Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Incredible Renovations Shares Ways to Avoid Foreclosure From U.S. Treasury Department and HUD


The Obama Administration has implemented a number of programs to assist homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and otherwise struggling with their monthly mortgage payments. The majority of these programs are administered through the U.S. Treasury Department and HUD. This page provides a summary of these various programs. Please continue reading in order to determine which program can best assist you.

Distressed homeowners are encouraged to contact their lenders and loan servicers directly to inquire about foreclosure prevention options that are available. If you are experiencing difficulty communicating with your mortgage lender or servicer about your need for mortgage relief, click here for information about organizations that can help contact lenders and servicers on your behalf.


The Making Home Affordable © (MHA) Program is a critical part of the Obama Administration's broad strategy to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, stabilize the country's housing market, and improve the nation's economy.

Homeowners can lower their monthly mortgage payments and get into more stable loans at today's low rates. And for those homeowners for whom homeownership is no longer affordable or desirable, the program can provide a way out which avoids foreclosure. Additionally, in an effort to be responsive to the needs of today's homeowners, there are also options for unemployed homeowners and homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth. Please read the following program summaries to determine which program options may be best suited for your particular circumstances.

Modify or Refinance Your Loan for Lower Payments
  • Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP): HAMP lowers your monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of your verified monthly gross (pre-tax) income to make your payments more affordable. The typical HAMP modification results in a 40 percent drop in a monthly mortgage payment. Eighteen percent of HAMP homeowners reduce their payments by $1,000 or more.Click Here for more information.
  • Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA): PRA was designed to help homeowners whose homes are worth significantly less than they owe by encouraging servicers and investors to reduce the amount you owe on your home. Click Here for more information.  
  • Second Lien Modification Program (2MP): If your first mortgage was permanently modified under HAMP SM and you have a second mortgage on the same property, you may be eligible for a modification or principal reduction on your second mortgage under 2MP. Likewise, If you have a home equity loan, HELOC, or some other second lien that is making it difficult for you to keep up with your mortgage payments, learn more about this MHA program. Click Here for more information.
  • Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP): If you are current on your mortgage and have been unable to obtain a traditional refinance because the value of your home has declined, you may be eligible to refinance through HARP. HARP is designed to help you refinance into a new affordable, more stable mortgage. Click Here for more information.
“Underwater” Mortgages
In today's housing market, many homeowners have experienced a decrease in their home's value. Learn about these MHA programs to address this concern for homeowners.
  • Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)If you are current on your mortgage and have been unable to obtain a traditional refinance because the value of your home has declined, you may be eligible to refinance through HARP. HARP is designed to help you refinance into a new affordable, more stable mortgage. Click Here for more information.
  • Principal Reduction Alternative: PRA was designed to help homeowners whose homes are worth significantly less than they owe by encouraging servicers and investors to reduce the amount you owe on your home. Click Here for more information.  
  • Treasury/FHA Second Lien Program (FHA2LP): If you have a second mortgage and the mortgage servicer of your first mortgage agrees to participate in FHA Short Refinance, you may qualify to have your second mortgage on the same home reduced or eliminated through FHA2LP. If the servicer of your second mortgage agrees to participate, the total amount of your mortgage debt after the refinance cannot exceed 115% of your home’s current value. Click Here for more information.
 Assistance for Unemployed Homeowners
  • Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP): If you are having a tough time making your mortgage payments because you are unemployed, you may be eligible for UP. UP provides a temporary reduction or suspension of mortgage payments for at least twelve months while you seek re-employment. Click Here for more information.
  • Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program (EHLP), Substantially Similar States: If you live inConnecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, or PennsylvaniaClick Here for more information about EHLP assistance provided in your state.
  • FHA Forbearance for Unemployed Homeowners: Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements now require servicers to extend the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners to 12 months. The changes to FHA’s Special Forbearance Program announced in July 2011 require servicers to extend the forbearance period for FHA borrowers who qualify for the program from four months to 12 months and remove upfront hurdles to make it easier for unemployed borrowers to qualify. Click Here for more information.
Managed Exit for Borrowers
  • Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA): If your mortgage payment is unaffordable and you are interested in transitioning to more affordable housing, you may be eligible for a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure through HAFA SM. Click Here for more information.
  • “Redemption”is a period after your home has already been sold at a foreclosure sale when you can still reclaim your home. You will need to pay the outstanding mortgage balance and all costs incurred during the foreclosure process. Click Here for more information.
FHA-Insured Mortgages
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is working aggressively to halt and reverse the losses represented by foreclosure. Through its National Servicing Center (NSC), FHA offers a number of various loss mitigation programs and informational resources to assist FHA-insured homeowners and home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) borrowersfacing financial hardship or unemployment and whose mortgage is either in default or at risk of default.
  • Click Here to log onto the NSC Loss Mitigation Programs home page.
  • Click Here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about FHA’s loss mitigation programs.
CONTACT FHA
FHA staff are available to help answer your questions and assist you to better understand your options as an FHA borrower under these loss mitigation programs. There are several ways you can contact FHA for more information, including:
  • Call the NSC at (877) 622-8525
  • Call the FHA Outreach Center at 1-800-CALL FHA (800-225-5342)
  • Persons with hearing or speech impairments may access this number via TTY by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
  • Email the FHA Resource Center
  • The Online FHA Resource Center

