FREE FIRST TIME HOMEBUYER WORKSHOP

The Homeownership Resource Center
A division of Family Services, Inc.

FREE FIRST TIME HOMEBUYER WORKSHOP

$3,500 TO Qualified Recipents!

When:  January 16th

Time:  9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Location:  Trident One Stop
                   1930 Hanahn Road
                    North Charleston

Want to own your own home?  Let us show you how!  Don’t miss you opportunity to take advantage of the $8,000 fedral tax credit.  Workshop topics include qualifying for the tax credit, buying HUD properties and foreclosures, budgeting, credit scores, fees, current market conditions, and much more!  Participants may also be eligible for other downpayment and/or closing cost assistance grants or loans.

 REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

To register visit www.fsic.org, or call 843-732-7682

TERMS, CONDITIONS, AND TIME RESTRICTIONS APPLY 

I thought this workshop might  benefit someone and thought I’d pass the information on.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Water Heaters: 5 Tips to Save Energy

Water heating accounts for up to 25% of household energy costs, but there are inexpensive things you can do to increase efficiency and reduce energy bills.
 
In the fight to save energy, your water heater is a born loser. That's because most houses in this country have a conventional storage-type water heater. That 50-gallon tank in the basement wants to keep water hot, so it will be ready whenever you turn on the tap. But as the water sits, it naturally begins to cool down, a process known as standby heat loss. When it does, the burner or heating element kicks on to warm it up again, in a constantly repeating cycle. According to the Department of Energy, water heating accounts for 14% to 25% of your household's total energy costs. But there are easy, low-cost steps you can take to reduce standby losses-and your hot-water bill, too. Try these five, and you'll start seeing a difference right away.

Wrap your heater in a blanket

Just as you wouldn't send little Susie out into the cold without a jacket, your water heater needs help to stay warm, especially if it's in an unheated space. A fiberglass insulating blanket can cut heat loss by 25% to 40% and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill of $308, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (http://www.aceee.org) (ACEEE).

Insulating blankets are cheap, usually less than $30 at the home center, and it's easy to install one yourself. Follow the included directions, and take care not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet, exhaust, or top of the tank on a gas unit.

If your water heater is fairly new, check the manufacturer's recommendations first. Many newer units already have insulating foam built in; on these models, an after-market jacket could block a critical component.

Install low-flow fixtures

One of the surest ways to cut hot water costs is to use less of it. According to the ACEEE, a family of four uses 700 gallons of hot water per week. By installing low-flow showerheads (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/low-flow-showerheads-how-to-choose/) and faucet aerators, which cost as little as $10 to $20 each, you can cut hot water consumption by 25% to 60%. These devices are easy to install and will save 14,000 gallons of hot water annually, plus the energy it takes to heat it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov) estimates the average U.S. household water bill at $474 a year. By cutting water consumption in half, you'll save more than $200 annually.

Turn down the temperature

Many water heaters come from the factory with the temperature set needlessly high. For every 10 degrees you turn it down, you'll save another 3% to 5% on your bill, according to ACEEE. A setting between 120 and 140 degrees is plenty hot for most uses. Just don't go below 120 degrees, which could lead to the unsafe growth of bacteria inside the tank.

If the thermostat on your water heater doesn't have a numbered gauge, put it midway between the "low" and "medium" marks. Wait a day, then measure the temperature at the tap with a standard cooking thermometer. Keep adjusting this way until you hit your target temperature.

Drain the sediment

Tanks naturally build up sediment, which reduces the unit's efficiency and makes it more expensive to operate. "Imagine an inch of sand inside your water heater," explains David Chisholm of manufacturer State Water Heaters. "When you get a layer at the bottom of the tank, you have to heat up that sediment before you can heat up the water."

Draining the tank is relatively easy. Turn off the water and power to the unit (set the burner on a gas unit to "pilot"). Then connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the tank. With the other end of the hose at a lower spot outside the house where discharging hot water poses no danger, carefully lift the pressure-relief valve at the top of the tank and turn on the spigot; water should begin to flow. While most manufacturers recommend draining the tank once or twice a year, you don't have to drain it completely; in fact, the Department of Energy (http://www.energy.gov) recommends draining less water more often-just a quart every three months.

Insulate exposed hot-water pipes

Like blanketing the tank, wrapping hot-water pipes with insulation reduces standby losses. Water arrives at the tap 2 to 4 degrees warmer, which means you won't have to stand around as long waiting for it to heat up, thus saving water, energy, and money. While this isn't an expensive job to do yourself-six-foot-long, self-sealing sleeves easily slip over pipes and cost about $2.50 each-it could take some effort, depending on where your hot water pipes are. Exposed pipes in the basement are an easy target, but if pipes are in a hard-to-reach crawl space or inside walls, it might not be worth the trouble.

Joe Bousquin's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, and Men's Journal. The owner of a 79-year-old home in Sacramento, Calif., he has a new reverence for his water heater.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

This Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Save Money With an Insulation Upgrade

Beefing up inadequate insulation is one of the quickest energy-payback projects you can do, resulting in lower heating and cooling bills and increased comfort.
 
