Real Estate Tips: Preparing Your Yard for Winter

Autumn-Leaves-Blowing 2015 The weather is turning colder and the days are getting shorter which means winter is on the way. So you can pack up those gardening tools until next spring, right?…Wrong! You can save yourself some time in the yard next spring if you do a few maintenance tips now.

1) Stay on top of the falling leaves. Leaves can smother your grass and to keep your lawn looking nice either rake leaves regularly or mow. If you decide to mow, make sure you use a bag to collect the clippings & shredded leaves which you can use for your garden or landscape beds.

2) Prune rose canes back to knee height, mound the base with fresh compost (about 12 inches) and cover the rosebush with shredded leaves. This will help protect the bush & roots during the colder months.

3) Mulch landscaping beds with chopped leaves or pine needles. Again, this is extra protection and helps reduce the effects of extreme temperature changes.

4) Plant spring bulbs now and your yard will come alive next spring. Examples of spring bulbs to plant are tulips, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth to name a few.

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Real Estate Market: The Spring Market Recovery

It is looking like the long-awaited real estate recovery has taken off!  While the past few years have presented a few challenges to sellers and buyers alike, 2012 has come out of the blocks very strong – exceeding our expectations.  According to the January report from the Carolina MLS service which serves Charlotte and the surrounding counties, the MLS closed transactions increased 9.2% January 2012 as compared with January 2011.  However, the Allen Tate Company Charlotte region closed sales increased 21.7% – our growth is more than double the overall market growth!  What does that mean for buyers and sellers?  Great news on both fronts.  For buyers, you should be feeling more confident that the economic rebound we have seen in the past six months provides job security.  You also should be pleased with the incredibly low rates for qualified buyers – hovering around 3.25% for 15-year fixed and 3.75% for a 30-year FHA loan.  If you plan to be in the house for a shorter period, 5/1 ARMs are near 2.5%.  And that’s BEFORE the tax benefits for mortgage interest deductions!  For sellers, you are seeing more buyers in the market as indicated by the increase in sales activity.  Properties placed under contract so far in 2012 is nearly 60% above 2011 numbers.  This is a very strong signal that the housing recovery is here.  A word of caution – there is quite a bit of “shadow inventory” that comes in two forms.  The reported foreclosure inventory has yet to be consumed by today’s buyers.  Additionally, many non-distressed sellers who chose to wait for the recovery may now test the market again.  As this inventory enters the market, it is not likely that we will see appreciation for the short-term.  If you are interested in what the market is like in your neighborhood, call The Lee Ann Miller Team or visit our website at LeeAnnMiller.com.  If you use our TateMap Interactive Search function, you can see what the houses in your market are listed for as well as two years of recent sales activity.  

Real Estate News: TWO Ways East Lincoln Fire Department Substation Could Help Homeowners

There’s good news and maybe some not-so-good news for hundreds of homeowners in the East Lincoln Fire District.   The good news is that the fire department will open a substation in a rented facility on Commerce Drive near SmithStone. Which will shorten the emergency response time in that area, and hopefully head off huge insurance rate hikes that homeowners faced beginning this fall. The fire department notified county officials recently that 352 homes did not fall within the five-mile distance requirement to receive a Class 5 insurance rating. That meant their rating could jump to a Class 9, resulting in increases between 30-70 percent, according to county manager George Wood.   The bad news is that the department has to get a loan from the county to pay expenses for the new substation for the remainder of the fiscal year, and will seek a district-wide tax increase next year to operate the substation. The department currently has tax revenues of $1.37 million, but would need an additional $75,000 beginning next year to cover the substation. That would mean taxpayers would see an increase in their tax rate from 6.8 cents per $100 valuation to 7.17 cents.   The county manager, George Wood, stated that none of the rules have changed, but “insurers are now being told by the state that they must write the policy based upon the actual travel distance requirement. That is what created this issue.” “We didn’t know this was coming until a week and a half ago,” said fire marshal Mike Futrell. “ELVFD has been looking to purchase land for its second station and this would correct the problem, but cannot happen fast enough to avoid these higher premiums,” Wood stated to commissioners. Wood’s recommendation for the loan and the new substation was approved by the board upon a motion made by Commissioner Carl Robinson Jr. of Denver.   Source: News@Norman

Real Estate: Weather The STORM

Summer storms are here, and no matter the age of your home or your location, there are steps you can and should take to protect your home from thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding and hail. Evaluate your roof Shingles, gabled roofs and other roof materials and types can be retrofitted with trusses, sheathing and other solutions to help strengthen against hurricane winds and heavy rain. Reinforce doors, windows and shutters Head- and foot-bolted doors, impact-resistant windows and specially manufactured shutters help limit storm damage. Ask your local hardware store for advice on products that fit the needs of weather risks in your area. Check for leaks Heavy rain can make a slow leak a big problem – fast. Inspect plumbing water lines for leaks, damage or corrosion, and make sure you know where your shut-off valves for the main water supply are located in the event of an emergency. Make a family plan Designate a safe meeting spot, away from windows and on the bottom floor, and stock it with a battery-powered radio, non-perishable food, water, flashlights and other emergency equipment. Evacuate safely Make sure you know your evacuation route and what to pack. Before you leave, unplug appliances to avoid a fire hazard, bring in patio furniture and other loose items, and park secondary cars in the garage if possible.

