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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009

First-Time Home Buying A Bit Overwhelming

By MELODY PARKER melody.parker@wcfcourier.com

Buying a first home can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. It’s a decision most people spend a great deal of time thinking about, as well as researching everything from how to begin the search and financing a home to closing and moving in. Real estate agents can help the first-time home buyer over the hurdles. A pro can help guide you through all aspects of the search process as well as answer questions and suggest negotiation strategies. Gale Bonsall of Trapp Realtors GMAC Real Estate in Cedar Falls wrote about one of his experiences with a client buying their first home: “In 1990, I received a call from a seller wanting to sell a duplex in Cedar Falls. As she listed the property for sale, she mentioned that one of the tenants who had lived there since 1962 had expressed an interest in buying the property. She asked me to find out if she was interested and inform her that the duplex was for sale. I met with this somewhat elderly widow. She told me

that she had immigrated from Germany in 1959 with her husband and two young sons. They moved into the duplex in 1962, and she continued raising her children there after her husband’s death. She definitely had an interest in purchasing the property. I sat down to “qualify” her for the purchase. When I asked how much down payment she would have, it was not substantial. She was such a nice person, but innocent to high finance in the real estate industry. I explored with the seller and a local bank about how we could work things out so she could purchase the property. The widow didn’t have a lease and the unit was somewhat under-rented. I could foresee that she would be asked by a new owner to pay higher rent which she could not afford, or worse, be asked to vacate her long-time home. The seller was willing, if conditions and terms were right, to carry a second mortgage that would cover the 20 percent the woman needed for a down payment. All I had to do was convince the bank to make the first mortgage. Upon review of the buyer’s loan application, she

was turned down. I went to the bank president and pleaded the buyer’s case, asking him to please reconsider the loan. Reluctantly, the bank agreed and the seller agreed to assist with the second mortgage. The seller was willing to help a good tenant who had lived in the property for so many years. The buyer purchased the duplex where she’d lived for 28 years , and her monthly payments were about $30 more than what she was paying in rent. The buyer was absolutely thrilled that she could own her own home and not have to move. She was very grateful to the seller for helping make it all

possible. Her total out-ofpocket cash on closing day was $1, which she proudly paid. I helped her, in the beginning, learn the facets of being a landlord. She was a quick learner and did just fine. Her soft heart, I felt, always meant that the property was somewhat under-rented. She explained that her tenants were such nice people, that she didn’t want to raise the rent too much. In short order, she applied a few additional dollars each month to the principle, paying off the second mortgage AND the first mortgage far in advance of the due dates. She did this

by working her regular 40hour-a-week job and a second job, so she could manage her new investment. When she paid off the property mortgages, she stopped by my office to tell me. She was beaming with pride. I was astounded. She pass away several years ago. Little did she know that her hard work, frugality and tenacity would continue to reap benefits for her family after her death. Her grown son now lives in the property, which is still adorned by her many flowers and plantings. I will not forget her, nor the many lessons that she taught me in the process.”


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Energy Saving Ideas To help homeowners hold down their energy bills, MidAmerican Energy offers the following energy-saving tips for the cooling season. ONLINE ENERGY AUDIT: Visit MidAmerican online and complete our home energy audit. You can compare your home energy use with similar homes in your area, and see where your home uses energy the most. You’ll also receive recommendations that can make your home more energy efficient. USE YOUR AIR CONDITIONER SPARINGLY: Instead of running the air conditioner out of habit, pay close attention to the weather and turn it off on cooler, less-humid days. Stay in cooler parts of the house, such as lower floors and rooms on the northern and tree-shaded sides of the home. BLOCK THE SUN: Shut out direct sunlight with shades or draperies. Place air conditioning units in shaded areas. Also, plant shade trees and shrubbery on the south and west sides of your home. As the plants grow, they will help shade your home. DIAL UP: Setting your thermostat a few degrees higher can

make a big difference — reducing electrical usage 3 to 5 percent for each degree. A setting of 78 degrees will keep you comfortable when it is more than 90 degrees outside. UPGRADE THERMOSTAT: A programmable thermostat set to raise the temperature while you’re away or asleep can produce significant savings. Raise the setting 5 degrees or more when you’re away. For sleeping, set it 3 or 4 degrees higher than when you’re awake and active. CLEAN YOUR AIR CONDITIONER: Check filters monthly and clean or replace them. Wash outside air conditioning coils with mild soap and water to remove dust and dirt. CLEAR THE WAY INSIDE AND OUTSIDE: Make sure air can circulate freely in your home. Make sure registers are clean and clear of furniture or other obstructions. Keep your air conditioner unit clear of grass, weeds and shrubs to allow air to flow over its cooling coils. This will keep your air conditioner unit from working too hard. DRY OUT: Use exhaust fans to reduce humidity from showering or cooking, but remember

