William Neilson
Phone:  267-872-1326Office:  215-679-9797
Email:  wneilson@remax440.comCell:  267-872-1326Fax:  267-354-6937
William Neilson
William Neilson

Bill's Blog

Zero-Energy Houses: Here to Stay?

August 10, 2016 1:03 am

Zero-energy houses are a new type of green home built to return zero-dollar energy bills. The houses are becoming universally viable, due to advancements in energy-efficient technology and the declining cost of construction.

Owners of zero-energy homes pay nothing for energy consumption (other than a monthly grid fee), and cut their carbon footprint to near-zero. The typical zero-energy house is made of thick exterior walls, and is outfitted with an efficient HVAC system and solar panels. The home is connected to the grid, so that excess energy generated by the home throughout the day can be distributed back into the grid and power the home at night.

According to the Net-Zero Energy Coalition (NZEC), over 6,000 houses in the U.S. and Canada are “zero-energy ready”—able to self-supply at least 90 percent of their annual energy demand. Just 9 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory are “zero-energy,” or able to supply 100 percent of their annual energy demand. “Net producers,” which are homes that supply 110 percent or more of their annual energy demand, comprise only 4 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory.

Ahead of the curve is California, which is on track to build zero-energy housing in just five years. Lawmakers in the Golden State have made zero-energy technology accessible and affordable to residents. Other states have expressed interest in adopting similar policies.

These developments are fueling the zero-energy movement, says Ed Gorman, founder of Modus Development, responsible for the building Arizona’s first zero-energy residential community.

“The design and green features are what draw people in, and they stay because of the energy and cost savings,” Gorman says. “We’ll see more and more builders moving into this space.”

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Dollar Store Buys to Help You Get Organized

August 9, 2016 1:03 am

Clutter in the bathroom, or anywhere in the house, can drive you nuts—whether it’s a counter spilling over with cosmetics or a junk drawer where even scissors get lost.

Getting organized may be easier—and less expensive—than you realize. According to House Beautiful magazine, one trip to the dollar store can cut household clutter. Their crafty ideas:

Hang a Shower Caddy in the Entry – Hang a shower caddy in the entryway to corral the mail—and perhaps the keys—where everyone in the family can find them. Turn the caddy into a chic accent piece with a coat of spray paint, or by adding potted plants.

Dispense Ribbon from a Paper Towel Holder – Stand a paper towel holder on end and pile on rolls of ribbon—and when you’re done, pop it into the nearest cabinet until you need it again!

Hang a Shoe Bag on the Back of the Bathroom Door – Not for shoes! The compartments in a shoe bag are spacious enough for lipsticks, nail polishes, hair ornaments and more—and each family member can have a designated space.

Store Crayons in a Travel Soap Container – Keep crayons handy in a travel soap container in the car—perfect for keeping little ones occupied!

Add Silverware Trays to More Kitchen Drawers – The compartments in a silverware tray will make it so much easier to find the zester, the corer, the measuring spoons, or whatever other kitchen gadget you need.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Making Clear Decisions About Replacement Windows?

August 9, 2016 1:03 am

When is the right time to replace windows?

That's a question I recently had to weigh, and, lucikly, my decision turned out to be a good one.

For those weighing that decision themselves, Window World of Altoona, Pa., offers a list of questions to help make a clear decision about whether to replace a window.

Should you DIY or hire a pro? The window fit, installation and type can make or break a replacement project. If you’re hiring a company to replace wood or metal windows, research the reputation of the firm. Look for a professional that backs their installation with a warranty on labor and parts, in addition to a product warranty.

How long do you plan to be living with your new windows? While aesthetic, energy savings and maintenance are common considerations, keep in mind that vinyl windows recoup an average of 78 percent at resale, and can be a selling point to prospective homebuyers—especially if providing a transferable warranty to the new homeowner.

Have you done your homework? Look for credible, independent, third-party endorsements on the windows you're considering, such as those from Good Housekeeping, AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association), NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) and the ENERGY STAR® label.

