Saturday, January 30, 2016

Considering Kitchen Layouts

Considering Kitchen Layouts: What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?
The single-guy-who-nukes-his-dinner-every-night crowd probably doesn't care about a good kitchen. To the rest of us, the kitchen can make or break a real estate deal. To a lot of people a kitchen isn't just a room in which to prepare meals. It's a homework area, a place to sit with a neighbor over a cup of coffee, and, in the case of the country kitchen, an area where the family gathers to share the day's stories. If you're not that single guy with a microwave, evaluating kitchens will be an important aspect of your house hunt.

Classic Kitchen Design: The Work Triangle

One element of classic kitchen design remains constant throughout the years: the work triangle. The triangle's three points are the refrigerator, the oven and the sink, and its purpose is to ensure efficiency and good traffic flow.
To picture the triangle, consider how you work in the kitchen. When preparing a meal you move between the refrigerator, the stove and the sink. Good kitchen design places these elements in a triangle. Which element is at the apex of the triangle depends on the kitchen's layout. There are four distinct kitchen layouts, and within each of them the work triangle remains a constant: the galley, the "L" shape, the "U" shape and the "G" shape or peninsula.
Within the kitchen triangle there should be an area for food preparation, such as a cutting block, counter or island.
While the work triangle is a well-known aspect of kitchen design, many kitchen layouts either ignore it or have a deeply flawed triangle. When you're looking at a kitchen, keep the work triangle in mind. Even small kitchen layouts can be functional and practical if the work triangle is properly integrated.

Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets play a dual role in the kitchen. They are both functional and, hopefully, decorative. Deep cabinets are ideal for storage of seldom-used and oversized items, while shallow cabinets work best for small, frequently used items, such as spices. When viewing a house you're considering purchasing, take a look inside each kitchen cabinet with an eye toward whether it will accommodate your kitchen equipment.
The location of kitchen cabinets is also important. You should be able to reach the pantry and cooking supplies without having to deviate from the kitchen work triangle.

Kitchen Design Extras

A number of features are wonderful surprises when house hunting, even if they're not essential to kitchen layouts:
  • Breakfast nooks
  • Fridges and dishwashers disguised by cabinetry
  • Garbage disposal units
  • Kitchen islands
  • Recessed lighting
  • Big pantries

Lighting can Enhance Kitchen Layouts

Avid cooks understand the importance of good lighting in the kitchen. Homebuyers, on the other hand, seem to give it a cursory glance. If you cook, even if it's just family meals, good lighting is essential. Turn on the lights – all of them. Try to picture the room as it will be at night, while you're cooking dinner. If the light is insufficient, is there a way to add more light? Some of the big-box department and import stores carry inexpensive under-counter lighting that you can install with just a screwdriver.

4 Common Roofing Choices for Your Home

4 Common Roofing Choices for Your Home
Although often overlooked, a roof is one of the most critical elements of your home. If you're in the market to replace an old roof, or planning to build a new one, you have several common roofing types to choose from. Here's what you need to consider when comparing four popular roofing choices.

Asphalt Shingles

Easy to work with, modern asphalt shingles come in a wide variety of colors and styles. The traditional three-tab asphalt shingle – a form of strip asphalt shingles – still outsells newer architectural asphalt shingles, a thicker, heavier shingling that provides a rich, sculptured look to your roof. Premium asphalt shingles, sometimes referred to as laminated shingles, are distinctive in appearance. These shingles may look like "old world" shingles such as shake or slate. Premium shingles are generally more energy efficient and offer longer warranties (typically anywhere from 5 to 50 years depending on the asphalt shingle style).
Benefits: The advantages of asphalt shingles as a group include low initial cost, ease of installation and repair, fire resistance and the fact that they are DIY friendly. Additionally, if only one shingle is damaged or missing, you can generally perform a spot repair rather than replacing the entire roof. Some asphalt shingles offer mold, moss and algae resistance, and you can coat asphalt with treatments to seal and protect it.
Drawbacks: Asphalt is generally a short-lived roofing material. It also requires a lot of maintenance and is environmentally unfriendly, with premium asphalt shingles more efficient than the others.
Conclusion: While a good value, if you don't want to repair or replace shingles torn in storms or replace the roofing in the coming years, asphalt may not be the choice for you.

