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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
March 22, 2010 10:23 AM
Everest University Online will open a service center in northwest Colorado Springs on Monday with 70 employees, a number that officials expect will grow to as many as 600 within 21/2 years, an executive of the school’s parent company said Friday.
The center will admit and enroll students, secure student loans and other financial aid and handle career placement and administrative tasks that include grades and other records, said Steve Quattrociocchi, president of online learning for Corinthian Colleges, Everest’s parent company. The school will move into temporary space in the Corporate Ridge Office and Technology Center while the 70,000 square feet of office space it has leased is renovated, he said.
“This is great news; I’m glad that Everest decided Colorado Springs was the right location for them. These are good-paying jobs for our economy,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said Friday.
Everest will receive $2.5 million in local and state tax breaks to help train its employees, which was “several multiples less” than one of the competing cities, which Quattrociocchi declined to identify, offered to attract the center. The school selected Colorado Springs because it wanted a large and well-educated work force, a growing local economy, economic incentives and a location where it could relocate some of its managers and other employees, he said.
“The incentives per job (offered by the Springs) were competitive, but were far and away not the richest but were also not the lowest,” Quattrociocchi said. “It was the total effort in recruiting us, including a network of business leaders that had a level of pride in the community and were very welcoming. (The company was impressed) that high-level local executives would come to a cocktail party and ask us to come there, offer to help us with job fairs and make sure our calls were answered.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. began working with Everest in June 2009, met with the school’s relocation consultant in Chicago in September, and hosted Corinthian and Everest officials for a visit in November and December, said EDC CEO Mike Kazmierski. The effort included a cocktail party with local business leaders at the El Pomar Center and a last-minute, 40-minute meeting with Gov. Bill Ritter, Kazmierski said.
“The 600 quality jobs that Everest is bringing to this community will really make a difference right now for a lot of families in the Colorado Springs area, including the nearly 27,000 who are unemployed and looking for work,” Kazmierski said.
The school also got a “good deal” to be the first tenant in Corporate Ridge, Quattrociocchi said. The 1.4 million-square-foot complex at 1575 Garden of the Gods Road was a semiconductor manufacturing complex Intel closed in 2007 and sold last year to investors.
“The first tenant is always the hardest to get,” said Michael Palmer of Grubb & Ellis/Quantum Commercial Group, leasing agent for Corporate Ridge. “We are extremely pleased to kick off the occupancy of Corporate Ridge with a quality, long-term tenant such as Everest University Online.”
Everest’s Colorado Springs operation will be the university’s second such center — a similar facility in Tampa, Fla., employs 800. It is Corinthian’s third service center; Everest College Phoenix operates a service center for its online operations in that area.
The Colorado Springs center will be organized with teams of admissions, financial aid and student-service employees who will be assigned to groups of about 200 students to help them stay in school, Quattrociocchi said.
Everest said it had 20,362 exclusively online students as of Dec. 31, up 53.6 percent from a year earlier.
About 10 managers and other employees were transferred here to launch the local center, but the rest of the staff will be hired locally for full-time jobs paying an average of $40,000 a year that come with benefits that include health insurance, 401(k) retirement accounts, Quattrociocchi said.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
By Bobbi Dempsey of Bankrate.com
Foreclosure is a fairly well-understood process, but as "short sale" signs sprout like weeds, you may wonder what they are all about.
When a lender agrees to accept a mortgage payoff amount that is less than what is owed in order to facilitate a sale of the property by a financially distressed owner, it's called a short sale. The lender forgives the remaining balance of the loan.
Everyone loses — or wins
Short sales are a mixed bag for the buyer, the seller and the lender.
If you're a seller, a short sale is likely to damage your credit — but not as badly as a foreclosure. You'll also walk away from your home without a penny from the deal, making it difficult for you to find another place to live.
The buyer gets the property at a reduced price, but the property in all likelihood has its share of problems — think fixer-upper — and will need to go through considerable red tape in order to make the deal happen.
The lender takes a financial loss, but perhaps not as large a loss as it might if it forecloses on the property.
