As millions of Americans ready their outdoor space for the summer season, a new study from SABER Grills reveals just how enamored U.S. homeowners are with their backyards. Eighty-three percent of homeowners across the country say their outdoor living space is the favorite place in their home. It’s also the most used space in American households just behind the kitchen, and way ahead of the game room, living room and dining room.

While spaces like dining rooms and formal living rooms have lost favor in American homes, the backyard has gained popularity each year. The survey showed the overwhelming majority of current U.S. homeowners (81 percent) consider their outdoor space the heart of their home.

“It doesn’t matter if your home is valued at $75,000 or $775,000, if you are an American homeowner, you are proud of your outdoor space and consider it an essential part of your home,” said Rob Schwing, GM of SABER Grills. “Homeowners use their backyards to relax and reconnect with family – just like the kitchen.”

It’s not surprising then that 51 percent of all homeowners say they update the space as often as their favorite interior rooms. And, new man-cave trend alert – a full 30 percent of male homeowners say they are solely responsible for decorating their homes’ outdoor space. Topping the guy’s wish list for 2014 outdoor space additions? A pool or hot tub. One thing they can’t live without? Their grill. And, not surprisingly, “access to wi-fi” is now among the top five most common items in demand for outdoor living spaces.

Super engaged with their outdoor space are Baby Boomers who live in older homes, mostly congregating in the Southern and Midwestern U.S., the survey revealed. Their backyard is more likely than others to be equipped with TVs, Wi-Fi and special lighting. They own at least two grills and are adventurous entertainers, frequently trying new recipes with groups of five or more.

Other regional facts:

• Midwesterners are the most interactive with their outdoor space: they update/accessorize most often and 75 percent use it throughout the week.
• Top of the wish of outdoor furnishings for all was a pool or hot tub. Southerners and Westerners are most likely to include “kitchen” in the top three.
• South and Northeast residents have the biggest parties, usually entertaining more than five people.
• Southerners are most likely to own two or more grills; Northeasterners, just one.
• Roughly 40 percent of all outdoor chefs consider themselves average grillers. More than 30 percent of Northeasterners, however, identify themselves as “confident” grillers.

Source: SABER Grills, LLC//

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.


When the weather warms up, so does the real estate market. Spring and summer are traditionally the seasons when both homebuyers and sellers are most active across the country. If you’ll be putting your home on the market this year, simple, cost-effective upgrades can help ensure a speedy sale at a good price.

“In the world of real estate, it’s often necessary for sellers to spend a little on upgrades in order to achieve a satisfying home sale,” says Bethany Richmond, communications director for the Carpet & Rug Institute. “Fortunately, some of the most impressive upgrades, such as new carpeting, are also affordable. Such upgrades ensure that you don’t have to spend a lot to achieve a better selling price.”

Here are six easy-to-do upgrades that are both cost-effective and high-impact:

1. Replace carpet
It’s easy to see the impact of worn or dated carpeting. “If you don’t like looking at it, buyers won’t either,” Richmond says. “Replacing old or damaged carpet delivers impressive appeal for a modest investment.”

New carpet is one upgrade that has a high ratio of value to cost. It substantially increases perceived value for homebuyers without requiring home sellers to spend a bundle. “Even less expensive carpet styles will freshen the look of a room and prepare it for sale,” Richmond notes. “You can get a lot more quality for just a little more money, she says, “and if you take advantage of spring carpet sales, installing new carpeting can cost even less.”

2. Clean flooring
If your carpet is still in great shape, then simply having it professionally cleaned can make it look even better. A deep professional cleaning helps lift tough soils and provides a cleaner, fresher look to rooms. You can find an expert in your area by visiting http://www.carpet-rug.org. CRI experts can even provide insight into how to remove difficult stains.

Not only is carpet a good value, it’s healthy, too. People with allergies or other sensitivities are installing carpet to improve indoor air quality. Recent studies support previous findings that carpet, when effectively cleaned, traps allergens and other particles, resulting in less dust, dander and airborne contaminants escaping into the air. Don’t forget to clean all other flooring, including hardwood, laminates and tile. Buyers will appreciate a sparkling clean appearance throughout the house.

