Spring and summer are high season for home improvements. Winter, especially after the holiday season has passed, seems more like a time to hunker down and get cozy. But the professionals who do home improvements and the suppliers who sell the materials are in business year-round. And during their off-seasons, these businesses will often lower prices to attract more customers. That means home owners may find it’s not only easier to schedule these professionals; they may also get a break on the price.
Get a new roof
Depending on how severe your winter weather is, replacing your roof in the winter can make sense. True, winter weather can get in the way of getting the job done quickly. But on the other hand a roofer with a light schedule will have the flexibility to work around the weather and make adjustments to get the job done right.
Cold temperatures do present challenges. Materials, especially asphalt shingles, require special handling and in some cases alternative adhesives when it’s cold. Icy surfaces, sleet and snow make work out of the question. And some days may be just too cold. Roofers can work around each of these issues using different techniques and given enough leeway in scheduling the work.
If your windows could use replacing, winter reminds you every day. Does the temperature drop when you get close to a window to take a look outside? Why not tackle it now? Window replacement companies frequently offer special pricing during the off-season and can schedule your job on shorter notice.
Installers may take on windows one at a time, putting up barriers and shutting off rooms to minimize the cold air coming into the house. The process might take longer than it would if letting in outdoor air weren’t such a concern, but you’ll feel the results right away and should see lower energy bills once the job is done.
Paint a room
Spending more time indoors might draw your attention to dingy walls or make you wish for an updated room color. With dry winter air, a window open a crack, and maybe even an exhaust fan in the window, should be more than enough ventilation for a fresh new coat of today’s low volatile compound (VOC) paints. If you don’t want to do the painting yourself, you may find a choice of painting contractors with openings in their calendars.
Make sure walls are warm enough for paint to stick well. Paint cans will tell you the temperatures for best adhesion. Even though the room is warm, walls can be cooler. You may need to turn up the heat to be sure they present the best conditions for paint to adhere properly.
Refinish wood floors
Winter is a great time to refinish your hardwood floors. The type of flooring you have doesn’t matter. Recoating a floor can work on solid wood, laminated wood and parquet floors alike. If your floors are older and in a state of disrepair, than sanding away the current layers and starting fresh with bare hardwood is more laborious, but ultimately is often a superior method.
As with painting, you’ll want to ventilate somewhat, but you can minimize the amount of time you’ll need to open a window or door. Finishes with low VOC ingredients don’t require so much airing out, and winter’s low humidity air speeds up the time it takes to dry.
If you feel like any of these projects are above your skill level, then contact a licensed contractor or remodeler at your local builders association.
Mortgage interest rates have been inching up, and although rates dropped at the beginning of 2019, most experts predict that rates will continue to rise throughout the year. With the average 30-year-fixed rate nearing 5%, some would-be home buyers may begin to reconsider their purchase plans. However, it’s important to keep today’s rates in perspective and recognize that it’s still a good time to buy.
For one thing, beyond minor short-term fluctuations, rates are not expected to significantly decrease any time soon. Only a decade ago when the housing market was still flying high, a mortgage rate as low as 5% would have been a better-than-average deal. Go back a little further, when average rates were mostly between 7% and 9%, and it’s quite a bargain. So if you’re ready to buy, go ahead and lock in today’s rate.
Home prices will continue to rise
Home prices nationwide are expected to rise by 6.5% over the next 12 months according to Zillow. This forecast was issued in July 2018 and therefore extends into the summer of 2019. Will this trend be seen in Pennsylvania? With the average price of a home in Pennsylvania at $127 per square foot at the end of October 2018, some markets will be hotter than others, but most will stay in the black.
For example, some of the hottest markets right now are Altoona (12%), Reading (10%), State College (8%), and York-Hanover (6%). Cooling off from their highs earlier in 2018 are Philadelphia (4%), Pittsburgh (3%), and Erie (3%). Nevertheless, Pennsylvania will continue to see overall home price increases to continue to average at least 6% per square foot through 2019.
