Renting? Want To Own A Home Instead But Don’t Know How?

2015 Buyers Magazine Cover layer2


Stop Paying Your Landlords Mortgage. Download your FREE Home Buying Guide and Take The First Step In Buying Your Own Home!

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Staging Tips for Selling Your House This Spring

Here are four staging tips and easy upgrades that will help sell your house this spring!

1. Color Where it Counts

Many make staging a mission to neutralize a space’s color palette from top to bottom. While this isn’t a bad strategy (and we’ve recommended it often!), don’t forget that color can be your friend when you’re engaging buyers.

A bright area rug that draws attention to floor inlays or bright flowers beside a high-end vessel sink can signal buyers where they should really look in photos and during tours. Add color around features guaranteed to wow buyers to make sure they aren’t missed.

2. Lux the Lighting

More than ever, listings are competing in clusters of homes and developments where everyone was served the same off-the-shelf features. In these neighborhoods, one major way to stand out (which can be accomplished by doing it yourself) is a lighting upgrade.

Ridding the home of generic fluorescents and boring ceiling fans can create a lot of buyer love. Even if your can’t afford to upgrade every room, try installing a “statement light” in the entryway, kitchen, or other key common areas that will impress them and their future guests.

3. Turn up the Tech

Also in the realm of standout features to consider are adding tech touches throughout the home. Two impressive upgrades that are more affordable than you’d think are:

  • Built-in USB Wall Chargers — For just $20, you can make outlets in key common areas more mobile friendly by adding an USB-compatible outlet to charge phones, tablets, and other devices.
  • Touch-less, motion-sensor faucets — For around $100 on sites like Amazon, you can add serious high-tech luxury to bathroom and kitchen sinks.

4. Go Monochromatic to Create Space

Clutter isn’t always on the counter. If a room has more than four bold colors competing, chances are its carrying visual clutter. Cut down on the number of colors in rooms (especially small ones) to create more visual space and use color to highlight the features that will really make buyers fall in love.

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Ice Dams Are Back!!!!

Another cold & snowy winter is upon us.  The recent snow accumulations and cold weather have created widespread ice dams.  Roof leaks and interior water damage can occur as a result of ice damming.

Large ice formations at bottom of roof valleys

The combination of cold temperatures and regular snowfall are Mother Nature’s ingredients for ice damming. A lack of insulation, poor attic ventilation, shallow-pitched roofs, and complicated roof lines (many valleys) are the contributors from our homes. Together, these factors can lead to many headaches with ice and leaks.
It is very important for homeowners to understand that leaks from ice dams are not necessarily due to an old roof in need of replacement. Ice damming can occur at houses that have good roofs of less than 10 years old. Also, ice dams are not the fault of the gutters.

Ice damming is the accumulation of ice on the lower sections of roofs, typically on overhangs, in valleys, etc.  The accumulation of ice that forms prevents additional water (i.e. melted snow) from draining off of the roof. The puddle that forms between the ice and the roof can then leak through the roof.

Ice damming can be reduced or prevented with proper attic insulation and ventilation to help keep the roof cold. Insulation prevents heat from escaping into the attic and ventilation removes any heat that makes it up there. However, making improvements to insulation and ventilation can be impractical once the winter has begun, and especially once it becomes severe.
Modern roofing standards require an ice and water barrier under the edges of our asphalt shingle roofs. This barrier can prevent leaks from ice damming, but it must be installed when the roof is installed.
Electric heating cables can be installed and turned on once the snow falls to effectively prevent ice damming, and subsequent leaks. The heating cables run in a zig-zag pattern on the roof edge and through the gutters and downspouts to maintain a path for water (melting snow) to get off of the roof. Obviously, there is a cost associated with the electricity to operate these cables. 

Heating or De-Icing cables

The use of a “roof rake” or “snow rake” can be very effective in preventing ice damming.  After a snowfall, the homeowner must rake snow off of the edge of the roof with this plastic blade on the end of a long aluminum pole.  Using the rake to remove just a few feet of snow from the lower portion of the roof will often be effective in keeping the roof overhang clear of accumulations of ice.