Even if you live in an older home, there's no reason you need to shiver through the winter or roast in the summer. If your house doesn't have enough insulation-common in homes built before 1980, when energy awareness began to take hold-bringing it up to current standards will make it more comfortable all year long. Plus, you'll save anywhere from 10% to 50% on heating and cooling bills. The amount of savings for upgrading insulation depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of heating system you have, and how much insulation you add.
How to compare different types of insulation

On each type of insulation, a label states the R-value per inch, a measure of resistance to heat transfer. The bigger the number, the more effective the insulation. Where space is tight, such as within wall cavities, you need a high R-value per inch. In an attic or under a floor, where there is more room, you can boost the insulation value of a lower-rated material simply by using a thicker layer. As a rule, the more insulation you add, the more money you'll save. But there is a point beyond which you can spend more on materials than you'll recoup in lower energy bills. The tipping point varies depending on where you live. Consult the Department of Energy's zip-code specific recommendations (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html) for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Adding insulation in the attic

 The attic is a great place to start, because adding insulation there is quick, easy, and cost-effective. (To make any insulation upgrade more cost-effective, it's a good idea to seal air leaks (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/8-easy-ways-seal-air-leaks-around-house/) first.) In the Northeast, for example, upgrading attic insulation from R-11 to R-49 would cost around $1,500 if you hire a pro-half as much if you do it yourself-and, depending on the type of heat you have, save about $600.

To determine how much to add, look up the recommended amount for your area (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html), then subtract the value of your existing insulation. If you don't know, you can figure it out using the Home Energy Saver online energy audit tool (http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/makingithappen/no_regrets/insulationold.html).
There are two ways to improve attic insulation. In unfinished space, you can simply add layers to what is already on the floor. Or, if you're thinking about finishing the attic, you can put the insulation against the roof. Insulating the roof is the better method if heating and cooling ducts pass through the space, or if you live in a humid climate and want to cut down on musty smells coming from the attic.

If you're doing the job yourself (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-it-pays-to-do-it-yourself/), blanket-type material is easiest to work with. Just be careful not to compress it or it won't be as effective. If you're hiring a contractor, go with loose-fill cellulose or fiberglass, which fills crevices better. You'll pay a pro around $1 a square foot to blow in material; DIY batts cost about half that.

If you're insulating the roof, sprayed foam polyurethane (http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11600) works best because it molds to rafters, blocks water vapor, and has a high R-rating per inch. Expect to pay about double the cost of loose-fill insulation.

No matter which method you choose, federal tax credits (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-credits-adding-or-replacing-insulation/) of up to $1,500 are available to defray the cost of materials.

Adding insulation to walls on main floors

It's fairly easy to add insulation in stud bays where none exists. (To check, cut the power to a few outlets on exterior walls, then unscrew and look behind the cover plates.) A contractor drills small holes through the inside or outside wall and blows in material. Costs range from around $1.25 per square foot for loose-fill fiberglass, cellulose, or rock wool to $4.40 for polyurethane foam, which insulates about twice as well.
If your walls already have some insulation, you probably can't add more without tearing into the drywall or plaster. That's not cost effective unless you're remodeling, so the best strategy may be to wait until you need to replace siding (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/your-guide-to-replacement-siding-options/). Then you can add insulating sheathing underneath it.

Basements and crawl spaces

Even though hot air rises, homes lose heat in all directions. So besides insulating the top and sides of your house, you also need to insulate the bottom, where as much as 30% of energy loss can occur. As with the attic, you have two choices: Insulate under the bottom floor and treat the crawl space or basement as outdoor space, or insulate the walls and treat the area as indoor space. In that case, you would close off all exterior vents except those needed for combustion air or exhaust.

Though floor insulation is more common, wall insulation has many advantages, including cost-it takes about a third less material to insulate the walls of a 36-by-48-foot basement as to insulate the subfloor above. A key detail, not understood by all builders, is to place a layer of rigid foam insulation against the foundation to keep moisture from condensing against the cold walls. If you want to finish the basement, you can cover the foam with a stud wall, fill it with unfaced fiberglass insulation, and cover with drywall.

Jeanne Huber is the author of 10 books about home improvement and writes a weekly column about home care for the Washington Post.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

8 Easy Ways to Seal Air Leaks Around the House

For what the typical family wastes every year on air leaks–about $350–you can plug energy-robbing gaps, start saving money, and enjoy a more comfortable home.

A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget-roughly $350-on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It's among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort, according to Energy Star. Start in the attic, since that's where you'll find some of the biggest energy drains. Then tackle the basement, to prevent cold air that enters there from being sucked into upstairs rooms. Finally, seal leaks in the rest of the house. Here are eight places to start.

1. Insulate around recessed lights

Most recessed lights have vents that open into the attic, a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it's easy to see why researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed them as a leading cause of household air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT, for "insulation contact and air tight," are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don't see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle ($8-$30 at the home center) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

2. Plug open stud cavities

Most of your house probably has an inner skin of drywall or plaster between living space and unheated areas. But builders in the past often skipped this cover behind knee walls (partial-height walls where the roof angles down into the top floor), above dropped ceilings or soffits, and above angled ceilings over stairs.

Up in the attic, you may need to push insulation away to see if the stud cavities are open. If they are, seal them with unfaced fiberglass insulation ($1.30 a square foot) stuffed into plastic garbage bags; the bag is key to blocking air flow. Close large gaps with scraps of drywall or pieces of reflective foil insulation ($2 a square foot). Once you've covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place. To see these repairs in action, consult Energy Star's DIY guide to air sealing (http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/DIY_Guide_May_2008.pdf).

3. Close gaps around flues and chimneys

Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least one inch from metal flues and two inches from brick chimneys. But that creates gaps where air can flow through. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing ($12) cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk ($20). To keep insulation away from the hot flue pipe, form a barrier by wrapping a cylinder of flashing around the flue, leaving a one-inch space in between. To maintain the spacing, cut and bend a series of inch-deep tabs in the cylinder's top and bottom edges.

4. Weatherstrip the attic access door

A quarter-inch gap around pull-down attic stairs or an attic hatch lets through the same amount of air as a bedroom heating duct. Seal it by caulking between the stair frame and the rough opening, or by installing foam weatherstripping around the perimeter of the hatch opening. Or you can buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit, such as the Energy Guardian from ESS Energy Products ($150).