Before you even start considering getting involved in a short sale, there are two situations in which an attempt at a short sale is almost certain to fail:
No default on loan — Lenders almost never will accept short-sale offers or requests for short sales until the borrower is far behind in payments and a notice of default has been issued.
Bankruptcy — If the seller has filed for bankruptcy, forget it. Few, if any, lenders will consider a short sale when the seller has filed for bankruptcy because negotiating a short sale is considered a collection activity and collection activities are prohibited in bankruptcies.
Can it work for you?
Buying a home in a short sale can be a hassle, so why should you consider it? It boils down to the bottom line. You will get the property for a substantial discount. Since the lender is eager to continue to get paid the money it loaned out, it may also offer favorable financing terms.
Since the sellers play an active role in the short-sale process, you will have their cooperation (and most likely won't need to evict them upon taking possession of the home). This is not always the case with a property that has gone through foreclosure.
Whether you've become aware of the distressed situation on a property through an agent, a “for sale by owner” ad or word-of-mouth, this is not a do-it-yourself project. A short sale is one real-estate deal where you really need to get help from an experienced agent or attorney. Not all real-estate agents know how to handle a short sale, so make sure you consult with one who can demonstrate special training or a good track record with short sales.
Why lenders (might) agree
It might seem counterintuitive for a lender to go along with a short sale. After all, a lender is legally entitled to pursue the full balance of the loan. When a homeowner falls behind on payments, the lender can (and often does) hold the borrower responsible for every penny owed.
And yet more and more lenders are willing to consider approving a short sale.
Lenders are painfully aware of just how bad the current foreclosure crisis is. They know the cold reality is that a large number of struggling borrowers will end up losing their homes, and so they often see the advisability in accepting the inevitable and trying to minimize their losses. Yet some lenders seem to remain in denial.
Foreclosure is an expensive and time-consuming process for a lender. By agreeing to a short sale, the lender wraps up this little mess quickly, and perhaps with less of a loss than it would have incurred with a foreclosure.
Remember, after foreclosing, the lender owns the home and has to maintain it, insure it and pay taxes on it. So instead of receiving payments each month, the lender is now forking out money every month. Plus, short sales help the lender look good on paper — the property never gets listed as an actual foreclosure, which helps the lender's numbers. Lenders see it as the lesser of two evils — if the numbers make sense for them.
Here are the 10 steps to buying a short sale:
1. Identify potential short sales
Locate pre-foreclosures in your area. You can use an online database, search courthouse listings and legal ads or use an experienced real-estate agent as a buyer's agent. First, try to determine how much is owed on the house in relation to its approximate value. If it seems high, it's a good candidate because it indicates the seller might have trouble selling it for enough to satisfy the loan. Pass on those in which the owner has a lot of equity in the home — the lender likely will prefer to foreclose and resell closer to the market price.
2. View the property
Gauge its condition and come up with a rough estimate of how much it's going to take to repair or renovate. If it needs work, many "normal" buyers won't consider it, which is good for you.
3. Do your research
What is the property worth? What's the profit potential? If you're an investor or even a homeowner planning to live in the home a short time, you'll want to profit from the deal.
4. Find all liens and mortgages
Ask the seller or his agent what liens are on the property, and which lender is the primary lien holder.
5. Figure out the financing
This is critical. You have to know how you're going to pay for the property. If you're a good credit risk, the existing lender may be willing to give you a loan. Since it already has a lot of your information in the short-sale paperwork, it may be able to expedite the loan application process. It's important to understand that in a short sale, you have to be able to move quickly. Once an agreement is worked out, it is common for the lender to require closing in as few as 20 days. This is too late to start shopping for a mortgage.
6. Contact the lender
You or your agent should speak with the loss mitigation department — or perhaps the resource recovery department — rather than the collection or customer service department, which is only interested in recouping past-due loan payments. Finding the decision-maker can be one of the biggest initial challenges. You will first need to have the homeowner complete and sign (notarization is usually required) an authorization letter, which gives the lender permission to discuss the mortgage situation with you.