Many homeowners will chip snow and ice off of the roof with a sharp shovel and damage the roof.  This should be avoided.  Sometimes solutions of warm salt water or similar snow-melting solutions will be used to melt ice to make a path for water to get off of the roof.  These should only be used as a last resort, since they can sometimes damage building materials and actually result in more ice when the water re-freezes.

Damage to shingles and “drip edge” from ice removal with a sharp instrument/toll. 
Prevention of ice damming would ideally be accomplished with good insulation and proper attic ventilation, along with proper roofing materials, including ice and water barrier.  However, sometimes Mother Nature is cruel and ice dams will occur even though homeowners have been diligent about trying to prevent such occurrences.  This is especially true for houses with low pitched and complex roof designs.

Electric heating cables and snow rakes (roof rakes) are things that can be used to more directly control the problem until better long-term preventive measures can be put in place.  Ice damming can be troublesome and frustrating with our “normal” winter weather.

Why hire just a home inspector when you can hire a NYS licensed Professional Engineer to inspect a house or building?

Staff Photo

Your friends at Warren Engineering:
533 West Commercial St.
East Rochester, NY 14445
Posted in Buying A House, Investment/Income Property, Local News, National and World News, NY, Penfield NY, Pot Luck, Selling a House | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Chizuk at Prospect Lending

If you have any questions please call Shannon Fitzpatrick with Re/Max (585)880-1748.

Posted in Applying for a Mortgage, Buying A House, Buying vs Renting, Downpayment Assistance, Local News, Mortgage Rates, Mortgage Refinancing, Mortgage/Finance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Year “To Dos” For The Home

With the start of a new year, it’s always a good idea to assess your home and it’s needs. Taking stock of appliances, home systems and other items that make a house a home will help guide you to home improvements needed, appliances that may be near the end of their lives and any other updates that can help to boost your home’s worth. Listed below are major home systems to evaluate in the new year to help give you peace of mind.


In the winter and summer months a home’s HVAC systems are put to good use.
January is the perfect month to replace disposable filters or wash permanent ones in your home’s HVAC or humidifier systems. Filters should be regularly replaced or washed when use is high or during peak seasons. It’s also an excellent time to vacuum all heat vents, especially those that are located on the floor, which susceptible to dust, dirt,
pet hairs and other particles that float through the air.
Vacuuming has also been known to help with any heating or cooling issues related to clogged air ducts. January is also a good time to check for any leaks in your home’s forced air heat ducts. If any are found, seal the leaks with duct tape.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Checking alarms and detectors is especially important when cold temperatures in the winter leave homes closed up. This month inspect, clean and test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Also be sure to replace any that are faulty, no longer working or old.

Fire Extinguishers & Fire Evacuation Plan
January is a great time to inspect and charge any working fire extinguishers you may have in your home. Fire extinguishers should also be placed in all accessible areas of the home where fires are more likely to occur: kitchens, garages or areas that house furnaces, boilers, fireplaces and stoves. January is also the perfect time to form a fire evacuation plan. Go over the plan with anyone who might live with you, and if you have kids dedicate a time to have a practice fire drill. If the bedrooms in your home are on the second or third floor, invest in a fire escape ladder which can be found at your local hardware store.

Leaking Windows and Electrical Outlets
With winter setting in, finding the weak points in your home will not only help keep your home warm, but it will also help cut down on heating bills. Identify any windows that may have broken seals by looking for condensation on the inside of the window. Examine electrical outlets throughout your home for any drafts, and insulate those that may be letting in cold air.

Check and Test GFCI Outlets
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are a must have in your home. These special outlets protect people from electric shock by monitoring the amount of current flowing through the outlet. If there is an imbalance of current, the outlet trips the circuit of the appliance, cutting off the electricity. You can test GFCI outlets with a circuit tester that has its own GFCI test button. GFCIs do wear out, and their lifespan is about 10 years. Replace GFCIs that no longer function properly — these outlets save thousands of lives each year.

