Categories
Buying

7 Quotes to Survive the Home Search

House hunting is fraught with frustration and challenges. Keep these quotes in mind to keep you sane.

Published by Meredith Haggerty on Trulia Blog.

Shady brokers, bad plumbing, wildly competitive open houses, misleading listings, sky-high prices, and ever-escalating offers: there is a terrible lot to contend with when finding a new place to live.

But there’s also no other process that deserves your time and attention like discovering a new place to call your own. Here are seven quotes that will help keep you sane during the emotional Olympics that is the home search.

“Home is the nicest word there is.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Looking for a new home is a lot of work, but it’s important to remember that, ultimately, this needs to be a place that makes you happy.

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” — David Allan Coe

While flashy fixtures and nice sconces often sell houses, it is the basics and bones that really matter in buying (or renting) a home. Try to pay just as much attention to the unglamorous things.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

You’re going to hear from at least one friend about how they went out with a real estate agent on a whim one fateful weekend, looked at one perfect house, and just knew.

These people are maddening and need to be ignored. Real estate is a lot like falling in love. Sure, sometimes it just happens at first sight, but most of the time it takes patience, understanding, and a lot of work.

“The root of suffering is attachment.” — The Buddha

It might be a little lofty to quote the Buddha on a real estate blog, but when it comes to house hunting, detachment is vital. Until the paperwork is signed, there are many, many things that can go awry.

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”Winston Churchill

Your home can affect you in ways you don’t even realize. Will a master bedroom without natural light make you cranky? Will having a bathroom with dual sinks lead to double the mess? These are questions you can only answer for yourself.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain

You don’t want to end up with an unfixable fixer-upper, but a place can be so much more than what you see at an open house. Look past the staging and think about what you could do to make the space yours. You might be surprised at your own creativity.

“Home is wherever I’m with you.” — Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

When all is said and done, the building doesn’t matter nearly as much as the people in it. Even if you live alone, a home is made up of the people who live there.

If you remember that you’ll find happiness in everyday moments at home, then creaky floors or leaky pipes will be no big deal.

Categories
Interior Design Renovation

Before & After: Gloomy Garage to Light and Airy Kitchen

White walls, open shelving, rustic touches and punches of color bring the room to life.

Published by Lindsay Jackman on Zillow Blog.

This kitchen space started out as a single-car garage, but had been poorly converted to a bedroom. Carpet had been glued straight over cement. Cheap paneling had been put over the studs and was hanging off in places.

Before: The single-car garage had been poorly renovated for use as a bedroom.
Before: The single-car garage had been poorly renovated for use as a bedroom.

Regardless of the final use, this space was in desperate need of a little TLC. But being the largest room in the house and backing up to the living room made it the perfect spot for a kitchen where family could gather and entertain. Converting it to the heart of the home required several key phases.

First, the long wall separating this room from the living room was removed. A beam and wooden columns were used in the opening, creating a rustic vibe. The dark wood beam creates contrast and effectively frames the white kitchen.

An all-white palette was used for the new kitchen space. Floor-to-ceiling white beadboard walls went up for texture and a little vintage charm. White lower cabinets went in, along with a white farmhouse sink.

White and stainless open shelves were used in place of upper cabinets for a modern take on the traditional open shelving found in farmhouse kitchens. Open shelving in the kitchen creates a sense of airiness, and provides easy access and display space for everyday dishes and glassware.

The focal point of this kitchen is the large live-edge wood island that anchors the room. The blue-green base gives the white kitchen a welcome pop of color, and the island top not only warms up the white, but also creates a convenient and attractive workspace.

Accessories like a colorful patterned rug and vintage glassware on the shelves bring personality into the all-white room.

Now that this room is a beautiful and well-functioning kitchen, no one would ever guess it started out as a dirty and outdated garage.

See more great kitchen design ideas.

Photos by The White Buffalo Styling Co.

Categories
Renting

How Much Rent Can You Afford?

Consider your monthly expenses and long-term financial goals to make sure you don’t overextend yourself.

How Much Rent Can You Afford

The oft-noted rule of thumb is that you should try to stick with spending a maximum of 30 percent of your income on rent. However, that rule of thumb rarely indicates whether or not that should be gross income, or net income after taxes, or if related housing expenses like utilities should be included in that 30 percent.

