Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pollen Clouds Hazing Up the Memorial Day Weekend Skyline

Pollen Clouds Blanketing New Hampshire

By Mark J. Donovan

I looked out my front windows late this morning and saw this thick haze over Lake Winnipesaukee. It was as if it was late July with 90 degree temps and equal humidity levels. The only difference was that this haze had a yellow tint. It was pollen.

We've had very little rain in central New Hampshire for the past several weeks and the pollen from the trees is just blowing all over the place. Its like watching large low level clouds float by.

The pollen is also coating everything on the ground. Its as if a volcano errupted and spewed an ash cloud over us.

Hopefully we'll get some rain soon to wash this pollen away.

Cleaning Your Deck

By Mark J. Donovan

If you want to keep your deck looking like new then you should plan on cleaning your deck a few times a year. On top of that you should at least sweep or hose it down once every few weeks depending upon the time of the year. In the spring, for example, when the pollen is blowing off of the trees you should plan on hosing down your deck once a week. Otherwise you'll find yourself walking on a coating of yellow pollen dust.

Cleaning your deck involves some time and the proper tools. To learn the specific techniques and tools for making your deck look like new see my full article at: Deck Cleaning and Maintenance.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deck Maintenance

How to Properly Maintain a Deck

By Mark J. Donovan

Regular deck maintenance is a necessity, face it or not. So the main question to ask yourself is do you prefer to perform minor deck maintenance work regularly, or wait and deal with more significant and expensive deck maintenance problems down the road. I prefer the former, as I like to save money and I like my decks looking like new as much as possible.

Maintaining a deck regularly involves cleaning the deck every couple of months with a deck cleaning solution and a garden hose, and at least once a year pulling out the broom and/or brush and really scrubbing the deck surface.

In addition, proper deck maintenance means inspecting the deck periodically for damaged boards, popped nails and peeling deck sealers and paints. As soon as you discover these types of deck maintenance issues, they should be addressed. Old damaged decking boards should be replaced, popped nails replaced with slightly larger nails, and peeling decks stripped and resurfaced.

By keeping up with these basic deck maintenance activities you should be able to keep your deck looking like new and extend the life of your deck dramatically.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

House Prices Rebounded Last Quarter in Hardest hit Housing Markets

By Mark J. Donovan

The housing market continues to show small signs of improvement according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Housing prices actually increased in the past 3 months in 91 cities across the United States. Hardest hit communities saw home sale prices increase dramatically. Saginaw, Michigan, for example, saw home sale prices double over the past quarter to an average sale price of $60,800. Nationally, the average home sale price actually dropped 0.7%. Though it was a drop, it was a dramatically reduced drop than previous quarters in recent years. Since 2006, home prices have fallen near 30%, so any sign of stabilizing home sale prices, even reported as a small drop, is a positive step towards a recovering housing market.

If the economy continues to show improvement, and unemployment inches down even just a little, 2010 could represent the first positive annual growth in national home sale prices since 2006. The only other unknown variable is the expiration of the home purchase tax credit which expired on May 1st. The home purchase tax credit has helped to mitigate falling home sale prices over the past year or so, and with the expiration of it, there is the risk that the housing market could stagnate or even falter again if the economic and unemployment picture do not improve.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pending Existing Home Sales Highest in 5 Months but Will it Last?

By Mark J. Donovan

Pending sales on existing homes hit a 5 month high in March according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Much of this was surely due to the home purchasing tax credit expiring on May 1. So it begs the question, is this positive housing statistic a trend or a flash in the pan? Only time will tell.

I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if it is the latter, at least for the rest of 2010. With unemployment still at nearly at 10% (officially) and much higher (unofficially), and European financial concerns with Greece, Spain and Portugal putting a damper on the stock market, I’m hard pressed to see a sustained improving housing market. The likelihood could be even further reduced if the Fed needs to begin raising interest rates sooner than planned. The US Commerce Department recently reported that Americans saw a 2% increase in prices in just the first 3 months of 2010.

Housing Prices Have Probably Bottomed Out

Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slowdown in pending home sales for the remainder of 2010, or at least for the next several months, I suspect housing prices have bottomed out. There are many signs suggesting a slowly improving U.S. economy, and these factors will most likely offset the risk of further declines in housing prices. The only question mark in this hypothesis is how soon the government begins to turn off the stimulus spigots. If the government moves too fast in turning off the flow of stimulus money, this, along with all the other negative factors mentioned above, could potentially cause housing prices to drop further.

Again, only time will tell.

Monday, May 03, 2010

5 Qualities to Look for When Choosing a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home

By Mark J. Donovan

Selling a home in a rough real estate market is a big challenge. Selling a home in a rough real estate market means thinking lower for the asking price and making sure the home is in good to excellent shape. Selling a home also requires a savvy and hard working real estate agent. Summarized below are 5 qualities to look for when choosing a real estate agent.

1) Confirm that the real estate agents you are considering for selling your home are licensed and hold all of the necessary credentials to be a realtor in your state. You can find this information on-line or with the state. Also, when contacting the state, make sure to check that there have been no disciplinary actions taken against any of the real estate agent(s) you are considering to sell your home.

2) It is important to choose a real estate agent that has a track record of success. Look for a real estate agent that can show you tangible results of their performance, e.g. “Agent of the Year Awards”. One litmus test for confirming their track record is to see how many listings they currently have relative to their competitors. The more listings they have, the more likely they have a solid track record.

3) Choose a real estate agent that will tell you what you need to hear, versus what you want to hear. Many sellers want to list their homes much too high. A good real estate agent should level-set you with facts, e.g. competitive listings and recent home sales.

4) Select a real estate agent that demonstrates complete professionalism, both with their work ethic and appearance, and is committed fully to the job. The last type of real estate agent you want to hire to sell your home is the occasional weekend warrior real estate agent.

5) A good real estate agent should be up to date with the latest real estate market conditions and happenings in your local area. Ask them about a few properties that you are aware of that have recently sold or on the market, and see if they are familiar with them.