Other items to look at in a new year:
We live in an area that is known to have inclement weather, make sure you have proper snow removal equipment and alternative energy options in case of power outages. January is also a great month for reviewing warranties and product information on a furnace, large appliances and any other big ticket items in the home. Preventative maintenance will not only save you money and keep your home safe, but houses that do not keep up with maintenance have been known to lose up to 10% to 12% off their appraised value. Getting a head start on yearly to dos and anticipating yearly maintenance will put you ahead of the issues and have you prepared for any upcoming and unforseen fixes.

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6 Factors Homebuyers Should Consider Over Interest Rates

When the Federal Reserve stopped buying Treasury bonds last fall, experts predicted interest rates would rise, sparking a sense of urgency among prospective homebuyers to take advantage of historically low rates before it was too late.

Now the rise in interest rates – also predicted in 2014, but not realized as the Fed eased off on bond buying – is looking less certain. Some experts believe rates will fall; others believe they will stay the same and even those who predict an increase say the increase will be small.

“There is no rush to buy for the interest rates because we don’t see rates moving very quickly or very much from this year to next,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin in the District of Columbia, who expects mortgage rates to rise slightly this year. “The housing market is not one where anyone should feel an urgency to buy now.”

The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.66 percent this week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage market survey. That’s the lowest rate since May 2013.

Interest rates, however, should not be the primary factor that determines when you purchase a home. For most buyers, other factors are much more important. Rather than buy now for fear that rates might suddenly increase, for example, it might be smart to wait so you can save up a bigger down payment.

“Small changes in interest rates don’t make large changes in your payment,” says Casey Fleming, author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage” and a mortgage broker in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fleming actually believes interest rates may drop further. “Interest rates are not the most important piece of [homebuying].”

If you’re ready to buy a home, 2015 could be a good year. The inventory of homes for sale is likely to rise and fewer flippers are scooping up the best homes with all-cash deals, Richardson says.

Low interest rates are contributing to the higher inventory, she says, because homeowners who are ready to sell their homes and move to a bigger or smaller home, or a new neighborhood, are willing to abandon their low-rate mortgages if they can secure an equally good loan. Plus, home appreciation has slowed, so there is less reason to stay put.

“The payoff to waiting [to sell] is not going to be a lot,” Richardson says. “Right now it’s the best it’s going to get,” she adds. “Maybe it’s time to rush and sell but not time to rush and buy.”

For most prospective homebuyers, other factors are likely to be more important than interest rates when they do the math about whether 2015 is the right year to buy.

“If you can afford a down payment now and you’re going to be in the home a long period of time, it’s a very attractive time to buy a home,” says Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow. But he cautions buyers against making their decision based on what they’ve heard about imminent interest rate increases. “There’s no need to rush out and beat an interest rate increase. You can walk, not run, to your bank the way interest rates are going.”

Interest rates fluctuate and may change countless times between the moment someone decides to buy a home and when they actually close the deal. “It’s very hard to time your purchase. Interest rates go up and down week to week and month to month,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia. “Buying a home is a slower process.” He expects interest rates to rise slightly this year, but he notes that all the economists predicted higher rates last year, when rates ended up falling.

Here are six factors that may be more important than interest rates when deciding whether to buy a home this year.

Length of time you’ll stay in that home. How long you have to live in a home to make it more economical than renting varies by locality and, in fact, by the individual home a person is considering buying or renting. “On average, it takes four to seven years to break even on a home, where you’ve got enough appreciation where it can pay you back for the cost of the transaction and cost of ownership,” Fleming says. “If you’re thinking about buying a home, selling it in two years and think it’s going to be cheaper than renting, it’s very unlikely to be.”

Job security. You don’t want to buy a home and then discover you’ll need to relocate to get a new job in six months or, even worse, end up unemployed and unable to make payments. Lenders typically like to see two years of job history, though that isn’t always necessary if you have changed jobs within the same field.

