Archive for the ‘MY CASTLE’ Category

The median home size most highly desired among home shoppers is 2,226 square feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ “What Home Buyers Really Want” survey.

The size of home most desired can vary greatly depending on the buyers’ age, race, and ethnicity, the study found.

As buyers’ ages increase, they tend to want less space, the study finds:

  • Buyers younger than 35 said they most desire a home size of 2,494 square feet.
  • Buyers 65 and older, they want a home that is 2,065 square feet.



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The sound of “home makeover” makes some people excited or it makes some people cringe. The idea of spending lots of time and money painting the house, shopping for new furniture, and replacing the carpet is something few people want to do during their free time.

But not every home makeover has to be so exhausting. In fact, there are many small alterations and additions you can make to your home that have big results for very little money and effort. Here are seven simple suggestions:


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Here are a few surprising and simple ways to cut your energy bill this winter season.

Put lamps in the corners: Did you know you can switch to a lower wattage bulb in a lamp or lower its dimmer switch and not lose a noticeable amount of light? It’s all about placement. When a lamp is placed in a corner, the light reflects off the adjoining walls, which makes the room lighter and brighter.

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To read Part I

It’s not just which energy efficiency projects you implement at home that will make a dent in your bills — it’s how many.

This is the second part of our Q&A with Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in sustainability and energy efficiency. Shelton Group’s annual Energy Pulse research report tracks consumer attitudes toward energy-related topics. 

HouseLogic: (In Part I) you told us why we’re so disconnected from our home’s energy use. Tell us what we should be doing differently to make our homes more energy efficient.  (more…)

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REPRINTED from HOUSE LOGIC – I hope you’ll find many useful ideas. 

Do you see your energy bills rising even if you’ve implemented up to three projects to save energy? In the first of our two-part Q&A with an expert on consumer attitudes toward energy efficiency, we look at the energy-saving truths many of us ignore. Hint: Replacing windows isn’t your best bet.

Suzanne Shelton is president and CEO of Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in sustainability and energy efficiency. Shelton Group’s annual Energy Pulse research report — released last fall — tracks consumer attitudes toward energy-related topics. 

HouseLogic: So our energy bills are going up? 

Suzanne Shelton: Yes, for many of us, even though we may think our energy use is going down.

HL: How come?


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A Home Buyer Poll conducted by TD Bank of more than 1,300 Americans revealed that:

  • 64% of women say home ownership is essential in achieving the American Dream,
  • 52% of men say owning a home is a vital component of achieving the American Dream.


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Here’s homeownership course: Home Owner 101

1. Fix a leaky toilet. (more…)

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Owning a home free and clear gives a sense of security and a psychological comfort, although every borrower’s situation is different and the decision should be made individually.

Should you pay off your mortgage early? (more…)

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Repair wood floors and scratches can make rooms look worn out. It is easy to put the luster back into the floors.

Camouflage scratches (more…)

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The number of shared households made up 18.7% of all households in the nation in 2010, growing from 17% in spring 2007, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

Looking back on the recession, the U.S. Census Bureau finds the number of shared households grew by 11.4% from 2007 to 2010. Meanwhile, total households grew by a modest 1.3%.


The Census Bureau defines a “shared household” as one with an “additional adult” over the age of 18 who is not enrolled in school and is not the cohabitating partner or spouse of the householder.

More than half of the additional adults were under the age of 35, but since the recession, those in the 25 to 35 age demographic accounted for almost half of the rise in people who live with another householder.


The number of these “adult children” living with their parents grew from 1.2 million to 15.8 million in the three years between 2007 and 2010.

Shared households in 2010 accounted for 18.7 % of all households in the country, up from 17% in 2007. A bulk of the increase comes from the number of adult children moving back in with their parents, which grew from 1.2 million to 15.8 million between 2007 and 2010.



SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

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More Americans are showing a preference for living closer into the city than the outer suburbs, according to newly released U.S. Census data. The annual rate of growth in American cities and surrounding urban areas recently surpassed exurbs for the first time in two decades. (more…)

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Northern Virginia Public Schools: https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/category/2-re-buyer-resources/nova-schools/

Directs links to Public Schools in  Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County VA, Arlington County VA, Fauquier County VA: http://www.realtorviviannerutkowski.com/schoolinfo.shtml


Living in a high-scoring public school district can raise home values up to $205,000 higher compared to homes located in neighborhoods with low-scoring school districts, according to a new study by Brookings Institute. Brookings analyzed the nation’s 100 largest metro areas to find the differences between living near a high-scoring public school and a low-performing school.


“We think of public education as being free, and we think of the main divide in education between public and private schools,” Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst at Brookings, told The New York Times. “But it turns out that it’s actually very expensive to enroll your children in a high-scoring public school.” The cost of living in a high-scoring public neighborhood can be higher than paying a private tuition at a school, researchers noted.


