How Green are You?

Green living is happening all over, we are a little slower here in Storm Lake and Alta Iowa but I am beginning to see some progress. Lots of people are very interested in saving money and the environment.

Check out the Green Links for just about everything:
There's sure to be at least a few that will be helpful, if you have favorites of your own please share them here too!

Green Business Guide - http://www.business.gov/guides/environment/
Best Green Blogs - http://www.bestgreenblogs.com/category/green-guides/
Green Auto Guide - http://www.cars.com/go/crp/buyingGuides/green/index.jsp
Save Gas Now - http://beyondoil.nrdc.org/fuel/gasprices
How to Reduce Your Energy Consumption - http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/genergy.asp
Energy Efficient Appliances - http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/fappl.asp
Recycling 101 - http://www.nrdc.org/cities/recycling/gsteps.asp
7 Steps for Creating Eco-Fabulous Interiors - http://www.nrdc.org/cities/living/gdesign.asp
Consumer Guide to Water Water Purifiers - http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/gfilters.asp
How to Go Green Bathroom Renovation - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/bathroom-renovation/index.html
How to Go Green Home Renovation - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/home-renovation/index.html
Green Natural Skin Care - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/natural-skin-care/index.html
Green Cleaning - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/green-cleaning/index.html
Green Lighting - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/green-lighting/index.html
Pellet Stoves - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/buying-guides/green-pellet-stoves.html
Consumer Reports Green Choices - http://www.greenerchoices.org/pcategories.cfm?pcat=appliances
EcoBroker - http://www.ecobroker.com/

One big way to be green - blog, it saves a lot of trees!

I am also interested in green alternatives to weed control, we bought an acerage this year and it has an abundance of weeks. I would rather not use nasty chemicals because I do have a large garden.

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Lustron - Rare Architectural Example in My Backyard

I came across this interesting home when I moved to Alta and once I became a REALTOR I found another one in Storm Lake. While doing some research for a very special Italianate home (which is a sub class of Victorian architecture) I saw a picture of one of these homes. The homes are called Lustron homes they are made out of steel, everything is steel - even the walls on the inside. Is that cool or what?? They are prefab homes built in 1949 and 1950 and I found out there are a number of them where I live (Midwest) and now I am sharing them with you! If you would like to learn more check out the book Lustron: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment (McFarland & Co., 2001).

Here is a link to find out more online - The Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has created a Web site, http://www.lustronpreservation.org/, for more. Stay tuned for more pictures and more info.


Iowa Statewide Housing Statistics

The Iowa Association of Realtors publishes housing statistical information and summarizes all boards that report.

Statewide the numbers stack up like this:
Comparing 2008 to 2007

January 2008 - Median Price down 18% and number of sales down 36%,
February 2008 - Median Price down 17% and number of sales down 11%,
March 2008 - Median Price down 18% and number of sales down 24%
April 2008 - Median Price down 1% and number of sales down 14%
May 2008 - Median Price down 17% and the number of sales down 15%
June 2008 - Median Price down 1% and the number of sales down 31%
July 2008 - Median Price UP 1% and the number of sales down 9%
I expect to see these numbers getting into positive territory very soon, once the election is over and the economy stabilizes.

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Storm Lake and Local Area Housing Market Report - January through July 2008

Everyone is asking, how's the real estate market and without looking at the actual numbers I know we are down but not suffering in this immediate area. I was actually surprised at how much we are down not just in price but also in number of homes selling.

The Iowa Association of REALTORS publishes the monthly statistics on their site. The following numbers are reported by the individual Boards of Realtors, in our instance that is is United Counties Board of Realtors.

January 2008 - Median Price $52,000 down from $85,500 in 2007
Number sold 13, up from 12 in 2007

February 2008 - Median Price $72,500 down from $88,000 in 2007
Number sold 22, up from 16 in 2007

March 2008 - Median Price $78,500 up from $77,500 in 2007
Number sold 9, way down from 25 in 2007

April 2008 - Median Price $78,000 down from $83,000 in 2007
Number sold 3, again down from 5 in 2007

May 2008 - Median Price $55,000 down from 87,000 in 2007
Number sold 19, down from 23 in 2007

June 2008 - Median Price $90,000 up from $89,000 in 2007
Number sold 19, down from 25 in 2007

July 2008 - Median Price $85,000 down from $91,500 in 2007
Number sold 21, up from 11 in 2007

The real estate market in our area, just like all over the US is trending down. I believe that can be attributed to 2 major factors: the first is insecurity making major financial commitments due to the instability in the economy and the second it the whiplash effect we are experiencing from all the poor loan practices over the last 3-5 years. Banks are requiring a very good credit score and a down payment. Many Americans have neither, so they have no choice but to continue to rent. There is a bright side to all markets, regardless of whether they are up or down. In this one the silver lining is for the people who own rental properties.

Hopefully, this long needed correction in loaning practices will serve as a wake up call for all of us to SAVE, read the fine print, live under our means and learn to wait for some things.