Down payment. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced plans to back loans with down payments as low as 3 percent, while the Federal Housing Administration offers loans with down payments of as little as 3.5 percent. But if you put less than 20 percent down, you have to pay private mortgage insurance every month, which could cost you more than a slightly higher interest rate. “If they’re looking at an FHA mortgage, paying PMI is a lifetime proposition,” Humphries says. With a conventional mortgage, you can ask to have the PMI removed once you have 20 percent equity in your home. That’s not possible with an FHA mortgage.

Emotional readiness. Not everyone is ready to own a home. If your dream is to travel the world, you should do that first. Or, you might not be sure you want to stay in your current city. Plus, homeownership brings additional responsibilities. “Your life changes a great deal when you go from being a renter to an owner,” Fleming says. “When things break, it’s your responsibility to fix them, not the landlord’s.”

Financial readiness. Before you buy a home, you want to make sure you have good credit, a steady income and some money in the bank beyond what you’ll need for a down payment. You likely will have to pay a year’s worth of homeowners insurance and property taxes up front. All homes, even new homes, require maintenance. And you don’t want to be stuck with no reserves if the air conditioner or furnace dies shortly after you move in.

Your local housing market. In some cities, buying a home is significantly cheaper than renting. In others, the calculation is less clear. Macro math aside, you might also discover that you can’t afford a home in a neighborhood you want or the type of home you want is in short supply this year.

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Foundations From Our Friends at Warren Enguneering

