17 Reasons to go to this year’s Central Ohio Parade of Homes

June 26, 2008

 

It’s almost over for this year but there is still time left to go. I say it’s worth going–even if you don’t plan to move or can’t afford a half-million dollar house. 

The collection of homes is smaller and more manageable this year and, generally, the new features seem more substantive than trivial. 

When you go to the Parade of Homes you will see a variety of responses to advancing technology, economic conditions, social, lifestyle and aesthetic trends reflected in the work of builders and designers of the Parade homes. Some of these ideas are clever and inventive, others seem just frivolous or silly. 

Nevertheless, because of their practicality, convenience, energy-saving or aesthetic appeal, some of these features or trends may be embraced by regular homeowners. You, for example. Incorporating some of these improvements into your current home has the added advantage of allowing you to stay in your own wonderful neighborhood–in a nicer home. 

So here they are…17 things to look for at this year’s Parade of Homes:
 

  • 1. Larger and more purposeful “back door” entry areas such as so-called “mud rooms” with lockers and benches for clothing, sports or foul weather gear for kids and adults. Plus drop zones for pocket stuff like keys or wallets with multiple plug-ins for phones, pda’s and other electronics that need charging.
  • 2. Concessions for the family pet. Like dog washing stations and storage for leashes, food, and other space-stealing but essential paraphernalia.
  • 3. Rain gardens for runoff from gutters and downspouts reduces pressure on storm sewers and beautifies your landscape at the same time.
  • 4. Owners suites–that are like small apartments with bathing, lounging, sleeping, outdoor deck, patio and entertainment areas just a few steps away. If located on the main floor these could make it easier for older residents to stay in their homes longer rather than having to sell and move to a retirement facility.
  • 5. Decorating ideas–e.g. large flat screen TVs are transforming how decorating, entertainment and information merge
  • 6. Appliances like microwave ovens installed below counter for easier access to wheelchair-bound residents.
  • 7. Smaller but more numerous refrigerators and dishwashers in the the form of drawers for smaller loads and more convenience.
  • 8. Green home engineering in the form of alternative wall components–foam is used here but other materials, even straw, is being tried elsewhere–result in thicker and fantastically well-insulated walls. This makes for deep window openings–and more decorating opportunities. Imagine the pleasure of reading or just gazing out the window from the plush cushion of a cozy window seat.
  • 9. Home wine storage: as interest in the health benefits and pleasure of wine drinking are causing the demand for decent quality wine at reasonable prices to be met by new growers and suppliers, home areas for storage of wine for “average” people is becoming more common. French people seem to live a long time while continuing to eat rich food–maybe wine drinking is the secret.
  • 10. New work spaces for telecommuting and work-at-home business people.
  • 11. Semi-public work (or study or play) space for kids’ computers in new home areas created by melding stair landings and loft spaces. These open-to-view areas keep computers out of children’s bedrooms and subject to parental oversight.
  • 12. Partially sheltered outdoor entertainment areas that include grills, entertainment and more durable fabrics and accessories (like lamps) that more closely resemble indoor furnishings.
  • 13. Kitchen gardens-supporting the “improved practical kitchen” trend by offering easily accessible fresh herbs in a small spot near the kitchen door. Herbs can be planted directly in the ground or in an array of pots–another opportunity for combining practical and aesthetic expression.
  • 14. New window treatment styles–possible quick updates for your current home.
  • 15. New trends for interior paint colors: painting is one of the least expensive ways of updating your current home. Lots of bang for the buck. A new color palette can transform a space.
  • 16. New storage ideas.
  • 17. Creative plantscaping for more privacy and more highly defined lifestyle uses (fire pits, fountains, bocce courts)–not just boring fences.

 
I thought of a few more but stop reading this and go see the Parade –it’s fun!

 


Despite 2007 real estate “annus horribilis,” Ken Harney says there’s reason for hope next year

January 18, 2008

wizard hat Prominent Real Estate columnist Ken Harney recently put on his economic prognosticator wizard cap and came up with this heartening forecast.

I’m inclined to agree with him–as long as our government doesn’t interfere too much with the natural healing process of the market.

Like this. ‘…The administration must focus on the housing crisis and declining home values. “We should take immediate, commonsense measures to prevent unnecessary foreclosures to preserve the economic value of our nation’s homes,” Schumer said.

Oh dear! It sounds so good, doesn’t it? But in the long run, it’s not. (BAD SCHUMER, BAD BOY!)

Mr. Schumer’s ideas are likely to cause more harm than good by delaying normal–and needed–and inevitable–market corrections.

Notwithstanding B. F. Skinner’s fall from grace, it can be reasonably assumed with a significant level of confidence that behavior reinforced (through a lack of negative consequences) will be behavior that is repeated.

Bad loan originators will be emboldened to return to their greedy, irresponsible ways and eager, ignorant, impulsive borrowers will flock to them faster than a clutch of Park of Roses ducks attacking the last crust of bread on the pond.

Eager, ignorant, impulsive borrowers.