Running the Numbers
If you’re thinking of buying, run the numbers and see where you stand. Many factors influence the cost of a home purchase. Does the difference in payments between an interest rate around 5% and one a couple tenths of a point lower put it your dream home out of reach? Can you tweak other factors to balance the costs and keep the purchase affordable? Consider whether you might:
• Put a bit more down so you can finance less. Is there somewhere you can dig down and find a bit more for a down payment? Maybe look into using some of that IRA savings which you can use penalty-free if you’re a first-time buyer?*
• Consider a shorter-term mortgage. If you can afford the monthly payments, a 15-year mortgage will cost a lot less in interest over the life of the mortgage than a 30-year mortgage.
• Weigh your “must have” factors for a house — are there any that you’re willing to let go of for a lower asking price? Would a smaller house, or the next neighborhood over from your favorite, or one fewer half bath still work for you?
• Shop and compare mortgage rates, fees and terms. Whatever the going rates, there will differences in rates and fees with different lenders.
*Please consult an experienced tax or financial professional before using retirement funds for any other purpose.
For more information on mortgage rates and buying a new home, contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.
Congratulations to everyone across the state of Pennsylvania for a successful membership drive in November!
Most New Members in November:
1. Lebanon County Builders Association
1. York Builders Association
2. BA of Central Pennsylvania
3. HBA of Metropolitan Harrisburg
4. BIA of Lancaster
5. BA of Metro Pittsburgh
6. HBA of Bucks & Montgomery Counties
Greatest Net Growth in November:
BA of Central Pennsylvania
Carbon Builders Association
Lebanon County Builders Association
Central Susquehanna BA
Most Creative Drive:
Ashley Fickel from Lebanon offered amazing incentives for their new members and hosted an after party inviting all recruits and their recruiter teams to welcome the new members and introduce the HBA They also took this opportunity to reward the hard work of their members by awarding the recruiters with prizes.
PBA leadership including 2019 PBA President Maria Coutts, 2018 President Kert Sloan, and PBA CEO Dan Durden recently participated in Berks County Career & Technology Center's student produced HBA Today program. You can view the entire program here: https://vimeo.com/311961823.
It’s the New Year, and you’d like to rejuvenate your home. You’re not going to move walls or build an addition. But you’d like to breathe some new life into what you have. Here are a few easy updates you can do to make your house seem instantly new to you.
Paint a room’s trim.Refresh your main living space by painting the trim. Crisp baseboards and moldings go a long way to revitalizing the whole room. Bright white is a classic color that will complement any décor style.
Replace or recover a piece of furniture. Even one new living room chair or a reupholstered love seat can refresh a room’s look. A new coffee table or area rug will also help change a room’s appearance and serve as a new focal point. Even without new furnishings or upholstery, rearranging a seating group to face a different direction can breathe new life into the room. Consider hanging a wall mirror to create the sense of additional space around a cozy grouping of furniture.
Add fresh accessories. Pillows and throws can quickly change a room’s style by adding vibrant colors or calming neutrals, while also enhancing warmth and comfort. Ceiling-to-floor length drapes hung just outside a window’s width seem to expand the room up and out.
Make your home a little smarter.With a variety of economical smart-home hubs to choose from, it’s easier than ever to take that first step into the world of smart-home living. Look for a hub with do-it-yourself setup and no monthly fees. Download a free app, buy a few compatible light bulbs and a smart outlet strip, and you’ll soon be able to remotely control several appliances within your home. From there, consider a smart deadbolt, garage door opener, home security system and/or thermostat.
Give a small bathroom a new character.Bright-colored walls or bold wallpaper patterns can really make a small bathroom pop. Colors and patterns that would be overwhelming in a larger room work like a decorative accent in the smaller setting. Or go the other way and make the bathroom an oasis of serenity with light blue-grey walls.
Look at lighting with new eyes.Is there an area that could use more light? A warmer glow? Add a lamp to a table in a dim corner to open up the room and show off the objects on the table. Pendant lights aren’t just for dining areas — a stylish pendant fixture hanging next to the arm of the sofa or guest bed is an object of interest as well as a source of light. In the kitchen, install LED strip lighting under cabinets where work surfaces below could use a little illumination.
For more information on remodeling your home, go to our Remodeling Your Home section of the PBA website.