The reality is that how much you should spend on rent really depends on a lot of factors that are personal to the renter. And unfortunately, in many cities spending only 30 percent of your income on housing is just a pipe dream.

So how much should you spend?

The best way to determine how much you can spend on rent is to evaluate how much money you have coming in each month, and how much you have going out.

Suppose you earn $4,000 per month gross income, and your net paycheck after social security, unemployment insurance, and tax withholdings leaves you $2,800 per month in the bank.

Now subtract your car payment, gas and insurance costs, credit card payments, school loan payments, cell phone costs, gym membership, food, utilities costs, and some amount for entertainment, dates, clothing, and any and everything else you typically spend money on each month.

Now, how much is left over?

Optimally, some portion of the money left over should go into an investment account each month — even if it is only $25. (If you’re saving money at work via a 401(k) plan, that could mitigate the need to have extra money left each month to invest.)

If you have $1,800 per month left after subtracting all your expenses, then you should try to spend $1,400 or less on rent so you can save $400 per month. If you have $1,400 left over, then you can spend $1,000 on rent so you have money left over to invest.

A rental affordability calculator can help you determine what you can spend in a specific area.

Living within your means

Doing a budget might be an eye opener. You could find that you’re spending too much on coffee, dining out, or hobbies. If you spend more than you earn, your credit card balances will increase, and that can be very bad for your personal finances. You might want to work more hours to increase your income, cut spending, or get a bailout — whatever it takes to pay off the debt.

If you’re one of the lucky ones with no car payment, credit card debt, or school loan payments, and you make significantly more than you earn each month, that doesn’t mean you should spend whatever is left on rent. Try to live within your tastes and desires, while saving as much money as possible for your future and buying a home.

Spending 30 percent of your income on rent is a nice feel-good number, but it may not be feasible. The truth is, you need to look at your own personal income, spending habits and debts to get a picture of what you can afford. Make sure what you can “afford” is calculated after all your expenses and most importantly after you are socking away some money for your future.

Published by Leonard Baron of professorbaron.com on Zillow Blog.

Categories
Real Estate News

Home Prices Are Climbing Faster and Faster, but This Is Not a Bubble

This spring buying season is off to a strong start—in fact, prices are going up faster than they were just a few months ago, according to nearly every recent metric. So does that mean we’re in a bubble?

Published by Jonathan Smoke on realtor.com.

Nope, that’s just what happens when demand increases faster than supply. After all, existing-home sales were up 9% year over year in March, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Inventory is also increasing, but not as fast as sales, resulting in a tight supply getting even tighter.

An equilibrium level of supply on the market is considered to be six to seven months; supply has been under five months since December. Looking at every quarter since 1988, when supply was under five months, prices rose 8% year over year on average. When supply was in the equilibrium range, prices went up only 4% on average.

The median existing home price in March was $212,100, up 8% over last year, according to the NAR. The median list price in March on realtor.com® was $220,000, which was up 11% over last year.

During the peak years of the housing bubble, from 2003 to 2005, the data on supply versus price appreciation looked very similar to what we are seeing now. But there are key differences, which is why I’m confident that on the national level, this is no bubble.

Here’s why, this time, the price increases should stick:

The level of the current price appreciation is not like the bubble. Prices went up 7% and 12% in 2012 and 2013, respectively, as the market corrected for too-severe price declines in the prior years. Last year, the appreciation level moderated. Even factoring in the one-time bounce from the prior overcorrection, median prices have grown less than 8% on a compounded annual basis over the past three years. Median prices, by comparison, grew 10% on a compounded annual basis from 2002 to 2005, without any bounce from a prior decline.  On an inflation-adjusted basis, we are 30% beneath the peak set in 2005.

Likewise, relative to rents or incomes, median home prices are not “unhinged” from long-term averages. The price-to-rent ratio is similar to the rate in the mid-1990s. It was 35% higher in 2005. The price-to-income ratio is now where it was in 2001, and it was about 30% higher in 2005.

During the housing bubble, we saw both prices and sales grow to historical levels fueled by a rapid expansion in mortgage financing. We are clearly not experiencing record sales or record mortgage originations now.