5. Squirt foam in the medium-size gaps

Once the biggest attic gaps are plugged, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to three inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about half an inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses. 

6. Caulk the skinny gaps

Caulk makes the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

7. Plug gaps in the basement

Gaps low on a foundation wall matter if you're trying to fix a wet basement, but only those above the outside soil level let air in. Seal those with the same materials you'd use in an attic: caulk for gaps up to 1/4-inch wide and spray foam for wider ones. Use high-temperature caulk around vent pipes that get hot, such as those for the furnace or water heater. Shoot foam around wider holes for wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement walls to the outside.

In most older houses with basements, air seeps in where the house framing sits on the foundation. Spread a bead of caulk between the foundation and the sill plate (the wood immediately above the foundation), and along the top and bottom edges of the rim joist (the piece that sits atop the sill plate).

8. Tighten up around windows and doors

In the main living areas of your home, the most significant drafts tend to occur around windows and doors. If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weatherstripping goes a long way toward tightening them up. Bronze weatherstripping ($12 for 17 feet) lasts for decades but is time-consuming to install, while some self-stick plastic types are easy to put on but don't last very long. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years. Nifty gadgets called pulley seals ($9 a pair) block air from streaming though the holes where cords disappear into the frames. Weatherstripping also works wonders on doors. If a draft comes in at the bottom, install a new door sweep ($9).

Before working in the attic, take some precautions

Try to do attic work on a cool day. Wear protective gear: disposable clothes, gloves, and a double-elastic mask or half-face respirator. Bring along a droplight with a fluorescent bulb, plus at least two pieces of plywood big enough to span two or three joists to support you as you work. To save trips up and down a ladder, try to move up all of the materials you need before you get started. One warning: If you find vermiculite insulation, hold off until you've had it checked for asbestos; your health department or air-quality agency can recommend a lab.

Jeanne Huber writes a home-repair column for the Washington Post and has commissioned three new roofs on various houses over the years.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210  

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 
Article from HouseLogic.com

 

 

Pending Home Sales Down From Surge

Contract activity for pending home sales fell after a surge of activity in preceding months to beat the original deadline for the first-time home buyer tax credit. However, it remains comfortably above the level from a year ago, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 16 percent to 96.0 from an upwardly revised 114.3 in October, but is 15.5 percent higher than November 2008 when it was 83.1.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a drop was expected. “It will be at least early spring before we see notable gains in sales activity as home buyers respond to the recently extended and expanded tax credit,” he said. “The fact that pending home sales are comfortably above year-ago levels shows the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own. We expect another surge in the spring as more home buyers take advantage of affordable housing conditions before the tax credit expires.”

Buyers who have a contract in place to purchase a primary residence by April 30 have until June 30 to finalize the transaction to qualify for the tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.

By Region

The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 25.7 percent to 74.4 in November but is 14.7 percent above a year ago.

In the Midwest the index fell 25.7 percent to 82.0 but is 9.2 percent higher than November 2008.

Pending home sales in the South fell 15.0 percent to 97.8, but are 14.7 percent higher than a year ago.

In the West the index declined 2.7 percent to 124.6 but is 21.4 percent above November 2008.

Interest Rates Likely to Go Higher

Yun projects an additional 900,000 first-time buyers will qualify for the extended tax credit, in addition to about 2 million who have already purchased; 1.5 million repeat buyers also are expected to benefit from the credit.

“Many trade-up buyers, who have historically timed their purchase based on school-year considerations, will have to accelerate their buying plans if they need the tax credit to make a trade,” Yun said. Repeat buyers do not have to sell their existing home to qualify for the credit, but they must occupy the home they buy as their primary residence.

Yun added that mortgage interest rates cannot remain at rock-bottom levels for a sustained period and will likely inch higher in 2010. But the tax credit impact in the first half of the year and expected job-growth impact in the second half will support home buying activity and absorb enough inventory to bring a rough balance between buyers and sellers. Home prices are expected to stabilize or even modestly rise as a result in 2010.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/  

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210  

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Real Estate Buyers Comparisons, 1999 vs. 2009

In the last decade, a lot has changed in the real estate industry from how buyers go through the process to how prices have changed while some things haven’t changed like the median age of buyers, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS.

Below are some real estate buyer comparisons of 1999 and 2009:

1.  1999: 37% of buyers searched for a home online. 2009: 90% of buyers searched for a home online.

2.  1999: median home value is $137,600. 2009: median home value is $172,600 (but not that some reports reflect that when accounting for inflation, the value hasn’t changed at all this decade).

3.  1999: 82% of buyers purchased detached, single family homes. 2009: 78% of buyers purchased detached, single family homes.

4.  1999: 46% of buyers choose suburban neighborhoods. 2009: 54% of buyers choose suburban neighborhoods.

5.  1999: 68% of buyers were married couples. 2009: 60% of buyers are married couples.

6.  1999 and 2009: the median age for buyers was 39.

7.  1999 and 2009: “neighborhood quality, affordability, and convenience to work and school have consistently been top priorities.”

Overall the only major shift has been in the rise of online search which was predictable.  Which stats most strike you?

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

8 Ways to Get Out of Debt and Start Saving for the New Year

What will you be looking forward to in the New Year? Buying your first home? Sending your last kid off to college? Or obsessing over your own personal mountain of debt, even more worrisome in this uncertain economy? It may feel like “Resolution Impossible,” but if you follow Eric Tyson’s advice, you’ll remember ‘10 as the year you finally took control of your financial future.