Bookshelf Not So Big Remodeling: A Better House for the Way You Really Live by Sarah Susanka & Marc Vassallo (Taunton, 2009) $32 Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing: Fabu-Low-Sew Projects for the Everyday Crafter by Kathy Cano-Murillo (Potter Craft, 2009) $21.95

to turn them off when you finish those activities. Set your refrigerator to the high humidity setting to improve its efficiency. USE FANS: Fans use less energy than air conditioners and can boost the comfort from an air conditioner, increasing its efficiency. A portable fan set several feet away from a window air conditioning unit can spread cool air into other rooms and down hallways. Ventilate your attic with a thermostatically controlled fan. WAIT UNTIL SUNDOWN: Plan to use heat-producing appliances, like clothes dryers and ovens, in the cool of the late evening or early morning. MidAmerican offers residential customers Budget Billing to avoid monthly fluctuations in energy bills. This payment plan divides the estimated annual energy cost into equal monthly payments. To discuss Budget Billing or other payment arrangements, or to learn about a variety of energy efficiency programs the company offers, call MidAmerican at 888-427-5632.

Your Guide to Emergency Home Storage by Alan K. Briscoe (Horizon Pub & Dist Inc., 2009) $7.98

GOING GREEN DOESN’T TAKE A LOT OF GREEN. Reinsulating your home and sealing air leaks can reduce your energy bills by up to 30%, which puts more green in your pocket. Using less energy means fewer greenhouse gasses and a cleaner environment for everybody.

Call us for a complimentary assessment to see if your home’s insulation measures up.

Ask Home: The 1000 Most Asked Questions by Julian Cassell (Spruce, 2009) $9.99 Old House New Home by Ros Byam Shaw (Ryland Peters & Small, 2009) $24.95

The Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook by Maggy Howarth (Firefly Books, 2009) $29.95

Recycled Home by Sally Bailey (Ryland Peters & Small, 2009) $29.95

Deck Designs, All New 3rd Edition: Great Design Ideas from Top Deck Designers by Steve Cory (Creative Homeowner, 2009) $19.95

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan Perkins (Storey Publishing, LLC, 2009) $18.95

319-277-7603 www.insulation.net 111 Washington St., Raymond, IA


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Repair or Replace? Air Conditioners and Water Heaters As long as you’ve got electronics and appliances in your home, you’re inevitably going to be faced with a choice: Something breaks. Now what? From a price perspective, if the cost to repair a household appliance is more than half the price of a new product, advances in energy efficiency will generally make buying a newer model the cheaper choice. Based on these numbers and considering today’s more environmentally friendly technologies, here’s a guide to when you should repair or replace major appliances.

AIR CONDITIONERS * Replace window units older than 10 years and central-air systems older than 10, but consider alternative cooling methods.

Upgrading your window units to a more efficient model can cut energy bills by an average of $14 a year, estimates the Energy Star program. The most efficient room air conditioners have higher-efficiency compressors, fan motors and heat-transfer surfaces than previous models. Central ACs are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER)—for which most 1992 to 2005 models score about a 10; older ACs have ratings of only 6 or 7. New minimum standards set in 2006 require

current central-air units to have a SEER of at least 13. Because of the coolants used, old room-AC units need to be disposed of in hazardous waste facilities; old central units are usually disposed of by the contractor hired to install the new unit, but always ask ahead of time to ensure proper disposal.

Before you buy, however, consider alternatives such as ceiling fans, evaporative coolers (if you live in a dry climate), whole-house fans and landscaping or decorating changes, all of which can keep your home comfortable for a fraction of the cost.

WATER HEATERS * Replace all electric heaters, and any gas heaters older than 10 years.

