10 ways to winterize your home — now

So you’ve pulled your sweaters out of mothballs and found your mittens at the bottom of the coat closet. But what about your house — is it prepared for the cold months ahead?

You’ll be a lot less comfortable in the coming months if you haven’t girded Home Sweet Home for Old Man Winter.

With the help of several experts, we’ve boiled down your autumn to-do list to 10 easy tips:

1. Clean those gutters  
Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home’s gutters — by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse — so that winter’s rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house, the Insurance Information Institute says.
As you’re hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house’s foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.

“The rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house,” says Michael Broili, the director of the Well Home Program for the Phinney Neighborhood Association, a nationally recognized neighborhood group in Seattle.

2. Block those leaks
One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.

Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, says Danny Lipford, host of the nationally syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner.” Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. “Even if it’s a small crack, it’s worth sealing up,” Lipford says. “It also discourages any insects from entering your home.”

3. Insulate yourself
“Another thing that does cost a little money — but boy, you do get the money back quick — is adding insulation to the existing insulation in the attic,” says Lipford. “Regardless of the climate conditions you live in, in the (U.S.) you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic.”

Don’t clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. Here’s Lipford’s rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: “If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don’t have enough, because a ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches.”

A related tip: If you’re layering insulation atop other insulation, don’t use the kind that has “kraft face” finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier, Lipford explains, and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation.

4. Check the furnace
First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it’s even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.

It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125. An inspector should do the following, among other things:

Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters; reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.

5. Get your ducts in a row
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That’s a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.)

Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn’t stand up to the job over time).

Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.

6. Face your windows
Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows. But if you don’t have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or drafty, “They need to be updated to a more efficient window,” says Lipford.

Of course, windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Lipford and Broili recommend. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that’s affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) “It’s temporary and it’s not pretty, but it’s inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it’s extremely effective,” says Lipford.

7. Don’t forget the chimney
Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because “chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed,” says Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

That said, don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, Eldridge advises. “A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year,” says Eldridge. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year, he adds. “I’ve seen tennis balls and ducks in chimneys,” he says.

Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney, Eldridge says. “Most certified chimney sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep,” he adds.

Woodstoves are a different beast, however, cautions Eldridge. They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, “anywhere that it’s found.” Why? “If it’s ash, then it’s primarily lye — the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it’s very acidic.” It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot, Eldridge says.

Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen, advises Eldridge. “It’s probably the single easiest protection” because it keeps out foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the ash and eat away at the fireplace’s walls. He advises buying based on durability, not appearance.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn’t in use.

Check out CSIA’S Web site for a list of certified chimney sweeps in your area.

8. Reverse that fan
“Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think of,” says Lipford. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise, says Lipford.)

9. Wrap those pipes
A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained, says Broili. In climes such as Portland, Ore., or Seattle, where freezing nights aren’t commonplace, you can install Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots, says Broili.

Next, go looking for other pipes that aren’t insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces — pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you’re really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.

10. Finally, check those alarms
This is a great time to check the operation — and change the batteries — on your home’s smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them — older ones in particular — with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the “test” button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

By Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate

Washtenaw County Home Values On The Rise

Information provided by the Ann Arbor Board of Realtors which includes data pulled from the Realtor MLS ( or multiple listing service ) is showing a positive swing for Washtenaw County homeowners.

The busy spring market has continued through the summer, with July sales of all property types up 14 percent, compared to last year.  Sales of residential properties are up 6.6 percent over last year with 353 units sold.  98 condos were sold in July, an increase of 46 percent over July 2011.

Year-to-date sales of all property types are up almost 7 percent compared to last year, posting 2.535 sales, compared to 2,374 last year.  The average residential sales price is $237,796 for July, an increase of 12 percent over the average sales price of $212,663 in July 2011.  The average year-to-date residential sales price is $208,785, an increase of 9.1 percent over last year at this time.

WHY ITS A GREAT TIME FOR YOU TO LIST YOUR HOME: 

Inventory for all property types of declined by 10 percent; from 664 in July 2011 to 596 in July 2012.  Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist, noted that “inventory nationwide continues to shrink and that is limiting buying opportunities.  This, in turn, is pushing up home prices in many markets,” he said.  “The price improvement also results from fewer distressed homes in the sales mix.”

The chart below compares last years homes listed for sale to this years homes listed for the month of July for the following areas: Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Whitmore Lake, Saline, Lincoln consolidated, Milan, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

 

I have been stressing this to potential clients for many months now, buyers need more homes to choose from.  With my experience and knowledge Contact me to discuss marketing, updating and listing your home.

