The Value of Home Maintenance

By: John Riha

Published: March 9, 2010

Regular home maintenance is key to preserving the value of your house and property.

“It’s the little things that tend to trip up people,” says Frank Lesh, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and owner of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Chicago. “Some cracked caulk around the windows, or maybe a furnace filter that hasn’t been changed in awhile. It may not seem like much, but behind that caulk, water could get into your sheathing, causing mold and rot. Before you know it, you’re looking at a $5,000 repair that could have been prevented by a $4 tube of caulk and a half hour of your time.”

Maintenance affects property value

Outright damage to your house is just one of the consequences of neglected maintenance. Without regular upkeep, overall property values are affected.

“If a house is in worn condition and shows a lack of preventative maintenance, the property could easily lose 10% of its appraised value,” says Mack Strickland, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, Va. “That could translate into a $15,000 or $20,000 adjustment.”

In addition, a house with chipped, fading paint, sagging gutters, and worn carpeting faces an uphill battle when it comes time to sell. Not only is it at a disadvantage in comparison with other similar homes that might be for sale in the neighborhood, but a shaggy appearance is bound to turn off prospective buyers and depress the selling price.

“It’s simple marketing principles,” says Strickland. “First impressions mean a lot to price support.”

Prolonging economic age

To a professional appraiser, diligent maintenance doesn’t translate into higher property valuations the way that improvements, upgrades, and appreciation all increase a home’s worth. But good maintenance does affect an appraiser’s estimate of a property’s economic age—the number of years that a house is expected to survive.

Economic age is a key factor in helping appraisers determine depreciation—the rate at which a house is losing value. A well-maintained house with a long, healthy economic age depreciates at a much slower rate than a poorly maintained house, helping to preserve value.

Estimating the value of maintenance

Although professional appraisers don’t assign a positive value to home maintenance, there are indications that maintenance is not just about preventing little problems from becoming larger. A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that maintenance actually increases the value of a house by about 1% each year, meaning that getting off the couch and heading outside with a caulking gun is more than simply a chore—it actually makes money.

“It’s like going to the gym,” says Dr. John P. Harding, Professor of Finance & Real Estate at UConn’s School of Business and an author of the study. “You have to put in the effort to see the results. In that respect, people and houses are somewhat similar—the older (they are), the more work is needed.”

Harding notes that the 1% gain in valuation usually is offset by the ongoing cost of maintenance. “Simply put,” he says, “maintenance costs money, so it’s probably best to say that the net effect of regular maintenance is to slow the rate of depreciation.”

How much does maintenance cost?

How much money is required for annual maintenance varies. Some years, routine tasks, such as cleaning gutters and changing furnace filters, are all that’s needed, and your total expenditures may be a few hundred dollars. Other years may include major replacements, such as a new roof, at a cost of $10,000 or more.

Over time, annual maintenance costs average more than $3,300, according to data from the U.S. Census. Various lending institutions, such as Directors Credit Union and, agree, placing maintenance costs at 1% to 3% of initial house price. That means owners of a $200,000 house should plan to budget $2,000 to $6,000 per year for ongoing upkeep and replacements.

Proactive maintenance strategies

Knowing these average costs can help homeowners be prepared, says Melanie McLane, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Williamsport, Pa. “It’s called reserve for replacements,” says McLane. “Commercial real estate investors use it to make sure they have enough cash on hand for replacing systems and materials.”

McLane suggests a similar strategy for homeowners, setting aside a cash reserve that’s used strictly for home repair and maintenance. That way, routine upkeep is a snap and any significant replacements won’t blindside the family budget. McLane’s other strategies include:

Play offense, not defense. Proactive maintenance is key to preventing small problems from becoming big issues. Take the initiative with regular inspections. Create and faithfully follow a maintenance schedule. If you’re unsure of what needs to be done, a $200 to $300 visit from a professional inspector can be invaluable in pointing out quick fixes and potential problems.

Plan a room-per-year redo. “Pick a different room every year and go through it, fixing and improving as you go,” says McLane. “That helps keep maintenance fun and interesting.”

Keep track. “Having a notebook of all your maintenance and upgrades, along with receipts, is a powerful tool when it comes to sell your home,” advises McLane. “It gets rid of any doubts for the buyer, and it says you are a meticulous, caring homeowner.” A maintenance record also proves repairs and replacements for systems, such as wiring and plumbing, which might not be readily apparent.

