How To Reduce Home Energy Costs By Sealing Air Leaks

Air leaks With Labor Day looming, the autumn and winter months aren’t far behind. It’s a good time to reflect on your home’s heating and cooling costs, and take steps to lower your energy bills. Finding air leaks may be a perfect first project.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30 percent can be cut from a home’s energy costs just by reducing drafts. For example, a 1/16-inch gap unsealed gap around a window is equivalent to leaving the window 3 inches open.

That’s a lot of wasted air.

The good news is that air leaks are rather simple to identify, and simple to fix. The key is to know where to look. And, to make the job easier, the government offers a complete DIY Guide To Sealing and Insulating a home.

Some of the key tips include:

  • Focus on the attic and basement, where most air is lost
  • Locate problem areas on a chimney
  • Check recessed lights which allow air flow between conditioned and unconditioned air

The government’s website also provides a 13-page PDF with detailed images, instructions, and recommendation to help you with the work.

However, if the job is beyond your skill set, be sure to call a qualified contractor. Sealing your home from air leaks will reduce your monthly energy bill and the money spent to pay a professional will be just a fraction of what you’ll save over time.

Feel free to reach out for a referral to a qualified contractor in Marin County.

(Image courtesy: US Department of Energy)

San Anselmo Home

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I specialize in residential real estate in beautiful Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County!

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.

 


Bay Area Private Schools – Marin Magazine – September 2010 – Marin County, California

 

Another great resource from Marin Magazine.  This is a very comprehensive report on Bay Area Private Schools

Bay Area Private School Catalogue, Marin Magazine, Sept. 2010

How To Re-Grout And Caulk Bathroom Tiles

Over time, the grout in a shower can become dirty and discolored, and start to separate from its grout lines. This is a potentially dangerous condition for a home because broken grout lines allow water to seep into the walls, which can then lead to the growth of mold spores.

Fortunately, keeping your grout in tip-top shape is simple.

In this 2-minute video, you’ll learn how to clean the existing grout in your shower and to prepare for a new coating. You’ll also learn how to replace its caulk.

The video’s tips include:

  • Why you should remove excess grout diagonally with a sponge
  • How to protect your tub from damage while the re-grout is in process
  • Choosing the right caulk for the job

 

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About the author:The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out ofMarin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County!

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur,Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Should Marin Buyers Wait for Lower Prices?

Marin County Market Update – July 2010

 The stability we have experienced in the past few months hinges on a fragile balance between two factors: the lending environment and the economy.  The current low-interest rates are giving a boost to the Marin market. The million dollar question is: are these incredibly low rates here for much longer?  On the other hand, the economy’s hesitant recovery and resulting high unemployment are preventing would-be homebuyers who are worried about finding a job–or losing the one they have– to take advantage of these low rates. Without a significant improvement in the economy, loan modification efforts may only succeed in delaying loan defaults and we could continue to experience foreclosure activity along with a corresponding softness in home prices.

MARIN COUNTY MARKET STATISTICS

Sales of single family homes in Marin were down in July with 172 homes sold compared to 221 in June. The loss of steam can be blamed on a combination of (1) the typical seasonal hiatus in market activity as many prospective buyers place their home search on hold while vacationing  and (2) the expiration of the tax credit.  As many first time buyers and sellers rushed to buy and sell, respectively, to beat the deadline of April 30, we experienced unusually

Pending sign

high sales activity in the spring at the detriment of the typical summer bustle. But is there more to it?  As the economy and unemployment have not progressed as expected by most,  there is still some  uncertainty as to how our market will perform in the upcoming months, despite definite signs of improvement.  Comparing to the highs and lows over the past five years, here is where we are:

Sold single family homes:
            High: August 2005 – 259
Low: February 2009 – 62
July 2010 – 172 –      

Average Median Sales Price:
High: September 2007 – $1,160,000
Low: February 2009 – $649,000
July 2010: $800,000

Expired/Cancelled:
High: December 2008 – 206
Low:  August, October 2005, January-March 2006 – 0
July 2010: 125

These numbers tell the story of our market:
–       As they become more realistic about the current market value of their home, fewer sellers are unable to sell their homes as reflected by the lower number of expired or cancelled listings.
–       The number of sales and the average median price may appear low compared to what they were at the height of the market, but they continue their steady trend upward.