3. Repaint in neutral shades
Fresh paint is another smart and cost-effective upgrade for sellers. Buyers expect it, yet many sellers hesitate to repaint. Perhaps they like the existing colors or balk at the cost of professional painting services. Yet repainting in neutral colors makes a room look fresher and brighter, and gives buyers a visual “blank slate” against which to imagine their own decor. Do the work yourself and you can reduce the cost of repainting even further.

4. Update or upgrade lighting
You may find that disco-ball style globe light charming in your kitchen, but the average buyer doesn’t want dated or unusual lighting. Replacing dated or worn fixtures, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, is a cost-effective way to give a room a more up-to-date, contemporary look. If you already have newer fixtures, consider replacing incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency options such as CFLs or LEDs. Although they’re a bit more expensive to purchase, these bulbs last years longer – a selling point for buyers who will reap the value of not having to replace bulbs any time in the near future.

5. Install new faucets
A high-end faucet can completely change the look and usability of a kitchen or bathroom. In terms of cost versus value, an upgraded faucet, such as pull-out or even touch-free styles, can dramatically increase perceived value for a relatively modest investment. An upgraded faucet is a thoughtful touch that will set your home apart in buyers’ minds.

6. Replace hardware throughout the home
You may have already thought of upgrading kitchen cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, but have you also upgraded hardware in your bathroom or on the front door? These seemingly small items have a major impact on the overall visual effect of a home. In desirable rooms such as kitchens and baths, designer hardware can elevate the entire look of the room. And upgraded door hardware will ensure buyers have a positive first impression from the moment they enter your home.//

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Spring has sprung in Avon Indiana, and as temperature rise outside, so do they rise in vacant homes that are closed up and listed for sale.  The presence of a water source, warm temperature and stagnant air make perfect conditions for the quick growth of mold. With that said, here is information from Amerif|First Home Mortgage that you AND your buyer should be of if considering a renovation loan and the need for remediation or abatement of mold is needed.

The purpose of this communication is to provide further guidance on AmeriFirst’s Renovation Lending Products and Policies related to mold removal and clean up.

FHA 203k Streamline Guidelines for mold:

The Streamline k program was created as an offering for limited and uncomplicated rehabilitation to a home. With this spirit in mind, here are AmeriFirst’s Guidelines for mold on this program:

  1. Mold cannot be considered “excessive” – see notes below
  2. Contractor to add a narrative to the bid specifically addressing the following:
    1. Must identify the source of the moistureand/or area of infiltration.
    2. Must be specific and detailed as to the exact work that will be performed to remove the mold.
    3. Must state that the proposed treatment will remedy the mold problem.
  3. Removal and clean-up of mold cannot displace the borrower for more than 30 days.  A statement must be added to the Home Owner Contractor Agreement stating that “mold will be removed and house will be habitable within 30 days of closing”.
  4. If the jurisdiction that the property is in requires specific licensing for mold contractors, a copy of the appropriate license will need to be included in the file.

FHA 203k Full Guidelines for mold:

  1. This program allows for excessive mold removal and clean up.
  2. The HUD Consultant will be relied on for their expertise and guidance on mold remediation including whether or not the use of a contractor that specializes in mold removal is required for the project.
  3. If the jurisdiction that the property is in requires specific licensing for mold contractors, a copy of the appropriate license will need to be included in the file.

Fannie Mae HomePath Renovation:

  1. This program allows for mold removal and clean up.
  2. If the mold is not excessive, Contractor to add a narrative to the bid specifically addressing the following:
    1. Must identify the source of the moistureand/or area of infiltration.
    2. Must be specific and detailed as to the exact work that will be performed to remove the mold.
    3. Must state that the proposed treatment will remedy the mold problem.
  3. If mold is determined to be excessive, then a contractor that specializes in mold removal will be required for the project.
  4. If the jurisdiction that the property is in requires specific licensing for mold contractors, a copy of the appropriate license will need to be included in the file.