“While the situation is improving, Americans carry too much consumer debt,” says Tyson, author of Personal Finance for Dummies, 6th Edition.. “If you have credit card debt or auto loans, take some solace in the fact that you’re far from alone and that many others have overcome these hurdles. Consumer debt is not okay, particularly in a slow economy such as this one. It can damage your personal relationships and mental well-being, not to mention the stability of your financial future.”

Here are a few tips from Tyson that will help you improve your financial health in 2010:
 
Partake in a little self-reflection. A misaligned mindset toward spending and shopping—compulsive or otherwise—can severely affect your financial and personal well-being. If you think you might have a problem with shopping or spending, there are several questions you should ask yourself:

-Do I feel guilty about shopping?
-Is my shopping causing financial trouble?
-Is my shopping, spending, and accumulated debt leading to feelings of helplessness, anger, confusion, fear, or depression?

Make a plan and stick to it. The reason so many New Year’s resolutions fail is that we simply state the thing we want to improve and then never create a plan for helping us get from point A to point B. Most people don’t like to plan unless we’re talking about something fun, like a vacation. But actually, planning for your financial future is a little like planning a vacation. You’re organizing your money and time so that you get to do all the great things you want when you get there. Look at it that way, and you might actually enjoy the process.

Get rid of your four-wheeled debt. Too many people define necessities by what those around them have. A brand new car is not a necessity, although some people try to make it one by saying, “I need a way to get to work.” Guess what? There are plenty of far less expensive used cars out there that will also make it to your office. If you take out an auto loan to buy a car that you really can’t afford and you take a similar approach with other consumer items you don’t truly need, you’re going to have great difficulty saving money and accomplishing your goals. Moreover, you’ll probably feel stressed all the time—which is a poor trade-off for the (short-lived) “new car smell.”

Start making your purchases based on need, not emotion. It can be easy to give in to all of those advertisements telling us how much we “need” that new car, expensive gym membership, or trendy outfit. Marketers play on insecurities, fears, and guilt and suggest that you can feel better about yourself by buying their products. You won’t be able to overcome spending and consumer debt until you recognize these pressures and how they corrupt your buying decisions.

Research before you enter the store. Prior to going shopping for necessities that aren’t everyday purchases—say, a new refrigerator—do some research first. Your research will help you identify brands, models, and so on that are good values. You don’t want to make an expensive mistake.

Watch your food budget. Dine out less and keep stock of the groceries you already have. Learn to cook if you don’t know how. Try to keep a healthy inventory of groceries at home. This will minimize trips to the store and the need to impulsively dine out because your cupboard is bare. Try to do most of your shopping through discount warehouse-type stores, which offer low prices for buying in bulk, or grocery stores that offer bulk purchases. Saving on the amount you spend on food will help you put more money toward paying off your debt and eventually setting money aside for investments.

Become more energy efficient. Check out opportunities to make your home more energy efficient. Adding insulation and weather-stripping, installing water-saving devices, and reducing use of electrical appliances can pay for themselves in short order. Many utility companies will even do a free energy review or audit of your home and suggest money-saving ideas.

Watch what you are paying for insurance. Many people overspend on insurance by carrying coverage that’s unnecessary or that covers small potential losses. Coverage of small losses, such as $100 or $200, is not useful for most people since such a loss wouldn’t be a financial catastrophe.

“It won’t be easy getting out of debt, and it’s certainly not something you will be able to achieve overnight,” says Tyson. “Like losing weight, it’s something that takes constant dedication but has a great payoff in the end. Whenever you lose focus or feel like giving in, think about the wonderful benefits of financial well-being. Once you’re out of debt, the money you are able to invest will mushroom into substantial savings that will allow you to get more for your money,” concludes Tyson.

About the Author

Eric Tyson is one of the nation’s best-selling personal finance book authors and has penned five national bestsellers. His work has been featured and quoted in hundreds of local and national publications and media outlets. He was also a featured speaker at a White House conference on retirement planning. A dynamic and provocative speaker, he has spoken at many corporations and nonprofits.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

"Carolina Joe" Just Sold Another One!!!

MLS#: 2930880md – RES – SFD Status: Sold
Area: (52) CHS-Peninsula Chas. outside of crosstown
Municipality: (11) CITY OF CHARLESTON
Bedrooms: 3 Apx SqFt: 1,172
Bths Ful/Hlf: 1/0 Tax Map#: 460-03-02-127
Stories: 1 Story Apx YrBlt: 1941
Address: 16 DEWEY ST
City: CHARLESTON Zip: 29403-4121
Lot Size: 35X75 Acres: 0.00
Subdiv: NORTH CENTRAL Subsec:  
Grade Sch: JAMES SIMONS Middle Sch: BURKE
High Sch: BURKE
Possessn: At Closing New/Owned: Pre-owned
Legal Desc: LT 32
Style: Chassngl Fireplace: Living Rm, Bedroom, Three Special:  
Roof: Metal Foundation: Crawl Space Floors: Wood, Vinyl
Cooling:   Heat: Gas Utilities:  
Parking: Off-st Prkng        
        SqFt Source: Tax Records   $/Sqft: $74.23
Auction: N Auction Type:   Reserve Amt:  
Lot Desc:  
Exterior: Wood Siding
Master BR:  
Other Rms: Eat-in Kitch, Sep Dining, Laundry, Utility
Misc. Int:  
Misc. Extt: Enclosed Wood Fence, Part'l Fence
Wat/Sew: Public Water, Public Sewer
Amenities: Cable Available, Trash Pickup
Appliances: Gas Range, Washer Conn
Green Features:
Sold Price: $87,000 DOM/CDOM/DUC: 9/194 / 25 NewMortType: CASH
Close Date: 01/04/2010 CntrctDate: 12/10/2009 PrjClsDate:  
Sell Off: (1188) CAROLINA ONE REAL ESTATE
Phone: (843) 884-1800
Sell Agent: (10148) SHARYN NICHOLS
Phone: 843-416-3049
Sell Co-Off: (1188) CAROLINA ONE REAL ESTATE Seller Concessions: N Sell Co-Agent: (18635) DANIELLE NICHOLS

2930880_0042500.jpg

Tax Credits for Solar Water Heaters

A federal tax credit makes energy-efficient solar water heaters a more affordable and sustainable for many homeowners.
 
