The Julie Pogue Properties Louisville KY Real Estate Blog

How Energy Efficient Are you?

Frost is on the pumpkins and it's the time of year when we are switching on our home heat and spending more time indoors.  It doesn't take much effort to learn how to use energy wisely.  Here are some tips provided by Louisville Gas & Electric that you might consider implementing this year. They encompass both winter and summer.  Even if you only incorporate a few of them into your daily rountine, you will be saving energy and money.  Take a look and see if you think you could try a few of these suggestions.

Lighting

  • To save up to $27 a year, change your five most-used light bulbs to energy-efficient compact florescent light  bulbs (CFL).  The more bulbs still you change, the more you'll save.
  • Use light-colored, loose-weave curtains on windows to allow daylight to filter in while maintaining privacy.
  • Three-way lamps make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.
  • Use task lighting.  Focus the light where you need it so that you are not brightly lighting an entire room.
  • Turn off lights when they are not in use.  Consider using timers to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
  • Use dimmers, motion sensors or occupancy sensors to automatically turn on or off lighting as needed.
  • Use ENERGY STAR qualified light fixtures and bulbs.
  • During sunny winter days, open the curtains on your south-facing windows to allow the sun to naturally heat your home.

Heating and Cooling

  • To save up to 12% on your energy bill, use a programmable thermostat.
  • Save up to $45 a year by adjusting your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter.
  • Save $50 a year by having your HVAC system professionally inspected.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters every 30 days. (The day you receive your energy bill can serve as a good reminder that it's time to do this maintenance.)
  • Clean registers, baseboards, heaters and radiators regularly.  Be sure to move furniture, carpeting or drapes so they are not blocking these elements.
  • Your HVAC contractor should be able to provide fact sheets for various HVAC models so that you can compare energy usage.  While the national Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is 78% for furnaces, some ENERGY STAR models exceed 90% AFUE.
  • Fans help circulate the air in your home.  Moving air makes you feel cooler, so you can set your thermostat at a higher temperature during the summer and still feel comfortable.
  • Turn off  fans in rooms when not in use.  Fans are effective at cooling you--not the room.  Shutting curtains and drapes at night will help to retain the cool air.
  • Use exhaust  or ventilation fans in your kitchen or bathroom for only as long as you need them.  Don't allow them to run for more than 20 minutes.
  • Insulate your hot water heater to prevent heat loss.  You may also want to insulate the hot water pipes in your home.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when replacing your HVAC equipment.

Appliances and Electronics

  • Most appliances continue to draw small amounts of power even when they are turned off.  This 'phantom' energy consumption occurs in almost all appliances that use electricity, such as VCR's, televisions, stereo equipment, computers, kitchen appliances and telephones with answering machines.  Avoid this 'phantom' energy drain by unplugging the appliance when it is not in use or by using a power strip to turn off the appliance(s) when not in use.
  • Screen savers on computer monitors are not energy savers.  The best energy-saving strategy is to set the computer to automatically switch to sleep mode or to manually turn off the computer and monitor when it's not in use.
  • Make sure the power management settings are activated on your computer(s).  ENERGY STAR qualified computers and monitors save energy only when the power management setting are on.
  • Unplug rechargeable battery and cell phone chargers when not in use.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when shopping for home appliances and electronics.  It's the government's seal of energy efficiency.
  • TVs and DVD players use energy even when in standby mode.  Plug these electronics into power strips and turn them on only when you plan to use them.
  • Air dry your dishes instead of using the diswasher's drying cycle.
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water, and always rinse in cold water.  Line dry clothes or use drying racks.
  • Inspect your clothes dryer vent to ensure that it's not blocked.  You will save energy and possibly prevent a fire.
  • Clean the lint filter in your clothes dryer after every load.  This improves air circulation.
  • Wash and dry only full loads of clothes.  Don't forget to adjust your washer's water level if you wash smaller loads.
  • To prevent heat build up in your home, consider using your microwave, crock pot or outdoor grill to prepare meals instead of the oven or stove.