7. Complete the lender's short-sale application, if it has one
Many lenders have an application specifically for a short-sale request.
8. Assemble the proposal
The proposal generally consists of a package of materials including the application and authorization letter, plus:
The purchase and sale contract, signed by you and the seller, to buy the property for a specified price. The lender is not going to entertain tentative offers. You're not going to get the chance to ask the bank, "Would you take X number of dollars?" In most cases, this also means posting a sizable amount of money to demonstrate your desire and ability to go through with the transaction if it is accepted. If you can't make a sizable down payment, the lender would have no reason to believe you can do any better than the last owner. It's also very important to the buyer that the contract be contingent upon all lenders approving the short sale in writing.
A hardship letter. It's important to remember a lender will not even discuss a short sale until the homeowner has fallen behind on payments — usually 90 days. The lender must be convinced that taking a smaller loss now is better than a bigger loss later. To make that case, start with a letter written by the seller giving an overview of the seller's desperate situation. The lender must recognize the seller's inability to pay the loan — immediately and in the foreseeable future — and that the situation is irreversible. The seller should supply as much evidence and documentation as possible, such as divorce papers, evidence of job loss, delinquent accounts, utility shut-off notices, car repossession paperwork, last two years' tax returns, recent pay stubs and recent bank statements. If the lender thinks the seller has money or assets stashed away, it will never go along with a short sale.
A statement of the property's value. This can be an appraisal or a broker's price opinion. The lower the estimate of the property's current market value, the better it will be for you. You want to show the lender that the seller would not be able to get enough for the home via a normal sale to satisfy the loan. Compile a list of all the problems with the home that hurt the value and make it undesirable to the average buyer and tougher for the lender to resell. The longer a lender must hold onto a property, the more expensive it becomes. If the lender realizes the property will bring it nothing but headaches, it will be more likely to OK a short sale. Richard Geller, of MortgageReliefFormula.com, who has participated in hundreds of short sales, says this part is critical. "Many short sales are turned down because the lender doesn't think the offer is high enough." He advises doing this before the lender does a valuation. "There are ethical and legitimate ways to get a low valuation, and if you show this to the lender to start with, your offer won't look so low." Geller adds that the offer to the lender can be below the amount of valuation: "The offer can be 85 percent in areas that are slow but not terribly distressed, and as low as 50 percent in really distressed areas."
Detail the costs and liabilities. You want to show the lender it would be much better off letting you take the property off its hands. If you can convince the lender that the home is a money pit, all the better. Take photos of any damage and get estimates of the repair costs. Note: This is also a good opportunity for you to take an honest look at the property and decide if you are willing and able to invest the time and money required to fix it up.
Remember: A short sale is always an as-is sale. The lender is not going to pay for or otherwise be responsible for any repairs. But, for example, if the lender forecloses, there's a good chance it will be forced to make repairs just to get the house resold. That's one of the liabilities the lender may face.
A settlement statement. This statement, which can be prepared by a closing agent or real-estate lawyer, outlines the purchase price, the closing costs and any other costs or fees involved in the transfer of the property. It is often referred to as a net sheet, and the information can be entered onto a HUD-1 Settlement Statement to show the final, negative result at closing.
It's not uncommon for the lender to reject your offer or to come back with a counteroffer. As with any real-estate transaction, you should figure out beforehand what your absolute highest limit is, and don't be afraid to walk away if the lender won't meet your figure.
10. Seal the deal
Once you've reached an agreement that all three parties — you, the seller and the lender — are OK with, get everything in writing and officially recorded. Make sure the seller understands all of the terms of the deal. Next comes the closing and the property is yours.
More important details
1. The entire process gets far more complicated — and success more uncertain — if more than one lender is involved. Second or junior lenders often are the ones absorbing most of the loss. If there is a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit, you'll need approval from all. In addition, you may find your mortgage loan was sold to another entity in a process called "securitization," and therefore you also need approval from that company.
Be sure to do a title search, and verify the lien position of the lender you plan to contact. Pursue short sales only with the primary lien holder. Making a deal with a junior lien holder is a waste of time, as you will still be on the hook to the primary lien holder for whatever is owed to it.
2. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 gave short sellers a big tax break by changing the way the forgiven amount was viewed for tax purposes. Before passage of the act, that amount was considered as income for the borrower and was subject to tax. However, the new law removed that tax liability.
3. Time is of the essence. While you negotiate with the lender, the clock keeps ticking. Do everything you can to get the lender to move quickly. Many short sales fall apart because the lender moves too slowly and fails to complete the deal before the property goes to auction.
4. Some buyers have successfully negotiated with the lender to minimize the damage to the seller's credit rating. The lender has no obligation to agree to this, but if you can persuade it not to report this action as a black mark on the seller's record (and put this in writing as part of the deal), it will give the seller a big head start in rebuilding his financial life. Typically, the loan will show up on a credit report as "paid," but it will carry a notation that says something like "settled for less than originally owed." That is more favorable than a foreclosure, but still negative.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
From Washington Post
What sellers can expect from participating lenders starting in April:
The new short-sale rules
-- Sellers must be unqualified for a loan modification under the Home Affordable Mortgage Program or be unable to afford the modification.
-- The bank will set an acceptable value of the home upfront, based on an appraisal or broker's price opinion.
-- Lenders must approve or deny a purchase offer within 10 days of it being submitted.
-- Once the bank approves a home for short sale, sellers may stop paying all related mortgage payments, and unpaid mortgage debt will be forgiven.
-- These mortgage payments will not be shown as late on credit reports.
-- At closing, sellers are entitled to as much as $1,500 from the government to cover relocation expenses.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
By Tisa Silver of Investopedia
In this economy, houses aren't selling like they used to. If you have a house on the market, or are considering selling yours, there are some ways to improve your chances. Here are seven tips that will make it easier to sell your house and make a smooth transition from one owner to the next.
1. Maintain neutrality
This policy has worked for Switzerland, and it can also work in real estate. Customizing your home is great if you plan to stay there, but extreme colors and themed rooms can scare off potential homebuyers. If you have customized every room with extremely bright or dark colored paint, wallpaper or wall fixtures, you may want to consider toning it down a bit. Using neutral colors on the walls can help prospective buyers create their own vision for the house, and will also leave them with less work to undo if they buy the house.
2. Less is more
Even though you have not moved out yet, removing some of your furniture can help the house move off the market. If you take pictures for your listing, having less furniture can help the home appear more spacious. When potential homebuyers arrive, having less furniture can also provide clear walkways.
3. That new house smell
Honestly, the new house smell isn't always the most pleasant, but at least it is new. In preparing to show your home, you should avoid strong smells. To avoid odors, make sure to take out the trash and clean the refrigerator regularly. It’s also good to be mindful of what you cook in the days leading up to a showing; certain foods have strong scents. If you have pets, keep an eye on the litter box. Any smell that is too strong could send potential homebuyers running out the door.
4. Pay attention to the details
It’s not a good idea to make major renovations when you are ready to sell your home; you may not recoup your investment. If you never got around to starting or completing that total kitchen or bathroom makeover, then you can make some small, inexpensive changes to spruce things up. Replacing the hardware on cabinets is a quick way to improve the appearance of older looking fixtures. Upgrading small items such as light switch and outlet covers can add a nice touch.
5. Maximize your "curb appeal"
The front of your home is the first thing prospective homebuyers will see, so keeping it presentable is a must. If there is a yard, keep the grass to a reasonable height and, if there are trees, be sure to keep the branches under control. The path to your front door should be a clear and welcoming one, not an obstacle course.
6. Don't get too personal
Upon entering your house, everyone will know it is lived in, but they do not need to see all the evidence. Get rid of excess clutter such as newspapers, magazines and mail. Be sure to put away your laundry and shoes. It may also be a good idea to put away some other personal belongings, like pictures on the refrigerator or mantle. For you, the pictures may make a house a home or display your personal touch. For the new homeowner, it may appear too personal.
