Read on for the latest news in real estate in Wayne, Nebraska and the surrounding communities as well as useful tips for buying and selling your home. Bonus features include a look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of homeownership as shared by blog author, homeowner, property manager, and real estate broker, Trisha Peters.
Welcome Home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DIY Insulation Installation...Part 1

As mentioned in an earlier post, energy efficient improvements to our home are on the agenda for 2013.  The work is starting in the basement where all of our existing box sills look something like this:

As you can see, the box sills are where the wooden frame for the home connects to the concrete foundation.  This part of your home is generally located above ground to avoid infestation from termites and other wood destroying insects.  Because it is not insulated by the soil, the temperature in the box sills tends to fluctuate more significantly with swings in the weather.  This is also a place of considerable heating or cooling losses if not insulated like the rest of the walls in your home. 

Follow these simple steps to insulate your box sills successfully:

1.  Most of the floor joists in your home are probably 16 inches off of center.  This means, measuring from the center of adjacent floor joists, you will have a 16 inch span.  Insulation companies make rolls of insulation to specifically fit into that size of space. 

2.  All you need to do is measure how "deep" the sill is.  It is probable that your contractor used a 2 x 10 or 2 x 12 piece of lumber to construct the sill.

3.  Insulation batts (pre-cut panels of insulation) work best for this job.  They usually come in 8'-9' lengths and are faced with paper which is a vapor retarder.  Cut your insulation pieces in 10-12 inch intervals.

4.  Surprisingly, it works best to lay the insulation on a hard surface (i.e. concrete floor) with the paper side down.  Using a utility knife, simply cut through the insulation being sure to press hard enough to score the paper on the other side so that it separates easily.

5.  Insert the pieces into the box sills by pressing them into place.  The pieces should fit snugly, particularly near the corners and edges.  Try not to compress the insulation as this can affect the R-value of the insulation.  R-value is a rating that indicates how much heat flow the insulation can resist.

Often times, the paper should be facing out, particularly in areas that will be finished with drywall.  Since this space is an unfinished store room, the direction the insulation is facing is less important.

Voila! Five simple steps later, you are well on your way to completing the insulation of all the box sills in your basement.  Quite honestly, it is an easy do-it-yourself project, and one that I was able to accomplish in a short afternoon.  Surprisingly, my husband immediately noticed a difference in the "draftiness" of the basement.  So ladies, if you want to do something nice for your husband, buy him some rolls of insulation for Valentine's Day, insulate the box sills in your home and really impress the socks off of him!    (He might even voluntarily take you out for supper as a reward!)  Welcome Home.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ten Financial Tidbits for Buying a Home

Buying a home is a huge step in any person's financial life cycle.  One of the biggest decisions homebuyers have to make is who to choose for their home mortgage lending needs.  This can often require a lot of research and time checking into the different loan programs and interest rates that various lenders have to offer.  Quite a few people lean on their real estate agent to give them suggestions about loan providers who have a good reputation in the marketplace.  Here are a few of the tips that I offer to my clients and customers when they inquire about home mortgage services:

1.  Where do you bank now?  Start there.  Odds are that you have already developed a good rapport with your current lender, and he/she is very familiar with your spending and payment habits.  Continuing a relationship with someone you are already comfortable with can make the process go much more smoothly than starting from scratch.

2.  Have any of your close friends or family members recently purchased a home?  If so, speak with them about their experience and see who they recommend using for a lender.  Often times, your friends and family will gladly steer you in the right direction.

3.  What type of loan are you looking for?  Certain institutions might not offer FHA or USDA-Rural Development financing for qualified buyers.  If you are a first-time buyer or income qualified buyer, you might want to ask up front about these programs during an initial visit with a lending institution.  

4.  Have you had credit issues in the past which might make it difficult to buy a home?  If so, you might need to research options with a credit counselor prior to speaking with a lender.  Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Norfolk is designed to help people get out of debt and improve their credit scores.  Consider giving them a call at (402) 371-4656.