If you are a buyer please use this link to search for you new home.

 

9 Ways to Make a Kitchen Look Swank for Less Costs for even relatively moderate kitchen redos can run well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Here are a few ways to enhance this focal point of a home on a budget[…]

Cost vs. Value survey, the average price of an upscale kitchen redo hovers about $113,000. Even the cost of a mid-range overhaul is a whopping $58,000.

However, sellers are rarely willing to invest the kind of time and money it takes to do that kind of remodeling job, especially one they’ll barely use before they move. But there are affordable alternatives to make this much-used gathering spot more appealing, both aesthetically and functionally. Here arenine easy-to-implement, easy-to-copy ideas for you to share with sellers and buyers. Tell them to try one, two, or perhaps all of them!

▪ Reuse existing elements in the kitchen when possible. “We try to take a hard look before we start any renovation to see what can be salvaged,” says architect Talia Braude, AIA, LEED AP, whose firm Braude Pankiewicz Architects is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. For example, when Braude found floor joists that were too damaged to be structurally sound, she reused them as kitchen shelves, for which they worked perfectly.

▪ Go with affordable cabinets, possibly a line with simple maple, cherry, or oak rather than exotic imported wood or lacquered fronts. Also, opt for pressed rather than solid wood interiors and shelves to pare costs. Because cabinets often represent 50 percent to 60 percent of a remodeled kitchen’s cost, saving here brings down the price, says Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s “Home Expert” based in Chicago. But if possible, spend a bit more on quality hardware that will eliminate wear and tear when opening and closing doors and drawers. One good place to start looking for affordable cabinets is at IKEA, says Braude, which her client Orli Belman did when remodeling a kitchen in her Los Angeles home. Belman saved even more by purchasing cabinets during IKEA’s kitchen sale. Other alternatives include replacing the doors (and reselling the old ones), or repaint cabinets with a product like Ace Hardware’s Cabinet, Door & Trim Paint, an alkyd-based semi-gloss finish that yields a smooth, factory-like finish.

▪ Appliances are another huge cost factor in redoing a kitchen, and stainless-steel name brands are among the biggest offenders. Besides opting for less expensive black-and-white fronts and going with cheaper brands, Web sites like Craigslist and Overstock are good resources for new or little-used items others are trying to get rid of. Belman went those routes and found a double oven and refrigerator drawers on Craigslist, each for $400, when a construction project stalled. She estimates each would have cost about $3,000 retail. She also found an inexpensive but good faucet at Costco and discontinued Martha Stewart light fixtures on another Web site.

▪ Changing a countertop or several can add an instant fresh look, but instead of replacing them with high-end granite, marble, or manmade quartzes, Manfredini suggests covering tired laminate tops with RustOleum’s highly durable Countertop Transformation product, a three-part system that transforms them into look-alike granites in five different colors. Belman also found affordable butcher-block tops at IKEA.

 A new backsplash can make a huge difference, and there are many self-adhesive tiles that are easy to install for DIY consumers, including those with the hot metal look in vintage or modern patterns and a host of sizes, shapes, and colors, Manfredini says. Savvy home owners also should consider contacting manufacturers, many of which offer overstocked goods for far less. For instance, Heath Ceramics has been known to sell them for 75 percent off retail at its factory showroom in Sausalito, Calif.

▪ New lighting is one of the easiest switches to make and offers a big payback since it can make a kitchen look larger and highlight its best features, from a great island to kitchen table to new backsplash. Advise homeowners to locate new lighting under cabinets where main tasks are performed, within cabinets, especially glass-fronted ones, to show off cabinets and attractive contents, and over a dining table or island where one great fixture will shine, literally. When possible, opt for compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs to conserve energy, even though the initial price is higher. And if the bulb’s compatible with dimmers, it’s a great way to vary moods.

▪ Though replacing an entire floor can be costly, time-consuming, and expensive, there are handsome options that will last and won’t break the bank. Durable and affordable options include Marmoleum, a sustainable linoleum, which no longer resembles what your parents or grandparents had but comes in hot colors and textures; old-growth bamboo that’s denser than new variations; and cork, another natural material that’s easily repairable if dings (or worse) occur. If a room is partly remodeled, often the floor can be saved with patching and restaining rather than replacing all of it, Braude says.

▪ Buyers should consider redoing the layout if it doesn’t work, then save elsewhere rather than the reverse, Braude advises. If they install all new cabinets and appliances, but keep the same old, poorly functioning kitchen plan, they probably won’t be pleased. It’s better for them to gain a new layout and budget elsewhere — maybe keep cabinets — and later replace them, she says.