If you have an electric heating system, you can achieve a 50 percent energy savings used by switching to a high-efficiency gas model. Gas heating systems can last for about 25 years but will operate for years at very low efficiency before they finally fail; if yours is more than 10 years old, it probably operates at less than 50 percent efficiency and deserves to be replaced. Consider a “demand,” or tankless, system, in which water is circulated through a large coil and heated only when needed. Although EnergyStar doesn’t certify these models, the government estimates that they can save between 45 and 60 percent of water heating energy and up to $1,800 a year when compared to standard, minimum-efficiency heaters.

• Federal Tax Credits may apply up to 30% Unlimited • Replaces current Water Heater • Save on natural gas costs • Installed in just one day

DIY on a dime: Attach chalkboards to the outside of kitchen cabinets for a useful, budget-friendly and fun facelift.


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009

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Different Strokes Just because you’re a rookie painter doesn’t mean you have to act like one. Here’s what you need to know. – CTW

Take a room from blasé to bold with the stroke of an arm. From mocha to mauve, a do-it-yourself paint job creates color without spending too much green. Grab a bucket, hold your brush and get ready for your walls to wear a new coat. 1. Respect the budget. When sizing up the cost of your paint job, assess the surface area of the room. “You don’t need the most expensive products for good quality,” says Alison Hall, editor at home-decorating magazine, Domino. Hall recommends Benjamin Moore for moderately priced paints and Ralph Lauren’s line for a small-room splurge. One gallon covers a tiny room but plan on multiple gallons for larger spaces. Arm each painter with a large roller and have at least one small roller for tricky areas. 2. Know the time. Don’t forget to include time on your list of supplies. When Chicagoan Mary O’Brien and her husband decided to perk up the pigment downstairs, she recalls it took time more than anything else. “With the primer, two coats and hours of drying time in between, it took longer than we anticipated,” she says. 3. Test your ideas. For Hall, the most powerful case of painter’s remorse comes from committing to color too quickly. “Never pick a shade without painting with swatches first. Leave the test paint patch up for a week and see how it changes throughout the day.” Aim for an area about 3 feet by 3 feet, and put it on a focus wall. Observe the pigment for few days to get a sneak peak to the feel of full-color coverage. 4. Stay true. While the trend in tints may lean to soothing colors like blues, grays and plums, Hall advises to choose a color that you love. “Don’t try to match to a piece of furniture, throw pillow or art because if you switch your style or swap out your accessories, it will be difficult to work with the room.” But don’t be afraid of color. Balance bold in one room with mellow in the other. “If you pick red for one room, use gray in the next.” 5. Use water-based paints. Oil-based paints coat beautifully but can only be cleaned with turpentine. From brushes to smudges, with oil-based paints, you’ll need turpentine on deck at all times. 6. Clean before coating. “If you don’t dust before starting you’ll add unintentional texture to the walls when painting,” Hall says. Move all furniture first so you don’t miss the hidden spots behind the sofa, bed or in corners.

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7. Prepare properly with painters tape. Hall sees the over-anxious make mistakes. “Don’t just wake up one day and start painting.” Tape everything from the ceiling to the floor and around all the moldings and windows in between. O’Brien warns not to leave the tape on too long after drying. “We accidentally peeled

away paint when we removed the tape.” 8. Keep it fun. Forget paint by numbers, try painting by music. Make a play list for your iPod. For O’Brien keeping the songs on shuffle paced the, at times, tedious paint project. It may be on budget but it doesn’t have to be boring – find the rhythm with your rollers. Get $4,000 cash toward your new home when you purchase today! There’s never been a better time to buy a new home. With your $4,000 cash allowance from Wausau Homes you can choose from among hundreds of upgrades and customizable features. All are available for you to view at our sales center.

• Closing Costs • Fireplace • Top of the line Kitchen Appliances • Cabinet Upgrades • Laminate Floors • And more Get started today and your new home will be ready before you know it. That’s the Wausau Homes promise: Delivering on time, with firm pricing, your way.