Many times we have been asked general questions regarding foundation maintenance, and more specifically; “when is a foundation crack considered to be severe or of significance”? The following newsletter is intended to address some of these questions regarding the different types of foundations in the Rochester area and when foundation repair becomes necessary. As is always the case, please feel free to call our office if you have specific questions on this topic, or any other questions regarding our services.
Houses that were constructed prior to around 1910 typically will have foundations constructed with stone. These stone foundations have certainly withstood the test of time. There are thousands of houses in this general area with stone foundations that remain in serviceable condition.
Stone foundations will require periodic maintenance and repair. This can include repointing, filling voids, securing loose stone, etc. Over a period of many years, or even generations, the mortar that was used in these foundations tends to slowly deteriorate. It essentially turns to sand, necessitating patching and repointing. These repairs are not usually required on a very frequent basis, but owners of old properties such as this must anticipate the need for maintenance.
Stone foundations often times look to be in worse condition than they actually are. They tend to look somewhat irregular or distressed. Rarely is a stone wall completely plumb and true. Often times they have a bit of a lean, or even a buckle. The need for significant foundation repair presents itself when a wall experiences noticeable movement or deterioration, which is not a common occurrence.
This stone foundation has not been well maintained. Note the voids and loose stone.
Over the past 100+ years the vast majority of residential foundations in our area have been constructed with masonry block. These foundations are also very reliable. There are two types of movement that tend to occur with these foundations, neither of which is desirable, but a small degree of movement is not unusual.
First, some minor differential settlement of a foundation is almost expected. This typically occurs not long after a foundation or house is constructed. It involves a small degree of downward movement, and it can cause noticeable but minor cracks in the wall. Usually these cracks are approximately vertical, or they stair-step along the mortar joints.
We have often times heard people say that a crack that is in the mortar joints is minor but a crack that goes through the block is of great significance. We would disagree. When the foundation moves, a crack will want to occur where there are weaker areas of the block and mortar. This is usually through the mortar joint. In fact, a crack through the block indicates that the mortar securely bonded to the block at the time of construction. This means that the mason did a good job in building the foundation since the mortar, block and joints are all working well together. A properly constructed block foundation is essentially one large unit. It should be monolithic in nature.
In either case, a small degree of differential settlement causing slight or minor settlement cracks is not unusual. In most cases settlement does not progress, or progresses very slowly over decades. If settlement does continue to progress more rapidly over a shorter period of time it is an indication that the soil beneath the foundation is moving or shifting. Depending on circumstances (e.g. how quickly movement has occurred and the total amount of movement) this could require significant repair or underpinning of the foundation. This is a very expensive undertaking. Once again, the nature of our soil in this area is such that ongoing significant foundation settlement is not a common occurrence.
This foundation has experienced settlement, even after partial reconstruction was performed. Note stair-step cracks.
Exterior settlement crack
Cracking possibly caused by malfunctioning gutter drain
Horizontal shifting of the foundation can also occur. After all, not only does a foundation hold up the house (vertical loading), it also holds back the weight/pressure from the adjacent soil (horizontal or lateral loading). Horizontal pressure acting against the foundation from the soil can push a wall inward if the wall is not of adequate strength. There are many factors that can contribute to the lateral pressure acting against a foundation. Soil type is a major contributor. Heavy wet soils will exert an appreciable amount of lateral pressure. Frost action just below grade level is a common inward force. Inward movement and buckling can result. The horizontal mortar joints tend to open, and the wall is no longer plumb.
The history of these conditions can play an important role in determining the severity of the situation. Technically, a cracked wall is compromised to some extent since its monolithic state has been effected. However, if the wall has experienced a small amount of inward movement, and movement is not progressing, corrective actions can be delayed or avoided. The typical recommendation in this case is to direct roof and surface water away from the outside of the wall to reduce the chance of additional movement. However, continuation of movement would indicate that there are instabilities which must be addressed. This is why it is important for a potential buyer of a property that has experienced this type of movement of the foundation to obtain as much information as possible regarding the history of the movement.
This foundation has shifted inward as evidenced by inward bow and opening of horizontal joints.
A foundation that has experienced a significant amount of inward movement should be reinforced, strengthened or rebuilt. Also, steps should be taken to help reduce or control the amount of lateral pressure acting against the foundation.
Reinforcement is oftentimes accomplished through the installation of pilasters on the inside of the foundation. Pilasters are reinforced vertical columns that are anchored into the basement floor and the foundation wall. They act as braces, preventing continued lateral movement. Relatively speaking, pilasters are one of the less expensive types of repair, at least as compared to other types of foundation reinforcement or rebuilding.
Reinforcement to help prevent lateral movement can also be accomplished through other means that tend to be more intrusive and expensive, but less obvious. For example, some contractors will install anchors or “dead men” in the ground outside of the foundation walls. These anchors are then fastened to the foundation with threaded steel rods that run through the foundation and plates and bolts on the inside surface of the wall. The anchors in the ground are intended to keep the wall from experiencing movement.
In more extreme cases, lateral movement of a foundation can ultimately necessitate complete reconstruction of the section of the foundation that has been affected. This is a very costly undertaking.
Controlling the amount of pressure acting against the foundation is important. The amount of water in the soil directly adjacent to the foundation should be minimized. For this reason, proper grading is important. Where possible grading, driveways, walkways, patios, etc. should slope away from the house. Also, it is important to insure that roof runoff is channeled away from the house. The lack of gutters, or gutters that do not function properly will result in an excessive amount of water in the soil adjacent to the foundation. When this water in the soil freezes frost action can push a foundation inward. Sometimes the installation of below ground drain systems becomes justified or necessary. These drain systems will collect excess water from the ground and channel it away from the foundation.
Poured concrete foundations are a relative rarity in the Rochester area. They are very desirable foundations, but the general building practice of the Rochester area has limited their use. For the most part, they are stronger than block foundations, but they can still experience some minor differential settlement. Cracks that are vertical or mostly vertical in a poured foundation are usually the result of minor differential settlement. Patching of these cracks is considered good general practice, not because it is necessary from a structural standpoint, but because patching of the crack can help to prevent seepage of ground water.
We hope that this brief discussion regarding types of foundations and foundation cracks is of benefit to you. As is always the case, please feel free to contact our office if we can be of specific assistance pertaining to your questions about houses and their maintenance. We stand ready and willing to assist you in this regard.
Why hire just a home inspector when you can hire a NYS licensed Professional Engineer to inspect a house or building?

