Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Does a Pool Add Value to a Home?
By: Julie Sturgeon
Published: July 10, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
Learn how a pool affects the value of your home, and get advice on construction and maintenance costs.In general, building a pool is not the best way to add value to your home. You’re better off making physical improvements to your actual house instead of adding a pool to your yard.
Related: What Home Projects Give the Most Value?
However, a pool can add value to your home in some cases:
- If you live in a higher-end neighborhood and most of your neighbors have pools. In fact, not having a pool might make your home harder to sell.
- If you live in a warm climate, such as Florida or Hawaii.
- Your lot is big enough to accommodate a pool and still have some yard left over for play or gardening.
- The style of the pool. Does it fit the neighborhood?
- The condition of the pool. Is it well-maintained?
- Age of the pool. If you put a pool in today and sell in 20 years, you probably won’t recoup your costs, especially if the pool needs updating.
- You can attract the right buyer. Couples with very young children may shy away from pools because of safety issues, but an older childless couple may fall in love with it.
But we can put a price tag on how much a pool costs to build and maintain.
The Cost to Build a Pool
The average cost in the U.S. to install, equip, and fill a 600-sq.-ft. concrete pool starts at $30,000.
Add in details like safety fences (most states require them), waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and you’re easily looking at totals approaching $100,000.
Costs also depend on the type of pool you choose.
Gunite is the most popular in-ground pool. Gunite is a mixture of cement and sand, which can be poured into almost any shape. It has replaced concrete pools as the sought-after standard.
Fiberglass shells and those with vinyl liners fall on the lower end of the budget scale, but the liners typically need replacing every 10 or so years. Changing the liner requires draining the pool and replacing the edging (called coping), so over time, costs add up. Most homebuyers will insist that you replace a vinyl liner, even if it’s only a few years old.
Related: Fences for Pool Safety
Filtration and Heating
The filtration pump is the biggest energy hog in a pool system, so you want to get the most efficient pump possible. The good news here is that new, variable-speed pumps use up to 80% less energy than old single-speed pumps, cutting operating expenses dramatically. At about $500, these cost more up front, but some local utilities offer rebates through participating pool dealers. You can further cut energy costs by setting the pump to run at non-peak times, when rates for electricity are lower.
If you’re planning to heat your pool, gas heaters are the least expensive to purchase and install, but they typically have the highest operation and maintenance costs. Many pool owners opt instead for electric heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. Heat pumps take longer than gas to warm the pool, but they’re more energy-efficient, costing $200 to $400 less to operate per swimming season. Regardless of heating system, covering the pool with a solar blanket to trap heat and reduce evaporation will further lower operating costs.
Related: Solar Pool Heater Costs and Facts
All pools require that the water be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine has traditionally entered the picture.
These days you have a variety of options, including systems that use bromine, salt, ozone, ionizers, or other chemical compounds that can be less irritating to skin. Chlorine remains the most popular because the upfront costs are reasonable, and you don’t have to be as rigid about checking the levels on a set schedule. But as far as your wallet is concerned, they all even out in the end.
In a seasonal swimming climate, budget about $600 annually for maintenance if you shoulder the chemical balancing and cleaning yourself; in a year-round climate, it’s more like $15 to $25 per week.
To save yourself the task of once-a-week vacuuming, you can buy a robotic cleaning system for between $500 and $800 that will do the job for you. In locations where the pool must be opened and closed for the season, add another $500 each time for a pro to handle this task.
Related: Natural Swimming Pools
Insurance and Taxes
A basic homeowners insurance policy typically covers a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount.
It costs about $30 a year to bump coverage from $100,000 to $500,000. Many underwriters require you to fence in the pool so children can’t wander in unsupervised.
In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price. For that reason, try to keep your total building cost between 10% and 15% of what you paid for your house, lest you invest too much in an amenity that won’t pay you back.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
NeverWet Lives Up to Its Name — But Questions Remain
Published: July 23, 2013 by NAAR HouseLogic.com
Yes, it repels water from all sorts of surfaces at home, maybe even better than the hype suggests, but what’s the catch?Rust-Oleum is rolling out its new NeverWet, water-repelling spray with such fanfare, we’re expecting a parade any minute.
NeverWet is a “superhydrophobic” (not just a regular hydrophobic), two-part spray that makes water bead up and run off just about any surface – plastic, wood, stucco, cement, tennis sneakers you want to keep white.
Take a look at the company’s video.
NeverWet, a nanotechnology innovator, has teamed up with Rust-Oleum to bring this miracle coating to the masses. The company “loves” its new product for low traffic-low abrasion items like:
- Exposed brick and masonry
- Porous wood, like decks
- Stucco – claims of warding off mold and mildew have been made
- Toilet brushes
- Cat boxes and dog beds
- Outdoor gear – hiking books, tents, gloves
The coating wears off quickly on surfaces that you rub or walk on often, like a walkway. Also, it has a matte finish and dries with a little white, hazy, and velvety feeling. So you shouldn’t spray it on:
- Glass you’d like to see through (like your car’s windshield)
- Black surfaces, like dress shoes
- Nice clothing that you don’t want to redesign with a whitish, velvety finish (though the company is working on a fabric coating)
A NeverWet white paper says key ingredients in the top coat are used in food products. “Yes, you have eaten them,” it says.