Have you considered your energy efficiency options? If your home is located in a warmer, sunny area, a product's Solar Heat Gain Coefficient measurement is important. Consider a window with heat-reflective, low-emissive glass to not only block the sun’s rays in summer, but to also prevent heat loss in winter.

To learn more about window replacement—and check out a handy window design tool—visit www.windowworldaltoona.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Do If Your Home Has Radon

August 9, 2016 1:03 am

Do you know radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most homes with high levels of radon gas can be remedied. If you have tested your home for radon and have confirmed elevated radon levels (4 picocuries per liter in air [pCi/L] or higher), consult your local health agency or radon authority for help to:

Select a qualified radon mitigation contractor. The EPA recommends working with a state-certified and/or qualified radon mitigation contractor trained to remedy radon issues.

Determine an appropriate radon reduction method.

Maintain your radon reduction system. Some radon reduction systems mitigate radon levels by up to 99 percent.

The cost to reduce radon generally ranges from $800 to $2,500, according to the EPA. Most types of radon reduction systems cause some loss of heated or air conditioned air, which could also increase utility bills. How much of an increase will depend on the climate you live in, what kind of reduction system you select, and how your house is built.

For most cases, the EPA recommends methods that prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing radon from below the house and venting it through a pipe above the house, where it is diluted. In houses that have a basement or a slab-on-grade foundation, radon can be reduced by one of four types of soil suction: subslab suction, drain tile suction, sump hole suction, or block wall suction. In houses that have a crawlspace, radon can be redocued through sub-membrane suction, a process in which radon is drawn from underneath a high-density plastic sheet covering the ground below the house.

Other radon reduction techniques, according to the EPA, include sealing, pressurization, heat recovery ventilation, and natural ventilation.

For assistance with radon reduction, call 1-800-SOS-RADON, or visit EPA.gov/radon/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hardwood vs. Laminate: What's Best for Your Floor?

August 8, 2016 1:03 am

Wood or wood-like flooring can give your home a brand new look—warm, updated, and inviting. There are several factors to consider before making the choice.

Natural hardwood flooring is more visually appealing, but is twice as expensive and far less durable than laminate lookalikes. On the other hand, laminates, like Pergo, which cost half as much as hardwood, will not increase your home’s resale value.

The experts at GeeksonHome.com tick off items to consider:

Cost – Laminate flooring, which is made of pressed wood, costs $2 to $3 per square foot, while natural hardwood flooring costs between $3 and $6 per square foot.

Durability – Hardwood flooring is sensitive to dents and scratches—a point to consider if you have young children or pets, or if your home sees high traffic. It can, however, be refinished several times over its lifetime, though that will incur additional expense.

Laminate, conversely, is impervious to stains and dents, but, because the wood veneer is very thin, it cannot be refinished.

Overall, the lifespan of laminate flooring is said to be 15 to 20 years, while hardwood flooring can last well over 50 years if refinished as needed.

Installation – Installing laminate flooring is faster and easier than installing hardwood flooring, because laminate comes in sheets rather than individual boards, and is usually glued down, rather than nailed into place.

Moisture – Hardwood flooring is susceptible to moisture and high humidity. It should not be laid directly on a concrete floor or in basements, where moisture can cause the wood to contract, expand and warp.

Laminate, to compare, is stable. Moisture will not affect or damage laminate flooring, so it can be laid on concrete.

Bottom line: laminate flooring is less expensive, more durable and easier to maintain—and today’s laminate products do a better job of looking like natural wood than ever before. The quality of hardwood, however, is easy to recognize, will last a lifetime, and, if properly maintained, can add significant value to your home. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowner Safety: Tips to Prevent Grilling Fires

August 8, 2016 1:03 am

Close to 10,000 home fires involving barbecues, grills or hibachis happen every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—and most start on a balcony or porch outside the home.

Lack of maintenance is one of the primary causes of fires, says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the NFPA. Grillers should remove grease and other build-up from the grill grates and trays often.

“It’s good practice to check for damage before using the grill for the first time each year, and to check the entire grill regularly,” Carli said in a statement.