A solar water heater uses the renewable thermal energy produced by the sun to warm water for your shower, washing machine, and dishwasher. Better yet, it does it at a fraction of the price of a conventional storage tank water heater. If you take the plunge and purchase a solar water heater, expect to see your home's water-heating bill cut in half.

The financial attraction doesn't end there. A federal energy tax credit that's available through the end of 2016 allows homeowners to shave 30% off the cost of a system. Even new homes and second homes qualify. 

How solar water heaters work

Solar water heaters operate (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=solar_wheat.pr_how_it_works) in one of two ways: either as a direct system or as an indirect system. A direct system warms water by circulating it via pipes through rooftop solar collectors. An indirect system, also known as a closed-loop system, relies on a non-freezing heat transfer liquid.

The liquid is heated in the solar collectors and returns through pipes to a storage tank, where a heat exchanger inside the tank transfers the heat to the water. Most systems rely on electric pumps to move water (or a transfer liquid) between the storage tank and the rooftop solar collectors.

In general, solar water heaters can be used anywhere as long as your roof gets direct sunlight for most of the day. The rooftop collectors should face south. A direct system makes sense in warm climates where temperatures don't fall below freezing. The non-freezing liquid used in an indirect system makes it better suited for cold climates.

You'll need to retain your conventional water heater as a back-up at night, on cloudy days, or anytime a solar water heater's capacity is exceeded. An average person uses about 15 to 20 gallons of water per day, so a family of four would likely need an 80-gallon water heater tank.

The cost of a solar water heater

A solar water heater starts at around $4,000 including installation, though the price tag could double depending on the size, quality, and complexity of the system. Figure it'll take two to four days to install.

There's no cap on the 30% federal tax credit, which applies to systems placed in service between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2016. Solar water heaters must be certified by the Solar Rating & Certification Corp. (http://www.solar-rating.org/) to qualify. States may offer additional incentives. Check the DSIRE database (http://www.dsireusa.org/).

To earn the federal tax credit, at least half of your household's energy for water heating must come from the sun. You can only count money spent on the solar water heater, not the entire heating system. You can't claim the credit if the solar water heater is for a pool or hot tub.

Take the credit on IRS Form 5695 for the year you install the solar water heater. Remember to save receipts and manufacturer certification statements. The credit can't exceed the total amount you owed in federal taxes for the year.

The savings can add up

According to Energy Star, a federal program that promotes energy efficiency, a solar water heater can lower the average household's water-heating costs (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=solar_wheat.pr_savings_benefits) by 50%. If you use a gas water heater, that translates to savings of $190 a year. You'll save $265 annually if you have an electric water heater.

Savings are greater for large families that use a lot of hot water. How quickly you recoup your total investment depends on how much water you use, the amount of sun you get, the performance of your solar water heater, and how much it costs to heat up your water using your existing system.

If you're building a new home or refinancing your mortgage, consider lumping in the cost of a solar water heater with the loan. By spreading the cost (http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=12860) of the system over the life of your mortgage, you can take advantage of the tax deduction (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/deduct-interest-home-equity-loans/) for mortgage interest.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you'll pay an extra $13 to $20 per month to include the cost of a solar water heater in a 30-year mortgage. With the mortgage interest deduction that cost gets reduced by $3 to $5. The difference is about what you should save on your monthly energy bills.

Long life, little TLC

Solar water heaters have a life expectancy of 20 years or more, double that of conventional storage tank water heaters. They typically don't require replacement parts for the first 10 years. It's prudent to hire a qualified contractor to conduct annual inspections, as you might do with a furnace.

You can do your part by making sure the collector is clean, sealings aren't cracked, and fasteners connecting the collector to the roof are tight. Whether for installation or maintenance, look for contractors certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (http://www.nabcep.org).

Solar water heaters not only save money-they save the environment. The DOE says a solar water heater can cut the electric load of your water heater by 2,500 kilowatt hours annually, which prevents 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That's equal to not driving your car for four months a year.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Donna Rivera has written about alternative energy for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox Business News for more than a decade. She's currently renovating her house with an eye toward energy efficiency and green technologies.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.
 
To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Tax Credits for Replacing Windows, Doors, and Skylights

If money seems to be escaping through drafty windows, doors, and skylights, this federal tax credit might make energy-efficient replacements more affordable.
 
Does it feel like money is escaping through your home's drafty windows, doors, and skylights? You might be able to keep at least some of that cash in your pocket by taking advantage of federal energy tax credits for retrofitting your house with qualified energy-efficient replacements. You can claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for upgrading the windows, exterior doors, and skylights in your primary residence during 2009 and 2010.  The credit is based on 30% of the cost of materials, so a $5,000 purchase would max it out. But a tax credit alone isn't reason enough to start calling contractors. Do a little homework first. The true value of replacing aging windows, doors, and skylights isn't always an open-and-shut case.

Follow the 15-year rule for windows

A good rule of thumb for window replacement: Don't bother if they're less than 15 years old, says Jim Rooney, a home inspector in Annapolis, Md. The savings on your energy bills likely will be negligible since window technology hasn't changed that radically and the integrity of your windows should still be intact. Shoddy installation or poor manufacturing may call for exceptions to the 15-year rule. Windows that are 20, 30, or more years old are prime candidates for replacement.