5. Have you checked into special housing programs offered in your community?  Talk to your real estate agent or lender about down payment assistance programs or home rehabilitation programs which might be available for first-time or income eligible buyers.  The Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation is designed to help income eligible buyers in the immediate area purchase homes by providing such assistance (acreages not included).  The program offers 20% downpayment assistance (up to $20,000 maximum) for the average home as well as home rehabilitation services.  The home must have a minimum of $1,000 worth of improvements that need to be made in order to qualify for the program.  You can call Kari Wren, WCHDC's Executive Director, at (402) 375-5266 for more information, or stop in to visit her in the Wayne Area Economic Development office located at 108 West 3rd Street, Wayne.

6.  Do you have money available for a down payment or closing costs?  Many home buyers have excellent credit, but are "cash poor" when it comes to putting money down on a home.  If you are struggling with finding the cash to cover closing costs, inquire to your lender about the availability of Federal Home Loan Bank funds.  These funds are earmarked for qualified buyers in need of financial assistance for upfront costs and are generally forgiven on a prorated basis over the course of several years.  FHLB grants are typically only available at certain times in the year, for a very limited time, and availability is never guaranteed.  To enhance your odds of getting assistance, be sure to bring this up to your lender early in the mortgage process. 

7.  Check into loan options prior to starting your home search.  Once you make the decision to purchase a home, it can be hard to resist the urge to look at several before even speaking to a lender.  Many buyers start looking for homes with high expectations of what they can truly afford.  To eliminate the disappointment of falling in love with a home that is priced above your means, talk to a lender first.  Having a solid idea of what you can afford will allow you to comfortably look at homes in your price range.  It will save both you and your real estate agent time in the long run.

8.  Take a homebuyer's education class.  Many people wait until they have already written a purchase agreement on a home before taking a class about what to do when buying a home.  Prepare yourself ahead of time by signing up for a class before you get to the purchase stage.  Most classes cover the basics of buying a home from loans, to purchase agreements, inspections, and insurance.  Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation offers various classes throughout the year in conjunction with their program.  (The next one is being offered in February here in Wayne with a fee of $25--a minimal cost for such a large investment!)

9. Shop around.  If an initial consultation does not go well with a lender or if the mortgage rate seems higher than other banks, feel free to do some additional homework.  Sometimes personalities clash or the relationship just doesn't feel right.  Be sure you feel comfortable enough to ask your mortgage lender anything and everything you want to know about financing a home purchase.  Remember, this is a big step in your financial life, and you will most likely be doing business with this bank for several years into the future.

10.  If you have any further questions about decisions relating to home financing decisions, feel free to contact me at (402) 375-1477 or  Welcome Home.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Home Remodeling: Year-end Review

I was hoping that I would be writing a conclusion to our remodeling/ construction saga sometime soon, but we are content keeping pace with our "slow and steady" progress theme.  The plan for 2013 still involves insulating our home from top to bottom as well as finishing up a couple of very minor weekend projects.  We have been in our home for just over a year, and we have made it all the way from this... this...   

                                ...and finally this...
New Years Day 2012 was spent working on demo projects, while, ironically, New Years Day 2013 was spent putting pieces back together.  The trim we had selected for our home was on back order when we started the first round of installation.  The extra pieces we needed finally came in sometime around August.  Amazingly, we found the time to get things wrapped up roughly five months later.  We were successful in completing the installation of the baseboard, door and window trim in the final two rooms on the main floor with a little help from my husband's folks, my brother, and the nifty finish nail gun my husband got from Santa this Christmas (like a kid in a candy store).  This means that the home office that I "just had to have" is finally ready for some work to be done, with the exception that the window treatments have not been installed. As of right now, the desk is still sitting in the middle of the room amongst a jumble of paperwork that needs to make it to the accountant.

My husband has already spoken for a large majority of the space in the office, but I suppose I can share considering that it has largely served as a room to store my desk, printer, and papers that need to be filed away from the kitchen counter when they start piling up.  Let's face it, I feel too disconnected from the world when I'm actually in my home office.  My office space of preference typically rotates between the living room coffee table, couch and floor.  Lack of productivity is merely a side effect of being able to annoy...I mean, spend quality time husband by complaining about how ridiculous reality TV is getting these days.:)

In the next few weeks, we have duct cleaning on the agenda as it is time to rid the house of all of the construction dust and dirt that accumulated throughout the year.  I'm hoping that we will notice a difference in the amount of particles floating through the air and settling on the furniture.  Kleinschmit Air Duct Cleaning of Wausa will be helping us with this project.  Turns out the owner is related to some friends of ours so he is able to make it a dual-purposed trip--small world!