source: U.S. Treasury Department and HUD

Monday, April 29, 2013

Three Basic Strategies to Improve Indoor Air Quality


There are three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality
  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation, and
  3. Air cleaners

Source Control

Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is also a more cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs.

Ventilation Improvements

For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is the most effective solution.
Another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.
It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants — for example, painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also choose to do some of these activities outdoors, if you can and if weather permits.
Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers). For more information about whole house ventilation system options, see the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Energy Saver: Whole-House Ventilation.
Air Cleaners
There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.
The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate) and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector with a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner with a high air-circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long-term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it according to the manufacturer's directions.
Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.
Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.
At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon.

Source: EPA

Remodeling Old Homes and Building New Homes


Remodeling old homes and building new homes

building new or remodeling
While remodeling or improving the energy efficiency of your home, steps should be taken to minimize pollution from sources inside the home, either from new materials or from disturbing materials already in the home. In addition, residents should be alert to signs of inadequate ventilation, such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold and mildew growth.
When building new homes, homebuyers today are increasingly concerned about the IAQ of their homes. Pollutants like moldradoncarbon monoxide, and toxic chemicals have received greater attention than ever as poor IAQ has been linked to a host of health problems. To address these concerns, builders can employ a variety of construction practices and technologies to decrease the risk of poor IAQ in their new homes using the criteria from EPA’s Indoor airPLUS as a guide.
To help ensure that you will have good IAQ in your new or remodeled home:
  • Ask about including radon-reducing features.
  • Provide proper drainage and seal foundations in new construction.
  • Consider installing a mechanical ventilation system. Mechanical ventilation systems introduce fresh air using ducts and fans, instead of relying on holes or cracks in the walls and windows. 
  • When installing new appliances (like furnaces) make sure they are installed properly with a good vent or flue.
If you are thinking of building or remodeling, consider contacting Incredible Renovations at www.incrediblerenovations.com 

Source: EPA

Friday, April 26, 2013

Incredible Renovations Wants to Keep Their Clients Safe With Schlage’s New Touchscreen Deadbolt


Houston's top remodeling company, Incredible Renovations wants to make sure our clients are as safe as possible in their homes. We believe that Schlage’s new Touchscreen Deadbolt is the best way to go. This door lock combines all of the best security features into one keyless door lock, redefining what it means to be secure.

The innovative touchscreen feature provides the convenience of going keyless. No more keys to lose, hide, carry or forget. The fingerprint-resistant touchscreen ensures numbers won’t be detectable to intruders after repeated use, safeguarding your home even more.


Schlage's Touchscreen Deadbolt with Alarm combines our best security features into one door lock:
Grade 1 certification, an Anti-pick shield, Built-in Alarm technology.

The Touchscreen Deadbolt is also enabled to work with Nexia™ Home Intelligence, a home automation system that allows you to control locks, thermostats, lights, cameras and more — from wherever you and the Internet happen to be.

What better way to protect your family from intruders.

