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April
11

Buying a House That's Energy Efficient

Buying a house that's energy efficient is important to most of us these days. We're all so much more aware of the impact that we have on our environment, and how important it is to minimize our environmental footprint as much as we can. Energy-efficiency can also have a significant impact – for the better – on the costs of owning a home, reducing the amount of money that must be budgeted to cover those monthly utility bills. So what do you need to know about buying an energy-efficient home?

Key features to look for when buying a house that's energy efficient

If your goal is to buy an energy-efficient home, features you should look for include:

  • Good Insulation – An energy-efficient home will have well-insulated walls, floors, attic spaces and crawlspaces. Sellers should be able to provide an R-value for the home's insulation, and the Department of Energy offers guidelines on appropriate R-values according to the region.
  • Good windows – Drafty windows are huge energy wasters, causing heat loss in cold weather and heat gain in the summer. Look for newer, double-pane windows when you're home shopping, preferably windows that have earned the Energy Star seal.
  • Efficient appliances – Look for appliances that are Energy Star certified, which means that they are more energy efficient than average appliances. Appliances that can carry that seal include heating and air conditioning systems, washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters, among others.
  • A solid, energy efficient roof – You will, of course, want to be sure the roof of any home you're considering is in good shape. For maximum energy-efficiency, also look for one that uses Energy Star certified roofing materials, which reflect more of the sun's rays away to reduce heat gain – and therefore the amount of energy needed for summer cooling.
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures – Low flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads conserve water, of course, but they can also add to the energy-efficiency of your home. Reduced water flow when you turn on hot water faucets means less energy used by your water heater.

Energy-efficiency claims: Verify for your piece of mind

Energy-efficiency is a big selling point in today's market, so home sellers are generally eager to hit the right "green" talking points when they're listing their homes. While most people are quite honest in their descriptions, any buyer would be remiss if they did not do a little due diligence to verify the sellers energy-efficiency claims. Good ways of double-checking include:

  • Review utility bills for the home – Ask to see utility costs from the past year, then contact the local utility company to find out how those costs compare to the average bills of other, similarly-sized homes in the area. An energy-efficient home should have lower than average energy usage and costs.
  • Request an energy audit – A home energy audit, done by a licensed professional, evaluates energy usage in the home to give you a very accurate idea of just how efficient it is overall.
  • Ask about certifications – If the home you're interested in is a newly constructed one, ask the seller if it is LEED or Energy Star certified. Either of these certifications ensures that the home has been built for energy-efficiency.

Taking these steps to ensure that you're buying a house that's energy efficient may add a little time and expense to the home shopping process. However, if you are planning to live in that new home for a while, shopping carefully will pay off in the long run with a smaller environmental footprint and lower energy bills.

April
4

6 Ways to Spot the Next Hot Neighborhood

Do you dream of living in one of the area's hottest neighborhoods, but find that all the homes are out of your price range? If you want to live in a trendy area, but also want to get the most out of your real-estate-dollar, the trick is to buy an inexpensive home in a neighborhood that's destined to be the next new hotspot.


Cities and urban areas across the country are going through a revitalization, also known as gentrification. Formerly run-down, lower-income regions are experiencing an influx of affluent residents, causing the neighborhoods to become desirable and home prices to rise. This trend is growing year-over-year as buyers have been placing more value on locations close to city centers and near their places of employment. 


Up-and-coming neighborhoods tend to start as neglected and run-down areas that might have high crime rates. Purchasing a home in these areas can be risky, so you'll want to do your homework first. 


How can you tell a neighborhood is getting ready to pop? Start with these six pro tips.

  1. Start with the Current Hotspots
    If you take a close look at some of the hottest local areas, you'll likely find neighborhoods just on the outskirts that need some love and attention. Purchasing a home in these neighborhoods will guarantee you're close to the amenities you want, and it's likely just a matter of time before your new neighborhood catches on.
  1. Keep an Eye Out for Construction
    An increase in construction is a good sign that a neighborhood is up-and-coming, but by the time you see the equipment, it's often too late. Instead, pay attention to the news to see what projects are in the works and attend city council meetings. If the city or large private investors are willing to put money into a neighborhood, it's a good sign that you might want to invest there too. 
  1. Listen to the Press
    If the news outlets begin reporting on revitalization in an area or referring to it as up-and-coming, home prices often start to climb. If you hear these reports and are ready to jump on a purchase right away, you might be able to get in before prices skyrocket.
  1. Follow the "Cool" People
    Historically, areas, where artists and musicians choose to live, have become some of the hottest neighborhoods in the country (think SoHo in NYC). This is because they typically search out less-desirable areas looking for cheap rent, then significantly improve it by bringing their creative energy.

    Also, look for areas where younger people are flocking. It's almost guaranteed that trendy bars, restaurants, and other cool amenities will follow. 
  1. Consider a Historic Area
    Areas designated as "historic" are prime for revitalization. Not only is the city or local government likely to invest in improvements, but many also offer significant tax breaks for buyers willing to spend in the area. If you're ready to put the time and effort into a restoration, you can turn a diamond-in-the-rough into a gorgeous dream home. 

  2. Talk to Your REALTOR®
    A good REALTOR® will have his or her finger on the pulse of the local area and know which neighborhoods are destined to be the next hotspots. Together, you can also examine real estate trends like days on the market (DOM). A decrease in DOM quarter-over-quarter is an excellent indicator of a neighborhood's popularity. 

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