Housing costs near high-scoring schools — those in the top one-fifth of schools in the area — were 2.4 times higher on average, or $11,000 more per year, than homes located in school districts in the bottom fifth, the study found.

Some of the areas with the largest differences in housing costs also have the widest gaps in school test scores,” reports CNNMoney about the study’s findings.

Students from low-income families — classified as those who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches — were found to be more likely to attend schools that score in the 42nd percentile on state tests, according to Brookings Institute. On the other hand, students from middle- to high-income households, on average, tend to attend schools that score in the 61st percentile.


SOURCE: Brookings Institute; “Test Scores and Housing Costs” The New York Times;  “Living Near Good Schools will Cost an Extra $200k” CNNMoney; REALTOR Magazine; Vivianne Rutkowski

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As the number of people living in a household expands, builders are responding and tweaking home designs to meet the growing needs of multigenerational households.


In recent years, the number of grown children moving back with their parents and the number of elderly parents moving-in with their adult children is increasing, causing more households to re-evaluate their use of space at home. Analysts say the number of multigenerational households will likely rise even more in the coming years, particularly among ethnic groups like Asians and Hispanics who are more likely to live with extended family.


More builders are debuting floorplans for single-family homes that include “semi-independent suites with separate entries, bathrooms, and kitchenettes,” the Associated Press reports. “Some suites even include their own laundry areas and outdoor patios for additional privacy, though they maintain a connection to the main house through an inside door. “


For example, homebuilder Lennar Corp. has started offering 700-square-foot suites contained in some of its 3,400-square-foot floorplan homes in Las Vegas. Homebuilder Standard Pacific Homes also has rolled out more “casitas,” which are attached to the main house but also offer more independent living.

The Family That Stays Together,”


SOURCE: The Associated Press; The Washington Times

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What a difference a few years make.

With interest only loans gone, with no money down loans gone (with exception of VA loans) and lenders going back to more conservative lending requiring 10%-20% down for conventional loans ( FHA loans require 3.5% down), a growing number of families are moving in together, which sometimes means that three generations are living all under one roof.

The sluggish economy has caused some households to expand, taking in more family members to trim housing costs, or to simply save money for a downpayment to purchase a home.

According to Census Bureau data, 4.4 million households had three generations or more under one roof in 2010. That is a 15% increase compared to two years prior.

The “double-up” phenomena is particularly pronounced among adult children, who are increasingly moving back with their parents after college to curb costs. The number of 25-to-34 year olds living with their parents jumped by more than 25% between 2001 and 2007, according to Census data.

The larger household sizes are causing builders to take notice and redesign floorplans to accommodate multi-generational households. For example, Pulte Homes says it’s swapping out one of the garages in its two-car garage plans to allow for extra space in a home for a guest room. And Toll Brothers reports that it’s creating new floorplans to accommodate multiple generations, such as a guest suite with a kitchen added where a family room may have once been.

 “The New American Household: 3 Generations, 1 Roof,”



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Fifty-one percent of Americans in a recent poll say that if their financial situation were to improve, they’d buy a home.

Coming in second on the list of wishes, 23 percent said they’d make repairs or improvements to the home they already have, according to the poll of more than 1,400 Americans conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling Web site, www.DebtAdvice.org.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of Americans polled said they’d upgrade their car

and 9 percent said they’d take a vacation.

“Home ownership has traditionally been a part of sound financial planning,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC, a nonprofit credit counseling organization. “With a combined total of 74 percent of respondents selecting a home-oriented option, the poll results strongly suggest that people continue to place value in owning a home, and are anxious to buy a house or improve their existing one.”


SOURCE: National Foundation For Credit Counseling, REALTOR Magazine 

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About 60 percent of homebuyers in Q4 2011 took out 30-year, fixed-rate loans. Three years imageago, the figure was closer to 90 percent. Instead, homeowners opted more and more for 15- or 20-year loans. A quarter of people refinancing from 30-year loans opted for 15-year fixed-loans.

Despite the fact that the typical payment on a 15-year loan is 50 percent higher than on a 30-year mortgage, most homeowners chose 15-year loans because the interest rate is significantly lower — 3.41% for a 15-year mortgage, vs. 4.05% for a 30-year (on Feb.22, 2012).



SOURCE:  VARbuzz; The Mortgage Reports

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Home owners who plan to stay in their home long enough should be prepared for other costs of home ownership, besides mortgage payments and property taxes. For example, refrigerator and stove, the hot water heater and furnace, carpet and interior & experior painting, roof and deck may eventually need to be replaced, and by budgeting for it from the beginning, homeowners will be able to pay for it when it does need replaced.


