Turf has become more and more popular over recent years in Southern California. There is a wide array of reasons for the newly found popularity. Clearly droughts have played havoc on homeowner’s lawns and the ever-rising water costs don’t help. As the droughts continue, yards get browner and wallets emptier.
Artificial grass has become an easy alternative for homeowners frustrated with their lawns. While artificial grass may not have the exact look and feel as natural grass, the product has come a long way in recent years. In many instances it is difficult to tell the difference. Due to this fact, many homeowners are researching the possibilities.
Let me help you out. Artificial grass has numerous advantages over natural grass. Water Districts are currently offering large rebates to balance installation costs. In some cases the rebate programs can almost pay for entire installation of artificial grass.
Here are the advantages:
-Lower your monthly water bill
-Water District Rebate Programs (Often up to $3.50 a sq. ft. and the cost of labor)
-Lower cost to maintain
-Pet and Kid Friendly
There are clearly monetary reasons to consider the switch, but the up keep and maintenance is virtually nonexistent. Installing turf could lower your monthly water bill by $30. That could mean a $360 savings year after year!
There are very little disadvantages to installing turf. Clearly the look and feel of natural grass can’t be beat, but do the pros outweigh the cons for your family? Find out for yourself and schedule a time to meet with an artificial grass professional to review your “turf” options. If you need help, we have recommendations.
How you handle “windfalls” of money can largely determine your financial success. Here are a few ways you can apply your tax refund:
1. Build an Emergency Fund – One of the best ways to reduce stress in your life is to increase your margin. That includes giving you some cushion for the occurrence of “life events” like job loss, family health issues, etc. It’s nice to have savings for these things when they come up rather than having to rely on credit cards!
2. Payoff Debt – Paying credit card interest will cripple your chances of financial success. Delay immediate gratification with your refund and apply it towards paying off credit card debt. Then once you have an emergency fund in place and have paid off credit card debt, fire away at those student loans & car loans! Imagine the feeling of not having a student loan payment or a car payment. What could you do with that money each month?
3. Save For a Major Purchase – Use your tax refund toward a major purchase goal such as your next car, home upgrades, new appliances, or new furniture. Set a goal for how much you’ll need and save that amount so you can pay cash, avoiding the purchase/debt cycle that plagues so many Americans today.
4. Save to Purchase a Home – Depending on the size of your refund, you may be able to make a dent in saving for your new home down payment. If done right, buying a home is one of the best ways to secure your future retirement, and gain a tax deduction in the meantime. Depending on your situation, you may qualify to purchase a home with only 3% down. Contact us if you have questions regarding this.
5. Contribute to Retirement Accounts – You can apply refund money toward retirement accounts such as Traditional IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, etc.
6. Give to Those Less Fortunate – Bless somebody else with your money. There are many ways you can be generous and change somebody else’s life. Be creative! Here’s one fun idea: click here.
The key is to think about how you can best apply your refund according to your goals before you impulsively spend it aimlessly.
What are you going to do with your refund? Please reply and let us know!
One of the greatest challenges for growing families is to use the space inside and outside their home in the best way possible. Basically, how do you “grow out of your home” without looking like you are bursting at the seams?
When we moved into our quaint Aliso Viejo neighborhood, we instantly fell in love with the shuttered windows and cozy yards. But cozy can easily become crowded if you aren’t conscientious about using the space well. We recently remodeled our backyard in order to create more usable, kid-friendly space. Although I was completely against anything artificial, my husband proved to be the brains of the operation and hired Curtis Cooper from DelMar Turf who had some great ideas for making our yard what it needed to be. Curtis and his team were exceptional throughout the entire process. The product they recommended looks great and is pet/kid friendly! It rained just this morning, but our turf is already dry.
Before adding turf to the backyard, our space was barely usable. Our grass struggled to grow and the battle with constant mud puddles often outweighed the desire to play in the yard. Now that our family is growing, it is important for us to have a usable outdoor space.