Real Estate: Maintain a Dry Home During the Spring Melt

There’s a lot to look forward to as the ice melts, but also some important things to remember. Below, tips on how to keep your home dry as winter melts into spring.
 
Know what’s covered.
Whether it’s from melted snow or broken pipes, not all policies guard against unexpected leaks, and those leaks can mean expensive repairs.
 
Stay balanced.
Excess moisture in the home relates in part to outside humidity, but temperature and other factors play a role. Learn more about balancing your home’s moisture here.
 
Check for mold.
In addition to water damage, the presence of mold can create health risks, including allergic and respiratory issues.
 
Prevent damage while you are away.
Some of the most common water damage issues occur while owners are away. Make sure you shut off the main valve, check your gutters and follow a few other key steps.
 
 
Home Moisture Checklist:
Taking these simple steps can help avoid costly water damage.
  • Avoid pointing sprinklers or hoses toward the house to keep water from seeping in at the foundation.
  • Check for leaks around windows and doors, especially corners.
  • Check your roof. Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents.
  • Check for leaking faucets, dripping or “sweating” pipes, clogged drains, and faulty water drainage systems.
  • Act quickly – if a pipe bursts, turn off the water.
  • If a natural disaster hits, board up windows as soon as it is safe to help prevent additional water damage
 
 
 
 

Real Estate: Happy Spring!

Happy Early Spring!  After the long, cold winter, it is a blessing to see some moderating temperatures.    As many of you know, North Carolina has a mandatory revaluation procedure that each county assessor must conduct a minimum of once every eight years.  Regardless of whether you own real estate in Mecklenburg County (where the revaluation notices were recently mailed) or whether you are updating your asset statement, you need to conduct an annual evaluation of real estate you own.   If you own real estate in Mecklenburg County, you need to confirm your new assessed value is correct.  If it is too high, there is a formal appeal process you may initiate via the instructions on your assessment notice.  That process will require that you defend your position and value.  Here is where we can help…   We offer two options in assisting you to determine the current value of your real estate.  First, we are happy to prepare a “Comparative Market Analysis” which will show recent nearby sales of similar properties.  This “CMA” provides an opinion of value based on the comparables.  It is a report you are free to present during the appeal process.   Second, we offer you a tool on our website that will allow you to do your own research.  Our website has over 12 months of recent sales and is very easy to navigate using the following simple steps:  
  1. Go to www.(LEEANNMILLER.com) and click the option for “Tate Map Interactive Search”.  Once the map opens, read the instructions on the welcome page, then close the instructions window.
  2. Once you see the map tool, note there is a panel that slides in and out on the left side.  At the bottom of the panel, there is a place for you to insert an address.  Type your address in the format indicated and click the star.
  3. All nearby for-sale homes are represented by red push pins.  More importantly, all nearby recent sales are represented by the slate colored push pins.
  4. As you hover over the push pins, a balloon display will appear – note you can click the “View Details” option from the balloon to see all of the information about any home.
  We hope you find the map tool helpful and if you are interested in a CMA, please feel free to call us at (704-896-5141). We are happy to help you every year with the important evaluation!   Sincerely, The Lee Ann Miller Team