As a result, we are not seeing vacancies increase like they did at the end of the bubble. In 2005, vacancies started to rise before sales and prices reached their peak as a result of flipping activity and overleveraged speculative investing. On the contrary now, vacancies have slowly trended back to more normal levels.

So, today’s higher prices are only to be expected as the economy improves and first-time buyers gradually return to the market. Eventually, those higher prices should encourage more owners to list their homes and builders to start construction on new housing—which in turn should solve the problem of supply.

As chief economist of realtor.com®, Jonathan Smoke leads its efforts to develop and translate real estate data and trends into accurate and relevant consumer and industry insights on housing.

Categories
Gardening Green Homes

The Truth About Organic Home Remedies for Your Lawn

We might love the idea of maintaining our lawns with nontoxic pantry items—soda, vinegar, and dish detergent—that help keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the environment while saving us a little money.

SolStock/iStock
SolStock/iStock

But do these home remedies really work as organic alternatives to traditional pesticides? And if so, do they really save money?

Not so much, say turf professors and pros.

“I wouldn’t waste my time,” says John Boyd, a University of Arkansas professor of weed science. “You can kill a weed with vinegar—in the better neighborhoods they use balsamic. But it’s not all that effective or cost-efficient.”

Also, home remedies—especially bug-killing concoctions—don’t have the same precision and accountability of store-bought lawn care products.

“They’re not labeled as pesticides, and have not been through any review or screening process,” says Dan Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Materials may not be as benign as assumed—particularly when not used as intended.”

So are organic home remedies for lawn care a waste of time and money? Some are; some aren’t. Below, we break it down for you.

Boiling water

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Undoubtedly, dumping boiling water on a weed will scald and kill some shallow-rooted, annual weeds, like chickweed. But it won’t wipe out the deep roots of perennial weeds, like dandelions, unless you repeat it for days.

What’s more, the boiling water treatment is nonselective; not only can you scald yourself, but you can also kill grass and prized plants around the weed, says Craig Jenkins-Sutton of Topiarious Urban Gardens in Chicago.

Cost: How much is your time worth? By the time you boil the water, run it out to the garden before it cools, and carefully dump it on unwanted weeds, you could have grabbed a good weeder and dug up a garden full of dandelions—and those won’t come back.

Vinegar

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Acetic acid is a good general herbicide that sucks water from common weeds. But most pantry vinegar has only a 5% acetic acid concentration—too weak to kill all but the most tender, annual weeds. Perennial weeds—fuggedaboutit!

If you want to kill weeds with vinegar, you’ll need a commercial solution that’s 20% acetic acid. It’ll suck weeds dry, but will also dry out your prized plants, so be careful when spraying.

Cost: Distilled white vinegar: $2.40/gallon; commercial vinegar: $33/gallon. (Note: Diluting it 1:1 with water will give you twice the amount of vinegar at a high concentration.)

Dish detergent

Reputation: Insecticide

Reality:
The Iowa State University Extension says it’s OK to use dish detergent, like Ivory or Palmolive, to kill soft-body insects, such as aphids, scales, and whiteflies. The soap destroys the waxy shell that protects the bugs, causing them to desiccate (dry up).

In a spray bottle, combine 1 tablespoon of dish detergent with 1 quart of water. Then thoroughly saturate the infected plants to completely wet the insects you want to kill.

One problem with dish soap, however, is that it can kill plants along with the insects. That’s where commercial insecticidal soaps have the advantage. Their formulas usually have a stabilizing agent that helps prevent the soap from damaging plants. Of course, you pay more for that formula.

Cost: Palmolive dish washing liquid: $3.30/10 oz.; Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap spray: $6.40/24 oz.

Soda and beer

Reputation: Fertilizer that greens-up lawns

Reality:
Home remedy guides say beer and soda contain carbohydrates and phosphorous, which feed lawns. Turf scientists, however, say that grass makes its own carbs from photosynthesis, and that soil generally has all the phosphorous a healthy lawn needs. Actually, phosphorous runoff is a watershed pollutant, and some municipalities are banning commercial fertilizers that contain phosphorous.

Spraying flat cola or beer on your lawn essentially just waters the grass, which can help it turn green.