Insulation and Air Sealing

  • Caulk and weather strip your doors and windows to help keep the warm or cool air that you've paid for inside your home.   This saves energy and money.
  • Caulking should be soft and crack free for optimum performance.
  • Use trees, shrubs or awnings at your windows to shade from the heat of the day in summer.  In winter, remove awnings and trim shrubs and trees to take advantage of the suns warming rays.
  • Use draft stoppers at doors and windows.
  • Improve your home's energy performance by installing new energy-efficient windows.  You may realize personal benefits from improved aestherics and comfort, even though it may take years to pay off the financial investment in overall energy savings.
  • If you do replace your windows, make sure they are installed correctly by a qualified professional.
  • In the summer, close curtains on the south and west facing windows during the hottest part of the day.  Consider applying sun-control or reflective film to prevent the intense summer heat from entering your home.
  • Reflect heat away from your house by installing white window shades, drapes or blinds.
  • If  you are unable to replace your  windows,  make any necessary repairs  windows to improve their efficiency.
  • Install tight-fitting window shades on drafty windows, once you have weatherized them.  A low cost measure is to use heavy duty, clear plastic sheeting on the window frames during the winter.  Tightly sealed plastic will reduce air infiltration.
  • Get an energy audit.  Find out where the common sources of air leaks are within your home.
  • To test for air leaks on your own, hold a burning candle near your windws and doors on a windy day.  If the flame flickers, you have an air leak that needs to be addressed.
  • Make sure that you have adequate insulation in your home.
  • Close fireplace dampers when not in use.
  • Put extra blankets on your bed.
  •  Warm air rises, so cooler air will be at ground level.  Wear socks and shoes to keep your feet warm.

Water

  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F. 
  • Buy a new energy-efficient water heater.  It make cost more initially, but the energy savings will...

Rules of the Game

This World Series time, as a Texas gal, I am rooting for the Texas Rangers.  It occurred to me that all games have rules and that this might just be a good time to talk about the rules of real estate.

If you have ever bought or sold real estate, you have undoubtedly employed the services of a real estate agent to guide and assist you through the process.  Consumers are often uncertain who regulates real estate professionals.  Most of us are subject to two set of rules.  Each jurisdicution has a governmental agency, typically referred to as the real estate commission, charged with the authority to issue licenses to real estate professionals and enjorce related state laws and regulations.  Additionally, many real estate professionals, after obtaining a license, choose to become members of a REALTOR® association, whose mission is to promote the profitability and success of its members.  Those licensees agree to abide by a strict Code of Ethics, and the local REALTOR® association is responsible for assuring that members adhere to the Code.

In 1913, the National Association of Realtors (NAR)--the largest professional real estate society in the U.S.--established its ethical code.  Since 1986, it has been updated anually.  Real estate ethics predates that of many ofther markets, which didn't adopt ethical strategies and codes until the 1990's, according to the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association.  Unlike real estate law, the NAR code isn't binding on all licensed professionals; only the 1 million-plus who belong to the association.  If the two ever conflict, the code states that 'the obligations of the law must take precedence.'

One of the main purposes of this ethical system is to protect the public--clients and non-clients alike.  Because real estate is such an expensive and long-term investment, Realtors take their obligations seriously.  In fact, the majority of the code--14 out of the 17 articles--addresses consumer concerns from fair housing compliance and loyalty to propert documentation and handling trust money.

While a certain level of competition is healthy, Realtors can't sacrifice the ideals of the code for personal benefit.  For example, they can't misrepresent competitors or solicit consumers represented by fellow Realtors.

This Code of Ethics is enforced at the local level through the local REALTOR® association.  It is the function and authority of the local REALTOR® association to:

  • Conduct hearings into alleged violations of the NAR Code of Ethics
  • Take disciplinary action against a REALTOR® member, which can include the ordering of fines or revocation of a real estate professional's membership in the REALTOR® association

Similar to filing a complaint with the state real estate association, members of the public can also contact their local REALTOR® association and file a complaint where they suspect a violation of the Code of Ethis has occurred.  It is important to understand, however, that a REALTOR® association does not have any authority over a real estate professional's license, as this is the exclusive jurisdiction of the respective real estate commission.  REALTOR® associations only discipline REALTOR® associations members for violations of the NAR Code of Ethics.  For all other alleged wrong doing, consumers should contact the respectvie real estate commission or consult with an attorney.  

So there you have it.  We at Julie Pogue Properties are all members of the National Association of Realtors and adhere to that higher standard of adopting their Code of Ethics.  It is the way we choose to do business and the way we live our lives.  You can count on us to represent you fairly and competently.  Keep us in mind for all of your residential real estate needs and know that you can confidently recommend us to your family friends.

Hope you all have a great week and go Texas Rangers--beat St. Louis! 

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Cut Your Chances of Being Burglarized

Do you remember taking quizzes in those teenaged glamour magazines when you were a kid? Well, here is a quiz to take as a homeowner to help you cut your chances of being burglarized.  