7. Take care of repairs
Waiting to make repairs until after you find a buyer can be tricky. Depending on the nature of the repairs, you may not be able to find a buyer. Depending on how fast the buyer wants to close on the house, you may not have enough time to make the repairs. Save yourself some time and potential trouble by making repairs before you list your home. The repairs will have to be made anyway, so it is better to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.
First impressions can make the difference between a sale or no sale. Keeping things simple can give you a leg up on similar houses on the market.
Posted by Mai Ling at MSN Real Estate on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:04 PM
It might be a little late for the U.S. households that suffered some of the nastiest winter storms in recent memory, but perhaps by next winter the so-called "Cash for Caulkers" program will be ready to help homeowners get ready for the next big chill.
President Barack Obama this week announced details of what's officially known as the Homestar program, which aims to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes with up to $3,000 in rebates, in addition to an estimated $200 to $500 average annual energy savings.
The proposal, which puts the focus on products made primarily in the United States, also aims to create tens of thousands of jobs at a time when the unemployment rate is at 27% for construction workers, while the national rate remains stagnant at 9.7%.
The program, which USA Today says is estimated to cost $6 billion, still needs congressional approval to move forward. So how will you get your piece of the Homestar program pie?
The Silver Star rebates would give consumers 50% rebates of up to $1,000 to $1,500 for simple upgrades including insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, heating and air-conditioning units, windows, roofing and doors. Consumers also can combine the upgrades for a maximum of a $3,000 rebate per home.
The Gold Star rebates have a maximum payout of $3,000 for a whole home energy audit and subsequent retrofit if it provides you with a 20% energy savings. If you exceed that 20% minimum, you could be eligible for additional rebate amounts, as well.
And taking a page from the successful Cash for Clunkers program, the Homestar program also offers instant gratification through rebates at the point of sale. Building material dealers, large national home-improvement chains, energy-efficiency installation professionals and utility energy-efficiency programs would market and provide the rebates, then be reimbursed by the federal government.
In an effort to ensure that the work done provides energy savings, the proposal also would require that contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations and that independent quality assurance providers conduct field audits after work is completed.
What kind of energy-efficient improvements would you like to make at your home? Would the implementation of the Homestar program encourage you to move forward with those plans?
Published: March 7, 2010
More than five million households are behind on their mortgages and risk foreclosure. The government’s $75 billion mortgage modification plan has helped only a small slice of them. Consumer advocates, economists and even some banking industry representatives say much more needs to be done.
For the administration, there is also the concern that millions of foreclosures could delay or even reverse the economy’s tentative recovery — the last thing it wants in an election year.
Taking effect on April 5, the program could encourage hundreds of thousands of delinquent borrowers who have not been rescued by the loan modification program to shed their houses through a process known as a short sale, in which property is sold for less than the balance of the mortgage. Lenders will be compelled to accept that arrangement, forgiving the difference between the market price of the property and what they are owed.
“We want to streamline and standardize the short sale process to make it much easier on the borrower and much easier on the lender,” said Seth Wheeler, a Treasury senior adviser.
The problem is highlighted by a routine case in Phoenix. Chris Paul, a real estate agent, has a house he is trying to sell on behalf of its owner, who owes $150,000. Mr. Paul has an offer for $48,000, but the bank holding the mortgage says it wants at least $90,000. The frustrated owner is now contemplating foreclosure.
To bring the various parties to the table — the homeowner, the lender that services the loan, the investor that owns the loan, the bank that owns the second mortgage on the property — the government intends to spread its cash around.
Under the new program, the servicing bank, as with all modifications, will get $1,000. Another $1,000 can go toward a second loan, if there is one. And for the first time the government would give money to the distressed homeowners themselves. They will get $1,500 in “relocation assistance.”
Should the incentives prove successful, the short sales program could have multiple benefits. For the investment pools that own many home loans, there is the prospect of getting more money with a sale than with a foreclosure.
For the borrowers, there is the likelihood of suffering less damage to credit ratings. And as part of the transaction, they will get the lender’s assurance that they will not later be sued for an unpaid mortgage balance.
