Which Filter to Use?

August 26, 2014

iStock_000012737667Small250.jpgA dirty air filter decreases the effectiveness of your HVAC system because it inhibits airflow and allows dirt, dust, pollen and other materials to blow through the system.

The challenge is how often it should be changed to keep the system working efficiently and extend the equipment life. Too often and you’re wasting money and not often enough and your increasing the operating and maintenance costs.

Fiberglass panel filters are inexpensive and easy to find but they’re not very efficient and they allow most dust to pass through. They were popular years ago but there are much better products available currently.

Pleated air filters are available in MERV ratings from 5 to 12. As these filters collect dirt and other particles, they become less efficient to the point of impacting air flow. Allergy sufferers can benefit from this type of filter. These should be changed every two to three months based on local conditions.

HEPA filters stand for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. They are very efficient and more expensive than previously described filters. Since they are very efficient, they require changing more frequently; possibly, every month.

Electrostatic air filters are permanent and washable. They generally cost more initially but the savings will be based on how long they last. This type does not add to landfill issues or produce ozone.

Improperly maintained filters will lower the quality of the air in the home, have a negative impact on air flow, cause it to use more electricity and eventually require maintenance to the systems.

In an attempt to easily comparing filters, a rating system was created called MERV, an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The rating from 1 to 16 indicates the efficiency of a filter based on standards set by ASHRAE. Higher ratings indicate a greater percentage of particles are being captured in the filter.

To create a system to remind you when to change your filters, set a reminder on your electronic calendar to recur for whatever frequency you determine is best for you. Be sure to keep a supply of filters on hand to be ready to change them out when the time comes.

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How’s Your Memory?

August 19, 2014

home inventory3.pngHow old is your bedroom furniture and what did you pay for it? Don’t know? That’s okay, let’s try an easier question. When did you buy the TV in your family room and is it a plasma, LCD or a LED?

Whether you are the victim of a burglary, a fire or a tornado, most people are comforted they have insurance to cover the losses. However, unless you’ve filed a claim, you may not be familiar with the procedures.

The adjustor will want to know the date and how the loss occurred. Assuming you have contents coverage, the claim for personal belongings is separate from damage to the home.

You’ll be asked to provide proof of purchase, like receipts or cancelled checks, or a current inventory. If they’re not available, you can reconstruct an inventory from memory. The challenge is trying to remember things you may not have used for years and may not miss for years more.

Relying on memory can be a very expensive alternative. A prudent homeowner will create a home inventory with pictures or videos while all of their belongings are in the home and they can see them.

Download a home inventory to make your project a little easier.

Reverse Mortgage

August 12, 2014

With all of the encouragement from celebrity spokespersons like Fred Thompson, Robert Wagner and Henry Winkler, there is a growing awareness of reverse mortgages. The fact is that our population is getting older and more than 25 million homeowners meet the age requirement.

39095344-small250.jpgA reverse mortgage will allow homeowners age 62 or older currently living in their home to tap into their equity. The amount available is determined by the borrower’s age, the home’s current value and current interest rates. The loan proceeds can be received in a single, lump-sum or periodic payments. The closing costs can be paid in cash or rolled into the loan amount.

There are no payments on a reverse mortgage but the homeowner is still responsible for property taxes, insurance, maintenance and other home costs.

When the borrower dies, moves or fails to fulfill the terms of the loan, the lender is paid from the sale of the home. The borrower or their estate is not responsible for more than the proceeds of the sale. However, if the proceeds are greater than the amount owed to the lender, the remainder goes to the homeowner or their heirs.

Unlike normal mortgage requirements, the borrower’s income and credit are not used to determine the amount of the loan. The homeowner must occupy the home as their principal residence and it must be free and clear of encumbrances or have substantial equity.

Reverse mortgages are an opportunity to generate income or funds for capital expenditures but they can pose risks to homeowners. HUD, the largest insurer of reverse mortgages, is concerned about misleading or deceptive program descriptions encouraging borrowers to obtain HUD reverse mortgages also known as the HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage). As of June 18, 2014, FHA will only insure fixed rate reverse mortgages where the homeowner is limited to a single, full draw made at closing.

A reverse mortgage, like any financial decision involving a home, is an important decision that deserves careful consideration, due diligence and expert advice.

For more information, check out The National Association of REALTORS® Field Guide to Reverse Mortgages, FAQs about HUD’s Reverse Mortgages and Reverse Mortgages – Alternative Home Equity Funding by Real Estate Center at Texas A & M.

How Was It Measured?

August 5, 2014

iStock_000013045174Small 250.jpgIn an attempt to compare homes, one of the common denominators has been price per square foot. It seems like a fairly, straight forward method but there are differences in the way homes are measured.

The first assumption that has to be made is that the comparable homes are similar in size, location, condition and amenities. Obviously, a variance in any of these things affects the price per square foot which will not give you a fair comparison.

The second critical area is that the square footage is correct. The three most common sources for the square footage are from the builder or original plans, an appraisal or the tax assessor. The problem is that none of sources are infallible and errors can always be made.

Still another issue that causes confusion is what is included in measuring square footage. It is commonly accepted to measure the outside of the dwelling but then, do you include porches and patios? Do you give any value for the garage, storage or other areas that are not covered by air-conditioning?

Then, there’s the subject of basements. Many local areas don’t include anything below the grade in the square footage calculation but almost everyone agrees that the finish of the basement area could add significant value to the property.

Accurate square footage matters because it is used to value homes that both buyers and sellers base their decisions upon.

Let’s say that an appraiser measures a home with 2,800 square feet and values it at $275,000 making the price per square foot to be $98.21. If the assessor reports there are 2,650 square feet in the dwelling and the owner believes based on the builder, there is 2,975 square feet, you can see the challenge.

If the property sold for the $275,000, based on the assessor’s measurements, it sold for $103.77 per square foot and by the owner’s measurements, it sold for $92.44 per square foot. Depending on which price per square foot was used for a comparable, valuing another property with similar square footage could have a $30,000 difference.

The solution to the dilemma is to dig a little deeper into where the numbers come from and not to take the square footage at “face value”. It is important to recognize that there are differences in the way square footage is handled.

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