Climate change and your housing budget

climate change
Climate change and your housing budget (infographic from energystar.gov)

Saving the planet and acting environmentally ethical is good.  But there is a truth that human behavior is unpredictable.  Even in the face of the speculative disastrous effects of climate change, consumer demand for housing in effected areas is resilient.  Rapti Gupta pointed this out when raising the alarm in his RealtyToday article (The Looming Global Warming Catastrophe and its Effect on Real Estate; realtytoday.com; November 11, 2013).

If consumers won’t embrace climate change, government will. Making your home “green” seems to be going to another level these days.  Home owners have responded by voluntarily upgrading and conserving to help according to their belief. And although it’s not the first time, there is a nationwide push for local climate change legislation that is likely to impact your housing budget.

It’s been ten years, but you probably forgot about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  The bill, also referred to as the “cap and trade” bill, not only focused on commercial properties but residential properties as well.  The bill would have established National Energy Efficiency Building Codes for commercial and residential buildings.  Additionally, it intended to retrofit all existing buildings to meet new standards.  Enforcement would have been through regular government inspections.

Climate change, CCA’s and your energy bill

Since the bill (and others like it) was not enacted, local communities have picked up the ball to make their communities “greener” through Community Choice Aggregation programs.  Although CCA’s have been implemented in some states since the 1990’s, the idea is gaining steam in others.  Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich recently testified in support of CCA’s and the legislation (HB0730/SB0660) that is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly.

What is Community Choice Aggregation?  According to the EPA (epa.gov), “Community choice aggregation (CCA), also known as municipal aggregation, are programs that allow local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider. CCAs are an attractive option for communities that want more local control over their electricity sources, more green power than is offered by the default utility, and/or lower electricity prices. By aggregating demand, communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources.

However, Severin Borenstein’s blog post for the Energy Institute at Haas (haas.berkeley.edu) points out the pros and cons of CCA’s (Is “Community Choice” Electric Supply a Solution or a Problem?).  Borenstein points out the local utility still does all the work of supplying and metering customers, and bills customers for their services. 

However, the CCA is contracting to purchase electricity on your behalf (supposedly from renewable sources), promising a better price.  But Borenstein points out that policy makers learned that “electricity is not always like other markets,” pricing and fees can be complicated.  He also pointed out that because of regulatory standards, the CCA buying of energy contracts from renewable sources doesn’t mean that the grid’s “total” green energy increases or that it will decrease greenhouse gases.  He states, “green energy claims deserve close scrutiny.

Borenstein concludes by saying that “Regulated investor-owned utilities are flawed organizations that operate under a distorted set of incentives. But local governments are also flawed organizations subject to their own set of distortions, a fact that is often less appreciated by the local government leaders who are promoting the CCA.  If your community is considering a CCA, you need to think about which organizational structure is most likely to have the sophistication and the incentives to serve you best.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/03/04/climate-change-housing-budget/

Copyright© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Home sale renovations

home sale renovations
Interior Home Sale Renovations (infographic from nar.realtor)

According to the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor), the average time a homeowner stays in their home is ten years.  This is higher than the seven-year average prior to the great recession (but is less than the thirteen-year average immediately following the recession).  Needless to say, many homeowners are approaching (or have exceeded) their ten-year stint, and are likely selling their home during the spring and will likely be doing home sale renovations.

Any home sale preparation in today’s housing market should include some home sale renovations.  If you haven’t replaced the home’s systems (such as the roof or HVAC) while you lived in your home, there’s a good chance that they are approaching or have exceeded their average life expectancy.

Additionally, the décor and fixtures in your home are likely outdated.  The home sellers who make the mistake of not updating or renovating before they list inevitably face home inspection issues.  They ultimately find that the home takes longer to sell at a reduced price.

Let’s face it, remodeling can be expensive and overwhelming, especially when it’s for home sale renovations.  According to the NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, about $340 billion was spent on remodeling projects in 2015.  Although a majority of homeowners would remodel their home themselves, thirty-five percent would prefer to move instead of remodeling their home.

The Report cited functionality and livability as the top reasons for home sale renovations.  It’s a no-brainer that home buyers prefer homes that are functional, comfortable, and sustainable.  Aesthetics is not enough for a home to be appealing to today’s home buyer, it has to fit their life style.  Additionally, home buyers want efficient systems in their new homes that can help save on utility costs.

Home sale renovations should focus on functionality and livability

What projects will get buyers who will pay top dollar into your home?  It should be no surprise that the number one interior project, listed by the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, is a complete kitchen renovation.  Other essential interior projects include renovating bathrooms, installing new wood flooring, creating a new master suite, replacing the HVAC system, and finishing a basement or attic.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the Report listed replacing the roof as the top exterior project. Other exterior projects in high demand include new windows, new garage door, new siding, and installing a new front door.

If you want to add value to your home, even if it’s not for home sale renovations, check the 2018 Cost vs. Value report (costvsvalue.com).  The report can give you insight to which remodeling projects are the most popular, and estimates how much of the cost you can potentially reclaim when you sell your home.