Cost: Six 16-oz. cans of Bud: $7.80 (enough for a 10-by-20-ft. lawn)

So what’s a greenish lawn-owner to do?

First, know this: Lawns suck up more water than any other irrigated crop in the U.S.—so their very existence, arguably, is eco-unfriendly. If you’re dedicated to protecting life on Earth, replace your lawn with indigenous, drought-resistant plants or artificial turf.

Still, you might think life on Earth isn’t worth living unless you can wiggle your toes through cool fescue that’s not covered with toxic chemicals. If so, here’s some advice:

  • You’ll have to devote yourself to precisely mowing (with a push mower, if you want to be green), watering (deeply and less often), and fertilizing (with nutrient-rich compost). Diligent lawn care will keep out weeds naturally and promote beneficial insects that will eat the ones you don’t want.
  • Forget the idea of lawn perfection. Without chemicals, a few weeds will grow and some patches will turn yellow.
  • Spend a few extra bucks and buy organic lawn products that take the guesswork out of applying nontoxic solutions.

This story was written by Lisa Kaplan Gordon and originally appeared on HouseLogic.com.

Categories
Luxury Homes Rustic Homes

Massive Lodge in Mammoth Lakes Hits the Market for $16.4M

What do you get when you cross local artisans, mountain views, and a love of gambling? It sounds like a lame joke you’d overhear at a bar, but the answer is one of the most private homes in the Sierra Nevada.

Listed for $16.4 million, Victory Lodge in Mammoth Lakes, CA, stretches 16,400 square feet and boasts nine bedrooms and 9.5 bathrooms.

Pulling in to the circular drive, you’ll likely be in awe of the large, stone-covered entrance.

However, the real jaw-dropping moment happens when you step inside the great room. A soaring 30-foot ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows surround an antler chandelier. And it’s not just any antler chandelier.

“It is the largest elk and deer horn chandelier ever constructed,” said listing agent Gwen Banta.

As with the great room, nature is a theme running throughout the rest of the home. The carved wood beams are the work of local craftsmen—but they weren’t easy.

“The construction of this house was such a feat, the main part of the construction itself took four years,” Banta said. The builder “tried to use as many local artisans as possible. All of the beams were split and hand-carved by local people.”

In addition to the nine bedrooms, the massive lodge also has plenty of entertainment and relaxation rooms. There is a spot for an indoor gym, sauna, and event room.

“The event room was originally used as a casino. The owner loved gambling and had several antique slot machines. There are still a few of the antique gaming equipment pieces in there as display,” says Banta.

The sale price includes furnishings, so those pieces of old Las Vegas could be yours.

Stepping onto the back deck is another moment worthy of pause.

The property sits on protected land just off Gull Lake. Beyond the lake you have views of the snow-capped Carson Peak. “You can even see the June Lake ski lift in the distance,” Banta said. And if that isn’t enough nature for you, Yosemite National Park is nearby.

It’s easy to see why the Sierra Nevada mountains are a sought-after spot, and Banta believes this lodge will appeal to a certain clientele.

“The ideal buyer is someone who wants a home for generations. It is the kind of house where—as extraordinary as it is—it is meant to be used. This is a comfortable house,” Banta says. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if the family also had a love for games of chance or an affection for antlers.

Published by Angela Colley on realtor.com.

Categories
Gardening

How to Save $24,000 a Year Growing Your Own Food

Through gardening, one couple learned that growing (and eating) organic food saves money.

That’s part of what we love about our gardening hobby: We have access to fine-dining ingredients right in our backyard! (Image credit: Deirdre Malfatto/Stocksy United)
That’s part of what we love about our gardening hobby: We have access to fine-dining ingredients right in our backyard! (Image credit: Deirdre Malfatto/Stocksy United)

This post originally appeared on LearnVest.

My wife, Susan, and I have always loved healthy food, especially the fresh, vine-ripened kind — which is why we routinely spent upwards of $400 a week scouting organic grocers for the tastiest produce.

But it wasn’t until we accepted a dinner invitation from our friend Eliza — a master naturalist who grows all of her own food — that we realized just how amazing organic eating could really be.

As Eliza gave us a tour of her garden, Susan and I spotted these odd little husked fruits called ground cherries under a small shrub. Once we tasted them we were blown away by their delicious, pineapple-citrus flavor.