Metal Roofing

Benefits: With a typical life expectancy of at least 50 to 100 years, chances are good your metal roof will outlive most any other roof around. Metal is also fire retardant, so you'll never have to worry about any fire spreading to your home via the roof. Lightweight, with a variety of colors and styles, metal roofing is also environmentally friendly since it's energy efficient and recyclable. You can also install metal roofing over existing roofs, eliminating the need to tear off the existing material.
Drawbacks: Metal roofing is expensive. A low-end metal roofing product is at least twice as expensive as asphalt and most other roofing choices, and at the top end it may be four times as much – generally more expensive than any other selection but slate stone. Metal is also more difficult to install, which may discourage DIY homeowners. Some metal roofs may require periodic painting.
Conclusion: Because it is wind, storm and damage resistant, metal roofing is superior to most roofing products in terms of protection and energy savings. While more expensive initially, it will save money over time.

Wood Roofing

Typically made of cedar, wood roofing includes both wood shakes and wood shingles. What's the difference? A shake is rougher, thicker, and generally lasts longer. A shingle, on the other hand, is smoother, thinner, and more vulnerable to damage.
Benefits: In addition to a fairly good life expectancy, wood roofing is generally considered easy to maintain and repair. Wood roofing also allows you to choose nontraditional patterns such as V-cut and fish-scale patterns.
Drawbacks: Wood roofing costs more than asphalt, although less than some other choices. Wood shakes and shingles can also be time-consuming. Plan to inspect your roof at least once a year and to apply a preservative every few years to maintain your roof in the best condition. Wood is not fire resistant and it's vulnerable to storm damage.
Conclusion: Nothing beats wood in appearance, and a wood roof will age beautifully. If you live in a very humid area where mold is likely to grow on the wood or in an area vulnerable to fires, wood may not be the best choice. Some areas even ban wood roofs.

Concrete Tile

You may have seen a concrete tile roof and never even realized it. With a variety of colors and styles, a concrete tile roof (sometimes called cement tile) may even look like it was made from slate or clay, without the weight those choices entail.
Benefits: No doubt about it, concrete roofs are tough. Hail won't dent it, and winds won't blow the concrete away. Concrete tile also helps insulate the roof and may last longer than 30 years. During its life you can expect little to no maintenance.
Drawbacks: Concrete tiles are expensive – at least three times greater than the cost of asphalt and comparable to the more expensive metal choices – and difficult to install. Professional installation is recommended.
Conclusion: If the cost isn't prohibitive, a concrete tile roof may be the best choice for you.
When comparing roofing options, balance the cost, vulnerabilities and desirable features of each in order to select the roofing material that best suits your situation.
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Inside the Mortgage Forecast

TransUnion's 2016 Forecast Expects Consumer Credit Markets to Complete Recovery
TransUnion's 2016 mortgage and credit card forecasts predict that the consumer lending market will have fully recovered by the end of next year from both the mortgage crisis and the ensuing Great Recession that concluded more than six years ago.
TransUnion forecasts the national mortgage loan serious delinquency rate (the ratio of borrowers 60 or more days past due) will decline from 2.50 percent at the end of 2015 to 2.06 percent at the conclusion of 2016. Consumer level mortgage delinquency rates peaked in Q1 2010 at 6.94 percent and have been declining nearly every quarter since.
Credit card serious delinquency rates (the ratio of bankcard borrowers 90 days or more delinquent on one or more of their credit cards) are expected to conclude 2016 at 1.46 percent. This would mark the fourth consecutive year of delinquency rates just below 1.5 percent, a nearly 50 percent decline in delinquency rates from the end of 2009.
"Our forecast highlights that we are no longer in recovery - we have recovered from the Great Recession," said Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit.
"Both the mortgage and credit card markets are performing extremely well, with increased consumer participation and continued low delinquency rates. Millions of borrowers have gained access to credit card loans in just the past few years. And despite the fact that more consumers - and more non-prime consumers - are entering the housing market, delinquency levels have remained in check and balances are growing. This points to responsible lending practices and a consumer base that is clearly in a better position to make payments on their loans."