“Excessive Mold” – Determining whether or not mold is excessive can be subjective, open to interpretation and often times will require a “common sense” approach.  The following guidelines will be used in determining what is excessive.

  1. Mold that appears to be a considerable health hazard – this increases AmeriFirst’s potential liability exposure and can put the borrower(s) and their family at risk health wise.
  2. The bid or proposal for the mold remediation is in excess of $1000.

The Underwriter and Senior Management, if necessary, will have the final decision in determining if mold appears to be excessive in questionable cases.

The use of a home inspection with photographs and commentary and/or the use of a HUD Consultant acting in the capacity of an inspector in performing a property review to determine the requirements for the property to meet HUD Minimum Property Standards can be helpful in the determination process of the extent of the mold when this is in question. It is wise to have them break out the mold clean-up to be completed and provide photos for review prior to ordering the appraisal so the full extent of the mold issue is known.

Where practical, mold clean up should be completed as one of the first renovation items.  Should additional mold be found, such as behind the walls that could not be seen from the initial visual inspection, monies would more likely be available to complete this health and safety item either out of the contingency fund and/or could replace a possible elective item should cost of removal become excessive.

Best Practices on Mold Bids

In order to ensure clarity of the actual cost of mold removal and clean up, the bid for the mold removal should be broken down specifically to only include the cost of mold removal and clean up.

For example…

A vacant, foreclosed property has the electric off.  Water backs up in the basement due to the sump pump not being operable as there is no electric. Excess water soaks basement carpeting and the first foot of the drywall creating a mold issue.

The mold bid should include the following mold specific removal items:

-          Cost of removal of carpeting.

-          Cost of removing drywall to chair rail height.

-          Cost of any specific treatment to disinfect or sanitize the affected area to complete the mold removal and clean up.

The mold bid should not include the following as these items are not related to mold removal and clean up:

-          Cost of carpet replacement.

-          Cost of drywall replacement.

We hope this provides additional clarification on how to best handle mold and the necessity for judgment calls by the Underwriting Team and Senior Management where appropriate due to the potential complexities sometimes related to mold remediation.

Reprinted with permission from Jayne Dann/AmeriFirst Home Loans. 7 N Washington, Danville, IN  46122 317-941-6340

Q: What Should I Do to Prepare My Home for Sale?

A: Start by finding out its worth. Contact a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal.
Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.
The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.
The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market. 

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

We’ve all heard how important “curb appeal” is when selling your home, but what exactly does it mean, and does it have to be expensive?imagesCABCECXF

Curb appeal simply means, does your house look APPEALING to a buyer when they first pull up to your house (at the curb), and does it make a good first impression as they walk up to the front door. In simple terms, does your house make a good “first impression”.

If you have focused all of your attention on preparing the interior of your house for visitors, but neglected to present a good first impression…your potential buyers may have to overcome “yuk-factor” before ever seeing how beautiful the inside is. If the buyers first view of your house is overgrown shrubs, peeling paint, dirty windows, and a 25 year old porch light…..they will enter your house with a negative feel that you now have to overcome with a spectacular interior.

imagesCABMLHF2If your potential buyer pulls into your driveway and sees an attractive home with a manicured yard, they will already have a positive mindset about your house, and will already begin to feel good about touring your home. Luckily, it’s not difficult or expensive to create this “feel good” for them.

The first thing to look at is your exterior paint. Old, faded or peeling paint is an AUTOMATIC turn-off and should absolutely be addressed BEFORE putting your house on the market. If, as the saying goes, “Clothes make the man”, then “Paint makes the house”. Oh….and in a word NEUTRAL!!!

Take a look at your gutters. Are they overflowing with leaves, or even have little trees growing from them? Clean them out, and clean them off!

Clean your windows, straighten your blinds/curtains. The windows are the “eyes” of your house. Ugly/dirty windows are a mood-killer…..and remember, selling your house is ALL about setting a mood.

Clean your front door, door handle and trim.imagesCAK1VNKM

Replace your porch light(s). Just do it.

How does your garage door look?? If it’s broken-down, consider replacing it. Otherwise, make sure it looks it’s best by cleaning it or painting it.