But — and this is a big but — the company doesn’t vouch for the solvents used in the product.
Flood Insurance Rates Going Up? Here’s What to Do
By: Dona DeZube
Published: July 22, 2013 from NAAR HouseLogic.com
Why Are Rates Going Up?
1. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating its flood maps to be more accurate, which could change your flood risk designation. If your risk is higher, your premiums will go up. If it’s lower, your premiums could go down.
2. Last year, a new law took effect that requires the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to phase out subsidies for some older properties to reflect the full risk of flooding.
Phasing out the subsidized rates and discounts over the next five years will help the NFIP stay solvent.
Some subsidies have been given in the form of “grandfathering.” A grandfathered rate is a discount given to homes built in compliance with then-existing standards in a flood-mapped community where the flood risk has since increased.
Congress and FEMA are reviewing these properties to determine whether to phase out these grandfathered rates. FEMA won’t make a decision on this until late 2014. By then, Congress could pass a law delaying the increase indefinitely.
Do You Have a Subsidized or Discounted Rate?
Only 20% of NFIP policies are subsidized. Most hom eowners already pay the full rate and won’t see an increase.
If your property isn’t your principal residence, is in a special flood hazard area, and was built before the first flood insurance rate map was implemented for your community, you may be getting a subsidy for being what’s called Pre-FIRM (pre-flood-insurance-rate-map).
TIP: To find out if your home is Pre-FIRM, look up your area in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Community Book.
1. Click your state.
2. Look for the date in the “Init FIRM Identified” column for your area.
If your home was built before that date and it’s in a special hazard zone, you probably have subsidized flood insurance.
If Your Premiums Aren’t Subsidized or Discounted
It’s possible you still could see a change in your flood insurance premiums if your home is in a community that adopts a revised flood map after July 6, 2012. If that revised flood map puts you in a different zone, your rates could go up or down.
When Will the Rate Changes Take Effect?
If your home is Pre-FIRM and it’s a second home (rental or vacation), you may already have seen your rates change. A 25% increase was implemented for policies renewing after Jan. 1, 2013. Increases will continue each year until they reach full-risk rates.
In October 2013, more subsidized homes will start seeing rate increases of 25% each year:
- Severe repetitive loss properties
- Business properties
- Properties with previous flood claims for more than the market value of the property
- You sell your home.
- You let your policy lapse.
- You have severe, repeated flood losses.
- You buy a new policy.
You may be able to get a lower flood insurance rate by changing your home’s flood risk. Congress appropriated a large sum of money for property owners to raise their homes onto piers, posts, columns, or pilings. Check with your local community to see if grant money is available to help you do that. Talk to your insurance agent about how elevating your house will change your flood insurance premium.
There’s also a Community Rating System that could reduce flood insurance rates by up to 45%, depending on which flood plain management regulations your community adopts.
Check with your local officials or insurance company to see if your community participates and if you can get a discount for that. If your community doesn’t participate, write a letter to local officials urging them to join the Community Rating System.
Other things you can do to trim your flood insurance premiums:
- Opt for a higher deductible on your excess insurance policy if you have one.
- Convince local officials to put more money into community flood mitigation projects to lower your flood risk.
By the way, NFIP is the best deal. Without it, you have to take your chances in a virtually nonexistent private market for flood insurance at rates only the wealthy can afford.
Some of the same companies that provide private flood coverage also sell “excess coverage” flood insurance. Excess coverage pays to rebuild homes valued at more than the NFIP limit of $250,000.
Mistakes in Flood Insurance Premiums
It’s possible the rate you’re quoted for flood insurance is wrong. If you disagree about whether your home is in a particular flood zone or the insurer didn’t take into account the pilings that raise your home 12 feet in the air, you can appeal your home’s flood zone determination.
An elevation certificate from a surveyor or engineer can lower your premium if it proves your home sits above the predicted flood level.
You’ll also want to correct insurer mistakes that lower your premium. For example, if your policy says your home doesn’t have an elevator or crawlspace and it does, tell your agent, even if your premium will rise when those are included. That ensures your property and possessions are fully covered and recoup what you’re owed.
Think the FEMA map itself is wrong? Check with local zoning officials, your builder, prior owners, a local surveyor, and FEMA to see if anyone has filed a Letter of Map Amendment asking for a map review.
If no one has filed, you can do your own appeal.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Credit Score Killers
Check out this PDF file online to help improve your credit scores.
Check out this PDF file online to help improve your credit scores.