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Winter Is Best Time to Sell Your Home?

The housing market doesn’t hibernate in the winter. Sellers who list and buyers who buy often find the winter season the most advantageous time to make a move in real estate, according to a new study by the real estate brokerage Redfin. The winter season officially takes place between Dec. 21 and March 20, and real estate professionals should be ready for a season that often brings in more focused and active sellers and buyers.

In an update to a two-year analysis it completed last year, Redfin researchers studied nationwide home listings, sales prices, and time-on-market data from 2010 through October 2014.

The study found that February is “historically the best month to list, with an average of 66 percent of homes listed then selling within 90 days,” according to Redfin’s research.

Even in cold weather cities – such as Boston and Chicago – researchers found that home sellers were better off listing their homes in the winter than during other seasons.

The winter tends to net sellers’ more than their asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than listings from June through November. Listing during those four winter months has resulted in higher percentages of above-asking-price sales than listing during any months, other than April and May.

Redfin researchers found that in 2012 December listings were producing the highest percentage of above-asking sales for the entire year at 17 percent.

Researchers say the winter market is less competitive for sellers since many people tend to wait until the spring to list. The smaller inventory of active listings help sellers get more attention from buyers on their properties. Also, many large corporations often transfer employees or hire new ones early in the year, creating opportunities for winter sellers from very motivated purchasers.

Homes that are “priced right and show well can sell any time” of the year, says Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin. Winter buyers tend to be “serious buyers… Most people are not window-shopping” in December and January, like they do in the spring months, Richardson adds.

Sellers shouldn’t worry about the holidays hampering their chances either. A 2011 study conducted by® found that 60 percent of real estate professionals advise their sellers to list a home during the holidays because they believe it’s an opportune time to sell. Nearly 80 percent of the real estate professionals surveyed said that more serious buyers emerge during the holidays, and 61 percent say less competition from other properties makes it an ideal time to sell.

As for buyers, they may find winter a good time to make a move too. Sellers often are more flexible about negotiations over prices and terms than they would in the spring, real estate professionals say.

To-Dos: Your December Home Checklist

By:  at

9 Ways to Appreciate Your House Just as It Is

Look on the bright side — or that soothingly dark corner — to feel genuine gratitude for all the comforts of your home


Whether you’ve been letting your home improvement to-do list get the best of you, or are finding yourself comparing your real-world home to professionally styled and photographed ones, it’s natural to get a little down on your home from time to time. Luckily, feeling content at home is something available to everyone, no matter the size or condition of your space. By working your way through these nine suggestions, you can gain a deeper appreciation of your house, just as it is today.

Ways to Avoid Gobbling Up Energy on Thanksgiving

energy consumptionA few days before Thanksgiving

1. Install a dimmer switch for the dining room chandelier. Every time you dim a bulb’s brightness by 10%, you’ll double the bulb’s lifespan. Most CFLs don’t work with dimmers, but you can create mood lighting with incandescents and LEDs. The dimmer switch will cost you about $10.

2. Plan side dishes that can cook simultaneously with the turkey. If you cook dishes at the same temperature at the same time, you’ll reduce the amount of time the oven has to be running — it’s easier for the cook and saves energy, too.

When you start cooking

3. Lower your house thermostat a few degrees. The oven will keep the house warm. You also can turn on your ceiling fan so it sucks air up, distributing heat throughout the room.

4. Use ceramic or glass pans — you can turn down the oven’s temp by up to 25 degrees and get the same results. That’s because these materials retain heat so well, they’ll continue cooking food even after being removed from the oven.

5. Use your oven’s convection feature. When heated air is circulated around the food, it reduces the required temperature and cooking time. You’ll cut your energy use by about 20%.

6. Cook in the microwave whenever possible. Ditto slow cookers. Microwaves get the job done quickly, and although slow cookers take much longer, they still use less energy than the oven. Resist the urge to peek inside your slow cooker: Each time you remove the lid, it releases heat and can add about 25 minutes of cooking time to your dish.

7. Use lids on pots to retain heat. The food you’re cooking on the stovetop will heat up faster when you use lids.

When it’s cleanup time

8. Scrape plates instead of rinsing with hot water. Unless food is really caked on there, your dishwasher should get the dishes clean without a pre-rinse. Compost your non-meat food waste. Check out these other Thanksgiving clean-up tips.

9. Use your dishwasher. It saves energy and water, so only hand-wash things that aren’t dishwasher-safe. Wait until you’ve got a full load before starting the dishwasher. Be sure to stop the appliance before the heated dry cycle; just open the door and let your dishes air-dry.

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To Buy or Not to Buy? In Austin, Texas

Courtesy of: Austin Business Journal

home for saleIn Austin — even with the dynamic appreciation in home values that has continued for the past two years — it’s 30 percent cheaper to own than rent. That’s the assessment of Trulia, the national real estate Web portal and research company.

In fact in every major U.S. market it’s still cheaper to buy a house than rent over the long term — an average of 38 percent cheaper.

Here’s a link to Trulia’s latest “Rent vs. Buy” report. That statistic, however, assumes a 20 percent down payment on a 30-year loan and a few other factors.

For many first-time homebuyers a 20 percent down payment can be an almost impossible stretch, especially given that the average home price in Austin is $308,514, according to the latest market report by the Austin Board of Realtors. Complicating the local landscape is the fact that land prices across the Austin area are fetching a premium, creating a nearly impossible scenario for homebuilders that would like to provide an inventory of starter homes but just can’t make the numbers pencil out.

The issue of first-time homebuying isn’t exclusive to Austin. It’s a problem everywhere and there may be other cultural factors at play, as Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist points out.