Real Estate: 3 Questions You Must Answer Before Buying a Home

  If you are thinking about purchasing a home right now, you are surely getting a lot of advice. And most of that advice is probably negative. Why buy now with prices still falling? Don’t you realize real estate is no longer a good investment? Don’t you know that people who bought five years ago lost their shirt? We understand the concern your friends and family have. However, let’s look at whether or not now is actually the perfect time to buy a home. There are three questions you should ask before purchasing in today’s market: 1. Why should I buy if house prices are still depreciating? We believe that in most parts of the country prices will in fact soften in 2011. Price is the major concern for anyone selling a home. When you are buying, COST should be your primary concern however. Your monthly payment (cost) is definitely impacted by the price of the home you purchase. The other major component is the interest rate. Waiting for prices to bottom out while rates are increasing can wind up costing you more over the life of the mortgage. Over the last seven weeks, rates have increased over 1/2 a point going from 4.17 to 4.86. Looking at the attached chart shows this increase. Waiting for prices to bottom out seems to make perfect sense. Yet, at a time when rates are increasing, it might NOT make sense. Make sure you have a mortgage professional help you with this math before making a decision. In an article last week CNN Money reported: “You can kiss those record lows goodbye,” said Greg McBride, chief economist for Bankrate.com. Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates, a provider of mortgage information said that the market reached a new plateau. “I don’t think we’re going back to a 50-year low anytime soon without an economic collapse,” he said. “Rates will probably never revisit those levels.” 2. When will I begin to see appreciation if I buy now? This is a great question. Macro Markets, LLC is a company that studies housing prices. They started their Home Price Expectation Survey in 2010.  They ask 100+ housing industry experts to project housing prices through 2015. The most current survey shows that the experts are predicting prices to soften until 2012. The experts then project prices to rise reaching a cumulative appreciation of over 10% by 2015. Purchasing a home today makes great sense from a financial standpoint. Think of the old axiom: You want to buy low and sell high. We may be at the low point regarding the COST of a home. But, this decision should not only be a financial one. That leads us to our third and final question: 3. Why am I buying a home in the first place? This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with finances. The Fannie Mae National Housing Survey shows that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money:
  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of the space
What non-financial benefits will you and your family derive from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the reason whether you decide to purchase or not. Bottom Line The COST of a home will probably remain relatively unchanged even if prices continue to depreciate. Don’t allow money to get in the way of you making the right decision for you and your family. In the long run, the finances will work in your favor anyway. by The KCM Crew

Real Estate Market-Mecklenburg County: New Property Revaluations Are In…

Now let the fun begin! On February 8th, many home owners received their new property revaluations and the results vary depending on where you live. We figured that everyone in Mecklenburg County is going to have questions about the new revaluation of their property. So, we added a couple of helpful links to get you started.  Go to www.reval.charmeck.org  for questions and also on  www.charmeck.org there is a good video about the appeal process. We are already hearing that some people are happy and some definitely not!!!! Please call us with any questions and we will he happy to try to help. –The Lee Ann Miller Team

Real Estate Tips: Cutting Costs In 2011- Start At Home

Many Americans have resolved to cut costs in 2011. One of the best places to start is in your home. There are several low‐cost ways to create significant savings on your utility bills throughout the lifetime of your home. 
  • Check for leaks. Cold air seeping in through your doors and windows and weak spots in your insulation can have a huge impact on your energy costs. Test for these issues by taking infrared images, conducting a blower door test, or simply locating cool air by touch. You can save 10 percent on your energy bill by plugging air leaks with caulking, sealing or weather stripping.
  • Upgrade your attic insulation. This simple, inexpensive solution can reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. The recommended insulation level is 12‐15 inches, depending on the insulation type.
  • Take a close look at your windows. Windows can also account for 10‐25 percent of your heating bill in the winter and can kick your air conditioner into overdrive in the summer by letting sunlight in. Consider installing energy-efficient windows to help block solar heat. If that’s not in your budget, simply modifying your window treatments with thicker or longer curtains can also help lower bills too.
  • Upgrade your appliances. Swapping out all appliances isn’t realistic for most homeowners, but if you’re in the market for a new washer, dryer or fridge, consider an Energy Star product.
  • Check your filters. Dirty filters slow down airflow, making your system work harder to keep your home warm or cool. Clean filters also prevent dust and dirt buildup – an issue that can lead to expensive repairs or system replacement. Filters should be replaced every three months.
  • Swap old light bulbs for new, energy‐efficient ones. Energy‐efficient light bulbs require much less power to provide the same amount of light for a much longer time.