In the end, there will be no escaping the negative consequences of all the ignorant, irresponsible and criminal behavior that precipitated this giant financial imbroglio. But, like an oil slick, its reach is far and wide but not all that deep. The economy should be strong enough to withstand the stress and recover just fine.

Locally, housing market values never shot up like they did in other regions of the country in recent years. Consequently our home values are not likely to suffer the big losses that are now evident in portions of Florida, Arizona and California, for example.

Columbus area home buyers–be not afraid! The nexus of flush inventory, “friendly” sellers and favorable interest rates around here is the best that it has been for a long time and is not likely to be repeated for some time to come.

Just one caveat…you will probably need somewhat decent credit to get in the game. (About that, more later…)


Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself? Columbus Viewed as One of the Country’s Most Stable Housing Markets

October 10, 2007

All the doom and gloom talk about real estate values damaged by the subprime loan debacle and other market trends has many people nervous about the future of their home investment.

How are things in Columbus?

This month’s issue of Forbes Magazine names 10 cities as “America’s Most Stable Housing Markets.” Columbus is one of their selections—and we agree. In general, Columbus, despite the undeniable impact of an unprecedented rash of foreclosures, seems to be demonstrating signs of improvement that may be expected to gain in strength in 2008.

It’s always nice to read hopeful news, isn’t it? We think Columbus is a great place to live for lots of reasons. Resistance to big economic swings is only one of its many subtle charms.


New Ohio State Law —Homeowners Can Save Moolah!

August 11, 2007

In early August, Governor Ted Strickland signed a new, expanded Homestead Exemption Act that will provide property tax savings (money!!!) to qualified senior citizens and disabled Ohioans. The Homestead Exemption credit has been in effect for years. But, in the past there were very restrictive income requirements to qualify for the credit.

The BIG NEWS now is that the new Homestead Exemption has NO income qualifications. If you are 65 years or older and a homeowner in the State of Ohio then you can reduce your taxes and save money just by filling out a form (Franklin County) and sending it in to your local county auditor.

IMPORTANT! The completed form must be received by your county auditor no later than October 1, 2007. The good news is that the form is very simple to fill out. So don’t delay.

For example, if you have a home with a market value of $100,000, you would get billed as if your house was worth $75,000. Average savings is projected to be $400.

Don’t fret if you don’t qualify for the new credit; just contact your parents, grandparents and other family members that might qualify for the credit. Your family members will be so happy that you saved them money that they will put you back in their will.

Voila, you are in the money!

You can follow the links in this post for more information. Please contact your local county auditor for more information on eligibility and tax savings.


Staging

August 10, 2007

Although our firm never represents sellers or their property, we do pay attention to trends from the marketing/selling side of the profession because it affects our buyer-clients.

Everyone likes to tour a properly staged home because it is pleasant and comfortable. But from our point of view, staging alone is seldom enough. This recent article in Realty Times moves far beyond a quick coat of paint, de-cluttering and enlightened furniture placement to stage a home for viewing by buyers. And that a good thing.

A updated and well-maintained home is what we want for our clients. Some of the old ideas of preparing a home for sale by focusing on surface fixes and cosmetic enhancements (same witch—new dress) seem to be retreating in the face of the powerful buyer’s market that has gripped so many areas. Author Al Heavens discusses ways of actually improving the product instead of simply dressing it up.

We would like to think that this represents a permanent trend driven by changing business or cultural values rather than a temporary market-driven fad. But we doubt it.

Once this current market cycle has ended…well…who knows for sure? We will keep reminding our clients to remember that a witch in a new dress is still a witch.


Cool (and FREE) Online Energy Audit

July 11, 2007

Energy Audit? How boring!

At least that’s what I thought—until I saw detailed, practical suggestions that could save as much as $1600 a year in household expenses.

This co-production of the DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is quite a device. It will take you as far as you want to go with information and strategies customized specifically for your home including pay-back times for improvements.

Here’s what they say (in part), “The Home Energy Saver quickly computes a home’s energy use on-line based on methods developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Users can estimate how much energy and money can be saved and how much emissions can be reduced by implementing energy-efficiency improvements. All end uses (heating, cooling, major appliances, lighting, and miscellaneous uses) are included.”

“The Home Energy Saver’s Energy Advisor calculates energy use and savings opportunities, based on a detailed description of the home provided by the user. Users can begin the process by simply entering their zip code, and in turn receive instant initial estimates. By providing more information about the home the user will receive increasingly customized results along with energy-saving upgrade recommendations.”

It’s easy to use, free and you can store your profile and return to it later. Did I implement all their recommendations?

Well no, but I did change a few things that promised the quickest payback for the investment. I figure I’ll save at least a few hundred dollars this year in reduced water costs with my new low volume flushing toilets. (Believe it or not they work great!)

And the new energy efficient picture windows have already reduced drafts and made my front room more comfortable. Of course they also conserve heating and cooling energy—so I’m saving money there.
I’m not the only one who found this site helpful. Find out how you can make your life better and reduce your household costs at the same time.

Check it out. Let me know how it worked for you. [George Black]