That’s when Eliza told us about the secret world of wacky and unusual heirloom foods most people don’t know about — unless you grow them yourself.

The makings of our own “food forest”

When we bought a house the following year on a three-quarter-acre lot in Greenville, SC, Susan was excited to try our hand at gardening, just like Eliza.

I wasn’t quite as gung-ho — I was more worried about fitting in with the neighbors — but Susan insisted.

So we agreed to start by turning the far backyard, bordering a quarter-acre of forest, into a food growing space.

Not wanting to spend too much on the setup, we got scrappy: When a developer in the area was discarding some stones near a construction site, we used them to make raised soil beds. We spent only a few bucks for each packet of organic, heirloom seeds. And since we were starting with a small space, we kept it fairly basic, planting carrots, tomatoes, ground cherries, peppers, eggplant and squash.

As for best gardening practices — there’s an art to it! — Eliza shared all of her hard-won knowledge for successfully growing plants. (One of our favorites: To have the best yielding tomatoes, snap off all but the top leaf section on your seedlings, and then bury the stem in the soil up to about 2 inches below these leaves.)

It didn’t take long before we were hooked — and within three years, we’d turned a full half-acre of our property into our edible food forest. Today, we have fruit trees, nut trees, herbs, veggies, and even fungi that we’ve integrated into a beautiful landscape.

During the warm-weather months, we grow grapes, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, potatoes, corn, tomatillos, and, of course, ground cherries. We also produce some more interesting varieties, like cape gooseberries, Native American corn in all colors, and garden huckleberries — which make for great pies.

In the colder months our production decreases a bit, but we still grow lettuce, kale, arugula, cilantro, spinach and carrots under hoop houses, which are light frames covered in plastic that we can build in a couple of minutes.

In an average year we harvest literally thousands of pounds of food. Squash alone yields hundreds per week in the summertime!

We also have five heritage breed ducks, which are better at producing eggs than chickens. If you’ve ever ordered crème brûlée at a high-end restaurant, you’ve probably eaten duck eggs — chefs prefer them for their rich flavor.

That’s part of what we love about our gardening hobby: We have access to fine-dining ingredients right in our backyard!

We began harvesting big savings

All in all, our homegrown foods cost about $300 to produce each year, which includes the cost of seed-starting materials and liquid fertilizer. And as perennial plants get bigger — berry bushes, fruit trees, asparagus, and sorrel — they require less care and produce more food.

Most of the produce sold in stores is generic and relatively bland, so to put a number on how much money we save is like comparing apples to oranges — no pun intended! But if we were to buy comparable food from an organic grocer, it would probably cost us $1,500 to $2,000 a month for the same quality, quantity, and variety of food.

That savings frees up money in our budget to spend on other foods we enjoy but don’t grow ourselves, such as high-quality meat that we get from local farmers for about $100 a month, as well as milk, cheese, and butter. We even purchase our coffee from a friend who has an organic microbrewery in Asheville.

You’re probably thinking that tending to this massive food forest would require a lot of work — but, surprisingly, we don’t have to do much to maintain it.

This article was originally published on LearnVest and appeared on Trulia Blog.

Categories
Interior Design

Sheer Genius: Why Hanging Window Treatments Is a Smart Move for Spring

Stylish drapes, blinds, shutters and shades not only beautify a room, but also support energy efficiency by insulating and blocking heat.

This article originally appeared on Zillow Blog.

Source: StyleOnAShoestring
Source: StyleOnAShoestring

In addition to contributing to the design and softness of a room, window treatments help minimize heat transfer from windows during the spring and summer months. Drapes, blinds, shutters and shades can all block sunlight from heating up the house on hot days and keep cool air from escaping through leaky windows.

Some materials do a better job than others. Here are six eco-chic window treatment suggestions that just may work for you this season.

Curtains

Source: Elizabeth Taich Design
Source: Tiffany Farha Design

Curtains consist of panels of fabric that are gathered on a rod or attached by tabs, ties or rings. Remove the heavy velvet panels from winter and go a little lighter.

Eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp are available in a growing number of colors and patterns for custom window treatments. One current quick and organic curtain solution is to buy ready-made linen drapery, which is grown without pesticides for flax.