In terms of other market data, here is a quick rundown of the numbers for Single Family Homes for the whole county:

–   Inventory up slightly year over year from 1,287 as of 7/31/2009 to 1,306 as of 7/31/2010
–   Median price slightly up from $758,000 to $799,750,000 in July 2010.
–   New listings slightly down from 285 in July 2009 to 282 in July 2010.
–   Expired listings inched higher to 119 from 117.
–   Average days on market showing improvement at 76 for July 2010 vs. 107 in July 2009.
–   Months’ Supply Inventory hovering over 6%, practically unchanged year over year.  Months’ supply of inventory is a reflection of the rate at which the current inventory is being sold: it represents the number of months it would take at the current level of sales to liquidate the entire current inventory.  Six months’ supply is generally considered a balanced market: the lowest number in recent years was 1.8 in June and August 2005 and the highest was 15.4 in February 2009.  We are currently experiencing a balanced market.

 BREAKDOWN BY PRICE RANGE:

Marin County – Single Family Residences as of July 20, 2010
Total Active In Contract % In Contract Type of Market
ALL PRICES 1270 293 23.07% Buyer’s
0-$999K 682 213 31.23% Seller’s
1MIL-$1,999K 365 60 16.44% Buyer’s
2MIL-$2,999K 113 11 9.73% Strong Buyer’s
$3MIL + 110 9 8.18% Strong Buyer’s

The hottest segment of the market for properties under a million remains a strong seller’s market at almost a third of all properties for sale in contract as of July 20.  Even though sales could be stronger if jumbo loans were easier to obtain, the luxury housing market continues to improve: the number of million dollars properties sold surged to its highest level in two years in the Bay Area in the month of July.

MARIN IS STILL MADE UP OF MANY MICRO-MARKETS:

City by City Analysis-Single Family & Condos July 1, 2010. All price ranges combined.
City Total Active In Contract % In Contract Type of Market
Sausalito 87 19 21.84% Buyer’s
Belvedere 40 2 5.00% Strong Buyer’s
Tiburon 127 18 14.17% Strong Buyer’s
Mill Valley 211 47 22.27% Buyer’s
Corte Madera 51 18 35.29% Strong Seller’s
Larkspur 41 12 29.27% Seller’s
Greenbrae 41 13 31.71% Seller’s
Kentfield 43 10 23.26% Buyer’s
Ross 27 3 11.11% Strong Buyer’s
San Anselmo 82 20 24.39% Buyer’s
Fairfax 45 10 22.22% Buyer’s
San Rafael 385 112 29.09% Seller’s
Novato 333 116 34.83

SHOULD MARIN COUNTY BUYERS WAIT FOR LOWER PRICES?

Because prices are so location specific and have remained unstable due to continued short sale and foreclosure activity, fear of overpaying is not uncommon among Marin County buyers who are looking for “deals.”

City Hall – Larkspur, CA

Here are some factors to keep in mind if you are thinking of waiting for lower prices:
–       Waiting for the right time can cost you in the long run: some buyers would have more equity today, despite falling prices, if they had bought when they were first considering it, instead of continuing to pay rent. 
–       Financing is becoming increasingly fickle.  Some buyers who were qualified a few months back can’t secure financing now because the credit market has significantly tightened or their financial situation now makes them an undesirable borrower.  Lenders are adding more hurdles for buyers to qualify throughout the escrow period. 
–       Many buyers are very complacent about the sublimely low rates we are enjoying today.  It is only a matter of time before they start heading up.  As a rule of thumb, remember that if prices decline by another 10 percent but interest rates increase by 1 percentage point, the monthly payment will be the same.

I make it my business to understand the numbers, and follow the trends closely.  I know the neighborhoods and can provide you with the right guidance.  There are a lot of great “deals” to be had in Marin County right now.  Whether you are thinking of buying or selling, or are just curious to find out how much your home is worth, call me at 415.925.3231 or send me an email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com.  You won’t regret it!


How Much Should You Expect To Pay In Mortgage Closing Costs?