As home builders prepare to excavate any home site, Pennsylvania state law requires contacting Pennsylvania 811 to alert the utility companies of the intent to dig.
When home builders use the PA One Call service before digging for the first time each year, they normally pay a $125 fee. For PBA members, that cost is waived. A $125 savings!
Simply forward your invoice to your local builders association. They will confirm your membership and send your invoice directly to PBA for payment.
You will not receive an invoice for additional use of the PA One Call System in the same calendar year, regardless of how often you use it. Repeat the same process the first time you dig in the next calendar year!
When dialing 8‐1‐1, homeowners and contractors are connected to Pennsylvania 811, the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional underground utility line locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both.
The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. Pennsylvania 811 encourages area residents to visit www.pa811.org or www.paonecall.org for more information about digging safely.
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to give yourself that extra motivation to start making positive changes in your life. Why not do the same for your home?
As we enter 2019, take a moment and reflect on your home. There’s a good chance that it has some problems, especially if it’s more than 10 years old. It can be all too easy to ignore home issues and let them get out of hand.
Use your New Year energy to kick home improvement into gear. You might even be surprised to find that you and your home have a strikingly similar list of resolutions.
1. Lose Weight
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is losing weight. While it’s one of the toughest for a person to stick to, for a home, it’s surprisingly easy. Homes tend to collect clutter around the holidays, filling up with gifts, decorations, and new purchases. Don’t wait until spring rolls around to de-clutter. Use the first couple weeks in January to throw away, donate, or re-sell home goods that you no longer need. Your home will feel so much lighter and more spacious once you do.
2. Be More Organized
As you work your way through de-cluttering your home, roll with that momentum and take it as an opportunity to get organized. Maybe your home office has become a wasteland of papers, books, and gadgets in the past year. Go through it all. Get rid of things you never use, and recycle all the papers you don’t need anymore. You’ll start the New Year feeling more productive in your clean, de-cluttered workspace.
3. Take Up a New Hobby
DIY projects are the perfect way to update your home for the New Year. Not only do they make your home a little more functional and beautiful on a tight budget, but they can give you a great sense of personal accomplishment. Replacing light fixtures, painting walls, and switching out hardware are DIY projects that almost anyone can do. There are, however, certain projects that are best left to the professionals. Before you pick up a sledgehammer, start ripping up floors, or removing cabinets, consult with a remodeler who can provide some professional guidance.
4. Eat Better and Drink Less
Between parties, family dinners, and seasonal treats, it’s all too easy to overindulge during the holidays. Even your home might be feeling gluttonous - consuming more water and electricity as the weather turns colder. Luckily, there are countless new products - some of which can be installed fairly easily - to improve your home’s energy efficiency. From low-flow water fixtures, smart-home thermostats, and motion-sensing automated lights to Energy Star appliances and double-pane windows, the options are endless. Ask a building professional which features are best suited for your home and budget. Put in the time now, and when next winter rolls around your home will be equipped and ready.
5. Get Out of Debt
A top New Year priority for many is getting out of debt and finding better ways to manage finances, especially after holiday spending. You can start by identifying wasteful spending. Try to minimize or even eliminate it wherever possible, but remember that you can’t cut all the fun out of your budget. You probably have several improvements you want to tackle in your home, but starting on them all at once would be a logistical and financial nightmare. Work with a contractor or remodeler you trust, and let them help you prioritize your needs and wants. Create a plan to address them over time and factor that into your New Year budget. You might also want to check in with a realtor who can help you determine which items on your list will give you the best return on investment, making the improvements well worth the time and money.
It’s no surprise that your list of New Year’s resolutions might look very similar to your home. After all, your home is a reflection of you. With these tips, you can spend 2019 in a more comfortable, beautiful, peaceful and energy-efficient home.
Learn more about which improvements are best suited for your home by contacting a professional remodeler at your local Pennsylvania builders association.
As temperatures continue to drop in Pennsylvania, many homeowners see their energy bills rise. Whether you are turning up the heat or turning on the holiday lights, energy usage tends to increase during these cooler months. Yet, there are many steps you can take — from small adjustments to major modifications — to stay warm and use less energy this winter. Here are a few simple tips to get you started.