For communities, the plan will mean fewer empty foreclosed houses waiting to be sold by banks. By some estimates, as many as half of all foreclosed properties are ransacked by either the former owners or vandals, which depresses the value of the property further and pulls down the value of neighboring homes.
If short sales are about to have their moment, it has been a long time coming. At the beginning of the foreclosure crisis, lenders shunned short sales. They were not equipped to deal with the labor-intensive process and were suspicious of it.
The lenders’ thinking, said the economist Thomas Lawler, went like this: “I lend someone $200,000 to buy a house. Then he says, ‘Look, I have someone willing to pay $150,000 for it; otherwise I think I’m going to default.’ Do I really believe the borrower can’t pay it back? And is $150,000 a reasonable offer for the property?”
Short sales are “tailor-made for fraud,” said Mr. Lawler, a former executive at the mortgage finance company Fannie Mae.
Last year, short sales started to increase, although they remain relatively uncommon. Fannie Mae said preforeclosure deals on loans in its portfolio more than tripled in 2009, to 36,968. But real estate agents say many lenders still seem to disapprove of short sales.
Under the new federal program, a lender will use real estate agents to determine the value of a home and thus the minimum to accept. This figure will not be shared with the owner, but if an offer comes in that is equal to or higher than this amount, the lender must take it.
Mr. Paul, the Phoenix agent, was skeptical. “In a perfect world, this would work,” he said. “But because estimates of value are inherently subjective, it won’t. The banks don’t want to sell at a discount.”
There are myriad other potential conflicts over short sales that may not be solved by the program, which was announced on Nov. 30 but whose details are still being fine-tuned. Many would-be short sellers have second and even third mortgages on their houses. Banks that own these loans are in a position to block any sale unless they get a piece of the deal.
“You have one loan, it’s no sweat to get a short sale,” said Howard Chase, a Miami Beach agent who says he does around 20 short sales a month. “But the second mortgage often is the obstacle.”
Major lenders seem to be taking a cautious approach to the new initiative. In many cases, big banks do not actually own the mortgages; they simply administer them and collect payments. J. K. Huey, a Wells Fargo vice president, said a short sale, like a loan modification, would have to meet the requirements of the investor who owns the loan.
“This is not an opportunity for the customer to just walk away,” Ms. Huey said. “If someone doesn’t come to us saying, ‘I’ve done everything I can, I used all my savings, I borrowed money and, by the way, I’m losing my job and moving to another city, and have all the documentation,’ we’re not going to do a short sale.”
But even if lenders want to treat short sales as a last resort for desperate borrowers, in reality the standards seem to be looser.
Sree Reddy, a lawyer and commercial real estate investor who lives in Miami Beach, bought a one-bedroom condominium in 2005, spent about $30,000 on improvements and ended up owing $540,000. Three years later, the value had fallen by 40 percent.
Mr. Reddy wanted to get out from under his crushing monthly payments. He lost a lot of money in the crash but was not in default. Nevertheless, his bank let him sell the place for $360,000 last summer.
“A short sale provides peace of mind,” said Mr. Reddy, 32. “If you’re in foreclosure, you don’t know when they’re ultimately going to take the place away from you.”
Mr. Reddy still lives in the apartment complex where he bought that condo, but is now a renter paying about half of his old mortgage payment. Another benefit, he said: “The place I’m in now is nicer and a little bigger.”
A version of this article appeared in print on March 8, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The event is celebrating its 52 year and annually draws the largest number of exhibitors and attendees in the region. For decades, HBA has hosted the most well known show in Colorado Springs featuring everything from A - Z for homeowners – with displays featuring New Home Builders, Developers, Remodelers, Landscapers, spas, kitchens, windows, home accessories, siding, decks, carpet, security systems just to name a few. Also, featuring over ten thousand square feet of spectacular garden displays!
• Last Home & Garden Show of the season!
• Phil Long Expo Center
• March 5, 6 and 7
• Over ninety-thousand square feet of home improvement products, services, and advice.
Landscape displays designed for Colorado Living, showcasing sun rooms, water features, fire pits outdoor living areas and all the spring color…come smell SPRING…let your imagination go wild.