A recent article at The New York Times provided estimated costs of some of these extras that can come with home ownership – average costs listed are based on service providers in Chicago and Los Angeles areas; prices can fluctuate greatly from city to city. The average replacement time also depends greatly on usage, climate, weather, size of the household, etc.


Central air: Home owners should expect the main central air unit will need to be replaced every 12 years, but possibly even sooner for warmer climates. A replacement will cost around $3,000, but a lot more for a higher efficiency model. Home owners can start saving $21 per month over 12 years to afford it, The New York Times article notes. Tip: Have a yearly maintenance check of the system to extend the unit’s lifespan (expect to pay about $165 year for a maintenance check).

Furnace: A furnace will last, on average, about 18 years before it will need to be replaced. Replacements will cost around $3,800, so home owners should start saving $18 per month for the future expense.

Hot water heater: These can last about 12 years before needing replaced, which starting costs for a replacement will run around $1,200 (or $8 per month to your budget). Tankless water heaters can last a lot longer, possibly even up to 20 years as well as help lower energy costs, but they cost about $4,000 each, according to The New York Times article.

Driveway: Some experts recommend sealing an asphalt driveway every three years, which will cost about $550 or about $15 per month. Plan on replacing an asphalt driveway every 15 years, which will cost about $6,000 or $33 per month.

Trees: You likely will need a few trees trimmed every five years or so on your property, costing about $300 per tree. Home owners may want to budget $20 per month for this future expense.

Roof: Roofs, on average, need replaced every 25 years or so, but it’ll greatly depend on weather elements. New roofs may cost about $7,500 for an average-size home so home owners might want to start saving $25 per month to their budget.

Read about more household items to add to your budget at TheNew York Times.

SOURCE: The New York Times

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The mission of all REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS is to promote homeownership via responsible financing that allows homeowners to build EQUITY and own their home Free-and-Clear. Currently about 25 million of american homeowners own their home free-and-clear.

Home prices took a rough ride in the past decade of 2000-2010 years.  However, the past 10 years were an anomaly fueled by easy credit availability.  Those days are over – and for the better.  Most Americans believe in hard work (and not easy credit) before being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.


The chart below shows the long historical trend in median prices of a single-family home in the U.S.  A typical buyer purchased a $23,000 home back in 1970.  The monthly mortgage payment on that home, assuming a 5% down payment, would have been $153 per month for 30 years.  So a homeowner who did not do a cash-out refinance would  have paid off their mortgage by the year 2000.  So imagine no further rent or mortgage payments.  Currently in America there are about 25 million homeowners who own their homes free-and-clear.

On top of no mortgage payments, the median price of a home in the U.S. in 2000 was $143,000.  This is something a person could bequeath to their loved ones when the time arrives: the fruits of one’s lifetime labor being put to a good use.

Home prices took a rough ride in the past decade, it’s true.  But let’s not forget about the very basic and long-term benefits of homeownership for those who are willing to stay well within their financial capacity.


NOTE:  The graph above represents median home sale prices nationwide from 1965 to 2010.


SOURCE: National Association of REALTORS

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Winter wonderland can be breathtaking in its beauty and splendor – unless one has to drive in the icy snow that it is.


Even though, the warm fire in the fireplace, the burning candles on the dinner table, the snow fights, and sled riding can provide some heartwarming and memorable moments.


However, winter can also rack its havoc in the lives of the unprepared. As the cold weather approaches, home owners should do the following maintenance checks to ensure their properties are ready for the winter months.


The real estate Web site Zillow offers some of the following tips:

Ceiling Fans

Reversing the direction of the ceiling fans from the summer to the winter mode. This will force warm air  downward and recirculate, making your home temps more comfortable!


Cold air can seep in through those little gaps between your door and the door frame, quickly reversing any effort you take to heat your home. Weather-stripping covers the sides and top of the door and a sweep fills the space between the threshold and door bottom. Hardware stores and home centers sell numerous products in metal, foam, rubber and plastic for this purpose and many can be installed in an afternoon.



This may be another area where additional weather-stripping or caulk is needed to fill any visible gaps, though that still might not be enough remediation to prevent drafts. While windows add much needed winter light, they can let out a lot of heat — up to 12 times more than a wall if they’re single pane. Blinds can keep a little heat in, but heavier shades or curtains will minimize heat loss.



Fantasizing about a cozy evening in front of the fire? Your romantic night might be cut short if your fireplace hasn’t been serviced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys are swept at least once a year.



It’s also recommended that furnaces be serviced once a year. A heating system can break down at the most inopportune time if it’s not serviced. Worse, it can pump carbon monoxide into a home or eventually stop working. While a furnace service can run up to $100, the cost benefits are undeniable, considering the cost of a major fix or replacement.



