Replacing your front door can pay for itself by increasing your home’s value,  according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report.
What’s more,  if you choose an energy-efficient exterior door, you may qualify for a tax credit  that can save you up to $500 as well as trim up to 10% off your energy bills.  (With utility bills averaging $2,200 annually, that’s a savings of as much as  $220.)
But how do you know which door is right for you? Make your  decision by comparing the three main materials available for exterior doors:  steel, fiberglass and wood.


If you’re looking to save money, a steel door may be a good choice,  particularly if you have the skills to hang it yourself. A simple, unadorned  steel door can sell for as little as $150 (not including hardware, lock set,  paint, or labor) and typically runs as much as $400 at big-box retailers. Steel  offers the strongest barrier against intruders, although its advantage over  fiberglass and wood in this area is slight.
Even better, replacing your entry  door with a steel model preserves home value. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs.  Value Report estimates the total project cost of installing a 20-gauge steel  door at $1,137. The project, on average, returns 85.6% of cost, the highest  return value in the report.
Still, the attractive cost of a steel door  comes with an important caveat: Its typical life span under duress is shorter  than either fiberglass or wood. A steel door exposed to salt air or heavy rains  may last only five to seven years, according to Bob Bossard, general manager of  84 Lumber in Clarksville, Del. Despite steel’s reputation for toughness, it  actually didn’t perform well in Consumer Reports testing against wood and  fiberglass for normal wear and tear.
With heavy use, it may dent, and  the damage can be difficult and expensive to repair. If your door will be  heavily exposed to traffic or the elements, you may be better off choosing a  different material.


Fiberglass doors come in an immense variety of styles, many of which  accurately mimic the look of real wood. And if limited upkeep is your ideal,  fiberglass may be your best bet. “Nothing is maintenance-free,” Bossard says, “but fiberglass is pretty close. And it lasts twice as long as wood or steel.”
Fiberglass doesn’t expand or contract appreciably as the weather  changes. Therefore, in a reasonably protected location, a fiberglass entry  door can go for years without needing a paint or stain touch-up and can last 15  to 20 years overall. Although it feels light to the touch, fiberglass has a very  stout coating that’s difficult for an intruder to breach; and its foam core  offers considerable insulation.
Fiberglass generally falls between steel  and wood in price; models sold at big-box stores range from about $150 to $600.  Remodeling Magazine lists the cost of a fiberglass entry-door replacement  project at around $2,700. Although a fiberglass door doesn’t generate as high a  return as a steel door, it recoups about 66% in home value.


Wood is considered the go-to choice for high-end projects; its luxe look and  substantial weight can’t be flawlessly duplicated by fiberglass or steel, though  high-end fiberglass products are getting close. If your home calls for a  stunning entry statement with a handcrafted touch, wood may be the best material  for you.
Wood is usually the most expensive choice of the three—roughly  $500 to $2,000, excluding custom jobs—and requires the most maintenance,  although it’s easier to repair scratches on a wood door than dents in steel or  fiberglass. Wood doors should be repainted or refinished every year or two to  prevent splitting and warping. (Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value  Report doesn’t include a wood entry-door replacement  project.)
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your door  as well as its energy efficiency, you can purchase a solid wood door certified  by the Forest  Stewardship Council, which assures you that the wood was sustainably grown  and harvested.
Tracing the environmental impact of a particular  door—from manufacturing process to shipping distance to how much  recycled/recyclable content it contains—is quite complicated and probably beyond  the ken of the average homeowner, notes LEED-certified green designer Victoria  Schomer. But FSC-certified wood and an Energy Star rating are an excellent  start.
A final note on choosing a door based on energy efficiency:  Because efficiency depends on a number of factors besides the material a door is  made of—including its framework and whether it has windows—look for the Energy  Star label to help you compare doors. To qualify for the federal tax credit,  look for solar heat gain coefficient and U-factor values less than  0.3.


Refinancing Again

We’re constantly bombarded by lenders to refinance our mortgage under a variety of programs. The volume of offers can almost make you numb to the rational consideration.2012_avg_frm.png

There are common rules of thumbs that homeowners and agents use such as not refinancing more often than every two years or there must be at least 2% savings from your previous mortgage rate may not always be accurate.

The reality is that if you can refinance for a lower rate and you’ll be in the home long enough to recapture the cost of refinancing, it should be considered. The costs of previous refinancing that haven’t been recaptured by monthly savings may need to be added to the costs of the new refinance.

Take a look at the chart that shows the average rates according to Freddie Mac for 2012. They are lower today than they were in January of 2012 and for the ten years before that.

Refinancing may save you a substantial amount of money, especially if you’re going to be in your home for a long time. It is definitely worth investigating. To get a quick idea of what your savings could be, use this refinancing calculator.

If It Shows Better…

If it shows better, it will probably sell faster and maybe for more money. Once your home is on the market, it’s time to look at it like a commodity and through the eyes of potential buyers. In all likelihood, you’ll need to take care of these items eventually, so do them now to help it sell sooner.

  1. Make repairs – it doesn’t matter if it’s been that way since you bought it. You need to fix it so that the buyer doesn’t think that the rest of the house is about to fall apart.
  2. Not too personal – you may have bought your home to express yourself but if the buyer can’t see themselves in the home for all of your things, it’s going to take longer to sell than you want.
  3. Drive-up appeal – the old saying “you never get a second chance at a first impression” applies to your home too. They may never even get out of the car to come inside.
  4. The nose knows – it may not smell like home but it shouldn’t smell like a place they would never consider living.
  5. Neutral colors, decor, etc. – these are not decorating tips you’ll see in magazines but the truth is that bold colors and designs are difficult for most people to see beyond. They’ll imagine their things better in neutral surroundings.
  6. Less looks like more – removing some of the non-essential things from your home will eliminate clutter and make the home feel larger. The same suggestion applies to cabinets and closets.
A confused mind will not make a decision. Identify and eliminate items that could derail a potential sale. The preparation you make in the beginning will help the presentation to your buyers.

Sooner is Better than Later

Buyers who have delayed purchasing a home due to concerns about what might happen to the tax laws affecting home ownership should feel comfortable about getting back in the market. The recent legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President continues to value homes as a favored investment.soonorlater.png

For a summary of specific real estate provisions in the “Fiscal Cliff” bill, click here.

Whether the delayed purchase is for a home to live in as your principal residence or to use as rental property, taking action sooner is better than later.

Reasons to buy now:

  1. The house payment with taxes and insurance is probably cheaper than the rent.
  2. Rents will continue to rise making the difference even greater in the future.
  3. Lock-in the principal & interest payment with a fixed-rate mortgage.
  4. 30 year mortgage terms are available to most borrowers.
  5. The mortgage interest deduction is intact for the majority of taxpayers.
  6. The capital gain exclusion for principal residences up to $500,000 remains in place.
  7. Prices are going up due to lower inventories and several years of low housing starts.

Contact me about any specific questions you have or information you need.