HBA Home and Garden Show
Friday, Mar 5 1:00p to 7:00p at Phil Long Expo Center
Saturday, March 6 10:00am to 7:00pm
Sunday, March 7 11:00am to 4:00pm
If you're trying to fix up your home to get it on the market in time for the expected spring surge of homebuyers, we know it's tempting to go the DIY route.
But MarketWatch is warning all of you home-improvement go-getters that even though times are tough right now, your safety still needs to come before your pocketbook.
So when should you turn to a pro?
When safety is an issue
Again, seems like a no-brainer, but even some of your basic projects involving electrical wiring can lead to dangerous results if they're done improperly. For instance, even though installing a ceiling fan is popular among DIYers, the Electrical Safety Foundation International says more than 19,700 people are injured each year by ceiling fans that aren't mounted or sized correctly.
Similarly, extending a gas line also is better left to the pros, Matt Knox, chief executive of DiggersList.com, a construction classifieds Web site, tells MarketWatch.
"Do not mess around with gas. ... If you're DIY, you probably don't know how to check for gas leaks," Knox said. A mistake there could lead to an explosion or carbon-monoxide poisoning.
As we've said before in articles about cleaning your gutters, sometimes it's simply best to hire a professional for any projects that involve heights. If you lack the ability or are simply uncomfortable using a ladder, by all means, call a pro.
And unless you know how to use them, you also might want to leave the power tools to the pros. Not only can it end up being more costly to buy them, but the amount of time you spend learning how to use them could slow down your project. And, most importantly, an accident with a power tool can cause serious injuries or even death.
When water is involved
Don't assume that if you make a mistake involving your pipes, or even installing a skylight or patching the roof, that you'll notice a resulting leak before it's too late. Water damage is one of the more costly and complicated repairs, MarketWatch writes, so it might be worth it in the long run to pay up in the beginning.
Knox said 90% of all construction-defect claims on jobs done by professionals are due to water intrusion, so "it escalates when you go to DIY."
If the costs or materials are too high
Sometimes the experts simply have better access to expensive tools and discounts on materials that DIYers often lack. For instance, MarketWatch writes:
A kitchen cabinet can cost a couple hundred dollars, and if you order incorrectly, there might be a restocking fee and special orders may be non-returnable, said Mike Albrecht, division director for Home Depot's installation business. Being off on measurements for granite countertops also can be a costly flub.
If the project is too big
Here's another time where it's easy to get ahead of yourself. Sure, you can do a complete kitchen remodel over the three-day weekend ... or maybe not. Just how long do you want live with a half-completed project?
If you're forced to hire a professional to keep your sanity, just remember there still are ways to save on the price, such as doing your own painting or other detail work.
Have you ever taken on a project that proved disastrous? What advice would you offer readers who may be a little overambitious in their DIY desires?
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
(ARA) - As spring rounds the corner, so does the desire to lighten the mood in life and home. Whether you choose to de-clutter or add a splash of spring color, simple eco-friendly changes to home decor set the tone for a much lighter, and brighter, season.
Follow these five tips to affordable eco-friendly home decorating.
Let color lift the mood
Color has long been credited for its mood-changing qualities. "Color really makes things more upbeat and changes the energy in a space," says Mary Ann Thornam, interior design academic department chair at The Art Institute of Colorado. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional-certified designer and instructor from Miami International University of Art & Design, Jorge A. Pernas, suggests not just going out and buying any old type of paint, but "request to see their line of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free products - they are very eco-friendly; these paints don't emit any toxic fumes and are completely odorless, making it possible to literally paint a bedroom and be able to sleep in it that same evening."
Lighten the landscape, lighten the mood
Lighting is another simple, affordable and eco-friendly way of sprucing up the home. Pernas suggests converting all task lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs. The reduction in energy consumption translates into a lower monthly bill and an overall reduction in your carbon footprint.
You've heard of feng shui. Furniture placement plays a major role in the ergonomic quality of your living space. Developing a more flexible floor plan by angling and shifting pieces can often help give the area the appearance of more space - making it feel less cluttered.