According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose between 10 and 30 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if duct work is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.



Frozen pipes are a royal nuisance, but with a little effort, many instances can be prevented. The best way to tackle these is to wrap pipes that run the exterior of the home with heating tape. Turn off the water and drain the remaining water at the inside valves. You can also purchase insulated covers for additional prevention.


Safety check

This is the perfect time to make sure all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order –  good time to change the batteries and have back-up batteries in storage. Remember that batteries lose power over time, so be sure to check the expiration date and purchase just enough but not too many.


Read more tips from Zillow on winterizing a home.

A Funny You Tube Sled Riding Video that is also a SAFETY Lesson!


SOURCE: Zillow

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Here is an excellent article from Better Homes and Gardens about fall gardens and preparing the shrubs, trees, lawns, bulbs and perennials for the winter and next spring. ENJOY!


Daffodil 'Thalia'

Shop for bulbs. Visit garden stores early for best selection.

Test Garden Tip: If deer or rabbits are a problem in your area, select pest-resistant bulbs such as daffodils, Siberian squill, and fritillaria.

Learn about some of the best spring-blooming bulbs. >>

Discover more bulbs that pests leave be. >>

Clear away debris from the base of roses. Fallen rose foliage can give diseases a safe place to overwinter and create problems in your garden next year.

Learn more about getting your roses ready for winter. >>

Planting container-grown trees and shrubs

Plant shrubs and evergreens. Early fall planting gives new plants enough time to get their roots established before winter.

Get tips for planting trees and shrubs. >>

Water, water, water. Give all of your plants a good drink, especially your trees. Their roots need plenty of moisture to make it through the upcoming months.

Amend your soil. Get the ground ready for next year’s beds and your fall bulbs by tilling the soil and adding home-made compost.

Learn to make and use your own compost. >>

black petal flower
Plant fall annuals. As your summer blooms fade, add color to your garden with fall annuals, such as mums, pansies, and ornamental kale.

Beautify your yard with our fall container garden ideas. >>



Riding mower with leaf collection attachment
Lower the height on your mower. Grass grows more slowly in fall, but it still needs to be cut to prepare for winter. A lower cutting height helps the soil dry out more quickly in spring.

Learn more about lawn mowers. >>

Get more fall lawn-care secrets. >>

Feed the birds. Don’t forget your feathered friends; their food supply grows scarce in fall.

Learn more about bird feeding. >>

Hosta Divisions
Divide and cut back perennials. While you’re digging them up to divide them, try rearranging plants if they haven’t been working in their current location.

Test Garden Tip: Hold off dividing asters, chrysanthemums, and other fall-blooming perennials. It’s best to split them in spring.

Get step-by-step tips for dividing your perennials. >>

Rake and mulch. Left unattended, fallen tree leaves may suffocate your lawn. Shred them and they make great mulch.

Find the best kind of mulch for your garden. >>

Dahlia 'Victory Dwarf'

Dig up summer bulbs. Store dahlias, cannas, caladiums, callas, and other tender bulbs in peat moss in a cool, frost-free spot for the winter.

Get more tips on storing tender bulbs. >>



 Planting Bulbs

Get bulbs in the ground. Plant your favorite bulbs now for colorful springtime blooms.

Test Garden Tip: You can usually get away with planting bulbs late, up until the soil freezes solid enough you can’t get a shovel
in the ground.

Don’t miss our bulb planting tips! >>

Force bulbs indoors for winter color. Bulbs such as narcissus and hyacinth work well.

Discover more on forcing bulbs. >>

Feed your lawn. Don’t let your lawn go into winter without the nutrients it needs to battle the long sleep.

Know how much lawn food to use with our fertilizer calculator. >>

Moving Houseplant
Bring tender container plants indoors. Remove dead foliage and break up any hardened soil before hauling your cherished tropical plants (such as mandevilla, passionflower, and citrus) indoors for the winter.

Test Garden Tip: Keep an eye out for pests, too. Before bringing plants indoors, spray them, if necessary, to keep aphids, mealybugs, or other harmful insects out of your house.

Get more tips.

Empty hoses, fountains, and drip-irrigation systems. Ensure any standing water is removed from your watering
equipment; store items in a dry place.

Clean up the veggie bed. Remove weeds and debris so pests won’t make your garden their winter home.

Dig up annuals. Spent and dead, your summer annuals can now nourish the compost heap.

Cover and Wrap

Protect cold-sensitive plants. Shrubs, roses, and perennials that might succumb to blasts of cold should be protected with mulch or another protective covering. Place these frost barriers after the first freeze.


SOURCE: Better Homes and Gardens; BHG.com

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