Features
  • ANSI Grade 1 Highest Residential Security
  • Durable Resistive Touchscreen with matte finish to protect against fingerprints and smudges (can be used with gloves)
  • Anti-pick shield protects against lock tampering
  • Strong motorized bolt automatically locks and unlocks when a user code is entered
  • Build-in Alarm Technology senses movement of the door and alerts homeowners with an audible alert
  • Select between three alerts- activity, tamper or forced entry alert- and customized to meet fit your security needs
  • With Nexia™ Home Intelligence, lock or unlock your door from anywhere with your cell phone — requires Nexia controller.  Controller also included in Nexia Home Security Kits, and Home Energy Kit
  • With Nexia™ Home Intelligence, schedule lock codes to be active only on certain days at specific times
  • With Nexia™ Home Intelligence, receive text alerts when an alarm triggers or when specific codes are entered at the lock
  • Battery life approximately 1 year, 4 AA Batteries Included
  • Key Override:  Bump Resistant 5-Pin Cylinder, includes 1 Backup Emergency Key (Extra keys sold separate at checkout)
  • Lifetime Limited Mechanical & Finish and 1-Year Warranty


Specs
  • Door thickness: 1 3/8" ~ 1 3/4" (99.9% of all doors)
  • Backset: Universally made for 2 3/8" and 2 3/4" preps
  • Dimensions: Outside housing; 4.75" H x 3" W x 1" D. Inside housing; 8" H x 3" W x 2" D
  • Handing: non-handed, fits virtually all swing doors
  • High-speed internet connection (DSL, or cable) required for wireless remote lock, unlock, and monitoring features from a PC. Cell phones must be web-enabled
For More Information about Incredible Renovations, www.incrediblerenovations.com 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making an Energy Difference in Your Home


Some ways you can make a difference include:
  • Energy-efficient choices such as ENERGY STAR can save families up to a third on their energy bills, with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing style or comfort.
  • The average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill but could save about $170 per year by retrofitting with water-efficient fixtures and incorporating water-saving practices.
  • Consumers can purchase Design for the Environment-labeled cleaning products and know they are buying products that are safer for their families and the environment.
  • By driving a SmartWay certified vehicle, your vehicle will emit fewer air pollution-causing emissions while saving money on fuel costs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Go GREEN in Honor of Earth Day!

Going Green? If so, Incredible Renovations wants to help you.  We are equipped and educated about green renovations and we want to help you reach your goals.

Here are some questions to ask and things to consider before you hire a contractor like Incredible Renovations to remodel your home:
    Determine the type of green renovations you want and how much you have to spend.
    Find a builder/contractor who is a member of a local professional association and ask to see their license.
    Look for a team that consists of an architect and a builder who have worked together before and who understand sustainability.
    Check their references. Ask to see other projects they have done together that are similar to yours.
    Find out if they specialize in EarthCraft House (new construction and renovations), LEED (new construction only) or other third-party green certification.
    How knowledgeable are they about passive solar design?
    Make sure the contractor has at least $1 million of general liability and worker’s comp insurance. 
    Get at least three bids for your project. Remember, the lowest bid is not necessarily the most responsible. Give weight to the price, qualifications and the rapport you have with each other.
    Before you sign a contract, find out how long it will take for them to do your renovations and what their process is for managing the job.
    How, and how often, will they communicate with you?
    Since efficiency and sustainability are important to you, be sure to ask if they recycle construction waste, if they use local products versus imported products and if they make intelligent framing choices that reduce waste and returns.
For More Information about Incredible Renovations: www.incrediblerenovations.com

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Top Ten U.S. Organizations Using the Most Green Power


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Green Power Partnership released an updated list of the Top 50 organizations that are choosing to use electricity from clean, renewable sources.


“We applaud the leadership demonstrated by organizations that are helping reduce carbon pollution and spur the growth of clean, American-made energy sources by increasing their use of renewable energy,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “As President Obama has made clear, clean energy is critical to our health, our economy, our security, and our ability to effectively address climate change.”

Intel Corporation continues to top the list, using green power to cover 100 percent of its electricity load. Microsoft Corporation moved into second place by increasing its green power use to more than 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. Apple Inc., new to the Top 50 list, ranks number 10 with 85 percent of its nationwide electricity now coming from green power.

The top 10 partners appearing on the Top 50 list include:

1. Intel Corporation
2. 
Microsoft Corporation
3. Kohl’s Department Stores
4. Whole Foods Market
5. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
6. U.S. Department of Energy
7. Staples
8. Starbucks Company-Owned Stores
9. Lockheed Martin Corporation
10. Apple Inc.