Carli and the NFPA also recommend only grilling on propone or charcoal barbecues outdoors, away from the home and any other structures or materials that may catch fire, including tree branches. Children and pets should be kept at least three feet away from the grill at all times, and preferably out of the pathway to the home or hose.

Never leave the grill unattended, the NFPA advises. Often, fires begin when no one is looking.

For more fire safety tips, visit www.nfpa.org.

Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Breaking Down Apartment Costs Across America

August 8, 2016 1:03 am

Apartment costs can vary drastically between cities, or even neighborhoods. How far your budget takes you depends on one factor: location, location, location.

The experts at GOBankingRates.com recently released a study identifying the average cost of one-bedroom apartments across 50 cities. The national average median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,234, the study determined; the national average size of a one-bedroom apartment is 678 square feet.

The cities with the highest median rent, according to the study, are San Francisco, Calif. ($3,600), San Jose, Calif. ($2,536) and New York, N.Y. ($2,200). The cities with the lowest median rent are Wichita, Kan. ($470), Cleveland, Ohio ($525) and Detroit, Mich. ($550).

The study also ranked the availability of apartment amenities in each city analyzed. Those takeaways:

Cleveland, Ohio is the best city for parking, with 69 percent of one-bedroom apartments offering parking to tenants. Omaha, Neb. and Anaheim, Calif. rank second and third, respectively. New York, N.Y. is the worst city for parking, with just 5 percent of one-bedroom apartments offering parking to tenants. Boston, Mass. and Chicago, Ill. rank second and third, respectively.

Phoenix, Ariz. is the city with the most one-bedroom apartments that offer pools, at 95 percent. Las Vegas, Nev. and San Antonio, Texas rank second and third, respectively. Anchorage, Alaska is the city with the least one-bedroom apartments that offer pools, at 0 percent. San Francisco, Calif. and New York, N.Y. rank second and third, respectively.

Louisville, Ky. is the city with the biggest one-bedroom apartments, at 807 square feet. Jacksonville, Fla. and Atlanta, Ga. rank second and third, respectively. Portland, Ore. is the city with the smallest one-bedroom apartments, at 461 square feet. Milwaukee, Wis. and Honolulu, Hawaii rank second and third, respectively.

“Our research found that in high-priced rental markets, not only do you have to shell out significantly more for an apartment, but also, you get less bang for your buck than in lower-priced areas,” said Cameron Huddleston, Life + Money columnist for GOBankingRates.com, in a statement. “You’re less likely to get amenities such as covered parking, a fitness center or even a dishwasher with an apartment in expensive areas such as Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. However, there are several cities—such as Indianapolis, Louisville and Virginia Beach, Va.—where you can find apartments with ample space and affordable prices.”

Source: GOBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Freshen Up Your Home's Exterior to Appeal to Today's Prospective Buyers

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

Painting the interior of your home is one of the easiest ways to spruce up the space before putting your home on the market. But if you really want your home to stand out from the competition, don’t neglect your home’s exterior.  
While painting the outside of your home can be a challenge—one you’ll most likely want to hire painters to do—adding a fresh coat of paint can go a long way toward making a dramatic statement that prospective buyers will remember long after viewing your home.
If you want to paint the house yourself, make sure you have everything you need before you get started. This means having enough paint to cover the entire exterior, as well as any equipment you may need, including a sturdy ladder.
Before applying the paint, it’s a smart idea to power wash your home’s exterior to remove any debris or dirt that has added up over the years. Use a chlorine bleach solution to kill any mildew and scrub any dirt that is visible. Also, make any repairs to the siding, gutters or other areas of the exterior so that it’s in prime shape for the paint job. Be sure to wear protective gear when scraping, sanding or brushing old paint to protect your eyes and face.
Although it will require a little more work, apply a quality primer as the first coat to hide any imperfections, such as wood knots or discoloration from weathering. Once the primer has been applied, test the color in a small spot to make sure it’s exactly what you were expecting.
Once the house has been primed, and you’re ready to go, apply the paint using long, smooth strokes, aiming for a well-spread, even coat. This is done by brushing oil-based house paint back and forth several times. On clapboard surfaces, if paint gathers along the horizontal edge, it has been applied too heavily or not brushed out enough. 
Remember, less is more when it comes to applying top coats of paint, and more layers can result in paint flaking off through the years. On the other hand, less paint bonds better to layers beneath.
The trim should be the last area you paint. Begin by coating your window sash and door paneling first, and then paint the window frames, sills and door trim.
With so many prospective buyers getting a first impression simply from the pictures they see on the internet, think of how great your house will look with a fresh coat of paint.
For more tips on putting your home’s best foot forward, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Refinancing Tips You Can't Afford to Ignore