▪ Even when budgeting, home owners shouldn’t forget to add in one or two splurges for a focal point and some kind of “wow” element to raise the level of the renovation, even if it’s a budget one, Braude says. Examples include handcrafted tiles with beautiful finishes, colors, and patterns, and a great island countertop, perhaps fashioned from a gorgeous CaesarStone as Belman and her husband chose to add.

1st to Know – Sign up to receive current homes for sale

You can get information on new or existing listings faster, smarter and more personalized by receiving info on only what you ask for and accessing it wherever you are with any of our 1st to Know tools: email, text, phone, mobile web, & iPhone.

1st to Know email is a service that searches properties from any company in all our MLSs each day and provides you with e-mail updates if there are any new listings, open houses, or price reductions meeting your search criteria…making you the 1st to Know. 1st to Know puts you at an advantage in this competitive buyer’s market. This information is the most current, complete and accurate since it’s never more than 24 hours old and it’s letting you know via email right away of any new opportunities. If you are new to 1st to Know email service, CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Track Market Activity: Monitor up to five (5) desired areas for new listings, price changes, open houses, sales and current list prices. 1st to Know allows you to customize areas of interest and view your market, market changes and statistics instantly.

Save Searches: Save custom searches and receive email alerts when new properties match your search criteria, including new listings, price changes and sales. 1st to Know’s home page allows you to view your searches and results at your convenience.

Save and Rate Your Favorite Properties: Save and rate your favorite properties, including the opportunity to share comments on your favorites and more.

Set Target Prices for Properties: Set target prices for active listings of interest and receive immediate email alerts when the price of the listing reaches or drops below your target price.

Receive Recommendations: If you work with a Real Estate One Agent or request one, you may receive property recommendations direct to your 1st to Know account.

NEW! 1st to Know tools to use when on the road to search and view properties on your MOBILE phone:

1st to Know phone:
Listen to details about any home and receive text messages and pictures on your phone: Dial 800-840-5555 — Press 1 — Enter the HOUSE NUMBER (even if listed by another company)

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Access any of our Web sites from your phone’s internet browser where you’ll be directed to our mobile friendly site: www.mihome.mobi. You can view property details from the text messages sent from the 1st to Know: text & phone programs by just clicking the link provided in text message.

1st to Know iPhone: To use our property search app designed for your iPhone: Go to iTunes Apps and search for “Real Estate One” to download our app or click here.

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If you are already using 1st to Know email and working with one our agents, you can register for 1st to Know text & phone after logging into your account. Registering allows your agent to help you when you have questions about any property you are viewing.

Latest Homestead Tax Information

A picture of the MAR logo 

Legislation Signed by the Governor
5/1/2012
Today, Governor Snyder signed legislation providing homebuyers a fair process when it comes to their property taxes.
Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Senator Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell) creates two Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) filing dates; one on June 1st, and the other on November 1st.  Additionally, this legislation allows bank-owned properties to retain their PRE so that buyers can qualify at the lower rate of taxation. This is particularly important since foreclosures have flooded the market in recent years.
Below are a few FAQ’s regarding the new law:
1.     Does the legislation take effect this year?
A.   Yes. The new law moves current May 1st PRE filing deadline to June 1st of this year.
2.     How does it work?
A.   If a homebuyer purchases a Principal Residence and closes on or before June 1st, they can take advantage of a significant tax break by filing for a Principal Residence Exemption.
3.     When is the additional filing date?
A.      November 1st. This allows for tax relief in those communities that still collect a portion, if not all of their non-homestead mills, on the December tax bill.
4.     If my client buys after June 1st this year, what can they expect?
A.   If a homebuyer purchases a home after the June 1st filing deadline, and their local tax authority collects all non-homestead mills on the spring tax bill, their property taxes may not reflect the exemption until the next tax bill. If however that local tax authority collects a portion of the non-homestead mills on the winter tax billing cycle, the homebuyer can file for a PRE before the November 1st and exempt themselves from any non-homestead mills collected on the December bill.
 5.     What about the foreclosure provisions?
A.   Banks have the option of maintaining the home’s Principal Residence status by filing a Conditional Rescission.  By maintaining this exemption status, it’s the expectation that borrowers will be able to qualify for financing on these foreclosed properties at the PRE rate and begin paying the lower rate of taxation as soon as they move into the home. To make up for the lost school revenue, banks will be assessed a newly defined tax that will keep the 18 mills (which they presently pay on any foreclosed property) when a property can no longer qualify as a principle residence. It is important for those REALTORS® working with bank clients to let lenders know about the change and communicate the benefit of filing a Conditional Rescission.