Inside the Mortgage Forecast

TransUnion's 2.06 percent projection for the year-end 2016 mortgage delinquency rate would place this metric in the range traditionally observed prior to the mortgage crisis. The mortgage delinquency rate has dropped on a yearly basis since reaching near-peak levels at the end of 2009.
"We have observed that a 'normal' delinquency rate fell between 1.5 and 2 percent in the past, and our forecast puts the nation back at this level," said Steve Chaouki, executive vice president and head of TransUnion's financial services business unit. "Newer vintage mortgage loans have been performing at this level for the last few years, but a combination of factors such as the funneling of bad mortgage loans through the foreclosure process, an improvement in the employment picture and an uptick in housing prices were needed to get back to normal."
Mortgage debt per borrower has also slowly gained in recent years, which is partly due to a rebound in housing prices. Debt levels are expected to experience a $9,000+ gain by the end of next year from the year-end low observed in 2012.
"This is a clear indicator that housing prices are recovering and consumers are gaining access to more mortgage loans," said Chaouki. "Fannie Mae’s recent announcement that it would use trended data in the assessment of mortgage applicants could also very well boost mortgage originations in the second half of 2016."
A previous TransUnion analysis found that with the use of trended data, the percentage of consumers in the super prime risk tier would increase from 12 percent of the population to 21 percent. Super prime consumers generally have the greatest access to new loans at the lowest pricing.
TransUnion data show that the number of mortgage accounts has remained relatively low for much of the last three years, though growth has been observed during the last two years. As of Q3 2015 (latest available data), there are 52.6 million mortgage accounts, approximately 7 million fewer than in Q3 2009 (59.6 million).
"We are a long way from returning to pre-recession levels in terms of mortgage accounts, but changing consumer preferences for housing also may play a role in this slow recovery," said Chaouki. "If the economy continues to perform well, we believe the net number of mortgages will increase over the next year."

Inside the Credit Card Forecast

The serious credit card delinquency rate is expected to remain at around 1.5 percent, the year-end levels observed for the last four years. As usual, seasonal movements will occur throughout the year, but consumers are expected to maintain their strong payment performance.
The credit card industry has been performing well even as it has extended credit to millions of additional consumers during the last few years. As of Q3 2015 there were 368.8 million credit card accounts - up from the 354.8 million figure from the same quarter last year. In Q3 2009, there were only 337.8 million credit card accounts.
Further increases in credit card account volume could occur in 2016 as more financial institutions utilize new, sophisticated alternative data solutions such as CreditVision Link, which has been shown to score more than 60 million traditional "no-hits" and unscorable records.
"As delinquency rates for credit cards remain low, lenders are making card credit increasingly more available to consumers across the risk spectrum," said Becker. "Those consumers are generally accepting those card offers, using that card credit and managing the debt responsibly. In short, these are the hallmarks of a credit market that is functioning extremely well."
Credit card debt per borrower is expected to remain essentially flat in 2016, moving from an estimated $5,281 in Q4 2015 to $5,262 in Q4 2016. These numbers are well below levels observed just after the Great Recession ($6,051 in Q4 2009).
While debt levels have dropped more than 10% since 2009, average credit lines have not changed much in the last six years, moving from $21,942 in Q3 2009 to $21,613 in Q3 2015. The biggest changes to credit lines have occurred with subprime consumers (those with a VantageScore® 3.0 credit score lower than 601). In Q3 2009, subprime consumers had $6,993 in available credit; this has now dropped to $5,136 as of Q3 2015.
"Credit card lenders manage their portfolio risks by limiting credit access for higher risk borrowers," said Becker. "Much of this risk management occurred between 2009 and 2012, but we've seen stabilization on this front for the last three years. As the economy continues to improve and credit card performance remains strong, it's quite possible consumers in the subprime risk group could see more credit opportunities in the near future."
For more insights, click here to visit TransUnion's financial services blog feed.