For the first time, EPA also released a list of partners that have committed to purchasing green power for a period of five years or more. These organizations send a strong signal to renewable energy developers, stating that they are committed to green power for the long-term and are helping to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. Among the partners with the longest-running contracts are the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, The Ohio State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Maryland. Of the 47 partners appearing on the list, 15 are higher education institutions.

In addition, for the seventh year in a row, the agency is encouraging increased green power use among higher education institutions through the College and University Green Power Challenge. Out of the 32 competing conferences, the Big 10 is this year’s conference champion, collectively using more than 315 million kWh of green power annually and avoiding carbon pollution equal to that produced by the electricity use of more than 33,000 American homes. The University of Pennsylvania continues to be the top individual school in the challenge, purchasing more than 200 million kWh of wind power annually--more green power than any of the 75 other competing schools.

Green power is a subset of renewable energy and represents the renewable energy resources and technologies that provide the highest environmental benefit. EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources. 

As part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, more than 1,400 organizations are purchasing more than 27 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually, avoiding carbon pollution equal to that created by the electricity use of more than 2.8 million American homes. The partnership provides quarterly updated lists of partners using green power in the following categories: K-12 schools, technology and telecommunications, local government, and retail, among others.

More on the Top 50 list and other Top rankings: www.epa.gov/greenpower/toplists
More on the 2012-13 EPA College & University Green Power Challenge conference champions:www.epa.gov/greenpower/initiatives/cu_challenge.htm
More on EPA’s Green Power Partnership: www.epa.gov/greenpower

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nationwide Housing Starts Beyond The Million-Unit Mark for First Time Since 2008

Soaring production of multifamily apartments pushed nationwide housing starts beyond the million-unit mark for the first time since 2008 in March, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. The data show that total starts activity rose 7.0 percent for the month due entirely to a 31.1 percent increase on the multifamily side, while single-family production slipped 4.8 percent from a number that was revised strongly upward for the previous month.

“Today’s report is a reflection of the solid demand that many areas are seeing for rental apartments as young people take that first step into the housing market, which is a very positive development,” noted Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors.”

Calling the latest data a “mixed bag” due to the opposite direction of single- and multifamily starts and a somewhat weaker amount of permit issuance, NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that nevertheless, the numbers indicate “a continuation of the slow, methodical march forward” that characterizes the housing recovery. He also noted that “The three-month moving average for single-family starts remained unchanged at 628,000 units in March – which is right on pace with NAHB’s forecast for a 25 percent gain in new-home production in 2013.”
  
While single-family starts declined 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 619,000 units in March, this was entirely due to a substantial upward revision to the previous month’s data, without which virtually no change would have been recorded. At the same time, multifamily housing starts surged 31.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000 units – their fastest pace since January 2006.

Three out of four regions posted gains in combined single- and multifamily housing production in March, with the Midwest registering a 9.6 percent increase, the South posting a 10.9 percent gain and the West noting a 2.7 percent rise. The Northeast was the lone exception to the rule, with a 5.8 percent decline.
Following a large gain in the previous month, total permit issuance fell 3.9 percent to a 902,000-unit rate in March. That decline reflected a 0.5 percent reduction to 595,000 units on the single-family side and a 10 percent reduction to 307,000 units on the multifamily side.

In contrast to the regional starts report, the Northeast was the only part of the country to post a gain in permitting activity in March, with a 24.7 percent increase to 101,000 units. Meanwhile, the Midwest, South and West posted declines of 2.1 percent, 6.2 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively.

Source:NAHB

Friday, April 12, 2013

Remodeling Tips for Your Kitchen

Incredible Renovations shares the best remodeling tips for your kitchen.  Please consider air quality when remodeling.

Ventilation

Cooking in the kitchen generates a lot of moisture and odors, and requires ventilation. While there are various ventilation strategies for a kitchen, the range hood is by far the most common. The range hood should be used to capture and exhaust combustion products and vent them directly outdoors. These range hoods should be sized correctly. For a typical range, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) recommend 100 cubic feet per minute (cfm). Larger fans may need to have make-up air provided, to prevent excessively depressurizing the home and potentially causing combustion equipment to backdraft. Choose a quiet or remote mounted fan so noise doesn't keep you from using the range hood every time you cook.