John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.


Banks Want Right to Sue Over Home Foreclosures in Arizona

Want to see more damage to our weak real estate market.  Check this article about what the Arizona Bankers Association wants to do to our real estate market. Banks Want to Sue



5 Insider Secrets for Coming Up With Cash for Down Payment

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA
August 10, 2011 6:05 PM

Most home buyers’ biggest hurdle is coming up with the cash for a sensible down payment. Gone are the days of zero-down loans, so if that was your plan, you’re going to need a new one! Coming up with a down payment for a home is a challenge because it’s not chump change we’re talking about, here. The down payment on a $200,000 house, for example, will run you anywhere from $7,000 (on an FHA loan) to $40,000!That might seem like an insurmountable amount of coin to come up with, but it’s actually more doable than you might think. Some buyers will simply save up their own cash, even if it takes many, many moons. The good news is that if you still need some help to boost your down-payment savings, there are resources you can harness to power your home-buying pursuit:

  1. The FHA Bridal Registry.  Yes – you read that right! The FHA Bridal Registry Program enables wanna-be home buyers to apply their families’ wedding gifts toward their down payments. And although it’s named a “bridal registry” program, you don’t have to be a prenuptial couple to use it. You could also use this program to collect gifts for graduation, the arrival of a baby or some other major life event in which people want to give you gifts.The FHA Bridal Registry works like a traditional registry, but is more flexible. The registrants visit their choice of FHA mortgage lenders and set up what essentially is a custodial savings account for the sole purpose of funding their down payment. The couple’s (or individual’s) family and friends can either deposit funds directly into the account or give the cash or check to the couple or individual, who then deposits it into the account. The account’s flexibility also goes beyond that of traditional down payment gift rules that are applicable to FHA loans, which are detailed below in insider secret #2. With the FHA Bridal Registry Program, the only gift documentation required is “lender and borrower certification of the funds.”
  1. Family gifts.  Most lenders will allow home buyers to apply gift money from family members toward their down payment – within guidelines, that is. First, the lender will require a letter from the giver verifying that it in fact is a gift and not a loan. (They generally frown upon it being a loan because it would add to the buyer’s debt and change their debt-to-income ratio.) And second, the person giving you the money must be a relative. The reasoning here is that a friend will most likely expect you to repay the money, whereas a relative won’t.FHA loans will allow the gift to make up any portion or all of the buyer’s down payment, many conventional (non-FHA) loan programs will restrict the proportion of a buyer’s down payment that can come from gift money.  The lender may also have specific ways they want to see the money go into and out of your accounts. Before you accept a gift toward your down payment, be sure to check with your mortgage broker or loan rep to be sure that you’re dotting all the right i’s and crossing all the right t’s.
  1. Your Employer.  Some companies offer assistance programs to employees. Most are government, university, large company and financial industry employers. One example is safety workers: n some areas, safety workers like firefighters and police can have access to down payment grants from their employers if they buy properties in the city where they are on-call as first responders. Also, many large colleges and universities, very large companies and banks and lending institutions offer down payment help and have below-market-rate mortgages set up for faculty members and staffers.  Check with your Human Resources department to see if any such program is available to you.
  2. City/County/State Programs.  Some states, counties and cities still offer programs that lend or give home buyers some assistance for down payments. These programs vary widely in scope – for instance, many target buyers with low and moderate incomes, while some seek to help the buyers of foreclosed or fixer-upper type homes. Some don’t have to repaid – meaning they are given as grants and are forgiven entirely if the buyer lives in the property for 30 years, but must be repaid if the buyer sells or rents the home out before the 30 years elapses. The programs pretty much all have some sort of homeowner education component that requires applicants to take personal finance and homeownership preparedness classes before they can receive funds. To learn more, visit your city, county and state websites to learn about programs that might be able to help you.
  1. Your Retirement Funds.  Many financial advisors would advise against this, but if you have a 401K or Roth IRA account and some years to go before retirement, you might be able to tap into it or even borrow against your own funds for your down payment. Currently, you can take up to $10,000 out of your Traditional IRA with no penalty to put toward the purchase of your first home, but you will be taxed.  You can take as much as you want out of your Roth IRA contributions with no penalty or taxes, though, and as much as $10,000 from your earnings penalty-free for your down payment.  The rules get a little tricky, here, so definitely check in with your tax and financial advisors.And while you can’t similarly draw from your 401K, many retirement and pension plans will allow you to borrow the money against your funds, then repay it to yourself – at interest. So the choice there comes down to paying your lender back with interest or paying yourself with interest. That choice should be you! But first, get some advice from your CPA or financial planner. This option might not make financial sense for your particular situation.

