Friday, March 28, 2008

Using Your Energy Wisely: Alternative Energy in the Home

Energy costs are on everyone's mind, and alternatives are a hot property – though many homebuyers aren't sure how to find and evaluate them. There are a number of technologies to choose from which can help make your next house the home of the future.

Alternative energy gives new meaning to the real estate mantra of – what works in sunny California may be different from what works on the windy plains. But just as there are many styles of homes for buyers' diverse tastes, there are varied options in energy systems ® with more than one sometimes working hand-in-hand for the same house.

Wind power – an ancient energy source now seen in high-tech "windmill farms" with tall propeller-like turbines – has come down in the cost for generating electricity by over 80 percent since 1981. Geothermal energy – home heating powered by underground steam warmed up by the temperature of the earth itself – is a source getting more attention in the American West.

Relocating homeowners can choose to move to areas where wind generation is lowering electricity costs, while geothermal energy has applications for both large-scale power plants and individual homes. There has also been progress in residential settings with fuel cells, power systems that convert natural gas fuel to electricity through a chemical reaction with hydrogen, producing just water as a byproduct.

Perhaps the most familiar and popular source of renewable alternative energy remains the sun itself. Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunlight to electricity, have shown great energy-bill savings and homeowner satisfaction. These systems, which have been likened to a car that makes its own gas, are now available in the form of roof tiles that can integrate attractively with regular roofing.

Households that use roof tiles have found some 80 percent of their electricity needs supplied by them The homes can remain on the conventional power grid for the rest; at sunnier times when the home produces more energy than it can use, it goes back into the grid and credits the homeowners' account, literally turning back their electric meter. Across the country rebates from utility companies and tax credits from government are available for such setups. It's a way of contributing not only to the global community by using up less nonrenewable energy, but also to your own neighbors by freeing up conventional power.

Solar tiles are growing in popularity with home-development builders, and are seen as paying for themselves in savings and simplicity of maintenance. The savings increase considerably in combination with energy-efficient appliances. For example, in Sylmar, California's Village Green complex, this mix is a standard feature and the average resident has been shown to pay one-tenth in monthly utility bills what other town residents pay.

Your local real estate professional can help advise you on what energy alternatives are most available and may work best in your area. A little shopping around may shed light on options that make yesterday's technological dreams today's homeowner dream-come-true.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Six Reasons to Use a Realtor

Why pay a Realtor® a commission to sell your home? After all, more than 10% of homeowners attempt to handle the sale of a home themselves, a statistic that has held pretty steady over the years regardless of market conditions. Before making a decision about whether to go it alone, it is important to have a realistic idea of what is involved in the biggest financial transaction most of us are likely to make. Why work with a Realtor®? Here are six reasons to consider:

Reason #1 - Realtors® know your market. Realtors® are in a position to know what’s happening in the real estate market, not just in your state and your community, but in your neighborhood. As trained professionals who may have seen hundreds of homes similar to yours and know their features and selling prices, a professional is well qualified to set a price that can bring the maximum number of offers for your home.

Reason #2 - Realtors® sweat the details. Accurate pricing, qualifying potential buyers, positioning advertising for maximum exposure, evaluating potential offers, negotiation and closing the sale are some of the basic skills needed to successfully sell your home. Then there are environmental, government and disclosure requirements that must be followed.

Reason #3 - Realtors® know marketing. Marketing that attracts offers, not just lookers. A coordinated marketing campaign using the right combination of print advertising, direct mail and the Internet ensures your home receives maximum exposure. And an experienced Realtor® can advise you on cost-effective strategies for ensuring your home looks its best to potential buyers.

Reason #4 - Realtors® are pros at bringing buyers and sellers together. A Realtor® may already have a buyer for your home! Successful Realtors® are continually replenishing their rosters of potential buyers, as well as networking with other real estate professionals who may have the perfect buyer for your home.

Reason #5 - Realtors® reduce stress. Are you prepared to show your home in the middle of the day? Every weekend? Realtors® have the time to show your home whenever it is convenient for a potential buyer. It’s their job. And they are available to respond quickly and courteously to inquiries by phone call, email and fax. Think of a Realtor® as your personal home sales assistant.

Reason # 6 - Realtors® are experienced negotiators. Realtors® can help avoid costly errors during the negotiation phase of a transaction. As experienced negotiators, they can help maintain objectivity during what can often be an emotional time for sellers and buyers. And the ability to deal successfully with any issues that crop up often calls for just the right combination of firmness and diplomacy.

Whether you are a seller or a buyer, perhaps the biggest benefit real estate professionals have to offer to you is their experience. They have made assisting buyers and sellers their business, so that you can get on with the business, and pleasure, of realizing your dream!