Types Of Zoning

KEEP IN MIND: Zoning categories and symbols vary among communities. A C-1 zone in one city is not necessarily the same as a C-1 in another. Typically, jurisdictions use letters of the alphabet as code abbreviations to identify the use allowed in a physical geographic area — such as R for residential, C for commercial, and I for industrial. These symbols are usually paired with some number. The number can specify the level of use, or it may indicate a certain amount of acreage or square footage for that particular property.

Residential Zoning Residential zoning can include Single Family Residences (SFR), Suburban Homestead (SH), or any number of other designation which cover homes, apartments, duplex, trailer parks, co-ops, and condominiums. Residential zoning can cover issues such as whether mobile homes can be placed on property, and the number of structures allowed on certain property.

Zoning laws typically limit the type of animals allowed at a residence. Domestic pets such as dogs, birds, and cats are generally not regulated, but chickens, sheep, horses, llamas, pigs, and cows are subject to certain requirements. Many ordinances prohibit keeping these farm animals in residential neighborhoods. Others limit the number of animals based on the size of the property.

Zoning laws on home-based businesses can depend on the nature of the business, whether there are employees or business invitees, the hours of operation, signage, parking and delivery concerns, and noise issues. Some zoning ordinances prohibit all in-home businesses in residential areas. Others restrict the type of business and business hours, and may require separate parking and entrance facilities. Rules regarding home-based businesses for condominiums are typically even more restrictive than private residences.

Commercial Zoning Commercial zoning usually has several categories and is dependant upon the business use of the property, and often the number of business patrons. Office buildings, shopping centers, nightclubs, hotels, certain warehouses, some apartment complexes — as well as vacant land that has the potential for development into these types of buildings — can all be zoned as commercial. Almost any kind of real estate (other than single-family home and single-family lots) can be considered commercial real estate.

The availability of parking may affect the type of commercial zoning that is permitted. Additionally, there can be rules regarding the proximity of certain types of businesses to others. Many zoning laws prohibit or restrict adult entertainment establishments to a certain geographical area. Others bar such establishments within a certain distance of existing schools or churches.

Industrial Zoning Like commercial zoning, industrial zoning can be specific to the type of business. Environmental factors including noise concerns usually are issues in determining into which industrial level a business falls. Manufacturing plants and many storage facilities have industrial zoning. Certain business — such as airports — may warrant their own designation.

Industrial zoning is often dependent upon the amount of lot coverage (which is the land area covered by all buildings on a lot) and building height. Additionally, set-back requirements are higher for industrial zoned properties.

Agricultural Zoning Agricultural zoning is generally used by communities that are concerned about maintaining the economic viability of their agricultural industry. Agricultural zoning typically limits the density of development and restricts non-farm uses of the land. In many agricultural zoning ordinances, the density is controlled by setting a large minimum lot size for a residential structure. Densities may vary depending upon the type of agricultural operation. Agricultural zoning can protect farming communities from becoming fragmented by residential development. In many states, agricultural zoning is necessary for federal voluntary incentive programs, subsidy programs, and programs that provide for additional tax abatements.

Rural Zoning The “rural” zoning designation is often used for farms or ranches. In certain parts of the country, this designation will include residences zoned to allow horses or cattle.

Combination Zoning Any number of zoning designations can be combined to form some sort of combination zone, many of which are unique to the community adopting the particular designation.

Historic Zoning Homes and buildings over fifty years old are often included in historic zones. These zones have regulations which prevent the alteration of the structures from the original conditions, although there are allowances for repair and restoration in keeping with the historic plan. Frequently, buildings in these areas can qualify for governmental tax incentives.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in U. S. history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U. S. Department of the Interior. The National Register accepts applications for buildings, which meet certain specific historic requirements.
Brought to you by: http://realestate.findlaw.com/zoning/types-of-zoning.html

ZONING ABBREVIATIONS
CODE DESCRIPTION
AE Agriculture Estate
AG Agriculture
C-1 Commercial, Neighborhood
C-2 Commercial, General, Light
C-3 Commercial, General
C-4 Commercial, Intensive
CPO Commercial, Professional Offices
GU Government Use
IH Industrial, Heavy
IL Industrial, Light
MI Mining
PUD Planned Unit Development
R-1 Residential, Single-Family
R-1A Residential, Single-Family
R-1HA Residential, Single-Family
R-2 Residential, Mixed
R-2HA Residential, Mixed
R-3 Residential, Multiple-Family
R-4 Residential, Multiple-Family
RE Residential, Single-Family Estate
RMH Residential Mobile Homes

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