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

It’s no secret that the past couple years have been an opportune time to refinance a mortgage as mortgage rates were hitting historic lows. In fact, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.49 percent near the end of July, down from 4.2 percent at the same time last year, and 3.9 percent from January.
Not only can refinancing a mortgage save you money, it can also help you pay off your home quicker, and will even unlock more equity in your home.
If you’re looking to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, keep the following items in mind, as they may jeopardize the process.
1. Waiting too long. While rates have been low for some time now, with some experts predicting they’ll go even lower, the upcoming election may lead to unpredictability. With low rates like the ones we’re seeing today, time is of the essence, so be sure to refinance sooner rather than later.
2. Not being prepared. When your lender calls or emails asking for information, don’t put it off. Have your documentation and financial information ready so that you can sign it in a timely manner. The last thing you want to do is plan to refinance your home when you’re going to be out of town on vacation, as this will most likely keep you from being able to get everything in place before you’re out of pocket.
3. Not shopping around. Even if you’re happy with your current lender, it doesn’t mean that you need to stay with them. Shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal out there. Even a little difference in rates can save a lot of money over the course of a mortgage. If you find a better deal, let your lender know. They may even be willing to match.
4. Adding to your loan term. When faced with refinancing, some people decide to add to the number of years of their loan term, lowering their monthly payments, but increasing the total amount of interest over time. Conversely, lowering the terms by five or 10 years can save you a lot, so if you want to change the years, make it lower.
5. Forgetting closing costs. When you refinance a home loan, it’s important to remember that you’ll most likely have to pay closing costs, including a loan application fee, appraisal fees, title fees and attorney’s fees. Be sure you have this money on hand.
By making smart decisions, your refinancing can be a smooth experience.
To learn more about refinancing, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Annual Chimney Inspections Critical to Home Upkeep

August 5, 2016 11:42 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association, dirty chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires, which is why annual chimney inspections are recommended.
If you’re planning on putting your home on the market this fall, a chimney cleaning is one task you can’t afford to ignore.
Those who have recently purchased a home should also take the importance of a yearly chimney cleaning into consideration, and add it to their yearly budget.
Chimneys can get dirty quickly, as creosote—a highly flammable substance—can build up inside your flue lining. There’s also the possibility of animals getting into the chimney and building a nest, something that occurs more frequently than most homeowners would think.
The easiest and most inexpensive way to get the chimney clean is to hire a reputable chimney sweep. They will do a thorough job removing the soot and inspecting the entire chimney to make sure there is no damage. A sweep will also look for leaks and cracks, check out the flashing system and rain cap and look for any foundation problems. All of these items are important when it comes to ensuring that your chimney lasts.
You can also have the chimney capped by having a screen placed on top to keep those pesky animals and debris away. While this is a fairly expensive option, it will make the annual sweep a little easier.
While it’s best to leave the cleaning of the chimney to a professional, something you can do on your own is look at the chimney on the outside and inspect the mortar around the bricks to see if there are any cracks. If there are, these will need to be fixed by a professional, or else the chimney will become a dangerous fire hazard.
If you use your fireplace often, it’s a good idea to close it down once the winter season is over and the warm weather returns. This can be done by removing all the burnt wood and debris and washing any soot that is visible. Use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes from around the opening. A professional chimney sweep can also reduce the amount of dirt and odor that will sometimes enter the home after the fireplace has been retired for the season.
Even if you don’t use your fireplace, you should still make sure your chimney is cleaned, as problems come from more than just fires, creating situations that could potentially affect the house—and possibly the sale of your home.

To learn more about chimney cleaning, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.