There’s no doubt that renovating your home can be expensive.  Although the costs of home sale renovations can tempt you to cut corners, don’t.  Cutting corners on renovation projects can actually cost you more.  You may have to repair, or even re-do the project if not finished adequately.  Home buyers are savvy, and can spot low quality materials and poor workmanship.

Also, make sure to get permits when required.  If the home buyer doesn’t ask you, the home inspector will likely recommend that the home buyer check for permits.

Although many homeowners don’t mind a DIY project, many hire home improvement professionals.  When hiring home improvement professionals, check with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic) to ensure they are licensed contractors.  You should also ask for proof of their insurance, including Workman’s Comp insurance, in case there is an accident on your property while completing the project.

If you hire a contractor who will accept payment when the house sells, read your contract carefully and thoroughly. Do your due diligence.  There may be provisions in your contract that you may not be aware of, such as added costs, charging interest, and setting/lowering the sale price.

Original article is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/17/home-sale-renovations

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real estate services personality

The “one-size-fits-all” service model is becoming an all too familiar experience in every day life.  You encounter it when you go to the doctor’s office.  A day at the mall is certainly a one-size-fits-all adventure.  Now, there is also the pressure towards automated buying and selling systems in the real estate industry.  Real estate services that is one-size-fits-all?  The idea of a one-size-fits-all real estate transaction is becoming trendy from both online companies and local real estate companies.

How do real estate services treat clients?

real estate services
Real Estate Services (infographic from nar.realtor(

The move toward systematizing consumer encounters comes from the corporate goal of profiting from efficiency.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong from a business making money.  After all, making money is the basis of our economy.  And the one-size-fits-all system for home buying and selling is a business solution during a healthy housing market where homes sell quickly.

However, the systematization of the service industry, including real estate, is not welcome by all consumers.  There is some acknowledgement that a systematized real estate transaction can have unfortunate outcomes when the plan is derailed.  Not all real estate transactions are easy, nor do all homes sell quickly.  It is a fact that that most home buyers and sellers still want an expert they can count on to help them navigate one of the most expensive and stressful transactions of their life.

Customer service research

Gauging the effects of a systematized service industry on the consumer is a growing interest.  One recent study examined customer service reactions when the provider system fails (Diaz, Gomez, Martin-Consuegra, Molina; The Effects of Perceived Satisfaction with Service Recovery Efforts: A Study in a Hotel Setting; Ekonomie a Management; 2017, 20:4 p.203-18).  The study suggested that customer issues are inevitable.  They conclude that customer service models should have strategies to address and resolve issues to maintain positive customer relationships.

Another study suggested that when it comes to automated service, some service industries are better suited than others (Scherer & Von Wangenheim;  Man Versus Machine-How the Service Channel Affects Customers’ Responses to Service Encounters; AMA Winter Educators’ Conference Proceedings; 2016, Vol. 27).  The authors suggest that a consumer’s expectation is guided by how a service is provided.  Satisfaction levels are increased when personal services are delivered by a human.  Furthermore, they found that consumers who prefer technology or automated services tend to be ego-centric.  These “self-service” consumers attribute success to their abilities, while shifting blame to externals when there is a failure.

Real estate services for all personalities

The growing body of research may explain why real estate agents have not become extinct in a technological world.  Instead, the profession has endured.  Moreover, Realtors have embraced technology (for better or worse).  As new technologies make the home buying and selling process easier, the industry will undoubtedly adapt.  The fad of systematizing the real estate transaction, as well as buyer and seller encounters, is in reality a “one-size-fits-some” solution.  In other words, there is a place for the automated and systematic real estate transaction, but it’s not for everyone.

Before you embark on your home buying or selling journey, you should think about your needs.  What are your expectations?

As a real estate consumer, you have a duty to explore your options for real estate services.  You should interview and compare real estate services. Questions to ask your real estate agent before you buy or sell a home:

  • Is there one point of contact, or do you have to deal with a “team” of people for different situations.
  • What do you do if the point of contact is not available?
  • How do they handle unexpected obstacles or emergencies?
  • Ask for recent client references whom you can call.

Original is located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/10/19/real-estate-services-personality/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month (from Ready.Gov)

September is National Preparedness Month!  Being prepared is not just having a “bugout” bag at the ready.  Preparedness is about taking stock to ensure safety for yourself and family in various conditions.  When you hear “preparedness,” you may automatically think of disaster or national emergency.  But it’s also about coping with various local emergencies including: weather, active shooter, hazardous materials, chemical, cybersecurity, and power outages.

FEMA encourages Americans to be prepared to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.  National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s focused outreach effort to educate and empower everyone through local and online events (https://www.ready.gov/september).  National Preparedness Month activities are occurring throughout the country.  In Montgomery County MD, local National Preparedness Month activities are coordinated through the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Preparedness in your home starts with maintenance.  Proper home maintenance can not only help mitigate a disaster, but also prevent one as well.  Regular maintenance of the home’s systems is obviously suggested.  However, there are specific emergency related recommendations to help you in your home, which include: testing smoke alarms monthly, replacing smoke alarms every ten years, and knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities.  Additionally, to prevent a chimney fire, you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified and reputable professional.