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10 Ways to Cut Costs in the Current Market

The headlines are all gloom and doom, I am tired of reading them and I'm tired of seeing all the political mud slinging. I am making my own good news that will just maybe help someone else have a better day. I love helping sellers, buyers and investors but I have found ways to reduce my costs and in the process maybe improve my health and improve my business.

Below are ways I am saving money in my life and in my business. Please add others you are using to get a better grasp of your budget.

1) No Chi Tea in the morning - saving about $11.00 a week

2) Cut eating out by 2/3 - my husband and I both work long hours and it seemed like eating out was a necessity. It isn't - approximate savings a week $80.00

3) Packing both of our lunches - eating better and saving about $65.00 a week

4) Caffeine boost of 2 sodas a day - healthier diet and saving about $50.00 a week

5) Planning my showings better to save gas. Unknown savings at this point but I drive a Toyota Solara and get about 24 miles to the gallon.

6) On days I do not have office appointments or floor time I work at home. I live about 4.5 miles from my office but I do go home to share my lunch (with a small buy mighty chihuahua named Spike) and then back. Round trip for a normal day about 18 miles. About $3.25 in gas a week, not a lot but it all adds up.

7) Programmable thermostat in our home, we have moved and have propane for the furnace fuel. I have never had this type of heat but our previous home had 2 programmable thermostats and I really liked having the ability to manage the temperature when I wasn't home or when sleeping. Unknown savings, industry estimate is about $120.00 a year. Living in Iowa, in Blizzard Alley on the Buffalo Ridge I imagine we will save a lot more than that.

8) I have hired a service to do my mailings, they also do the postage. I don't have to take the time to write, place postage or mail the info. Estimated hours saved that can be used for other prospecting 3 a week. That is 3 I can be on the phone staying in touch or doing other more immediate contacting.

9) Reviewed my advertising for 09, refined and focused it. I didn't renew some, at a savings of about $25.00 a week.

10) Read more marketing books, blogs, checkout websites of competitors, learn more about SEO so I can implement it more efficiently and not have to pay a service. Knowledge of how to do something is abetter investment than paying to have it done in some instances. Currently, I do my own website and SEO but I have been seriously looking into having it done in 09. Cost savings in 09 will be $175 a month.

Anyone else out there have any ideas?

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Free Home Inventory Forms

All home owners and renters should have at the very least paper copies of a home inventory and it should be stored away from the home. A video or picture documentation and the receipt is even better but it is good to have something. I wondered how many Iowans that were impacted by the flooding Mississippi had the documentation they needed to file claims with their insurance companies. If you don't have records of what you own go to this link and print off these forms. Take the time to record what you have, it took a long time to be able to earn enough to purchase those things and yes you probably have insurance.

It is helpful to keep this current at least once a year, why not at New Year's time. We get things that need to be insured at that time of year and the camera is handy. Record the info., snap a picture (you do need to print it) attach the receipt if you have it and put it all in the BIG envelope you keep IN THE SAFE DEPOSIT BOX, take the envelope to the safe deposit box and you are done.

The perfect time to begin a home inventory is when you are moving, you have to pack it, why not document it?

If you have older parents it is a good idea to help them do a complete inventory, a video camera is a big help too. Hey it can be fun, spend some time together and get a good deed done.


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Title Guarantee - Who Needs it? - Everybody!

A class offered by Linda Berg (the Business Development Director of Title Guarantee a division of the Iowa Finance Authority) was offered yesterday to our Board of Realtors. It was a very informative class that I wish I had taken 2 years ago. I know we (Iowa) are one of the few abstract states left in the US, I think there's a total of 14 out of 50. We don't have Title Insurance we have a different system that involves an abstracter and an attorney. However, most of the banks still put title guarantee on mortgaged property. The Buyer pays for this coverage although it is for the bank; usual cost is about $110 for $200,000 mortgage. Did you know, for an additional $25 the buyer can be covered? Me neither - I have bought a lot of property in the last few years and I have never once had anyone - a Realtor, a banker, an attorney tell me or ask me if I wanted Title Guarantee.

Why do you need it - abstractors and attorneys are human and they make mistakes, there's such a thing as a mechanics lien and it may not show up until 90 days after the work is done, judgements and liens can be filed after the closing and before the mortgage and deed are recorded leaving you liable, legal discriptions can be inaccurate, unreleased mortgages exist, and a number of other very nasty things you don't want to have to figure out on your own or at your own expense.

Unfortunately, I am personally involved in a property with a big problem, some time in the early 1900's part of the legal description was not continued with the abstract. I never knew about Title Guarantee, I am sure my bank has it and I paid for it but I can't use it. From now on I will never purchase any real property without it, all my Buyers will be educated on the need for this and the pitfalls of not having it. Some of those pitfalls include: big legal bills, inability to sell a property, angry neighbors, and a whole lot of frustration.

check out the link at www.iowafinanceauthority.gov

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