Real Estate Tips: Top Moving Scams – Do You Know What They Are?…

Whether you are moving across the street or across the country, it is in your best interest to do your homework. Below, is a list of the top scams and helpful tips to protect you against your next move.
  • BLIND ESTIMATE– This is when the moving company gives you a quote sight-unseen. Not a great way to start. Sure the estimate may sound good but beware…it is usually to good to be true. Most estimates are based on miles, weight of belongings and amount of space items take up in the moving truck.
  • GLANCE & DASH– This is when a moving estimator does a quick walk-thru of your home and doesn’t throughly check cabinets, closets, etc… or take a lot of notes and then leaves to write-up an estimate. Again, this quote will be off but it may sound good to you. A good estimator will ask lots of questions, look in closets and cabinets, plus take lots of notes. Some questions may be “are you planning on moving the food in your pantry?” Are you having a sale or donating items to help lighten the load?’
  • DEPOSIT PLEASE– Reputable movers will NOT demand large deposits or cash up front. So please be wary of this. Generally, you pay upon delivery. This helps keep the control in your court in case items go missing or get damaged during the move. If you did pay up front, you gave up your control. Don’t forget when you do pay, use a credit card that will help protect against fraudulent activity.
  • NAME GAME– Some companies figured out a way around the Better Business Bureau by constantly changing their name of business. So when you select your company, make sure it has a local address, current licensing & insurance, plus try to get 3 references (call them). Another tip, make sure when you call the company that they answer with the full company name and not “moving service” or something else generic.
  • PACK UP THE COSTS- When it comes to packing, the biggest decision is what to do? Usually, if you do the packing of your belongings, the mover isn’t responsible for any damages to them. However, if you let the moving company pack, lookout for over inflated prices on boxes and other packing materials, plus time and labor. Most moving companies are careful but there are others that will just throw whatever they can fit into a box and seal it up.
  • ADDITIONAL FEES– Got stairs? or moving to a house that does? Well, expect an extra charge. Moving to a penthouse apartment? Again, expect an extra charge. Live on a narrow street that won’t fit a large moving truck? Expect a surcharge fee for the transfer of your belongings to a smaller truck for delivery.
  • INSURANCE– All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of goods that they transport. However, there are two different levels you can get and you should be aware of the charges that apply and the amount of protection for each.
             FULL REPLACEMENT VALUE PROTECTION: This plan provides the most protection to your belongings. However, there will be an additional fee for this protection and may vary from mover to mover. With this plan, any article lost, destroyed or damaged while in mover’s custody, your mover will, at their choice, either (1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover or pay you for the cost of such repairs; (2) replace the article with an article of like kind and quality or pay you the cost of such replacement. Ask your mover for more specific details about this plan.              ALTERNATIVE LEVEL of LIABILITY: Most economical protection with no additional fee but minimal protection for your belongings. With this plan, the mover assumes the liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. Loss or damaged claims are based on the pound weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents. So lets say you have a 50 pound flat screen tv, valued at $1200 and it was lost or destroyed, the mover is liable for no more than $30.00 (50 pounds x 60 cents). So think long and hard about this option of protection. Be prepared to sign a specific statement on the movers bill of lading agreeing to this coverage but you will not be charged an extra fee.
  • FILL IN THE BLANK- Most people know this but don’t ever, ever sign a blank contract of any kind. It doesn’t matter that you got along well with moving company or you really like them. It should be common sense not to sign a blank contract. You should get a s much as you can in writing (estimate,additional fees, delivery date, pick up date, etc…).
  • THE LIST – Read your contract from top to bottom and make sure you have all your belongings listed. If you dont’ see an item on the inventory form and you signed before the delivery driver took off, then don’t expect that item to be in the box when he arrives. You can’t file a claim for something that didn’t exist on the inventory form. Never be satisfied with a box that is labeled as “kitchen stuff” or “office supplies” on the inventory list either. The more specific the better off you are.
  • MOVING CONTRACT– Federal Law requires one of two kinds of moving contracts: binding and non-binding. Binding contract is supposed to be a guaranteed price for the move with all the extras and services. A non-binding  contract means the company cannot require payment of more than 10 percent above the orignal estimate & is due within 30 days of delivery. However, always read the fine print! There is usually an exception with weight.
HELPFUL TIPS
  • Give as much information as you can about your belongings so there won’t be any surprises later for you or the moving company. For instance, if you plan on getting a new mattress before you move or you sold some items that don’t need to be included in quote).
  • Do an online search for the moving company you want to use. You should be able to find any complaints or praises for that company. You can also call the government’s consumer complaints hotline (1-888-368-7238)
  • Realtor knows the best moving companies in town but you can also ask friends and family for referrals. The American Moving and Storage Association and State Associations of Movers are also great resources to get a list of reliable moving companies local and national.
  • By federal law, movers are required to give you a booklet “Your Right and Responsibilities When You Move” when in the planning stages of your move and not after everything is packed up. If the moving company you selected did not offer one, choose another mover.
  • Under the Full Replacement Value Protection, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, UNLESS you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is defined as any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (jewelry, furs, antiques, fine china, oriental rugs, etc…).
  • It’s a good idea to open each box and go through it while movers are unloading the rest of your belongings. Make a note of any damage to the mover’s copy of bill of lading before you sign off. The moving company has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim. A good rule of thumb is to take pictures. Before and after proof makes it harder for the movers to deny any damages.
We hope this information has been helpful to you and that you are  well-informed the next time you make your move. If you have any questions, please give us a call. Source:Realtor.com 2010