Information is key to getting through an emergency.  If you have a cell phone, you may receive “Wireless Emergency Alerts” through the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, which includes amber alerts, weather alerts, and notifications from the Emergency Alert System.  However, localities also have there own alert systems.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Montgomery Alert system can inform you of local government and school information, weather alerts, as well as traffic and infrastructure issues (montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/AlertMontgomery).

National Preparedness Month
FEMA Preparedness Checklist (from ready.gov)

Do you have an emergency plan?  You should have a plan in case an emergency occurs in and out of the home.  Take time to update your home fire evacuation plan, and practice it with a family fire drill.  Choose a family rendezvous point in case an emergency occurs during work/school hours and the home is inaccessible.  Because cell phones are not reliable during emergencies, alternate means of communication should be considered.  Create a family communication plan by including: family contact information, family physician, medical facility information, and an out-of-town point of contact.

Is your homeowner’s insurance adequate?  The aftermath of recent hurricanes and floods have demonstrated that home owners with proper insurance coverage recover from those disasters quicker.  Insurance and emergency experts recommend to regularly review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure that the replacement costs of your home and possessions are covered.  Coverage varies depending on the policy.  Experts recommended to discuss flood and disaster insurance with your insurance agent.

As for the “bugout” bag… It’s recommended that you have an emergency kit in the home and in your car.  A basic kit should be able to get you and your family through 72 hours of an emergency.  However, extreme emergencies have revealed that infrastructure can be disrupted for weeks.  Many experts encourage having an expanded home emergency kit to last at least two weeks in case of a prolonged lack of infrastructure.

Learn more about National Preparedness Month at FEMA’s Ready.gov (ready.gov/September).  Ready.gov provides detailed information about preparedness for yourself, your family and your home, including assembling an emergency kit.  Local preparedness information in Montgomery County MD can be obtained from Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs).

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/05/national-preparedness-month/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Homestead tax credit – are you getting yours?

Homestead Tax Credit
Homestead (infographic from census.gov)

It’s been eleven years since Maryland forced all qualifying homeowners to reapply for the Homestead Property Tax Credit.  Prior to the change in the application, applying for the Homestead Tax Credit was almost automatic for homeowners who claimed a primary residence.  However, many abused the program to get tax credits on non-principal residences by claiming multiple properties or rental properties as their primary residence.  The 2007 change was implemented to reexamine ownership, so as to stop the abuse of the property tax credit program.

The Homestead Property Tax Credit was created to assist homeowners with significant assessment increases on their principal residences.  The credit limits the amount of taxable assessments.  The state requires each county and municipality to limit taxable assessments to ten percent or less.  Most of Montgomery County is limited to the state cap of ten percent.  The Homestead Credit limits the property tax that the homeowner pays to the allowed limit.

According to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation website (dat.maryland.gov), the Homestead Property Tax Credit is granted if during the previous year: the property was not transferred to new ownership; there was no change in the zoning classification requested by the homeowner resulting in an increase value of the property; a substantial change did not occur in the use of the property; the previous assessment was not clearly erroneous; the dwelling must be the owner’s principal residence and the owner must have lived in it for at least six months of the year (including July 1 of the year for which the credit is applicable), unless the owner was temporarily unable to do so by reason of illness or need of special care.

A homeowner who vacates their home for major improvements, or plans to raze the home to build a new home may qualify for the Credit if the following two conditions are met: (1) the property was the homeowner’s principal residence for at least 3 full tax years immediately preceding the razing or starting the improvements; and (2) the building of the replacement home or the improvements must be completed within the next succeeding tax year after the tax year in which the razing or the substantial improvements were commenced.

Since 2007, many homeowners and home buyers have been unaware of the Homestead Tax Credit.  Additionally, since then, many homeowners who may qualify for the Credit did not reapply.  Many homeowners who purchased homes since then have also not applied for the Credit.  Besides being unaware of their eligibility for the Credit, they may not have understood the Homestead Tax Credit and the application process.  But this will change because of two bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly (HB990 Homestead Property Tax Credit Notification on Acquisition of Property, and HB305/SB158 Homestead Property Tax Credit Program Eligibility Awareness).

Beginning July 1st, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation is required to mail a notice about the Homestead Property Tax Credit to individuals who purchase a home.  And effective October 1st, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation is required to identify homeowners who may be eligible for the Homestead Property Tax Credit Program (but failed to apply) and provide information on applying for the Credit with each assessment notice. For more information about your Homestead Property Tax Credit eligibility status and application process, please visit the State Department of Assessments and Taxation website (dat.maryland.gov).

Originally published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/07/13/homestead-tax-credit-maryland/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.