Most of your focus should be on windows, since they're more numerous, but skylights are notorious for energy loss too, not to mention water leaks. Exterior doors tend to outlast windows, so keep them unless the upgrade is purely for aesthetic reasons. Besides, weather stripping and snug sweeps can boost the energy efficiency of exterior doors for a whole lot less money.

Adding up the costs-and savings

With windows, doors, and skylights, you get what you pay for. Expect to shell out between $500 and $1,000 per window including installation, or about $10,000 total for a moderately sized house of about 2,000 square feet. New energy-credit-qualified doors and skylights are also in the $500 to $1,000 range, including installation.

Tom Herron, of the National Fenestration Rating Council (http://www.nfrc.org), says products on the higher end of the cost scale are usually better constructed and more energy efficient. NFRC is a non-profit organization that administers the rating and labelling system for the energy performance of windows, doors, and skylights.

It could take years to recoup the upfront costs, but you should see an immediate reduction in your energy bills. In general, you'll save $126 to $465 a year if single-pane windows in a 2,000 square foot house are replaced with tax-credit-eligible windows, according to the Efficient Windows Collaborative, a trade group. That's 15% to 40% off the typical energy bill.

Do my replacements qualify?

A label alone doesn't guarantee your new windows, doors, and skylights qualify for the energy tax credit, but it does provide critical information related to eligibility. To qualify, windows, doors, and skylights must have a U-factor (http://www.efficientwindows.org/ufactor.cfm) of 0.30 or less and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (http://www.energycodes.gov/support/shgc_faq.stm) (SHGC) of 0.30 or less. The U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping, and the SHGC gauges how well a product blocks heat from the sun. Labels also carry information on light transmission, air leakage, and condensation resistance.

Herron, of the NFRC, says about 80% to 85% of the manufacturers in North America provide NFRC labels. All Energy Star qualified windows carry an NFRC label (http://www.nfrc.org/Label.aspx), according to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that promotes energy-efficient products and practices.

Resist the urge to trim costs by purchasing cheaper windows, doors, and skylights with poor U-factor and SHGC ratings. Not only will you miss out on the tax credit, energy bills won't come down much.

Taking advantage of the tax credit

A credit is especially valuable because it directly reduces the amount of tax owed, as opposed to a deduction, which lowers the amount of taxable income. To be eligible for the full credit you must owe more in federal taxes than you're trying to claim. Use IRS Form 5695 to take advantage of the credit, which is cumulative for 2009 and 2010 only. You can't claim $1,500 for each tax year, but you can spread the $1,500 over the two-year period.

Uncle Sam may want proof that your new windows, doors, and skylights meet energy-efficiency standards, so be sure to save receipts, product stickers, and certification statements. The latter can often be found on packaging or manufacturers' web sites. As for receipts, ask contractors to itemize expenses. Installation costs aren't eligible for the credit; only materials are.

Keep in mind that a variety of energy-efficiency improvements to your existing home, including insulation, roofs, and HVAC, count toward the credit limit. You can't claim separate $1,500 credits for each upgrade, nor can you claim the credit for a newly built home. Matt Golden, president and founder of San Francisco-based Sustainable Spaces (http://www.sustainablespaces.com), says homeowners can often lower energy costs for a lot less, and still get the tax credit, by insulating attics (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/save-money-with-insulation-upgrade/) instead.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Gil Rudawsky has been covering business and consumer issues as a reporter and an editor for 18 years, most recently as a deputy editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He lives in a house built in the 1930s, and always keeps the home's character in mind when making upgrades.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

 

Tax Credits for Replacing Heating and Cooling Systems

Upgrading to an energy-efficient heating and cooling system can save hundreds on your utility bills and up to $1,500 on your tax bill.

Replacing an aging heating and cooling system can save you money on energy costs. According to Energy Star, the federal government's program to promote energy-efficient products and practices, the average household spends about $1,900 a year on energy bills, with about half of that amount going toward heating and cooling. Upgrading your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to energy-efficient units can cut utility costs by about 20% or $200 annually, on average. This type of home improvement doesn't come cheap. Prices vary widely based on where you live, unit specifications, and the condition of your home, but figure a high-efficiency furnace will start at around $3,500, including installation, estimates Corbett Lunsford, executive director of Chicago-based Green Dream Group. A standard furnace may cost $2,400. To help offset the price difference, the IRS allows a tax credit worth up to $1,500 on eligible HVAC systems put into service during 2009 or 2010. Consult a tax adviser.

Pay attention to efficiency ratings

To earn an Energy Star rating, furnaces must be more efficient than standard units, with annual fuel utilization efficiency ratings, or AFUE, of 85% for oil furnaces and 90% for gas furnaces. The Energy Star seal of approval alone isn't enough to garner the federal tax credit. Credit-eligible (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index#c3) gas furnaces (either natural gas or propane) must have AFUE ratings of 95% or greater; oil furnaces, 90%. A boiler must have an AFUE of 90%.

Heating by burning a fuel is inherently inefficient. Simply put, high-efficiency furnaces have components that are better designed to get more heat out of the combustion process, Lunsford says. You'll need to hire an HVAC contractor to calculate the size of the equipment needed for your home. Beware bidders who take a one-size-furnace-fits-all approach. Air source heat pumps (http://energystar.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/energystar.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=5799) and advanced main circulating fans can also qualify for the $1,500 tax credit.

Technically, a homeowner could replace either a furnace or a central air-conditioning unit and be eligible for the tax credit. Practically speaking, you probably will have to replace both for the A/C to qualify, says Enesta Jones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most homes have split systems made up of an outdoor condenser and compressor that are connected to an indoor air handler that's part of the furnace. Split systems must have a SEER rating of at least 16 and an EER rating of at least 13. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the unit will have.  A package A/C system, which houses all of its components outdoors, requires lower ratings.