In what feels like another life, I was an elementary school teacher. I am often searching for and/or designing games to engage our daughter in meaningful activities. As part of our remodel, we ordered a child-size potting table from Custom Raised Gardens. The table is the perfect size for our daughter to grow in to and it offers storage options for her toys as well as our gardening supplies. Now all we need is to add some decor on the table itself and a couple of shrub and flowering bushes around the base.
By imagining how your family will be in a space, you can design furniture/décor that can support its use. This area in our yard will now serve as a play space for our daughter, workbench for mom and dad, and a beautiful backdrop on our fence – all resting on our mud-free grass! We expanded the size of our yard by taking a couple simple steps and making sure it was user friendly for all members of our household!
You don’t have to look very far to find information on solar panels. There are all types of products and low financing options that guarantee to save you money. The average home owner may see solar panels as a way to avoid the ever increasing price of energy. I am not here to tell you solar panels are or are not a good investment. As a Realtor, I am here to give you my professional, unbiased opinion on solar panels in the housing market and how they effect sellers.
How do solar panels work? Solar panels are typically sold on a long-term lease of 20 years with a monthly payment. In turn, the solar company will use the energy captured by the panels to eliminate your monthly energy bill from your existing energy company. If you sign up for a monthly lease of $150 and your typical energy bill is $200 a month, then you save $50/month or $600/year. Multiply that over the term of the lease and you just saved $12,000. Sounds great, right? Not so fast… Remember, you signed a 20 year lease. You are bound to the payments of the long-term contract and based on the example above that would be $36,000. What happens if you decide to move? What happens if technology advances and there are cheaper alternatives?
What happens if I want to sell my home and I have a long-term lease on the solar panels? If you do want to sell your home, the potential buyer will have to take over the solar panel lease in order to purchase it. OR the new owners could purchase the home without taking over the lease, leaving you responsible for the payments even after you moved out. At first glance, the monthly savings look great and the innovative technology is a must, but make sure you are familiar with the long term ramifications.
What could the future hold? Pretend it is the year 2024. You own a home and purchased solar panels 10 years ago. You are halfway through your lease. In that time, technology has advanced and we can capture the same amount of energy on one panel as you can with the 20 rusty panels currently on your roof. In addition, the cost in the solar panel market is a monthly payment of $40 a month. Now you want to sell your home. When you list your home, interested buyers are notified that the home is attached to a 20 year solar lease with 10 more years remaining. Why would the buyer take over a lease at $150 a month when they can get it at $40 a month? Why have 20 solar panels on their home when they could have one? Why spend more for old technology? These are all valid questions that will cause problems in your future sell.
Let’s say you don’t plan on selling in the next 20 years. My initial response would be: 20 years is a long time. Your plan today may not be your plan tomorrow. My second response would be: keep in mind you are leasing solar panels. Once your 20 years is up, you still won’t own them. But you have the option of forking up about $5,000 to buy them at their market value. Another extra expense…and to add insult to injury, any repairs that need to be done to the solar panels during your lease will be at your own expense. The hidden costs are everywhere.
Know the facts before you decide to lease or buy. Ask yourself one question. Is saving $50 a month worth the long term issues? You may save on the front end, but if you ever decide to move, it will likely cost you. In my professional opinion, if you want to go the solar panel route, purchase them or avoid them all together. Otherwise, your solar panel leasing agreement could be a disaster when it comes time to sell.
Feel free to contact me directly for some personal experiences with solar panels in the housing market.
Insurance is one of those “love ‘em and hate ‘em” expenses in life. It is absolutely necessary to protect your financial future. Remember, the purpose of insurance is not to make you rich in the event of loss. It is to transfer the risk of major loss from you to the insurance company, in exchange for policy premiums.
So which types of insurance do you need? Which are a waste of money?
Medical Insurance – this is now mandated by our government. And for good reason. Health expenses are the number one cause of foreclosures and bankruptcies in our country. You don’t want to be thinking about financial consequences while you battle cancer. You must protect your health.
