also from an ecological view. EnergyStar® appliances, new windows, solar panels and more insulation are very important, but there are also things that you and your family can do every day that cost nothing and considerably reduce your utilities.

Turn the lights out. Your furniture is not afraid of the dark. If you or a family member won’t be in a room for more than five minutes, flip the switch. Ditto for the television, radio and video games. Where ever possible use compact florescent light bulbs. They use a fourth of the energy of an incandescent bulb and produce the same amount of light.

Window coverings are another energy saving method. Keep the drapes closed on the east side of the house in the morning, open in the afternoon, and drapes closed on the west side during the late afternoon.

With cooler temperatures coming, turn off the air conditioning, open the windows and enjoy real air. Ceiling fans will help circulate fresh air both during the day and nighttime. As frigid air moves in, keep your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and around 55 at night. Programmable thermostats are great and help keep a constant temperature. If you go away for an extended period of time, set the thermostat at 55 degrees. You can save from five to 20 percent on your heating costs.

Water runs freely in this part of the country, but it really is a very precious resource. Just a few techniques can save hundreds of gallons of water each week and reduce your water bill. Approximately 75 percent of the water we use at home is in the bathroom. According to the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average bathroom faucet flows at two gallons per minute. If you turn the tap off when brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime you can save up to eight gallons of water per day, and that equals 240 gallons a month!

Americans love their long, hot showers and baths, but consider this: taking a five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water while a bath can consume up to 70 gallons. Replacing current shower and sink fixtures with low flow aerators will also save a considerable amount of water.

Would you like to know how much water your family uses in a day? The U.S. Geological Survey has a great survey you can complete to find out your totals. This is a fun exercise to do with children to help them understand the ramifications of letting the faucet run.

If you would like to learn more tips on saving energy, saving money and being more environmentally friendly, The U.S. Department of Energy has a booklet you can download or order.

With just a few minor adjustments in habit, homeowners and families have the opportunity to keep energy expenses under control and help our quality of living.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bathroom renovations top kitchens as the best home investment

Start and end your day in a peaceful bathroom retreat.

Curb appeal, updated kitchens and bathrooms are always big draws for potential buyers. Kitchens were traditionally the most common remodel, but this year the bathroom has surged ahead, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders.

Homeowners are also avoiding large remodeling projects, such as room additions, whole house remodeling, installing pools and lavish outdoor living spaces. Instead, they choose the smaller bathroom project that can add panache and a sense of individuality.

While small, a bathroom remodel can be expensive, as is any project involving plumbing and water. Bathrooms today are being designed as personal retreats from the frenetic pace of life. Soaking tubs are big, as is a separate shower, beautiful tile, radiant heating and heated towel racks.

Still, remodeling a bathroom is one of the smarter investments a homeowner can do to add value.

The first step is to conceptualize just what you want for your bathroom. Writing a wish list helps with organization, and with deciding how much the project may cost. Research bathroom ideas at retail stores and by visiting newly remodeled bathrooms. You’ll be surprised how a simple idea turns into a functional centerpiece. The Internet is another wonderful resource for ideas, color coordination, bath features and online planning guides.

Doing this preliminary work also sets the stage for the second step, finding a reliable, professional contractor. Communication is the absolute key when doing a renovation, and unless you and the contractor are speaking the same language and understand the ultimate goal, problems will pop up.

While some do-it-yourselfers may be able to take on a bathroom remodel, a contractor is usually the best bet. He or she knows how to get the required permits and build according to your local code. Nothing is more disheartening when an inspector comes, finds issues and the whole job needs to be taken out.

Two major concepts are important in your remodel–lighting and circulation. John Rhia at emphasizes how important natural lighting and heavy-duty ventilation are. Good lighting creates an open, airy feeling, which is especially important in a small bathroom. And, well-designed lighting systems remove shadows so you’ll know how you look in the morning.

Ventilation is a major issue. Without it, the bathroom not only smells, well, like a locker room, but also breeds humidity, mold and mildew. Not only are these culprits expensive to remediate, they also will destroy expensive cabinetry.