Air-sealing Opportunities

Despite good ventilation, moisture-laden air from the kitchen can still make it's way into wall and ceiling cavities. A kitchen remodeling project may present an opportunity to improve air-sealing. Electrical, plumbing, and ventilation penetrations should be sealed where they are accessible or in any walls that are opened. Depending on how they were constructed, soffits can be troublesome to air-seal, but if you are replacing cabinets, you may be able to access space that would otherwise be unreachable.

Flooring

Flooring must not only have a good resistance to harm by water, but should also prevent water which does get on the floor from penetrating to the subfloor and space below.

Do not install carpet near water sources or in areas where there is a chronic moisture problem such as around sinks. To reduce the potential for microbial growth in the joints of hard surfaces or porous flooring installed near water sources, be sure to seal the entire surface.

Windows

Kitchen remodeling may present a good opportunity to replace old windows with new ENERGY STAR® windows. While costs do not always justify the change from purely an energy savings perspective, there may be other benefits of new windows. More efficient windows may be less prone to condensation and related mold growth. Painted window sashes and frames in homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint; this is a special concern because the friction of opening and closing windows can release lead dust into the home.

General Recommendations

While remodeling or improving the energy efficiency of your home, steps should be taken to minimize pollution from sources inside the home. In addition, residents should be alert to signs of inadequate ventilation, such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold and mildew growth and use the remodeling project to correct underlying problems. While all of our general recommendations may not apply to your home, you should be aware of the issues, from radon and lead, to ventilation, and good work practices.

Source: EPA

video

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Houzz Survey Finds Majority of U.S. Homeowners Say It's A Good Time To Remodel


Significantly more U.S. homeowners are moving forward with renovation projects compared to this time last year, according to the second annual Houzz & Home survey that garnered more than 100,000 responses from the Houzz community of 14 million monthly unique users. A majority of the homeowners surveyed also believe now is a good time to remodel (53 percent), and 58 percent of those planning projects in the next two years will hire professional help. The study also found that three-quarters of homeowners believe that now is a good time to buy a home. Together with last week’s Commerce Department report showing the rate of single-family home construction at its highest level in four and a half years, the results of this study point to a strengthening economy, housing and renovation market.

The 2013 Houzz & Home survey is the largest survey of remodeling and decorating activity ever conducted, covering historical and planned projects, the motivations behind these projects, and the impact of the economy on home building, renovation and decorating plans among Houzz users across the United States and around the world. The study yielded detailed data at the national, regional and metropolitan area level, which Houzz used to examine regional differences in priorities and spending.

The number of homeowners who say they will delay their projects because of the economy has dropped to 45 percent from 52 percent last year, and homeowners are more likely to cut back in other areas, such as vacations and other big ticket purchases, rather than delay or decrease budgets for their home plans. While improving the look and feel of the space is still the key driver for recently completed projects (83 percent), the number of homeowners who remodeled to increase their home value has increased to 54 percent from 47 percent in 2012.

“We’ve collected an unprecedented volume of data from the community, and we are pleased to share the synthesis and findings with everyone looking to renovate or decorate their home,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “This data will enable us to empower the community with powerful resources they can use to make better decisions around building, remodeling and design projects.”

Bathrooms and kitchens top America’s renovation project list again this year, with 28 percent of respondents planning a bathroom remodel or addition, and 23 percent planning a kitchen remodel or addition in the next two years. In terms of dollars spent, kitchens command the lion’s share. Over the last five years, nearly four in ten home improvement dollars have gone into kitchens and survey data indicates future spend is likely to follow the same trend.

Over the last five years, homeowners on average spent $28,030 to remodel their kitchens, however spending varies widely at different budget levels. Homeowners spent an average of $54,942 nationwide for a high-end kitchen, $22,390 for a mid-range kitchen, and $7,133 for a lower-budget kitchen.

The study also found that homeowners renovating at the higher-end were more likely to go over budget than those doing more modest renovations, though a significant number reported going over budget at all project levels. Fifty-six percent of those doing a high-end renovation, 42 percent of those who did a mid-range renovation, and 31 percent of those whose renovation was lower-budget also spent more than expected on their projects.