Home Insurance – your home is often your greatest asset; it must be covered against major loss. Liability insurance is a key ingredient with home insurance, be sure to cover your assets against accidents. Click here to learn more.
Auto Insurance – a certain level is required by law. You’ll also want to be sure you have liability coverage (consider “umbrella” coverage with your agent)
Life Insurance – how would your family fare financially if you died tonight? If you don’t know the answer to that question, life insurance is your answer. Click here to learn more.
Disability Insurance – your ability to earn an income is often your greatest asset. Disability insurance protects your income in the event your employer doesn’t have worker’s comp or a policy in place to cover you. Self-employed people need to pay special attention to this. This is often the most forgotten insurance.
Pet Insurance – recent progress with medicine makes it more likely a pet’s health can be restored with advanced procedures. Pet insurance can help you avoid having to make the very difficult decision of whether to pay for that $5,000 surgery. Click here for more info on different kinds of pet insurance, and what you should consider.
Identity Theft Insurance – most people waste money on credit monitoring, but have no plan for how they will recover their identity in the event it is stolen. It has been estimated that 600 hours is the average amount of time spent on recovering from an ID theft occurrence. Most people don’t have that time to waste. Click here for more info on credit monitoring vs. ID theft Insurance.
Long-Term Care – this is a tough one. It’s not for everyone and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is expensive, but necessary to receive good care and protect assets. Talk to a trusted agent.
Mortgage Life Insurance – the only reason to have this is if your health prevents you from acquiring regular life insurance. Otherwise, you will badly overpay for this scheme.
Private Mortgage Insurance – there are many home loan options these days to help you avoid private mortgage insurance. Click here to learn more.
Insurance on Small Electronics – as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article, insurance should be acquired to protect major loss. The loss of small electronics like headphones, iPods, etc. would not financially cripple you. This is where a reserve fund is handy. Keep a maintenance savings account to handle these small incidents. Don’t go broke insuring them!
This article was not intended to give you an all-inclusive tutorial on insurance, but rather to make you aware of the types you should consider and research further. We hope this helps!
What are your thoughts on insurance? What types of coverage do you have? Any that we didn’t include above?
The cost of homeownership and maintenance can be expensive.
Complete remodels can cost upwards of $50,000 dollars and your return on investment may be minimal depending on the current housing market. However, there are some easy, cheap fixes to consider prior to listing your home.
1. Paint – Day to day life can leave your walls and ceilings looking scuffed and dated. A few fresh cans of paint can make those faded walls look vibrant and new. For only a few hundred bucks you could paint your entire house while dramatically increasing your home value. Be sure to paint with neutral colors to attract more potential buyers.
2. Replace Fixtures – Outdated fixtures can discourage potential buyers and decrease your home’s value. Replacing fixtures is generally a cheap and easy fix if you are willing to put in a few hours on the weekend.
3. Landscape – First impressions are everything! A dated lawn sets the mood for the house tour. Go to your nearest landscaping store and spend a few hundred dollars on mulch and flowers. The increased curb appeal will pay for itself tenfold.
4. Step up your storage – The only cost to the homeowner here is sweat equity. It will cost you nothing out of pocket to take things off your shelves and put them into storage. A decluttered home sells a lot quicker and generally for a lot more than a home that has a lot of “stuff” laying around.
5. Update the Bathroom – Removing old laminate and replacing it with tile can only cost you a few hundred bucks. Paint or stain those dated oak cabinets and simply regrout what is already there. There is no need to completely remodel and deal with headaches of demolition. Simply work with what you have and replace the cheaper aspect of the bathroom with something new and modern. It is well within reason to think you can remodel your bathroom for under a grand. Potential buyers will reward you for your efforts with a higher offer.
These cheap and easy fixes will result in more buyers’ interest and more offers. It is reasonable to think that you could complete all these updates for under $3,000. If I told you this could increase your home’s value by $20,000, why wouldn’t you consider it? Help yourself when you are considering selling your home. Your bank account will thank you.
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