Your friends at Warren Engineering:
Staff Photo

533 West Commercial St.
East Rochester, NY 14445

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Today’s Civil Defense Drill is Just a Drill!

My son startled me for a moment when I picked him up at school yesterday.  For a moment I panicked, “dad, we had a lock down today”. Then I realized that there wasn’t a communique from the district so it must have been a drill.  I’m crazy though thinking that there could someday be a need for a lock down at my son’s elementary school.  What have we become as a society when this is necessary?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they practice should the need arise but instead of preparing for a fire, in my day bomb scares were prevalent, or nukes coming over from some eastern block threat, we are preparing for someone to enter into the school and do harm.  Okay, so they still have fire drills too but you get my point.

falloutI remember the school being a fallout shelter when I was there and they showed us films on how to hunker down under our desks in case the bombs started flying.  Not sure how helpful that would be and certainly a complete waste if they were nukes flying over. The fire drills and bomb scares were always fun because maybe we would get out of a pop quiz. But a lock down has to be scary!?!?!

I’m going to talk to my son about this.  I’m curious to know what he thinks of the lock down and what he thinks of the circumstances that would lead to a real lock down.

I’m always interested to hear what others have to say   Let me know your thoughts.



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How To Make The Most Of Your Hallway

When you live in a small space you need to utilize every square foot, but what is often overlooked is that hallways can be used for more than connecting rooms. Here are a few ways you can transform the halls of your home…

1. Wall Mounted Cabinets. Slim cabinets are great for adding storage without building into the wall and still allow space for you to hang pictures or artwork above them.  For a DIY project, you can purchase the cabinets at any home improvement store, the cost will vary depending on the store and the materials you choose.

2. Hallway Library. Adding bookshelves is one of the most versatile and simplistic ways to upgrade your halls. You can DIY by purchasing floating or bracket shelves, a stud finder, and a level for a relatively inexpensive upgrade. Or for a more custom look, hire a carpenter which could cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. If you have a hallway with windows, add a ledge to make a window seat and add thin bookcases in between the windows.

3. Make A Work Station. For this project you will need to consult with a carpenter to see if the space is wide enough for a built- in desk. Entry ways and other high traffic hallways are not an ideal location for a workspace, so try to find a hallway off the kitchen or in the rear of the house that has less traffic.

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10 Ways To Add Farmhouse Touches To The Bedroom

1. A country quilt. Cozy layering on the bed is one of the easiest ways to give a bedroom a farmhouse vibe.

2. A braided rug. These simple rugs are another homespun craft. In days past they were often composed of a family’s leftover scraps and rags. (John-Boy had one in his room.)

3.Lace curtains. Preferably white lace curtain, but any color will work.

4.Wide-plank floors. Ten-inch-wide floorboards were commonplace back in the day. The best place to find wide planks is via local reclaimed wood dealers.

5.Butt boards. These planks, butted up together, represent the time before tongue and groove, they lend a simple farmhouse charm.

6.Agrarian architectural features. Barn doors would not have been seen in a classic farmhouse, but they are a popular modern way to bring the farm vernacular indoors.

7.Repurposed flour or grain sacks. Grain and flour sacks have been repurposed into cushion and pillow covers.

8.Needlepoint. Framed needlepoint samplers are a wonderful country touch.

9.Farm ephemera or implements. Buckets, tools, pails or drums can be repurposed as lamps, hung over headboards or used as wastepaper baskets.  Today these remnants of the past have unique craftsmanship and patinas we covet, and the nostalgia becomes farmhouse style in our minds.

10.Board and batten siding. Board and batten is typically seen on the exteriors of agrarian buildings, but bringing it inside is a popular way to add rural style these days. In a bedroom it adds dimension to the walls and feels more rustic than drywall. Because the lines of board and batten are so simple, they work well in traditional and contemporary homes.

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