home ownership

A Brief History of National Home Ownership Month

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June is National Home Ownership Month and if you missed it you weren’t the only one. Not only was there a lack of press coverage, there was also a large group of individuals who missed out on the opportunity to buy a home. In 2003, National Home Ownership Month was announced by President George W. Bush to promote awareness and policies to expand home ownership across the country. The awareness campaign and policies were not completely new, but rather an extension of President Bill Clinton’s National Home Ownership Day of 1995 and the Clinton 100-point action plan to increase home ownership to record levels.

Both the Democratic and Republican administrations’ plans had noble intentions, as they both recognized that home ownership is a part of the American dream. Home ownership does, in fact, promote civic responsibility and financial security for most Americans. I experienced this first-hand when I relocated my family to Dallas, Texas. We opted to rent for nearly a year while we learned more about the area. My family’s attitude towards our rental house and neighborhood were different than our current home. Our feelings toward our rental home were not bad or negative, we just did not experience the pride we feel now that we have purchased our own home.

Looking back now, we see that the President’s goal of increasing home ownership to record rates was met. However, it came at a great price as the “bubble” was created and real estate prices came crashing down shortly thereafter. The bubble bursting took most of the economy down with it which is now referred to as the “great recession.” The reality is that while most Americans dream is of owning a home, not everyone should or can afford own a home, due to all different kinds of circumstances.

Homeownership rates are now at the lowest levels in 50 years (see chart below) and there is pent up demand for affordable housing.

The term “home ownership rate” can be misleading. It is defined by the government as “the percentage of homes that are occupied by the owner.” It is not the percentage of adults that own their own home. The problem with this rate is it does not count adult individuals who are neither home owners nor are renters. Since the great recession of 2007, the group of young adults between the ages of 18-34 has increased dramatically. In fact, the individuals in this age group are opting more often to live with their parents than with a spouse, as marriage is being postponed to a later age. See chart below.

The home ownership rate alone can mislead you because if young adults don’t create a new household, then the percentage is skewed. Comparing number of actual historical households, it becomes clear that the number of young adults who are fulfilling the dream of home ownership is significantly less than the current home ownership rate states. Starting a new household is important for many factors, including the overall economic growth of the country. Owning your own home is equally important for most individuals’ financial security.

The month of May reached a new peak in the median price of homes. Unlike in 2007, this peak was not caused by government involvement but rather the laws of supply and demand.  May demonstrated a new low in listing inventory and a new record low of time on the market for a house to sell. The real estate headlines this summer will continue to highlight the shortage of affordable housing. Let’s hope by next June a plan is put into place that will spur new construction of homes that are priced to encourage more young adults to buy and afford buying their first home.

As June ends, it is the true beginning of summer.  Here’s to hoping that you have plans in place to enjoy both the benefits of home ownership, and enjoying the summer.

Peter

Out with the Mold

We’ve got a quick guide on how to handle this homeowner nightmare without losing your cool. Depending on the severity, clean-up could range from a quick DIY cleaning, to something a professional must handle.

What it is:

Mold is a fungus that can be found both indoors and outdoors – the exact number of species is unknown but its in the range from 10,000 to 300,000 plus.

Bathroom mold

Don’t let mold take-over your home.

As you likely know, mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions. Mold sources include a variety of household ailments such as flooding, leaky roofs, backed-up drains, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, house plants, shower steam or leaks, and even wet clothes drying indoors. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that typically do not support normal mold growth – this is why through clean-up is so essential.

Depending on your sensitivity, reactions can range from nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation to fever or lung disease. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

The general rule is, if you can see it or smell it, it needs to go.

What to Do:

Ultimately, it is critical to remove the source of moisture first, before beginning remedial action, since mold growth will quickly return if the infected area becomes wet again. After you’ve corrected the source of the problem, arrange for removal.

If the moldy area is less than about 10 sq. ft., you can handle the job yourself by following the guidelines put out by the EPA. Guidelines for acceptable levels of mold have not been established, varying from person to person. If you are hiring a professional, be very through in your vetting process.

Porous materials such as drywall, carpet and ceiling tiles need to be cut away where the mold is growing; mold can grow inside the material, not just on the surface. Bag and dispose of any materials that have mold residue such as rags, paper or other debris.

What Not to Do:

  • Mold does not need to be tested (per the CDC); any visible mold should be eliminated
  • Do not touch mold or moldy items with bare hands
  • Do not get mold or mold spores in your eyes
  • Do not breathe in mold or mold spores
  • Do not items that can’t be cleaned – get rid of ‘em. This will likely be anything porous – carpet, wood, clothing, rags, etc.

Once the mold has been removed, continue to keep an eye on the situation. Was the source of the problem effectively corrected? If hidden mold is discovered, it is time to go back to the drawing board. Additional remediation will likely be needed. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate mold is to eliminate the moisture causing it.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html

Is Your Fireplace Safe to Use?

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If you’ve recently moved into a new home, or never used your fireplace, follow our quick checklist to determine if building a fire in your fireplace is a safe idea. As a general rule, chimneys should be cleaned annually so if you don’t know the last time yours was cleaned, you’ll likely want to hold off on building a fire.

Before lighting your fire, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Check Outside –  If possible, climb up to your roof and examine the chimney cap to make sure it is present and in good repair. The metal cap keeps animals, rain and snow out of the chimney, while also preventing sparks or hot embers from landing on your roofing. If you don’t have a chimney cap, installing one is a good idea.

If you have a multi-story home or a steep roof, play it safe and use a pair of binoculars to check the chimney cap from the ground. Make sure there isn’t a bird nest, tree limbs or other debris, on or near the chimney. Also make sure that the mortar and bricks are not in good condition and rise at least two feet above where it exists the roof.

2.  From the Inside – First, use a flashlight to inspect the flue damper, making sure it opens, closes and seals properly. With the damper open, check the flue for combustible material such as animal nests or other foreign objects. You should be able to see daylight at the top.

Inspect the area around the fireplace, making sure there are no cracked bricks or missing mortar. Damage inside the firebox is serious and should be looked at professionally.

3. Making the Fire – Be sure to stay safe while the fire is in the fireplace too – making sure to keep the fire at a moderate size and always using a metal grate. Clear the area of books, furniture, newspaper or anything else that might catch fire or be damaged by embers; two feet of distance is a good rule. Using kindling is always safer than starting the fire with gas.

Gas fireplaces are lower maintenance but that doesn’t mean they still don’t need occasional attention. If you have a gas burning fireplace, check that the gas logs are in proper position and that the glass doors are secure. Turn off the gas at the shut-off valve and test the igniter. After igniting the fire, check for clogged burner holes.

Ultimately, use common sense. Don’t burn items such as garbage or plastic and don’t start fires with gasoline. Always make sure the fire is out before going to bed or leaving the house and when in doubt, contact a professional to have your chimney checked for safety concerns. Stay warm and enjoy your home this winter.