Drapes

Source: Elizabeth Taich Design
Source: Elizabeth Taich Design

A mainstay of window treatments, drapes are pleated panels that hang from hooks and attach to small slides on the rod. When it comes to choosing drapes, a layered look delivers the most options for light control and energy efficiency.

Consider using a sheer for daytime filtered light with a lightweight drape to use at night for privacy or during very hot days to assist with heat transfer.

Shades

Source: Tiffany Farha Design
Source: Tiffany Farha Design

Shades are one of the most practical and hard-working window treatments. For the greatest energy efficiency, shades should be installed as close to the window glass as possible. They offer easy light control, instant privacy and a clean, tailored silhouette in a wide range of colors and materials.

Options include simple roller shades, insulated honeycomb shades, woven shades, wooden shades and soft fabric shades like the Roman styles. Naturally woven shades made of bamboo, reeds and grasses have a handmade feel and an organic texture.

Blinds and shutters

Source: Studio Ten 25
Source: Studio Ten 25

Blinds and shutters have adjustable louvers and vanes that can be tilted to filter the light, leveled to reveal the view or shifted to completely block the view. Blinds can be used on their own or under top treatments made of fabric for a layered look and extra insulation.

Look for shutters made of hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and finish them with stains and sealants that contain little or no volatile organic compounds. Avoid plastic shutters and blinds, as well as polyester fabrics that won’t biodegrade. These types of shutters are reported to reduce heat gain by up to 45 percent.

Valances

These top treatments provide the crowning glory for a window. Valances are generally shortened versions of curtains, drapes or fabric shades, 12 to 18 inches long.

Used alone, valances bring style to an otherwise plain window. Place them over another treatment and they can seal the heading and add a flourish. The extra layer sitting atop the face of the window will capture any air that may seep in.

Cornices

Source: Elizabeth Taich Design
Source: Elizabeth Taich Design

Because their edges are so clearly delineated, cornices add architectural interest. Like valances, they can be used alone or paired with other window treatments.

When covered in batting and fabric, cornices soften the overall look of the window and absorb extra heat and nighttime chill. Wood cornices can mimic the look of deep crown molding and should coordinate with the other woodwork and trim in the room.

What will you choose for your home’s window treatments to be both beautiful and energy-efficient?

See more window treatment ideas.

Published by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow Blog.

Categories
Green Homes

Solar Panels Are Cheaper Than Ever, So Why Aren’t You Getting Them?

Solar power used to be a prohibitively expensive technology, but recently, the cost of residential solar panel systems has dropped … by a lot. And what once seemed like a futuristic option is finally taking off.

Solar Panels Are Cheaper Than Ever, So Why Aren’t You Getting Them
Cleaning solar panels. Credit: Flickr user bkusler

“Solar is one of very few home improvements that starts paying for itself the minute it is installed and turned on,” says Mike Newman, an outreach manager for Clean Markets, a firm in Philadelphia that works with businesses to maximize energy efficiency.

In general, he says, homeowners can recover the upfront cost in as little as three to four years—or as far out as 10 years or more—depending on local utility, state, and federal incentives, as well as the cost of electricity.

Now that China and other nations are churning out lower-cost panels, prices have dropped across the board. Improvements in technology have also driven down costs, Newman says. The Solar Energy Industries Association reported in January that prices had dropped 53% since 2010, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory forecasts continuing double-digit declines for the next few years, although perhaps at a slower pace.

And companies offering solar leases allow homeowners to take advantage of lower prices without the upfront cost of buying the solar technology, or the cost and hassle of maintenance.

“In every market we aim to be at least 20% cheaper than what the utility offers in that market, and sometimes we can be as much as 50% cheaper,” says Dagen Olsen, national sales trainer for LGCY Power, an authorized dealer for Sunrun, which offers solar leases.

Jim Nelson, CEO of the Santa Barbara, CA-based solar company Solar3D, says that now is the time for homeowners to take the solar plunge.

“That precipitous drop [in solar panel prices] has a bottom, and the instability of those economics opens the door for an opposite reaction of consolidation and stability,” he said. “As such, the industry is now projecting a modest decline in material pricing to the tune of only 15% over the next two years.”