HVAC's value goes beyond savings

It typically takes about a decade's worth of energy savings to recoup the investment in a new HVAC system, Lunsford says, though that time frame can vary greatly depending on how much fuel prices fluctuate. Less apparent in dollar terms are increasing the comfort level in your home and lowering your household's drain on non-renewable fossil fuels. Then there's the effect on your home's value when it comes time to sell.

You're going to enhance a home's salability by moving to a more energy-efficient heating and cooling system, says Frank Lesh, president of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Indian Head Park, Ill. That doesn't mean adding a $5,000 furnace will add $5,000 to the sale price. Rather, potential buyers are less likely to push for repairs or negotiate a credit if the HVAC is in good shape. Evaluate systems older than 10 years for possible replacement.

But before you do, conduct a wider energy audit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/conduct-your-own-energy-audit/) of your home. Lunsford, also manager of consumer education for the U.S. Green Building Council's Chicago Chapter, says he rarely recommends replacing a furnace as the first step in making a home more energy efficient. Instead, start by sealing it against air leaks. Do-it-yourself caulking and weather-stripping help, as does adding insulation in the attic. Professional air sealing, which is more effective, can cost as much as $5,000 for a large house, he says. The payoff: Energy costs should go down, and you might be able to get by with a smaller HVAC system.

Getting tax credit for your upgrades

The federal energy tax credit is based on 30% of the cost of an eligible HVAC system. Installation charges count too. A $5,000 bill would max out the credit. You'll need to owe more in taxes than you're trying to claim in credits to qualify. Use IRS Form 5695. Save receipts for your records, as well as manufacturers' certification statements. If part of a new HVAC system qualifies for the credit but another part doesn't, ask the contractor to itemize the receipt.

The tax credit is aggregated for all qualifying energy upgrades-insulation, roofs, windows, and so on-so you can't claim separate $1,500 credits for each project. Only improvements to your existing primary residence count. New homes and second homes are excluded.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Suzanne Cosgrove, who spent nine years as an editor at the Chicago Tribune, has written for a number of business and real estate publications. She has a 90-year-old house and a long list of home-improvement projects.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Tax Credits for Adding or Replacing Insulation

Adding insulation is one of the easier and cheaper ways to improve your homes energy efficiency and cut your heating and cooling bills.
 
If putting a dent in your home's heating and cooling bills is a priority, then adding insulation needs to be at the top of your to-do list. It's a relatively affordable home-improvement project, and the savings can be felt almost immediately. Some DIYers can even tackle the project themselves over a weekend.  For a 2,200 square foot home, adding insulation to an attic can cost from $1,000 to $2,500 including labor, depending on how much you put in and how easy it is to install. Effort and expense go up when you add insulation to exterior walls or around hard-to-reach ductwork. A federal energy tax credit worth up to $1,500 can help defray the cost.

It all comes down to R-value

Insulation is measured in R-value, the resistance to heat flow. The higher the number the better the insulating power. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends R-values (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/insulation.html) between 30 and 60 for most attics. Take a peek in yours. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, then you probably need more.

There are different types of insulation, including fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool, spray foam, foam board, and cotton batting. The most familiar is pink fiberglass roll insulation. If you're not sure what's best suited for your home, check with an insulation contractor. Just about all insulation qualifies for the energy tax credit (more below) as long as its primary purpose is to insulate-insulated siding, for example, doesn't count-and it brings your home up to recommended R-value guidelines.  Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insulation_table), a joint program of the DOE and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, suggests R-38 insulation for most attics (or about 12-15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In colder climates, R-49 may be required. The DOE's online calculator (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html) can recommend R-values for all areas of your home's "envelope": attic, walls, floors, basement, and crawl spaces.

Generally, most homes built before 1980 have inadequate insulation. The easiest insulation to add is blown loose-fill insulation. You'll probably need to hire a contractor. Since insulating an attic isn't too complicated, you can get quotes-at least three-by phone. However, get a copy of the quote in writing before work starts, and be sure it specifies R-value. Michael Kwart, executive director of the Insulation Contractors Association of America (http://www.insulate.org/), recommends rolled insulation for do-it-yourselfers. New insulation can be added on top of existing insulation.

Savings and sustainability can add up

Depending on where you live and how much insulation you already have, adding more can trim heating and cooling costs anywhere from 10% to 50%. A homeowner in the Northeast with an uninsulated attic, for instance, can save about $600 a year by adding about 15 inches of insulation (R-38) between the rafters, according to the Energy Department. Just 6 inches can net annual savings of about $200.

The $1,500 federal tax credit (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index) can be applied toward 30% of the cost of insulation installed in your primary residence during 2009 and 2010. Let's say you spend $1,760 on enough R-38 roll fiberglass to insulate the attic of your 2,200 square foot home. That's $40 per 50 square feet retail, a fair estimate. You'll be able to subtract $528 (30% of $1,760) straight off the top of your tax bill, as long as you paid more in federal taxes than you're claiming in credits. Since a typical homeowner won't be able to use up the entire tax credit on insulation alone, the remainder can be applied to other qualifying energy-efficiency upgrades like new windows (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-credits-replacing-windows-doors-and-skylights/) or roofing (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-credits-replacing-your-roof/). Just keep in mind that the total credit claimed for all of these improvements can't exceed $1,500 for the two-year period.