Clean, Clean Clean! Knock the cobwebs and birds nests off the front porch. Sweep the concrete, etc. Don’t make your buyers have to wade through old leaves that have blown up on the porch, or take ahold of a dirty door knob.

Pickup the yard. It’s probably too late to rejuvenate your yard, but you can still make it look it’s best. Pick up all limbs, rake leaves, trim overgrown bushes. During the growing season, KEEP your yard neatly trimmed. Make the buyer think you CARE about your house.

If the weather is warm enough, plant a few flowers that are blooming at the time. You don’t have to go overboard with flowers….but make sure there is at least SOME color in the yard.

Take down signs that warn against “no soliciting”, “beware of dog”, etc. Make visitors feel WELCOME and WANTED. You might even put a small, handwritten sign on the front door that says “WELCOME TO MY HOME! HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR VISIT!

I think you get the picture!! As they say, you only get one chance at a good first impression. Spend some time and energy on the “Curb Appeal” of your house, and you’ll likely sell your home faster and for more money!!

Dave Danz

Preliminary data provided to NAHB by the Census Bureau on the characteristics of homes started in 2013 show the trend toward larger homes continued unabated last year, as did the share of new homes with 4+ bedrooms, 3+ full baths, 2-stories, or 3-car garages. The average size of new homes started in 2013 was 2,679 square feet, about 150 square feet larger than in 2012 and the fourth consecutive annual increase since bottoming out at 2,362 square feet in 2009.
Huge HouseNew homes started in 2013 were also more likely to have additional features: nearly half, 48 percent, had 4 or more bedrooms; 35 percent had 3 or more full bathrooms; 22 percent had a garage for at least 3 cars; and 60 percent were 2-stories. The share of new homes started with these features has been increasing consistently for 3 or 4 years, and the most obvious question is “why?” Why are homes getting this BIG?
To get an answer, just take a look at WHO is buying new homes. The typical new home buyer in recent years has been someone with strong credit scores and high levels of income. To the first point, the average credit rating of all US consumers has remained rather flat over the last few years, while the average credit rating of mortgage borrowers took a dramatic jump after 2007. By 2013, the gap between the two measures was 58 points, compared to 33 points in the early 2000s.
To the second point, there has been a rising trend in new home buyers’ income in recent years. In 2005, the median income of new home buyers was $91,768. By 2011, it had increased by more than 17 percent to $107,607. It is not too surprising, therefore, to see home size and features continuing to trend upward, given that those buying new homes are precisely the kind of buyers who generally purchase large, feature-loaded homes.
View this original post on the NAHB blog, Eye on Housing.//

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Do you as a seller REALLY need to offer – and pay for – a home warranty when listing your house for sale?   Wouldn’t it make more sense to just wait and see if the buyer even WANTS one??

First off, homes that are offered and sold with a home warranty typically sell for a higher price and in a shorter period of time, and afterall….isn’t that what your primary goal is?

Home Warranty

Putting a home warranty in place at the start of your listing can help you protect your equity!   Depending on the warranty company you choose, you may get FREE coverage for many of the components of your home during the time it’s listed.  So when the weather heats up and the A/C fails to kick-on, you may have coverage that could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expense.

Offering a home warranty in the advertising of your home is a powerful marketing tool!  It’s an added incentive that gives you the edge and sets your home apart from the competition.  Research shows that 4 out of 5 buyers prefer to buy a warranted home.

Buyers typically ask for a home warranty anyway!  In most cases, you ARE going to pay for the cost of a warranty, so you may as well take advantage of the benefits during the time your home is listed.

In some cases, if a defect is found during an inspection, you MIGHT have coverage to reduce your expenses and be able to continue with your transaction!

Providing your buyers with a home warranty can also prevent post-sale disputes, perhaps even avoid a lawsuit.   If an unexpected failure occurs after closing, the buyer will likely turn to the warranty company – and not to YOU to solve problem.,

It’s been my experience that the minimal cost of a home warranty is MORE than re-cooped in the many benefits a seller receives, and I personally recommend that ALL of my sellers place a warranty on their homes at the time I list the property.

Dave Danz


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