And, as we proceed through the New Year at full-speed, I haven't set any hard and fast resolutions for myself. The real estate market has been very active all through the holidays and into the New Year which is very encouraging for both sellers and buyers.  Taking everything as it comes seems like a good plan for right now as it seems this year will be a busy one filled with many blessings yet unknown.  I did hear a short piece of advice yesterday that I will adopt as my mantra for 2013, though:

"When in crisis mode, think to yourself, 'In five years, will this really matter to anybody?'  If not, don't sweat it."

Welcome Home.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is 2013 the Year to Buy or Sell a Home?

A recent report in HousingWire magazine indicates that the nationwide housing inventory was down 27 percent as of December 2012 from December 2011 figures.  The Wayne area is experiencing a similar phenomenon with declining housing inventory levels as buyers continue to search for a variety of homes in all price ranges.  Buyers and sellers  needing to make a move due to changing familial status, health issues, job changes, and a variety of other reasons are having difficulty securing properties to meet their needs in Wayne or other market areas.  First-time homebuyers and move-up homebuyers are struggling most significantly at this point to locate home listings that satisfy their needs and wants. 

The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is predicting that increasing rental rates will continue to drive homebuyer traffic as many people find that home mortgages are actually more affordable than the rising cost of rent in many areas of the country.  Several families in Wayne are finding this to be the case as well.  This is being fueled by low mortgage interest rates as well as favorable conditions for obtaining home financing in rural areas.  The USDA-Rural Development and FHA loan programs continue to be popular loan products for first-time buyers and many local lenders.  Several first-time buyers are also seeking downpayment and rehabilitation assistance from programs such as the Wayne Community Housing Development Program or Northeast Housing Initiative.

According to NAR, solid demand for homes in 2013 is predicted to drive home sales up and improve prices across the board by roughly one to two percent, which is great news for sellers.  Home sales will also increase if bank underwriting standards return to normal levels as rising home prices improve collateral values for banks.  However, pending Federal legislation threatens to make it more difficult for lenders to finance buyers, which will affect home purchasing decisions.

Since starting at 1st Realty in 2004, the number of home listings on the residential market is at the lowest level that I can remember.  The market is certainly trending towards a seller's market.  Buyers will testify that there is not much selection to pick from in today's marketplace.  In particular, several move-up buyers have commented on the lack of inventory available between $125,000 and $200,000.  Unfortunately, this has been the case for several months.  Much of this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the cautious optimism that is accompanying the U.S. economic situation.  Economists predict that many buyers and sellers have been biding their time in order to determine what the fiscal cliff debate means for them in 2013.  With the promise of higher taxes and fewer deductions, many people have decided to stay in their existing home longer in hopes of avoiding financial problems in the future.

With all this in mind, 2013 is indeed the year to sell your home.  Limited inventory means limited competition from other home sellers as well as the benefit of increased buyer traffic.  Many buyers in today's market are prequalified for loans and have money available for downpayments and closing costs.  Several qualified buyers are also in the market to make immediate purchases as they are currently renting and do not have to wait on home sale contingencies.

As opportunities arise, 2013 will also prove to be the year to buy a home.  Interest rates continue to be favorable for buyers as they hover near all time lows.  Although the looming threat of higher taxes is always upon us, the good news is that the mortgage interest deduction survived the fiscal cliff and is still available for homeowners.  As mentioned, many economists predict that housing prices have hit their lowest point and will start to appreciate in rural areas between one and two percent each year. 

If you have questions about the local housing market, contact 1st Realty at (402) 375-1477 or e-mail me at  Whether you are in the market to buy or sell a home, farm, or commercial property, 1st Realty can provide you with the advice you need to make 2013 your year to buy or sell!  Welcome Home.

Source: “Housing Inventory Steadily Declines in 2012,” HousingWire (Jan. 9, 2013)