A bathroom upgrade will bring many rewards, not only by adding value to you home, but also by providing you with a peaceful retreat to start and end your day. For success, take it slowly, be specific about what you want, and let the experts handle the water and plumbing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Amendment 3 to stop double taxation will appear on the November ballot

Make sure to vote “yes” to prohibit real estate transfer taxes

There’s good news for Missouri homebuyers and sellers as Amendment 3, which if approved, would prohibit double taxation on real estate, will be placed on the November 2 ballot. The initiative had been stalled when the state of Missouri challenged the number of petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

Amendment 3, supported by the Vote “YES” To Stop Double Taxation Committee and the 21,000-member Missouri Association of Realtors, would prohibit real estate transfer taxes on a sold property. The advocates see transfer taxes as double taxation because Missourians already pay property taxes on real estate, often over many decades of ownership. Missouri is one of just 13 states that do not impose the transfer tax, including all of Missouri’s neighboring states.

The Missouri Association of Realtors believes the transfer tax places undue stress on low-income Missourians who typically spend a larger percentage of income on their home.

Add the mix of Missourians who have lost their jobs, had pay cuts and have been forced to sell their homes or experienced a drop in property values, and the transfer tax just isn’t good for the recovering Missouri economy.

Here’s the simple and straightforward proposal: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prevent the state, counties and other political subdivisions from imposing any new tax, including a sales tax, on the sale or transfer of homes or any other real estate?”
Taxation on real estate transfers will be placed on the November ballot. This amendment would prohibit

The state's dismissal of its appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court followed positive talks between the Vote "YES" To Stop Double Taxation Committee and the offices of Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and Attorney General Chris Koster. Together, they agreed to ask Cole County Circuit Judge Paul Wilson to modify his ruling in the committee's favor. The judge agreed to the modification, addressing the state's issues while declaring there were more than enough valid signatures of registered voters to place Amendment 3 on the ballot.

The next step is encouraging massive voter turnout on November 2 to insure Missouri sellers and buyers are not assessed yet another financial burden.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome home. The fun is just beginning when first-time home buyers move in and personalize their new space.

Furnishing a new home can be expensive. Have enough funds to provide the basics and not experience short-term financial stress.

First-time home buyers who took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit program now have the experience of moving into home ownership with all accompanying responsibility and adventure. For many, this will be the first real place to call home; the urge to personalize the new “nest” is compelling.

Coming from apartments and their parents’ homes, new home owners may not realize the scope of furnishing a home with all the necessities to make the place livable, let alone lavish. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a typical homebuyer spends an average of $7,400 on their home, with more than half of that during the first year after purchase. The first order of business for new owners is to make sure at least that amount is available and won’t send the owner into a severe budget crunch. Here are some tips to make that house a real home.

Before moving, take stock of what you have and what has just become part of the scenery. Make a list of what has sentimental value and what is clutter. Moving clutter can cost a lot, either through professional moving companies or calling on friends to heave all those boxes.

After you’ve packed up your stuff, outfit and pack a basic toolbox. Many of projects you’ll do to personalize your space require tools. The basic minimum includes a hammer, screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, a tape measure and a staple gun. Hanging those new curtains loses a lot of appeal if you have to run to the hardware store in the middle to get tools. Be prepared first.

Personalizing and furnishing your new home is one of the most exciting activities for new home buyers. Before running out to purchase that super extra king size bed or several pieces of oversized living room furniture, take accurate measurements of all the rooms and use them to judge what fits and what doesn’t. After all, too much furniture in a room makes it feel small and claustrophobic. Be a fair judge of what would compliment the furniture you already have.

You’ll also need basic appliances to get started. A stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer should be energy efficient to reduce your utility bills. Spending a bit more right now makes more sense than purchasing a cheaper model that may become a problem and financial drain later on. If you are angling for an entertainment system and a huge flat screen television, check your budget first to make sure you can buy basic furnishings before such large ticket items.

Window coverings and linens are another way to express your personality, plus add security and privacy. Budget accordingly, since some new home owners don’t plan for the cost of outfitting a house with new drapes and curtains.

Garden tools will be a necessity to keep your curb appeal top notch. The basics include a lawn mower, garden hose, sprinkler, clippers, a shovel and rakes. For people moving from an apartment, this category of necessities will be a new experience.

Purchasing and personalizing your first home is a real thrill. Be creative but approach this one room at a time. As you begin feeling at home, you’ll be able to capitalize on your home’s features and blend that with your own uniqueness.