Don’t Heat an Empty Home
If household members are at school and work during the day, or you are traveling for the holiday season, adjust your thermostat to limit the amount of wasted heat. While you can do this manually each day, programmable and smart thermostats can automatically keep your house cozy when it counts and save energy when everyone’s away.
The selection of smart thermostats is ever-expanding. Many keep track of how much you would save based on your region, size of home and heating type. In many cases, this investment results in significant savings.
Some utility companies also offer free programmable or smart thermostats to encourage their customers to use energy wisely. Check with your local utility to see what programs they offer.
Control the Air Flow
By sealing air leaks in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of its monthly energy bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on surfaces such as where window frames meet the house structure. Check your weather stripping in exterior door frames and replace any that is deteriorated or cracked.
Sealing windows and doors will help, but the worst culprits are cutouts for pipes or wires, gaps around recessed lights, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Do-it-yourselfers can buy material that expands to fill the gaps and prevent air from escaping.
Once the arctic blast of deep winter appears, many homeowners worry they won’t be able to keep their homes comfortable without their energy bills going through the roof. Luckily, innovations in smart home technology can help you keep your house warm and toasty without breaking the bank.
Smart Thermostat - Among the most popular and arguably the most effective at improving energy efficiency, smart thermostats can learn the temperature preferences of the homeowner and auto-adjust to his or her schedule.
Smart hubs – Just by the sound of your voice, you can control multiple smart-home devices interconnected through a central hub. Most of the big manufactures offer hubs for their various products, but products from different makers can’t always integrate easily with each other, if at all. It’s important to discern your budget and lifestyle. Then it’s easier to decide your home automation needs and identify which products offer the most compatibility.
For more information and tips on how to make your home more efficient this winter, go to https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips.
December 11, 2018
NAHB Chairman Randy Noel
Important Step Forward on Waters of the U.S. Rule
Dear colleagues, I am pleased to announce that the Trump administration today released its proposed new definition for "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) that will resolve years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. This represents an important victory for our members.
Home Safety Tips for the Holiday Season
Family gatherings and festive celebrations — these are the hallmarks of the holiday season. It’s a time for buying gifts, decorating and traveling.
It’s also a time with its own set of home safety concerns. Holiday lights and decorations brighten the scene as the days get darker, but they can pose fire hazards. Travel, holiday events, and shopping take people away from home more than usual.
Here’s a quick list of safety precautions to help home owners keep their families safe during the holiday season.
· If you have a lot of packages delivered while you’re not home, maybe it’s time for a doorbell security camera. Its app can alert you when there’s activity at the door, so you’ll know when a package comes. And with the camera’s video, you’ll be able to check in any time for peace of mind until you get home.
· Inside your home, consider keeping gifts in a safe place that is not easily visible from outside.
· Ask a friend or neighbor to watch your home if you plan to spend the holidays away from home. You can also request the post office to hold your mail delivery during this time.
· When you’re away from home overnight, put lights throughout the house on timers to turn on and off according to your normal living pattern.
Lights and Other Decorations
· Inspect the wiring on all holiday lights. Ones with worn or frayed electrical wiring should be thrown away.
· Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Also, don't run electrical cords under rugs. Be sure all decorative lights are turned off before you go to bed or leave the house.
· Candles are one of the top causes of holiday-related fires. Place candles and other open flames away from decorations. Never leave burning candles unattended and always supervise children and pets around burning candles. Or, safer yet, consider using battery-operated candles for a flameless decorative glow.
· Be sure to use electrical outlets specifically designed for outdoor use if you use plug-in lights to decorate your house’s exterior, trees or yard.
· Place trees a safe distance from radiators, vents, fireplaces and any other heat source that may dry the tree. Inspect the tree for dryness daily.
· Make sure trees or other large decorations do not block doors or hallways in your home.
· Keep a fire extinguisher near your tree. Make sure your family has a fire emergency escape plan. In case of fire, leave your home and call for help from a cell phone or a neighbor’s home.
Taking the time to follow a few safety precautions will help ensure that your holiday celebrations remain festive for your entire family.
Learn more about home safety go to www.nahb.org/forconsumers.
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