8 Ways to Make Your Move Eco-Friendly

move eco friendlyThose who love and care for nature always find a way to incorporate environmental-friendly measures into everything they do. Even when you’re done searching for your new home and planning your move, there are options available to make a good part of the process environmentally friendly. Below are some of those options which help you keep a relatively low environmental footprint:

1. Find a moving company committed to environment protection as you.
Green moving is a trend that’s gaining in popularity, and responsible moving companies too are pitching in with their own innovations to make the move as environmental-friendly as possible. Bio-diesel trucks, moving pads composed of 100 percent recycled cotton, and rentable crates for packing your belongings are features that some moving companies offer to customers. Your first step towards making a green move is to find a moving service that shares your sentiments about nature. A bit of research will help you locate the best one.

2. Cut down on use of cardboard boxes.
The average move uses 60 cardboard boxes, that’s the equivalent of a half-ton tree. Studies reveal that 50 percent of cardboard ends up in landfill. If it is recycled, the process is energy and water intensive, and it produces toxic by-products. Reusing a friend’s cardboard boxes is a good first step. A good quality cardboard box can withstand three to 10 uses. However, there are some more eco-friendly alternatives to cardboard boxes, as well as other traditional packing materials.

3. Use eco-friendly packaging materials.
Ask your mover if they offer reusable bins made out of recycled plastic. Plastic bins can be used up to 400 times. Moreover, the moving company will provide you the bins well in advance on request and take them away after you have unpacked. If they don’t have plastic bins, you can consider alternatives to plastic bubble wrap, packaging peanuts, and foam wrap. Green packing peanuts are made from bio-plastics, a form of plastic derived from renewable sources like vegetable oils or corn starch. Geami wrap, a die-cut recycled paper split by a machine to form protective packaging, is another great alternative to bubble wrap.

4. Use what you have innovatively to pack things.
The most ingenious way to securely pack your fragile belongings is to wrap them with towels, bedding, and clothing you already have lying around the house. It’s definitely a win-win move because you need to pack these items anyway.

5. Consider these green moves seriously
The condition of the moving truck will greatly affect the amount of gas it uses and the carbon dioxide it emits. The load, the size of truck, and the way you drive will also make a difference. Greener moving options are being offered by many moving companies now. Their trucks run on biodiesel fuel. Use services that have made the upgrade. You, too, can contribute to the environment by discarding unwanted items and lightening the truck load. If you have to transport your car, transport it by rail instead of having it shipped by truck. Trains are four times more fuel-efficient than trucks.

6. Use eco-friendly cleaning supplies
You must leave the old home clean and tidy, and if your new place has been vacant for a while, you will want to clean it as well. Create a small cleaning kit that you can carry easily. If you plan ahead, you can ensure that the cleaners you use are biodegradable and non-toxic instead of shopping at the last minute for cleaning chemicals and harsh detergents.

7. De-clutter by holding regular garage sales
Instead of throwing out items that you no longer need or use, you can make garage sales a consistent event by holding them once every six months or maybe a year. This will help in reducing a good deal of unnecessary clutter in your home while allowing people to re-use the items instead of simply throwing them out.

8. Going green in your new home
The energy-saving habit must go on once you are in your new home by creating less waste and recycling. Replace incandescent light bulbs around the house with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), or, better yet, light-emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs require less energy than incandescent lights, but LEDs score higher in terms of efficiency. Moreover, unlike CFLs, they don’t contain mercury. Unplug appliances, electronics, and phone chargers when not in use. Buy power strips to make unplugging of a number of electronics at once, a one-switch process. Look for compost opportunities in your new home’s backyard.

Getting organized right from the start makes it easier for you to do things in an environment-friendly way in almost every area of your life.

Photo Credit: Meathead Movers

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FHA Mortgages to Buy a Home Stop If Government Shuts Down

As of this writing, the chances of averting a partial shutdown of the federal government are slim to none as members of House blamed the Senate, and members of the Senate blamed the House, for being unwilling to agree on a spending bill that keeps the government running. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a measure that ties government funding to a delay of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, even as Senate Democrats vowed to defeat it. If a stop-gap spending bill for the new fiscal year is not passed before midnight on Monday, all non-essential government agencies and programs will close their doors for the first time since 1996.