4 Ways to Cut Kitchen Clutter

 4 ways to cut kitchen clutter

4 Ways to Cut Kitchen Clutter
The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it's also home to a lot of clutter. Resolve to bring order to your kitchen once and for all with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Moen.
  1. You don't need a large pantry or countless cupboards and drawers to find the perfect spot for all your stuff. If you have blank space on the walls, consider adding a few open shelves. They provide plenty of storage while keeping everyday dishes and staples, like the coffee canister or cookie jar, within easy reach.
  2. The biggest pain point for homeowners is a lack of counter space. Instead of adding to the chaos, designate a specific "drop zone" for items that find their way into the kitchen each day, like mail, paperwork or electronics.
  3. Extend the "everything in its place" mentality to another kitchen staple: the dishtowel. Instead of leaving it in a damp heap on the counter, install a towel bar, towel ring or hook to the side of a cabinet or island to create a spot for it to hang. Not only will it free up space, but like in the bathroom or powder room, you'll always know where to look for it when you need it.
  4. If you have a pantry, go beyond simple shelves to make this area work better—and smarter—for you. Pullout baskets and shallow drawers will ensure your pantry offers a proper place for everything. Curved cradles can turn an ordinary shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine, water or soda bottles on their sides. And instead of wasting the space on the back of the door, install a slim, vertical storage system to provide a spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and other awkward-sized kitchen must-haves.                                                                   

The S&P/Case-Shiller Index is about 5% Below It’s 2006 Peak. Is it a good time to sell?

By Sergio Lucena PA

 Smart home Price

The S&P/Case-Shiller Index is about 5% Below It’s 2006 Peak! 

The worst of the housing crisis is a distant memory for most Americans. Home prices are up across the board and in some cities, new price records are being set, according to The S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index.
Dallas, Denver and Portland, OR have all reach new all time home price highs, according to Case-Shiller. Portland led the way with an 11.1% increase in year-over-year home price increases in November 2015 (the most recent Case-Shiller data available). San Francisco followed with an 11% increase and Denver, 10.9% increase.
Nationally, home prices increased 5.3% in November 2015, according to Case-

Click here to see The S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index South Florida 
In it’s most recent report, Case-Shiller, a leading analytics company, found the housing market has rebounded soundly. The Index is now about 29% above its January 2012 rock bottom.
For those who like to compare the housing market to the stock market, the S&P 500 is up 46% from January 2012. On the surface, it may seem that buying stocks is a better value than buying a home, but it depends on how you look at it.
Rents are skyrocketing — outpacing inflation — and there’s no relief in sight.

 Is it a good time to sell your home?

Call me for information about prices in your area. 
Sergio Lucena PA 
561 654 6262

Helpful Resources for Selling Your Home
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Name Your Selling Price
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Smart Home Price
Smart Home Price
Check your current home value and neighborhood activity any time you want.
7 Seller Tips
7 Seller Tips
Learn how to avoid the seven most expensive errors when selling your home

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Helpful Resources for Selling Your Home
Name Your Selling Price
Name Your Selling Price
Receive an alert if a buyer is interested in your home at a specific price
Smart Home Price
Smart Home Price
Check your current home value and neighborhood activity any time you want.
7 Seller Tips
7 Seller Tips
Learn how to avoid the seven most expensive errors when selling your home