“For a millennial with little savings and no Bank of Mom and Dad, an FHA loan might be the only option. If our hypothetical twentysomething is not in a tax bracket that makes itemizing worthwhile and only stays put five years — those young people are restless — buying ends up costing more than renting in 27 of the largest metros,” Kolko said. “Those 27 include not only pricey coastal markets but also markets like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Colorado Springs.”

And presumably Austin, where the robust young population might not want to leave the city ever but also might not want to stay put very long in the same neighborhood.

The gap between renting and owning is more pronounced in other Texas markets. In Houston it’s 43 percent cheaper to buy, and almost the same in Dallas at 42 percent. In San Antonio the gap is 38 percent.

Consider this: In Detroit the gap is the widest and most striking. It’s 63 percent cheaper to own there than to rent. The gap is smallest in Honolulu at just 17 percent.

By regions, the gap is largest in the Midwest and South, and much smaller in large metro areas in New York and California.

Another interesting statistic from Trulia’s report is that the tipping point for whether to buy or rent in Austin would be if mortgage interest rates hit 8.9 percent — not a likely scenario at the moment, though most real estate experts around the country expect interest rates to rise in 2015 from historical lows.

Three Things to Do Before Buying Real Estate

mortgages1. Time horizon and investment goals: First, as with any investment, you must identify your time horizon. For example, if you are a purchaser, do you plan to flip the house within a year?  If so, you must believe the market will move higher in that time frame. Have you evaluated the risks that might prevent this from happening? Or, on the other hand, will this be your retirement home allowing you to endure real-estate cycles without worrying about short-term fluctuations. Understanding your expectations about the property, along with liquidity needs, will help you evaluate if the property is right for you.

2. Impacts on your financial plan: How does this transaction affect your financial plan?  I always go back to the drawing board with my clients to ensure the home purchase works in their plan.  Can you clearly afford the mortgage, property tax, insurance and home maintenance?  Will you have to reduce your living expenses to purchase this home?  If so, how much?   If you lost your job, could you still afford this home? Will this transaction change your retirement date?   On the other hand, if you were to sell now at a high price, what would you intend to do with the cash? Would you plan to move to a less expensive area and pay all cash so that you don’t have a mortgage?

3. Professional assistance:  A good real-estate agent with extensive experience in your area is worth the expense of the commission.  Do your due diligence in finding an agent that you trust who has your best interests at heart.  Your real-estate agent should have a firm grip on your neighborhood’s market activity so that they can provide comparable market analysis, inventory statistics and a solid recommendation on the timing of the purchase or sale.

By:  Michelle Perry Higgins at Wall Street Journal

9 Things You’ve Got Wrong About Green Homes

Although most folks know green homes pack plenty of eco-friendly benefits, there are some pesky misconceptions that need correcting. Here are 9 myths busted.

1.  Myth: Green Homes are Expensive

Eco-friendly homes come in different types, sizes, and price tags, from a green-minded prefab that can cost less than $150,000 to an eco-urban condo for $690,000 or more. The big difference is in resale value: Eco-friendly homes fetch higher prices compared with conventionally built homes.

2.  Myth: Green Homes Look Kooky

Fact: Not all green homes look like grass-roofed hobbit holes or extra-crunchy Earthships. That’s old school. Eco-friendly abodes being built today can look just like traditional houses — except they may have solar panels or small wind turbines.

3.  Myth: Green Homes are a “California Thing”

Fact: California has the strictest environmental laws in the country, so it would make sense to think green homes are a hot property in the Golden State. But when you add up the number of houses that were certified in 2012 by Energy Star for their energy savings and eco-friendly benefits, Texas is a green home leader, with more than three times the number of Energy Star-certified homes than California.

Energy Star-Certified Homes
California 6,173
Texas 21,351

Plus, both Delaware and Maryland have a higher penetration of Energy Star homes. Both have 40% compared with California’s 23%. (Texas is 27%.)

4.  Myth: Green Homes Use Only Non-Toxic Materials

Fact: Not always. Spray polyurethane foam is a petroleum-based product that’s a controversial green building favorite. Although it’s considered an energy-saving rock star because it creates a tight seal and has a high R-value (insulation), the off-gassing it creates during and shortly after installation can cause serious respiratory issues. The EPA still supports its use, but the Passive House Institute U.S. won’t certify homes insulated with the material because it contributes to global warming.

5.  Myth: Green Homes Require Newfangled Technologies

Fact: Green homes aren’t about gizmos and gadgets. They’re about better construction methods that boost energy efficiency and promote healthy indoor environments. With that said, developing eco-friendly home habits like unplugging vampire devices or mastering how to program a digital thermostat can help to further shrink your home’s carbon footprint.

6.  Myth: Green Homes Need Exotic New Building Materials 

Fact: Nope! New building materials have a negative impact on the planet because they produce greenhouse gases during both manufacturing and shipping. That’s why locally salvaged flooring is considered greener than the bamboo stuff that’s harvested from a sustainable source thousands of miles away.

7.  Myth: Green Homes Need New Energy-Efficient Appliances

Fact: It’s not very green to trash appliances in good working condition, even if they’re not rated for energy efficiency, according to the EPA. With proper maintenance major appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, can be useful for 10 to 18 years.

8.  Myth: Green Homes are Needed More in Urban Areas

Fact: In actuality, rural and suburban homes are the ones that need some serious greening. Thanks to walkability, people who live in high-density cities have a smaller carbon footprint since they burn fewer fossil fuels. Bonus: Walkability can actually increase your home’s value.

9.  Myth: Existing Homes Can’t Be Green

Fact: False! Retrofitting an existing home is much greener than building a new one, according to a study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. New green homes take 10 to 80 years to overcome the negative environmental affects of the construction process. Since remodeling older homes requires fewer building materials, retrofitting can leave a much smaller carbon footprint.

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