That includes FHA mortgages. These loans account for about 90% of U.S. home mortgages, so if the pipeline stops, that flow could hurt the housing recovery.

Uncertainty Road Sign

The good news is that most government-backed home loans will be unaffected by a shutdown. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pay for their operations out of the fees that they charge lenders, so the loans that they purchase and securitize will continue forward.

Of course when someone says “the good news is”, that means there is a flip side of the coin, and that’s the case here. The bad news is that loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, the Veteran’s Administration and the rural development loans of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, won’t be processed. If an application for an FHA-insured loan has not been approved by the time the government shuts down, it will not be touched until after the shutdown ends.

FHA-backed loans accounted for 45% of all mortgages used to purchase homes issued in 2012, according to the Federal Reserve. In the event of a shutdown, FHA will be unable to endorse any single-family loans and FHA staff will be unavailable to underwrite and approve new loans. The FHA alone insures about 60,000 loans a month. That’s a big chunk of mortgages to just…  stop.

Many people who try to buy a home have no alternative to FHA, VA or USDA mortgages. First-time buyers in particular often lack the cash for the 20% down payments that most lenders require. FHA rules allow home buyers to make a down payment of as little as 3.5% of the selling price, which would be $7,000 on a $200,000 home, for example. A 20% down payment on a house of the same price would be $40,000. The FHA is also more flexible about borrowers who have had payment problems in the past, or who have short credit histories.

“The housing market is searching for recovery, and we’ve been seeing signs of optimism,” said David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “This could have a sizable impact on the recovery.”

A slowdown in the processing of home mortgages would have ripple effects beyond the housing market. When people buy a home, it triggers economic activity in related industries. Home buyers have their newly purchased homes painted, floors or carpeting installed, new decks built, and landscaping completed. They also fill their homes with furniture and electronics. If a shutdown drags on for more than a few days, the impact on the real estate market and the economy could be quite significant.

No one agrees on what’s really going to happen next, though. Some people think we’re economically headed towards a cliff. Some people can’t believe the legislators would not come to an agreement before the deadline hits. I’m of the opinion that we can’t put anything past these rascals.

Are you ready to buy a home? We can’t do anything about the government shutdown, but we do have MLS listings search that you can use to find your dream house.

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5 Tips for Saving Up a Down Payment to Buy a Home

down payment to buy a homeAs home sales speed towards an apparent recovery and interest rates fluctuating, many first time home buyers feel like they need to get into the real estate market right now. Even as housing prices and interest rates rise, wages have been treading water, making the collection of a down payment difficult. To add insult to injury, banks are being particularly stingy with who they lend money to, making bigger down payments a necessity for more people than in the past.

Even if your heart is set on you buying a home, collecting a 20% down payment is a huge task that takes serious willpower. It’s tough putting money in the bank and not touching it, even when you are unsure about when you’ll be using it to buy a house you haven’t even started searching for yet. With some research, goal setting and good old-fashioned willpower, you can collect your down payment to buy a home.

The following are five tips to keep in mind as you save for a down payment to buy a house.

1. Determine What You Can Afford. First you have to know what your down payment savings goal is. What a mortgage lender tries to say you can afford may be different from what you can actually comfortably do. Dig into the research of how much your home mortgage loan payments would be every month. Calculators can be found on most bank websites and at the FHA website. As of August 2013, the median sales price for all housing types was $254,600, according to the National Association of Realtors. A 5% down payment for a home that price would be $12,730. A 20% down payment would be $50,920. If you can save the full 20%, lenders won’t require you to buy Private Mortgage Insurance, which would reduce your monthly housing costs.

2. Make a savings plan. Once you’ve set your goal, set smaller goals to help you get there. You may want to set monthly or quarterly goals, depending on how long you’ll need to save up to get your down payment. Divide your goal by months or quarters and set a certain amount to save during each period of time. As you reach these smaller goals, the positive reinforcement will help you keep progressing toward your final goal.

3. Trim away expenses. Examine your spending habits to determine where you can decrease your costs to augment your savings. If you are resolved to buy a house as soon as you can, put yourself on a shoestring budget. Pay off the credit cards and cut them up, clear out the cable extras (or cancel it altogether and go with a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix), switch to a more economical cell phone plan, use coupons and review other spending areas until you’ve pared back to just bare necessities. Check out some of the frugal living blogs out there that can help you accelerate your savings through spending less.

