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After falling sharply in the second half of 2010, mortgage rates climbed in the 1st quarter of 2011. Strength from a variety of economic indicators including consumer spending, confidence and even housing led the 10-year Treasury higher. This pattern dragged the rate on the average 30-year fixed upward with the Treasury. As a result the spread between the 10-year and the 30-year FRM shrank. This pattern is likely to reverse course in the 2nd quarter as fighting in Libya and uncertainty in Egypt have caused oil prices to spike. In addition, the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan impacted supply chains necessary for production by U.S. firms. The combined effect was a reduction in economic growth in the 1st quarter. This unexpected shock drew down expectation for economic growth and the 10-year Treasury. Mortgage rates have followed suit and were well below 5% as of May. Rates are likely to remain low in the near term, but are expected to reach 5.6% by the 4th quarter of 2011.

The Steps in Cleaning and Staining a Deck

by Al Heavens, RISMedia


It’s deck sprucing-up time, and I thought I would share some tips on staining from Debbie Zimmer at the Paint Quality Institute. Assuming that your deck doesn’t need repairs, the first step is to remove any loose paint or stain that may be present. This is done in one of two ways: by scraping and sanding, or by treating the surface with a commercial deck conditioner, followed by careful power washing with plain water.

The prep work can be even easier if the deck has no loose paint or stain. Clean the surface with a commercial product, or, to save money, make your own by mixing a cup of household bleach and a splash of soap with a gallon of warm water. After scrubbing the surface clean, rinse it very thoroughly using a garden hose.

If, after cleaning, you still have areas with stubborn mildew, apply a solution of three parts water to one part bleach, allow the solution to sit on the affected surface for 20 minutes, then scrub off the mildew and rinse the surface clean, Zimmer says.

Once the surface preparation is complete, pick your stain. There are solvent-based and water-based formulations, but water-based stains offer significant advantages: They have better resistance to weathering, dry more quickly, are relatively odor-free, and clean up with plain soap and water.

Another consideration: whether to use a clear deck finish or a pigmented stain. This decision may be dictated by the condition and color of the wood on your deck, but durability is another important concern.

Clear-wood finishes provide only limited protection from the sun’s UV rays, so they need to be reapplied every 12 months or so; pigmented stains afford more UV protection, so they last longer.

There are two types of pigmented stains. “Semitransparent” coatings help protect the wood without hiding its grain or texture, while “solid-color” stains show texture but not the grain.

The former need to be reapplied every 12 to 18 months, but solid-color stains can last three to five years, so if you want to stretch out your application cycle, go with a solid-color finish.

Consider the stress a deck endures, such as standing water, snow and ice, foot traffic, abrasion from patio furniture, and direct sunlight.

Zimmer says that top-quality 100 percent acrylic latex stains—either semitransparent or solid-color—are perhaps the best option when restoring a deck.

“They’re tough and durable, and many of these stains contain extra ingredients to help prevent mildew,” she says.

Stains can be applied with spray equipment, a long-handled roller, or by brush.

“However, spray or roller application should be followed by back brushing,” she says. (That means going back in and brushing the stain while it’s still wet so that it better penetrates the wood.)

Homeowners Recoup More with Exterior Replacement Projects

by National Association of Realtors


As part of the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

  

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but are also among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for homeowners to work with a REALTOR® through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.” 

Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1% of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9% of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. REALTORS® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.

“Curb appeal remains king—it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.

The 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.

REALTORS® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, REALTORS® estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 60% of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8% last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.

According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70% of costs.

Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by REALTORS® as the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80% of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6% upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8% of costs.

The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2% nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70%. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8%; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5%; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6% of costs.

“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a REALTOR® who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”

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Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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