So if you’re thinking of going solar, here are some things to consider.

Is your roof too old for new technology?

Newman advises homeowners to assess the age and condition of their roof, as well as its orientation toward the sun. For maximum efficiency, panels should be installed in a place that receives optimal sunlight at peak daytime hours.

If a roof is too old, faces the wrong direction, or is shaded by nearby trees, owners can opt for a ground-mounted solar system, he said. This carries a higher price tag, however, because installers need to build a structure to hold up the panels, dig trenches, and lay cables that carry electricity to the home.

Which type of panel is right for me?

Most solar power systems use photovoltaic cells, typically made of crystalline silicon, to convert solar power into electricity. Newer thin-film cells can be used as roof tiles or even skylight glazing. There’s no “best” panel for a residence, Nelson says. Much like choosing a car, homeowners must decide which factors they value most—price versus performance and efficiency.

And don’t dwell too much on where the panels were manufactured, Nelson says.

“Chinese panels, American-made panels, American companies with [overseas] assembly facilities—be it in the Philippines or Mexico—basically are all puzzle pieces that the consultant and the customer have at their disposal to assemble the best possible project design for the customer and property,” he said.

How many panels do you need?

Three factors are used to determine the size of a solar panel system: the usable roof area (or ground mount area), the annual amount of electricity the home uses, and the homeowner’s budget. A good installer will work with homeowners to determine what works best in the allotted space and budget.

And solar doesn’t have to be all or nothing. “A homeowner may have enough roof area for a solar system that would offset 75% of their annual electricity costs,” Newman said, “but their budget may only allow for a system that can do 60%.”

If you’re not ready to commit, lease

The advent of leasing options has been a game changer in the solar power market.

“Because there’s no upfront cost, it makes solar really accessible for all income levels,” Olsen said. “Everyone can take advantage of solar, as long as they’re a homeowner.”

Olsen says that while conventional electricity through California’s Pacific Gas and Electric can run from 16.5 cents to 33 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on usage (heavy users pay a higher rate), Sunrun charges California consumers 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, with a 2.9% annual increase. Customers can also opt for a flat rate of 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, over 20 years.

In addition, solar leases are transferable if you end up selling your home. The additional paperwork could intimidate some buyers, although Olsen says Sunrun has a service transfer team that works with your real estate team to finesse the transition.

Or you can buy the system

Owning is more of a long-term investment, but you’ll have more options in terms of choosing a system. It’s difficult to give a cost range for a solar system because of the different energy agencies, systems, and state regulations involved. A cost calculator—likethis one at Solar Estimate—can help determine what you’ll pay based on system size and what percentage of energy needs to be offset.

As an example, Olsen said the purchase price of an average solar system in California would run about $23,000. Plus, you can take advantage of the 30% federal solar investment tax credit through 2016, and any other local or state incentives. For more information, see dsireusa.org and energy.gov.

There has also been an explosion in the variety of credit options available for financing, Nelson said. Many programs offer zero out-of-pocket plans for the homeowner.

Think long-term

When plugging in numbers, Nelson warns potential buyers against focusing on a “payback period,” or how long it will take to recoup the cost of the investment. “That’s a very shortsighted approach, especially in the case of a long-term investment.”

Just think, the next time you enjoy a beautiful sunny day, you could be enjoying the knowledge that you’re saving money on power—and contributing to a healthier planet. With all that extra cash, maybe you can afford that Tesla—or at least a Leaf. Maybe.

Published by Deborah Huso on realtor.com.

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Columbia, MO

2015 Spring Parade of Homes

See what’s up and coming in home design!

Parade of Homes

The Columbia Home Builders Association’s Parade of Homes is a biannual event that offers an opportunity to tour new homes over 2 days to get a look at what is new in home design. Homes are entered into the parade by area builders who choose to offer free access to the public to see new products and designs.

Free Event – April 25th and 26th, 2015 1pm-5pm Both Days!

The 2015 Columbia Parade of Homes is a free home show featuring the latest trends and styles in home construction.
Stop in at any of our featured homes between 1:00pm and 5:00pm on either Saturday or Sunday and see what’s new in home trends!

The Parade of Homes has amazing custom homes. View a listing and map view of the properties in the Parade of Homes here on their website.
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