4. Make more money. I know that can be easier said than done, but increasing your cash flow is one of the best ways to hasten home savings. Make extra cash selling possessions you don’t need at a garage sale – this will even help reduce what has to be moved when you buy a home. You could also sell valuable items online on eBay or craigslist (be careful about meeting anyone!). Getting a second job is a time-tested way to increase income, whether it is retail work, food services or something that you can do at home like freelance writing or photography. The internet makes it easy to generate extra income online doing all sorts of things, including as a virtual assistant or transcriber. Anything you make will be a boon to your savings to buy a home.

5. Stay motivated. It’s going to take time to save the money to buy a home, however much your down payment will be. Staying motivated over such a long period of time, but if you want to reach your goal, you’ve gotta do something to keep you progressing. Visual reminders, like photos of pretty homes, placed at strategic spots in your home, wallet, cell phone and computer will remind you why you’re saving. A numbered calendar that counts down the days until you can searching for your dream home is another way if you’re feeling more creative.

The down payment requirements for getting a mortgage to buy a home are stiff and getting more rigid by the day. With these five tips in mind, you’ll be heading down the path to collect your full down payment. Sooner than you know, you’ll be on the search to buy your first home.

Are you ready to buy a home? Find your next dream home with our MLS search.

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5 Tips for Selling a Home in Autumn

curb appeal for selling a home in autumnNo one ever thinks of autumn as a season for selling homes. Any season can be good for selling a home, though, even in places that have four seasons. People need homes for different reasons: They may want to buy their first home, feel the need to upgrade to a new space or have to relocate for a job.

Homes are moving all the time. Folks have come back from summer vacations. Kids are back at school and their parents are adjusting to finally having a schedule again. The wetness of the winter and the hustle of the holidays are still a ways off for the most part. Now is a superb time to buy or sell a home.

Here are five tips for home sellers to help your home put its best face forward for the fall.

1. Clean Up the Yard. Red, orange and yellow leaves are beautiful on the tress, but make the yard look unkempt when they’re on the ground. You’ll have to rake pretty regularly if you have your home up for sale during autumn. After the leaves are all gone is a good time to cut down creeping vines and trim branches, which will better reveal the siding of your home and allow more sunlight in the windows. Hose down the siding if it has collected dirt over the summer. Clean the gutters and make sure they are draining properly. If its rainy where you live  in the fall, be sure to have floor mats spots places for wet shoes and umbrellas. If snow is already on the ground, keep the front walkway to the door clear and de-ice any `exterior stairs.

2. Add Fall Curb Appeal. Now that your exterior is clean, it’s time to make it sparkle by adding some curb appeal. Buy potted flowers for the front of the home – chrysanthemums and marigolds are popular this time of year. Put the pots at the edge of the stairs, porch and along the sidewalk. Feel free to sparsely decorate with pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn or mount a festive autumn wreath on the front door. If Halloween is getting close, it’s okay to have a jack-o’-lantern or other modest holiday display. Keep in mind that if you go overboard with holiday decorating when you’re in the process of selling a home, it could distract potential buyers.

3. Clear the Cobwebs. If you’re like most people, you probably did some spring cleaning this year. That’s not enough if you’re putting your home up on the real estate market in the fall. The house has had a whole season of kids on summer vacation, open windows letting in pollens and accumulations of dust bunnies in hidden places. Rain from over the summer will have smudged your windows. Scour your kitchen and bathrooms from top to bottom. Vacuum or sweep under the furniture, inside closets and in all of the corners of the living room and bedrooms. Sweep out the fireplace – even if you don’t use it, it can accumulate dust and dirt. Get the furnace in good working condition and replace the filters to prevent dusty and musty smells from filling the house when someone is taking a tour. A home buyer will likely ask a home inspector to look at the furnace anyway, so it is a good idea to discover issues now, before you try selling your home.

4. Create Autumn Atmosphere. You’ve already taken advantage of fall appeal outside with the pumpkins and flowers, now it’s time to splash some autumn cheer on the inside of your house with some home staging. You don’t have to get new furniture in fall colors or anything, but you could accessorize with a bright red blankets and golden-hued pillows. Make or buy an fall centerpiece for the dining room table. Don’t forget the other senses besides sight and touch. Fill the air with the scents of fall by simmering hot apple cider and cinnamon on the stove and offer it to potential home buyers at the end of their tour. If you’ve got the talent or inclination, baking an apple pie, banana bread or pumpkin cupcakes could help ingratiate you with the buyers.