319-352-1013 Barth Steere, Owner

Call Barth or Chad today and see how we’re redefining the building experience. www.SteereHomeBuilders.com


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First-time buyers can get $8,000 tax credit FOR YEARS, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS CONSIDERED IT IMPORTANT FOR AMERICANS TO OWN HOUSES. HOME OWNERSHIP HELPS FAMILIES BUILD WEALTH, GIVES THEM A SAFE AND STABLE PLACE TO STAY, AND CREATES COMMUNITIES OF STAKEHOLDERS WHO PULL TOGETHER TO MEET EACH OTHER’S NEEDS. Home ownership is so important, in fact, that the government does something exceptional to encourage people to own a house. It gives a big tax break. Generally, the interest someone pays on their home loan is deducted on their federal income tax filings. Depending on a person’s income and how much they deduct, the savings can be substantial. It’s another reason why owning a home is one of the greatest wealthbuilding tools a person can have. FIND YOURSELF A GOOD AGENT A good Realtor makes a big difference with anyreal estate purchase, but especially for a first-time homebuyer. Look for a Realtor who isnot only well qualified and knowledgeable about thearea you want to live in,but also one who is patientand takes the time to reallyget to know your needs.After all, an important roleof a Realtor — especiallyfor inexperienced buyers— is that of a teacher. FIRST-TIME TAX CREDIT Until Dec. 1, 2009, first-time home buyers get an even bigger bonus: up to $8,000 back from Uncle Sam. To encourage home sales after the real estate slow down, the federal government is offer-ing first-time home buyers —defined as anyone who has not owned a home in the past three years — a 10 percent reward for buying a home, up to a maxi-mum of $8,000. There are some limitations, like an income cap of $75,000 for single buyers or $150,000 for couples, so talk to your Realtor to get details. But this is essentially money sitting on the table for people who haven’t owned a house recently. A BUYER’S MARKET When you combine all these reasons together — a buyer’s market, tax savings, and all the other advantages that come with home ownership — it’s clear that now is a rare and wonderful time for real estate buyers. Buying a new home can be a daunting process, but it’s also a rewarding decision in more ways than one. There are financial benefits, of course, but there are also the priceless memories made with friends and family, the joy of personalizing your own space, and the pride in owning the place you call home. For anyone who wants to take advantage of a great opportunity in real estate, now is the time to do it.


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009

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Setting The Stage For Showings

One of the most effective-and also one of the easiest-services you can offer sellers is to make sure their home looks its best. Stand at the front door and try to imagine that you are a prospective buyer. Almost always, the rooms are too cluttered. Start by removing the first thing in your way and go on

from there. Gradually, a path opens up, and the features of the house start to emerge. In each room, have three goals: 1. Depersonalizing the space by removing family photos, taking everything off the refrigerator, and stripping the kids’ rooms of posters and baseball trophies. 2. Clearing high-traffic areas of excess furnishings to maximize feelings of space and comfort. 3. Highlighting the key features in every room such as fireplaces or French doors by making sure they’re not obscured by plants or furnishings. Sometimes, when you’re selling a vacant house, you need to switch gears and add a little clutter. A home listed recently was 3,000 square

feet and felt like a big, old barn inside.The seller to brought some items from her home so that they could create a warm and friendly atmo-

sphere. She brought over two table settings for the breakfast bar, wine glasses, decorative pillows, candles, floral arrangements, towels for the

baths, and pretty items for the shelves and counters. The result was that the house sold almost immediately at close to full price. - www.Realtor.org


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Setting The Stage For Showings

One of the most effective-and also one of the easiest-services you can offer sellers is to make sure their home looks its best. Stand at the front door and try to imagine that you are a prospective buyer. Almost always, the rooms are too cluttered. Start by removing the first thing in your way and go on

from there. Gradually, a path opens up, and the features of the house start to emerge. In each room, have three goals: 1. Depersonalizing the space by removing family photos, taking everything off the refrigerator, and stripping the kids’ rooms of posters and baseball trophies. 2. Clearing high-traffic areas of excess furnishings to maximize feelings of space and comfort. 3. Highlighting the key features in every room such as fireplaces or French doors by making sure they’re not obscured by plants or furnishings. Sometimes, when you’re selling a vacant house, you need to switch gears and add a little clutter. A home listed recently was 3,000 square

feet and felt like a big, old barn inside.The seller to brought some items from her home so that they could create a warm and friendly atmo-

sphere. She brought over two table settings for the breakfast bar, wine glasses, decorative pillows, candles, floral arrangements, towels for the

baths, and pretty items for the shelves and counters. The result was that the house sold almost immediately at close to full price. - www.Realtor.org


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Sale ends November 28th Pella Window & Door Showroom 4116 University Ave. Cedar Falls

See store for details. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. INTERNET ACCESS IS REQUIRED TO ENTER. Sale ends November 28th.


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