Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homeowners Plan to Live in Homes Longer & Turn To Remodel Projects

Energy Efficient Home Remodeling Projects are Hot Projects This Year

By Mark J. Donovan

A recent Wells Fargo and Company survey suggests the average homeowner has increased their expected time to live in their home to 16 years. This fact is in no doubt due to the housing market collapse and the resultant high percentage of homes that are worth less than their mortgages.

Though homeowners are planning to increase their stay in their homes, this doesn’t mean they are letting their number one investments rot on the vine. As a matter of fact, more and more homeowners are turning to home remodeling projects, and in many cases do it yourself home remodeling projects.

Though kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects have traditionally been high on homeowners’ lists for remodeling projects, homeowners may be smarter to take advantage of current energy efficiency government tax incentives.

Case in point, homeowners may be eligible today for tax credits for energy efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems, replacement windows, insulation, and low water usage landscaping.

So before deciding on a home upgrade or remodeling project see what tax savings the government maybe offering. This might be the year to hold off on the bathroom remodel, and instead opt for the window replacements.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Could Rising Mortgage Delinquencies Trigger a Further Housing Market Decline

By Mark J. Donovan

The 4th quarter of 2009 saw a precipitous increase in mortgage delinquencies, rising to 14%. Much of the rise was associated with credit-worthy borrowers. Current and performing mortgages fell to 86.4%, down 0.9% from the previous quarter. This represents the 7th consecutive quarter of decline.

The news is not surprising with so many homes’ underwater, worth less than their outstanding bank mortgage. People are choosing to spend their limited funds on staple items and forgo the house payment as they view the house payment as wasted money. This way of thinking only exacerbates the problem as banks then begin the foreclose process.

Without a significant improvement in the unemployment rate, which stands today at 9.7% officially and around 17% unofficially, the trend in delinquent home mortgage payments is likely to continue. This could spell trouble for an anemic housing market that is believed to already be at or near a bottom.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Glimmers of Hope in the Housing Market?

By Mark J. Donovan

Though home prices have continued to slide over the past 4 months the slope of the slide is showing signs of flattening. In fact, some housing markets are actually anticipating a slight rise in home prices over the next year. See “Where Home Prices are Rising”.

About 75% of the nation’s homes are expected to fall another 5% or less over the next year. A far cry from the 30 to 50% declines the housing market has already racked up over the past few years. If indeed home prices have nearly bottomed out, it may be a wise move to take advantage of the federal tax credits and low interest rates while you still can. If there is one thing certain in life, its change. With a housing market that has been going down for the past few years, one thing is certain, there is pent up demand. There are homeowners who want to buy larger homes, employees looking to relocate for job prospects, and first time homebuyers awaiting signs for a bottom. Like most bull and bear markets, it’s hard to see them coming until after they have occurred, and it is nearly impossible to time bottom entries. The important things to remember is that markets change and to look at the big picture in aggregate. Home prices are at their lowest in a decade or more, interest rates are at all time lows, and the government is giving out free home buyer tax credits.

Christmas doesn’t come very often in the housing market so grab your gifts while you still can!

The MiniMe McMansion Trend

By Mark J. Donovan

With the housing market still in the tank, and housing sales still declining, major builders are opting for the MiniMe McMansion in a way to breathe life into a comatose patient. The question is - will it work. Is the American public, with its historic appetite for living large, opt for going backwards and living small. My bet is they won’t, but hey it’s better to try something than do nothing at all. If not the MiniMe McMansion, maybe it will be the “King’s Little Castle” or the “Square Shaped Box Home” that reignites the housing market. Whatever it Takes! Learn More.

Is a Double Dip Housing Recession Inevitable?

By Mark J. Donovan

New home sales declined for a fourth month in February. Down 2% from January and 13% from last February. So why the continued decline? Unemployment is officially at 9.7% (and unofficially more like 17%) and tighter bank lending policies (a good thing). But will the housing market do a double dip and get much worse?? Possibly, if the Fed shuts down the currency printing presses and people continue to not find jobs. Learn more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tiling Bathroom Floor

Tips on Installing Bathroom Floor Tile

By Mark J. Donovan

Last weekend I spent much of it tiling a bathroom floor. The weekend prior I prepared the subfloor by removing the old linoleum, rough sanding the subfloor, and installing additional screws into the subfloor. The subfloor was a ¼” Luan based material resting on ¾” tongue and groove plywood. Though I have heard complaints of installing ceramic tile on Luan, I have never experienced a problem with loosening tiles on a Luan base. I believe as long as the floor is solid and the Luan surface is roughed up sufficiently with sandpaper the ceramic tiles will adhere well.

This all said, when tiling a bathroom floor, or any floor, it is important that the base subfloor be extremely solid and have no perceivable deflections. In addition, when tiling a bathroom floor it is important to use a latex modified thinset mortar versus a mastic. The thinset mortar will not degrade with exposure to water whereas with mastic, water can break it down and cause the ceramic tiles to become loose. Also, I always install coarse thread decking or drywall screws on 6” centers across the entire subfloor surface. This helps to make sure the Luan is securely fastened to the subfloor plywood.

When tiling a bathroom floor it is always important to first layout the tiles in an X-Y direction to see where tiles will be cut. Also take into consideration joint spaces. I used 12”x12” ceramic floor tiles and used a ¼” spacing between tiles. Typically you want to locate cut tiles in less observed areas. Once you have figured out roughly where to start your tiles to minimize viewable cut tiles, draw straight and perpendicular center X-Y lines as reference points on the subfloor. You may want to draw additional parallel lines to these main X-Y center lines to help maintain straight lines when installing the tiles outwards from the center of the bathroom floor. In addition, you may want to purchase some tile spacers to ensure even joint lines.

After establishing your reference lines, mix up your latex modified thinset mortar and begin to install tiles. Make sure to not mix up too much thinset mortar at any one time, and do not continue to add water to the mortar if it begins to thicken up. Doing so will weaken the bonding agents in the mortar.

Start by installing tiles from the cross-hairs of your center line and working your way in one direction outwards to a wall. Make your cuts along the wall to complete the first part of the bathroom floor tiling.

Then continue to install ceramic bathroom floor tiles in the opposite direction from your reference lines to complete the tile installation.

Once you’ve completed tiling the bathroom floor, allow the thinset mortar to set up for 24 hours before grouting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cross Bracing Floor Joists

By Mark J. Donovan

Floor joists commonly twist and flex under heavy load. In order to reduce the amount of floor joist twisting and flexing cross bracing is commonly employed between floor joists. Normally cross bracing is installed every 8 feet, or center span between floor joists.

Cross bracing can be comprised out of wood or metal. For wood, typically 1x4 lumber is used. It is nailed at the top and bottom edges of adjacent floor joists. It is important not to split the ends of the cross braces as this will weaken their strength. Metal cross braces are also commonly used.

Cross braces should be installed prior to installing the subfloor. By installing the floor joist cross braces before the subfloor you can ensure that the floor joists are properly spaced. This will aid in the subfloor installation effort.

If the floor joists are constructed out of treated lumber, make sure to use stainless steel nails or fasteners. Likewise if you use metal cross braces make sure they are coated in an ACQ corrosive resistant coating. Regular steel or galvanized nails and metal cross braces will corrode if placed in contact with treated lumber.