Closing costs by state, 2010

How much does a mortgage cost?   The answer depends on where you live.   But no matter which your locale, chances are strong that you’ll pay more for a mortgage in 2010 as compared to 2009.

According to Bankrate.com and its annual Closing Cost Survey, a typical $200,000, purchase mortgage now carries an average $3,741 in closing costs — up nearly 37 percent from last year.

As defined by Bankrate.com, “closing costs” are defined as the sum of two numbers.  The first group is labeled “origination charges”, a category that includes such items as underwriting fees, application fees and processing fees.   These fees are paid directly to the loan originator’s company at the time of closing.

The second grouping of costs is labeled “third-party fees”.  Third-party fees include appraisals, credit reports, settlement fees and title searches — items paid in connection with the loan, but not paid to the lending bank or broker.

It’s unclear why closing costs appear to have escalated into 2010, but Bankrate.com suggest that recently-enacted federal lending laws are a culprit:

  1. The new law requires loan officers to be accountable to a Good Faith Estimate’s accuracy. Bankrate.com’s prior-year surveys may have been “understated”, therefore, because of a lack of accountability.
  2. The cost of federal compliance is high, and banks may be passing on compliance costs to consumers

To see the complete list of closing costs by state, visit the Bankrate.com website.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


What Does It Mean To Escrow Taxes And Insurance?

Escrow schedulingThe fiscal responsibility of a homeowner extends beyond the mortgage’s basic principal and interest repayments. Homeowners are also responsible for the real estate taxes on the home and its insurance premiums, too.

Failure to pay taxes can lead to foreclosure, and failure to insure is a breach of your mortgage contract.

As a homeowner, you have a choice about how you manage your real estate tax and insurance bills.  You can choose to pay them from your own bank account when the bills come due, or you can choose to pay 1/12 of the annual bill to your mortgage servicer each month, and then let your servicer pay the bills on your behalf when they come due.

Not surprisingly, servicers prefer the latter method — it reduces two major lender risks:

  1. That the home’s real estate taxes go delinquent and the home is sold to a third-party
  2. That the home endures catastrophic damage during a lapse of insurance coverage

In theory, when the servicer is paying the bills, the home’s taxes are always current and the home’s insurance is always paid. This method of managing taxes and insurance is commonly called “escrowing”.

To calculate a home’s monthly escrow payment is simple.   Just take the sum of the annual real estate tax bills and insurance bill, then divide it by 12 months in the year.

As a example, a $4,000 annual tax bill with a $800 insurance policy = $4,800 annually = $400 paid into escrow monthly. These monies are collected as part of the regular mortgage payment along with the mortgage’s scheduled principal + interest payment.

Homeowners choosing to escrow tend to get the lowest rate, lowest fee loans.   This is because lenders often charge a premium to “waive escrow” (i.e. pay their own taxes and insurance).   Escrow waiver fees vary between banks, but can range up to half-percent of the amount borrowed. The larger the loan, the stiffer the penalty in dollar terms. 

Choosing to waive escrow can also raise your mortgage rate by up to 0.250 percent.

If you’re unsure whether escrowing is right for you, talk to your loan officer and/or financial planner. There’s good reason to go either route depending on your profile.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Ex-Burglars Share Tips On Protecting Your Home From Break-Ins

This week marks the start of August, a popular vacation month for Americans. Maybe you’re among the many that will leave town for a few days — or a few weeks.  But, before you leave your home, make sure you don’t leave clues for burglars.

Sure, there’s the basics like using an alarm system, locking your doors, and having a neighbor pick up your mail, but there’s additional precautionary steps you should follow, too.  In a piece titled “Tips a Burglar Won’t Tell You“, NBC’s The Today Show shares some of them. They’re tips gleaned for a series of interviews with ex-convicts.

Among the advice:

  1. Have neighbors remove fliers and other solicitations from your driveway and/or mailbox
  2. If you don’t have a safe, hide valuables in a child’s room — not in a sock drawer
  3. Don’t announce your vacation on Facebook, Twitter or other websites

It’s impossible to protect your home from burglary completely, but you can take steps so that your home is not the most obvious target on the block. Start with common sense protection, then follow the extra tips from the video.


White glove service - www.YourPieceofMarin.com by Sylvie ZolezziAbout the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County!

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.