Save receipts, and if a contractor did the work, get a receipt that's itemized. Labor costs, typically 25% of the total bill, according to Kwart, don't count toward the tax credit. There's no need to file receipts when you claim the credit on Form 5695, but the IRS could ask you to cough one up later. Also hold on to product stickers from packaging that show R-values and manufacturers' certification statements that attest to tax-credit worthiness. Check manufacturers' websites for a copy of the statement. If you're building a new home, you're out of luck; only existing homes qualify for this tax credit, which can't be carried over into future years.

Adding insulation is just the beginning

In conjunction with adding new insulation, conduct a whole-house energy audit (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/paid-energy-audits-the-costs-and-benefits/) to find other ways to reduce power consumption and save even more on monthly bills. Caulk around drafty windows and doors, and stop gaps in siding and the foundation, says Matt Golden, president and founder of San Francisco-based Sustainable Spaces (http://www.sustainablespaces.com/). Reducing a home's air leakage by 25% can lower annual energy costs by about $300, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (http://www.lbl.gov/).

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Gil Rudawsky has been covering business and consumer issues as a reporter and an editor for 18 years, most recently as a business editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He lives in a house built in the 1930s, and always keeps the home's character in mind when making upgrades.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Tax Credits for Replacing Your Roof

Upgrading to a qualifying energy-efficient metal or asphalt roof can cut your cooling bill as well as knock off up to $1,500 from your tax bill. 

The roof of your house protects against more than rain. The sun's rays beat down relentlessly, especially during summer. The intense heat can raise the temperature inside your home. Proper venting and insulation help keep the cool air in and the warm air out. So, too, do energy-efficient roofing materials, which take the brunt of the solar onslaught. Uncle Sam is encouraging homeowners to improve the roofs of their primary residences with a tax credit worth up to $1,500.  During 2009 and 2010, you can claim a credit for 30% of the cost of qualifying asphalt or metal roofing materials. The credit, which should be taken on IRS Form 5695 for the tax year in which the work is completed, can be split between 2009 and 2010 but can't exceed $1,500 total for both years. You can't claim more in credits than you owe in taxes.

Metal vs. asphalt roofs

To qualify for the tax credit, you must use either metal or asphalt roofing materials that are designed to reduce heat gain-the amount of heat transferred into a home-and meet the requirements of Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov), a federal program that promotes energy-efficient products and practices. Metal roofs must have appropriate pigmented coatings and asphalt roofs must have appropriate cooling granules. Asphalt materials can be either traditional shingles or modified bitumen (rolled asphalt sheets). Energy Star has a list (http://downloads.energystar.gov/bi/qplist/roofs_prod_list.pdf) of all of its approved roofing products, but only the metal and asphalt materials may qualify for the tax credit.

It's a good idea to hang on to manufacturers' certification statements (http://www.gerardusa.com/Energy%20Star/ESTaxCert.pdf) that attest to the tax credit-worthiness of the roofing materials you purchase. These can usually be found on product packaging or company websites. You don't need to file these with your tax return, but the IRS could ask for them later. Consult a tax adviser.

Dean Kucharski, a 22-year veteran of the roofing business in Pontiac, Mich., estimates that for a typical 2,200-square-foot home, a mid-range asphalt roof will run about $7,000 to $12,000, including labor. The good news is that it will likely last 20 years or more. For a metal roof, expect to pay twice as much, though it can last for 50 years, he says. If you hire a contractor, get an itemized bill that breaks out the cost of materials since labor doesn't count toward the tax credit. Materials should account for about half the bill on standard roofing jobs.

How much roof do I have?

You can get a rough estimate of how much roofing material you'll need by figuring the square footage of the footprint of your home and adding about one-third more to account for roof pitch, overhangs, dormers, gables, and so on. Roofing contractors often quote in terms of "squares." One square equals 100 square feet. So if a roofer says your house is 20 squares, it means it's roughly 2,000 square feet-20 times 100.

Once you're ready to pick a roof type, Kucharski suggests talking to an area building wholesaler or a company that specializes in roofing materials. It's important to consult with someone who knows what types of materials are appropriate for a given region's climate. Big-box retailers may not have as wide a selection or knowledgeable staff.

Finding a good roofer entails the same steps as finding any qualified contractor: ask neighbors for recommendations, collect at least three bids, check references, and get everything in writing. Craig Silvertooth, executive director of the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (http://www.roofingcenter.org/), recommends finding a contractor through the National Roofing Contractors Association (http://www.nrca.net/), which has about 4,000 members.

Save on cooling bills

You'll get the most bang for your roof-renovation buck if you live in a hot climate, namely the South and Southwest. Expect to save between 7% and 15% on your cooling costs with energy-efficient roofing materials, says Michelle Van Tijen of the Cool Roofs Rating Council (http://www.coolroofs.org/). If you pay $300 a month to cool your home, figure you'll cut your monthly bill by up to $45.

Ironically, with roofs there is such a thing as being too energy efficient. In winter months, roofing materials with very high heat-deflecting qualities can increase heating bills. However, you're more than likely to make up the difference on your air-conditioning costs. That's especially true if you live in an area where you run your air conditioner much of the year.

Think hard before replacing a roof that's in perfectly good shape. Consider instead a roof coating, a material painted over your existing roof that offers insulation and sun reflection, says Silvertooth. Roof coating costs about 75% less than replacing a roof, though it doesn't qualify for the tax credit. Another affordable way to save on cooling costs that doesn't even involve the roof is to add more insulation (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-credits-adding-or-replacing-insulation/) to your attic.  This home-improvement project can even be tackled by weekend warriors, and it qualifies for a federal tax credit.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Gil Rudawsky has been covering business and consumer issues as a reporter and an editor for 18 years, most recently as a business editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He lives in a house built in the 1930s, and always keeps the home's character in mind when making upgrades.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.
 
To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com