Other Key U.S. Findings:
  • Spending more time in a room does not necessarily correlate with decorating dollars. Homeowners report spending the most time in their family/TV rooms, but not the most money there. Nobody was willing to admit to spending significant time in their bathroom – but apparently the time we do spend there is worth significant investment. The percentage of money spent on kitchens and bathrooms far exceeds the percentage of time spent in these spaces.
  • A majority of the homeowners surveyed who are planning to complete a project in the next two years will hire a general contractor (58 percent), and a third a kitchen/bath (36 percent) or carpet/flooring professional (34 percent). Twenty-three percent plan to hire architects and 22 percent interior designers.
  • When it comes to hiring a professional for their project, 67 percent of homeowners surveyed rated a “personality I can work with” as a 5 (very important) on a 5-point scale.
  • 34 percent of U.S. homeowners cited making their home more energy efficient as a key driver for completing their most recent project.

The Houzz & Home Survey was emailed to registered users of the Houzz website between January and February 2013. Edge Research conducted the survey.

You can download the full report at http://info.houzz.com/HouzzHome2013_hh2013.html

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish - online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. For more information, visit www.houzz.com

Monday, April 8, 2013

U.S. Housing Markets Show Improvement

Following seven consecutive months of gains, the list of improving U.S. housing markets remained virtually unchanged in April, with 273 metros on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), released today. This total reflects a net reduction of one market since March and again includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Five new markets were added to the list and six markets were dropped from it this month. Newcomers included the geographically diverse locations of Macon, Ga.; Portland, Maine; Rocky Mount, N.C.; Eugene, Ore.; and Jackson, Tenn.


“The stability in the improving markets list this month is encouraging, with three quarters of all metros tracked by our index considered on the upswing as the housing recovery spreads to parts of every state,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “In some markets, the main thing that’s holding back a recovery is a relatively thin inventory of homes for sale, which could be resolved if builders had easier access to credit for building homes and putting people back to work.”

“After a strong run-up through late 2012 and early 2013, the number of improving markets is holding steady at a high level,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “We can expect to see more gradual gains going forward as challenges related to increased demand kick in – including everything from tightened supplies of developable lots and labor to the rising cost of building materials.”
“With 75 percent of the country seeing measurable improvement in housing market conditions, the outlook is definitely brightening for local economies this spring,” noted Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company.

The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top improving Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metro area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures’ respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.

A complete list of all 273 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in April, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.

SOURCE: NAHB

Educational Opportunities Expanded Through NAHB and NKBA Agreement

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) have forged an agreement that makes it easier for individuals who hold builder and remodeler professional designations to take advantage of continuing education opportunities from both groups.

Industry professionals who successfully complete courses required for either NAHB or NKBA designations can earn continuing education hours from either syllabus. The number of credit hours granted is equal to the length of the class.

Holders of the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Graduate Builder (CGB), Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR), Certified Green Professional™ (CGP) and other NAHB designations can take courses for NKBA’s Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Certified Bath Designer (CBD) and other NKBA designations – and vice versa – to fulfill their respective continuing education requirements.

“Expanding these opportunities will encourage even more home builders, professional remodelers and kitchen designers to take advantage of the excellent training and education offered by both associations,” said NAHB Education Committee Chairman Erik Anderson, CAPS, CGR, GMB, of Anderson-Moore Builders Inc. in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“The agreement provides building and design professionals a broader range of education options when trying to find courses to maintain their designations – and may spur NAHB and NKBA designees to earn designations from both associations,” said NKBA director of learning Nancy Barnes.

NAHB courses cover diverse topics such as aging-in-place remodeling, business management, green building and project management, while NKBA offers a similarly wide range of classes for kitchen and bath professionals.

This news comes on the heels of January’s announcement that the NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS) and the NKBA Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) will co-locate in February 2014 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“With this agreement, NAHB and NKBA members attending these shows can take advantage of both associations’ extensive education offerings – and now, they can do so at less-expensive member rates, no matter which association they belong to,” Anderson said.
“This agreement is a win-win for NAHB and NKBA professional designation holders and, ultimately, for the consumers they serve because members of both associations will have access to even more high-quality education opportunities,” he added.