Another easy way to update the overall look of a room is by replacing curtains/tapestries, slipcovers and bedding with organic sheets and materials, giving the space an updated look that is both affordable and eco-friendly.
Delight in de-cluttering
With the new season comes the inspiration to cleanse and purge items that you no longer need. Replace heavier accent objects, such as ceramics, with lighter pieces, like baskets. Reposition artwork and add mirrors whenever possible as they open up a room and give the illusion of more space. Of course, when in doubt, recycle it out.
Shop and swap
As the focus on sustainability becomes more widespread, so do your options for eco-friendly products that do not deplete the earth or your pocketbook. Some options include swapping with a group of friends to changing out items that no longer fit your space, or shopping in thrift stores and consignment shops. Of course, when those options won't do, Pernas suggests purchasing eco-friendly, simple selections such as bamboo rugs, organic cotton sheets or recycled glass.
Bring the outside in
With spring comes the urge to open windows and breathe in the fresh air. Bring the natural goodness of the outside into your home with the addition of potted flowers and plants or window boxes.
Visit the local farmers market to find your favorite plants or flowers and place them in locations where you spend time daily. Vegetation not only adds oxygen, but also brightens the backdrop.
The key to savvy decorating is not overpowering the existing elements. "Small changes can make a dramatic difference in the personality of a room," says Thornam. To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.
Denver and Colorado Springs are ranked among America’s ‘most wired cities’ by Forbes.com.
Colorado Springs ranks No. 6 on the new list, while Denver is No. 7.
Denver is ranked high on the list for its rate of broadband connections (67 percent of home Internet users), its number of broadband providers (18) and its ratio of residents to Wi-Fi “hot spots” (11,241 to 1).
The Springs has an even more advantageous people-to-hot-spot ratio (7,533 to 1), plus 69 percent broadband connections and 15 broadband providers.
Colorado is among handful of states with multiple most-wired cities on the top 20 list. California has three; Florida and North Carolina each have two.
Click Here for the Full Forbes Report
Posted by Mai Ling at MSN Real Estate on Monday, March 1, 2010 12:16 PM
And in today's market, where home prices still are going down in some regions, that means you're going to have to put a little elbow grease into your home's appearance if you want to get your money's worth.
In a blog post last week about 10 improvements you can make to your home to help increase your return, staging was a major theme that came up repeatedly, whether it be something as simple as placing some fresh flowers in a vase or painting your walls a neutral color.
But Move.com reminds us that it's also important to stage your front yard, the first part of your home that a potential buyer will see.
Although it's important to keep your lawn neatly trimmed when your home is on the market, a few flowers to brighten your yard will give it even more curb appeal, Move.com writes.
Nothing instantly brightens and refreshens a home more than blooming flowers. If you missed planting bulbs in the fall, plastic hanging baskets and flats with annuals are a quick fix – and will last longer.
Make sure you do your homework before you plant, though, to ensure that the annuals you pick are the best for your climate, as well as for the part of your property that you plant them in. Double-check that you're planting flowers that can withstand full sun in south- or west-facing areas that don't get a lot of shade, but keep shade-loving plants facing north and those that prefer partial sun and partial shade facing east.
You also can easily add some lovely draping flowers along your walkway or by your front door by simply using hanging baskets filled with colorful blooms. Just remove the hanger portion from the basket, and place it in an appealing pot.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Updated as of 3/1/2010
February of 2010 Colorado Springs Home sales were up 13.5% over February of 2009, according to preliminary sales data. This is the 7th month in a row of double digit increases over the prior year. The average price also increased a meager .4%, and the median (1/2 above, 1/2 below) increased by 2.7%. The 90th percentile was only $345,000, indicated continued softness at the high end. The inventory of unsold homes stood at 4,361, a decrease of 12.7%. These figures seem to indicate that the further from the market bottom (which I track as January of 2009) we get, the smaller the year to year improvements will be, although the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit deadline may still have a short term affect on the March through June figures. For more details, see the Colorado Springs Homes Sales Trend Data
Unit Sales Trend by Month