Phoenix NOT IN The 15 Worst Housing Markets For The Next Five Years

The 15 Worst Housing Markets For The Next Five Years

By The Business Insider | Daily Ticker – Fri, Jul 1, 2011 8:41

Provided by The Business Insider’s Gus Lubin and Linette Lopez

If you bought a home in Miami in 2005, we’re sorry: over the following six years it depreciated in value by more than 54.3%.

And the rebound — if there is a rebound — won’t come soon.

Between Q2 2011 and Q2 2016, Miami home prices will decline at an annualized rate of 0.7%, according to data provided by Fiserv Case Shiller.

Fiserv identified 15 housing markets that will appreciate at an annualized rate of less than 1.5% — a pretty lousy investment. If you stay out of these markets, the national average is slightly better at 3.7%.

Here are the 15 Worst Housing Markets For The Next Five Years

The worst place to invest: Miami, Florida

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -54.3%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: -0.7%

Trough: Q3 2012

The second worst place to invest: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -34.05%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 0.2%

Trough: Q3 2012

3. Nassau County, New York

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -27.3%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 0.7%

Trough: Q4 2011

#4 (tie) Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -52.9%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 0.8%

Trough: Q4 2012

#4 (tie) Midland, Texas

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -40.95%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 0.8%

Trough: Q1 2009

#4 (tie) Washington, D.C.

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -28.1%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 0.8%

Trough: Q1 2009

#7 Abilene, Texas

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -18.9%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.0%

Trough: Q1 2009

#8 Morgantown, West Virginia

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -4.15%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.1%

Trough: N/A

#9 (tie) Austin, Texas

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: 2.63%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.2%

Trough: Q4 2012

#9 (tie) Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -2.73%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.2%

Trough: N/A

#11 (tie) Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -14.48%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.4%

Trough: Q1 2012

#11 (tie) Amarillo, Texas

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -10.5%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.4%

Trough: Q4 2012

#11 (tie) Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -5.15%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.4%

Trough: Q2 2012

#11 (tie) Monroe, Louisiana

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -11.31%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.4%

Trough: N/A

#11 (tie) Shreveport, Louisiana

Cumulative growth from 2005 to 2011: -10.38%

Annualized growth from 2011 to 2016: 1.4%

Trough: Q3 2011

3 bedroom, 2.5 bath South Mountain Preserve Home

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Emotions or Logic

I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about us humans.  It seems we like to run on lots of outrage.  Lots of people are using controversial or incendiary terms and get lots of attention (all the attention sometimes).  So this is how people get excited and move.  What does that mean in life for us, are we only driven to do something if it is incendiary or controversial.  Maybe this is why people think we lack common sense.  Or maybe we are driven primarily by emotions and make it look logical.  I know the stock market runs on how people feel not fact.  They panic and sell or they feel a need to buy before the market goes higher.  So too with real estate, I’m afraid the prices will drop more, I think I should wait until the prices stablize.  The major investors in real estate and the stock market wait for the panic and then buy.  These investors get their emotions in control.

So be aware that whenever we make a decision it is not  “I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.”  We need to know the facts not just run with the emotions.  If the facts do not justify the emotion we may do harm to ourselves and others.  Controversial and incendiary terms get blood boiling but may not even be factual.  Do we really want to be run on our emotions and ignore the facts?  I hope not since we may harm many people because of this.  Look at Alan Greenspan when he admitted to Congress that his belief of 40 years, that the financial markets would regulate themselves was not true.  His whole career as an economist was not correct.  He admitted that his 40 year push for the deregulation of the financial markets has caused the major financial crisis of today.  The crisis we may live with for many more years.

An Indian friend of mine always says he is 70% right.  This is how we should also act – that we are 70% right and be cautious of our decisions – emotion or logic.

3 mortgager servicers get no incentives for poor performance

3 loan servicers are not getting incentives from the government for loan modifications.  Poor performance was cited as the main cause.  These are major banks that everyone knows.  Many people have cited these banks as the most difficult to deal with on foreclosures and short sales too.

They are:  Bank of American, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.  What can we do to help these banks get better?