Where do you live?

a) Downtown, where there are lots witnesses (3 points)

b) In the burbs, where privacy is paramount (0 points)

c) In an affluent neighborhood that borders a bad one (-10 points)

d) In the big yellow farmhouse 12 miles past the general store (30 points)

Your windows are...

a) Open for fresh air circulation even when nobody is at home (-10 points)

b) Overgrown with bushes that could hide an intruder (-5 points)

c) Latched shut whenever we go out or hit the sack (5 points)

d) We've planted razor-sharp pyracantha, holly or rose bushes under them (5 points)

What kind of burglar alarm do you have?

a) A state of the art $2000 sysytem for which we pay $35 a month in monitoring (20 points)

b) The same system above that we don't really turn on very often (-5 points)

c) None, but we've posted alarm signs that I bought for $20 at mysecuritysign.com (15 points)

d) Alarm? What alaram? We don't even lock the house (-10 points)

Do you have a dog?

a) Yes, a Napoleonic shih Tzu who barks at everyone (20 points)

b) Yes, a Rottweiler with attitude (30 points)

c) No, but I bought a $4 BEWARE OF DOG sign at petco.com (5 points)

Where is your spare key? 

a) Under the welcome mat, of course (-10 points)

b) Inside a none-too-convincing 'hide-a-key' rock (-5 points)

c) With a trusted neighbor (5 points)

If you scored...

10 or under: Use the details in this quiz as a blueprint for securing your home. Now!
11 to 24: You're somewhate vulnerable.  Lower your risk with the tricks above.

25-39: Breath easily.  Your house is probably a tougher target than your neighbor's.

40 or over: Your insurance agent should buy you a steak! 

Summertime is the prime-time for breaking and entering.  However, anytime is a good time to make your house look like a difficult target! Visit the National Crime Prevention Council's Web site at www.ncpc.org for all kinds of information on preventing crime.

We, at Julie Pogue Properties, always want our families, friends and clients to be safe rather than sorry! 

Hope you all have a terrific week!

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How to Appeal Property Tax Value

Many property owners are unsure about whether or not it is appropriate to appeal property tax value due to their lack of understanding about both the difference in values assigned to properties by the government and the property tax appeal process.  Therefore, it is important to gain a good understanding abou the process for determining the assessed value of your property, as well as the steps involved in the process of filing an appeal.  This is not rocket science! If you feel your property is currently assessed at a higher value than the prevailing market you need to start now so you are ready for the small window of opportunity available to you each year to make your appeal.

There are several ways to determine whether your residence is over-valued for property tax purposes.  The current market has dictated lower values for many properties than those that are reflected on your latest tax bill.  Let's say you just purchased your home for less than it's assessed value.  Doing the math on a home purchased for $150,000 in St. Matthews that has a current property assessment of $185,000 would mean your annual taxes are $1,855.62.  If you are successful in getting the Jefferson County PVA to move that property assessment to your purchase price you will save approximately $350 a year.  That is $3,500 over a ten year period of time.  Got something else you could use that money for? I sure would!

Under state law (KRS 133.120) property owners who wish to appeal their assessment must first hold a conference with the PVA Office during the annual Open Inspection Period (OIP).  Each year the OIP in Jefferson County begins on the first Monday in May and continues for a 13 day period, including 2 Saturdays.

This year's OIP began on May 2, 2011 an closed May 16, 2011.  The last day to submit an appeal to the PVA Office was May 16, 2011 by 4:00pm EST.  By law, the PVA Office is not authorized to accept appeals via personal visits to their office or online appeal subissions after May 16, 2011.  Next year's open inspection begins on May 7, 2012 and ends on May 21, 2012.  Call the PVA Office in mid-April at (502) 574-6224 to schedule a conference or complete their online appeal service at that time.  The Web site addrss is http://jeffersonpva.ky.gov/property-assessment/appeal-process.

 Please remember that property tax valuations are not necessarily a market value of your property, although that is the goal of the Auditor's Office to stay as current as possible.  You may be being over-taxed however, if your property is appraised at a higher value than its current market value.

Sellers, please do not be confused by the fact that by lowering your tax vaulation with the county you will be lowering the market value.  If you are being taxed on a higher than market value, it does not mean that is what you should expect to get when selling the property.  Bottom line is that the market dictates the value of your property so why pay taxes on a higher valuation? By adjusting your county tax valuation to be in line with the market, you may well be attracting additional buyers, due to having a more attractive tax bill than a property that is not in line with the market.

Finally, be aware that filing an appeal for your property tax value does not cancel out your responsibility to pay your property taxes in full and on time.  You may be charged interest or other fees on late or unpaid property taxes, even if your appeal is ultimately successful.

Make sure to mark your calendar now to make this appeal if you think you qualify.  It is well worth the small amount of time it will take.  A bit of early planning could mean extra money in your pocket that you deserve.  If you live in a county other than Jefferson County, be sure and check with those specific PVA offices for their appeals process and time frames.  They may be slightly different.