5. Let in the Light. As the days get shorter, the sun sits lower on the horizon and casts longer shadows, making it dimmer inside your home earlier and earlier in the day. Push open the blinds, pull back the curtains and open the shutters of every window. Turn on the lights in the house – you may even consider turning on appliance lights and closet lights. Lighten up particularly darks rooms by adding standing lights behind furniture or in the corners. Just as it should be well-lit, it should be kept cozy. When the temperature drops outside, home buyers expect to enter a home that is warm. If it’s too chilly, they might leave with an negative impression of your home.

During autumn, the housing market does slow down, but it certainly doesn’t stop. Take the time to tidy  up your house so it looks its best for fall the season and home buyers are sure to take notice.

Selling a home? Find your next dream home with our MLS search.

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6 Ways Home Buyers Can See Past the Façade of Home Staging

To draw home buyers, many home sellers use staging techniques or hire professional home stagers to make their house look it’s best and possibly fetch a higher price. The home is cleaned, rearranged and decorated to look like a house from Home & Garden. Furniture is repositioned or even downsized to make rooms appear larger and the scent of cinnamon or chocolate chip cookies fills the air with an ambiance of nostalgia and sensations of home.

buy a home - home staging

Savvy home buyers can learn to see past this facade if they know what to look for. With these tips, you can identify where the and the true, raw characteristics of the home begins and the home staging ends.

Examine the layout. The floor plan shows the real layout and size of the home. It also shows what features of the home you can and cannot change – or the things that could be costly to change. It can also help expose information about the probable cost of utilities and maintenance for the home. Really evaluate the space within the home to be sure it’s right for you. Bring a tape measure, notebook, a camera and the dimensions of some of your bigger or more significant furnishings to be sure they’ll fit.

Check for tells. The difference between looking at a house and living in a house is pretty significant. Many home sellers hope that you’ll be persuaded by the appearance, and not think as much about what it might have taken to get the look. When selling a home, sellers will often store most of their possessions offsite and use undersized furniture to make rooms seem bigger than they are. Interior doors are often taken off their hinges to give the illusion of more space. Buyers should know the size of their furnishings and consider if their possessions will fit inside the home.

Look under the hood. When buying a car, the paint job isn’t as important how the engine runs and the same applies when you buy a home. Even the most beautiful home could be hiding signs of trouble. Take a look at the furnace and central air for indications of dirt or disrepair. Check under the sinks to look for water marks from old leaks. Some minor issues here and there aren’t necessarily signals of a problem, but a pattern of issues may suggest that the home owners have deferred maintenance on the house. Make a list of things to have a home inspector evaluate more comprehensively.

Evaluate for quality. Keep your eyes open for signs of quality craftsmanship, such as fully-intact wood trim, solid doors, and cleanly-grouted tiles. This is particularly important for homes that have been recently remodeled, because if it has been renovated cheaply, there could be issues down the road. An older home that has been sturdily built is better than a newer house that’s been cheaply built and needs additional work.

Visit at different times.  Visiting the house at various times during the day and evening can give you a good idea of what the interior lighting is like. If you visit at night, you may suddenly realize that the home doesn’t have any overhead lights. When you visit during the day, you may discover that the windows don’t let in enough sunlight for your liking.  Take a look out the windows to get an idea of the views from the living room and kitchen. Be sure to check if windows open and close properly, and that they aren’t too small. Home stagers sometimes place large curtains over small basement windows to make windows look bigger.

Take a sniff. Your nose can reveal a lot about a home. Smell around for any musty or moldy scents in the home that could mean it has moisture issues, especially in the basement and in bathroom cabinets. Pleasant scents may indicate a problem as well. Overdoing air freshener and other smell masking methods could be hiding a bad smell from a dirty fireplace or water damage.

Keep these tips in mind during your search to buy a home. You’ll be more likely to see past the facade of home staging to the true nature of the home. You don’t have to estimate the square footage of the master bedroom closet in every home you visit, but if you’ve found the house you think might be may be your next home, you may want to get out your tape measure and bring it along.

Ready to buy a home? Check out our MLS search – you may find just the home you’re looking for!

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