Source: NAHB

Friday, April 5, 2013

Protect Your Family: Lead Poisoning Home Check List

1. Was your home built before 1978?


A majority of homes built before 1978 (especially homes built throughout the 1940s to 1960s), contain lead-based paint, which can have a dangerous effect on the health of young children (under the age of six) and pregnant women.
 
2. Do you see walls, furniture, or window sills in your home with
chipping or peeling paint?


Lead-based paint is unsafe if it peels, chips, or cracks. Harmful lead dust is created when windows, doors, edges of stairs, rails, or other lead-based painted surfaces wear away over time. You or your landlord can get your home checked for lead by hiring a trained, certified
professional. Many young children put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths, which can cause serious damage to their health. Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.


3. Do your children play in lead-contaminated soil near your home?


Soil around homes with lead-based paint may have lead chips, dust, or flakes in it. Children can accidentally swallow this soil while playing outdoors, or the soil may be tracked indoors from shoes onto carpet and floors where children can eventually come into contact with it. Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes, as well as to wash their hands, after playing outdoors.

4. Do you store food in imported pottery that contains lead?

Imported pottery and dishware usually contain lead. To protect your family from lead poisoning, use imported pottery only for decoration, and keep food and drinks in other safe, storage containers.
 
5. Do you work with lead in your job?

You may be exposed to lead on the job if you work as a painter, ironworker, construction worker, cable splicer, automobile radiator repair mechanic, firearms instructor, metal shop worker, stained glass artist, or battery maker. If you work in a lead-related industry, change
your work clothes before entering the home, wash your work clothes separately from the clothes you wear around your family, and remove your shoes before entering your home, as lead can be tracked indoors onto carpets, floors, and furniture.

Consider Indoor Air Quality When Remodeling Your Home

If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can sometimes accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Likewise, one approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming in.

Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by: infiltration, natural ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors (air may also move out of the house in this manner — this is called exfiltration). In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind. Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from exhaust (vented outdoors) fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and the kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.


Unless they are built with means of mechanical ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can "leak" into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered "leaky."

Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air-conditioner with the vent control open increases the ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants, including moisture, directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.

Ideally, new homes will be built to minimize leakage to control energy loss, improve comfort, and minimize the transport of moisture and pollutants through the building shell. These homes should then also have mechanical ventilation to remove pollutants generated in the home and provide outdoor air in a controlled manner. Whether a mechanical ventilation system makes sense in your existing homes depends on the house, your existing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, and the changes you have planned. You should discuss this with your HVAC contractor. A local Weatherization office, or building performance contractor, might also be able to help you with this decision or point you to local experts.

For a detailed analysis of ventilation system options for new homes, see the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report Recommended Ventilation Strategies for Energy-Efficient Production Homes. Copies of ASHRAE Standard 62 are available from ASHRAE.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Water YOU Drink in Texas


Texas Drinking Water

Note: The external links to state web sites and contacts may not be accurate at this time, we are currently reviewing this information. Please check back with us for the updates on these pages.

The water you drink

report
Drinking water suppliers now provide reports (sometimes called consumer confidence reports) that tell where drinking water comes from, and what contaminants may be in it.
To view the information about your drinking water supplier that is in EPA's database, please visit the Envirofacts page on your state.
Envirofacts data on TexasIf your drinking water comes from a private well, you are responsible for your water's safety. EPA rules do not apply to private wells (although some state rules do), but EPA recommends that well owners have their water tested annually. Contact your state to get a list of certified commercial laboratories that test drinking water.

Where does drinking water come from?

River with Trees

To find out about the watershed that supplies your drinking water and how to protect it, click here. If your water comes from a ground water source, read about your state's ground water quality.[broken link] Exit EPA Disclaimer

State drinking water offices

Texas' drinking water program Exit EPA Disclaimer
Water Supply Division (MC-155)
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
512-239-4691
Texas' source water program Exit EPA Disclaimer
Public Drinking Water Section (MC-155)
Water Supply Division
Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
512-239-4691

Compliance trends

Bar Chart

Each state produces an annual report on trends among its drinking water systems. Texas' report is not online, but read EPA's national summary to learn how to get a copy.

Funds for safer water

Dollar Sign and Water Tower

States can use funds that the EPA makes available through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program to help their water suppliers improve drinking water quality. Find out more about Texas' program. Exit EPA Disclaimer

For general information on drinking water

Contact EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.