We, at Julie Pogue Properties, are always glad to assist you iin determining the current market value of your property.  Just give us a call.

Hope you all have a terrific week!

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Clean Homes Show Better

Would you rather walk into a clean home or a dirty home? This is not a loaded question.  It is an important one! When it comes to selling a home, many people forget how important the answer to that question really is.  Sellers get busy looking for their new home, preparing kids for a move, packing up their belongings, getting organized for their new life and relocation so much that sometimes their home that is for sale doesn't get the attention that is needed to push it to the top of the buyers' must-have lists.

After the home sits on the market for a long period of time, the sellers realize something has to change.  Sometimes it is the price, but sometimes it's the fact that the home that is being shown isn't clean enough.  Yes, clean homes show better.  Here are five suggestions to help make yours sparkle:

Hard to Reach Windows, Skylights and Ceiling Fans.  These often get overlooked either because they are difficult to access to clean or because they aren't at eye level.  Whichever the case, cleaning windows in high ceilings or skylights provides a brighter light to shine in your home.  Sometimes just getting out the could of dust and dirt that accumulates can make the difference between a murky-looking room and one that is eye catching.  Clean the windows on a cloudy day if you can, but not a rainy one.  If you clean the windows in the direct light of sun, traces can appear on the window, as the cleaning solution gets dry before being cleaned.  Don't forget those paddles on the ceiling fan as well-both the tops and the bottoms.  And, if your ceiling fan has an attached light fixture, make sure the globes and the bulbs are as shiny as can be for maximum effect!

Toilets.  It may seem like this goes without saying but I am sure any real estate agent you ask will have a horror story about toilets.  Whether they are leaking, continuously running, stained or simply stinky, they pose a major deterrant if ignored.  If you have an older toilet, give it a good inspection and be sure to check under the lid, down the front of the bain and around the seal to the floor.  Buyers sometimes use your toilet when they are looking at your home and nothing is worse than seeing rust stains and other unsightly marks.

Walls and Baseboards. I am sure you have read much about the value of a fresh coat of paint prior to putting a home on the market.  But perhaps you can acheive the same effect with a good wipe-down instead.  Using a wet, midly soapy cloth you can scrub the walls and baseboards to make them look like they have had a fresh coat of paint and for hundreds of dollars less.  I don't normally tout a particular cleaning product but Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers will save you the mess and ease the elbow grease.  These rectangular-shaped cleaning pads can take the grime off nearly everything.  You don't have to spray anything on the surface you are going to clean-just wet the eraser and wipe off the marks.  Whole walls can be celaned with these pads and they will look as though the wall had been freshly painted.  Be sure to get the baseboards too and get down the kids' level to wip off the marks where they place their fingers while walking up the stairs or down the hall.

Tile.  Hopefully you will get lots of foot traffic when your home is on the market.  This, however, can lead to very dirty flooring and grout--especially in times of inclement weather.  The tile and the condition of the grout will matter to buyers should they decide to make an offer.  Really scrub those dirtly lines of grout with a good heavy duty acidic cleaner meant for such purpose.  Doing so will make the tile stand out and not look like it needs regrouting.  

Closets, Cabinets, Computer Areas.  I have written about the value of clean closets before but cannot reiterate it enough.  Buyers love to snoop and will open closets and cabinet doors.  De-clutter closets, hang shirts all facing the same way and even alphabetize the spice cabinet.  The point is to not have junk stuffed inside closets and cabinets so that when potential buyers open them to have a peek, everything comes crashing down on them.  This will give the impression that the closets are too small.  Computer areas are becoming quite popular in homes and behind most of those computers is a tangled web of wires collecting tons of dust.  Organize the wires using Velcro or zip ties and dust them off.  Or, better, yet, if you don't have to use the computer daily, arrange the area like you were filming a movie or shooting an advertisement--you never see wires! Remove all of the computer and accesory electronic cords.  You can leave the monitor display on the desk but taking the wires and storing them will give the area a more spacious, clean and professionally staged look.

When buyers see homes that are dirty, cluttered, disorganized, scoffed and worn, they may think it is an indication that the home may not have received the care it needed for bigger items, too, such as the furnace, disposal, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc.  It gives a general feeling of un-cleanliness and can leave a negative lasting impression and your home still on the market.  Invite your two most fastidious friends to give you a critique.  And ask your agent for his or her opinions as well and really listen to them! A little cleaning and preparation before you market your home will help show buyers that you have cared for the house and that could be just the signal a buyer needs in order to make an offer.

Remember, we are experienced and well-prepared to assist you in selling your home when you are ready.  Don't hesitate to give us a call.

Hope you all have a terrific week!

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