Use the FHA 203K Loan to Rehab Your New Older Home

So you want to buy a home but the only homes you can afford are older and/or need  repairs.  Maybe it’s a foreclosure or short sale that would be a good deal if only you had the extra money to make repairs; put in new appliances, a new furnace or new windows, for example.   The FHA 203K Streamline loan allows a borrower to tack on up to $35,000 (provided they qualify) in order to make improvements to the home.

Currently  the Federal Housing Authority (FHA)  is writing fully 35% of all new mortgage loans. But the 230K Streamline is very under utilized. If a home needs some kitchen or bath updating, a new furnace, A/C, etc, the money  for these improvements can become a part of the mortgage and the improvements can be made  without a buyer going into credit card debt or using personal savings.  The rate for the 203K Streamline is slightly higher than the conventional FHA but much lower than a credit card interest rate and is spread out over the 30 year life of the loan. Here are some of the improvements the loan can be used for:

  • Roofs, gutters and downspouts
  • HVAC systems (heating, venting and air conditioning)*
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Minor kitchen and bath remodels
  • Flooring: carpet, tile, wood, etc.
  • Interior and exterior painting
  • New windows and doors*
  • Weather stripping & insulation
  • Improvements for persons with disabilities
  • Energy efficient improvements*
  • Stabilizing or removing lead-based paint
  • Decks, patios, porches
  • Basement completion and waterproofing
  • Septic or well systems
  • Purchase of new kitchen appliances or washer / dryer*

Certain improvements can get you a federal tax break. If you make improvements to increase the energy efficiency in your home that meets Dept. of Energy’s Energy Star standards, you can deduct 30% of the cost up to $1500.  The astericked items are some that qualify. 

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty            703-625-1358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle


Clean on the Cheap & Keep Chemicals Out of Your Home & Life

Growing up in the fifties before Ad Men took over, cleaning supplies in the grocery store probably took up about one tenth of one side of a grocery store isle. A while back I walked down a complete, 48 foot grocery isle with cleaning supplies of one type of another taking up one entire side of the isle.  And they were expensive!  Now that we’re all watching our pennies, here’s a secret.  Use the big three: vinegar, baking soda and lemon for all your cleaning and sanitizing needs.  Plain old white vinegar can clean just about anything.  Add some baking soda if you need a little abrasion and you’ll never have to buy another expensive and environmentally harmful cleaning product again.  And how many products have you bought with fake “lemon scent”?  Use the real thing.

You won’t need rubber gloves on to use baking soda,vinegaror lemon. They are chlorine free,  great sanitizers and stain removers and are completely safe.  Here’s a website with the skinny on baking soda. When the bathtub and tub tiles need a good scrubbing, instead of Comet Bathroom Cleaner ($2.50/17oz bottle) or Kaboom ($4.59/22 oz bottle), fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and sprinkle some baking soda in the tub.  Spray the vinegar in the tub and watch the baking soda bubble.  Scrub the tub with a sponge or rag and see how shiny the tub gets and how fresh it smells.  I even brush my teeth with baking soda.  It leaves your breath fresh and is a natural whitener.

 What about expensive fabric softeners and ant-cling products?  The chemicals in these products can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems and some are known carcinogens.  So ditch the Downy ($5.79/40 loads) and the Bounce ($2.99/40 loads) and put  1/2 cup of white vinegar into the rinse cycle of your washing machine for a natural softener and cling reducer.  This website has 1001 vinegar tips.  

Add some baking soda to your laundry to brighten color clothes.  And if you need to whiten white clothes–use lemon.   There’s no  clorine  and no yellowing the way bleach sometimes does.  Lemon can get rid of stubborn stains in clothes, on countertops and many more things.

 You can eliminate most of the cleaning products under your kitchen and bathroom sinks by using these three products.  One gallon of white vinegar costs $2.00.  One 2 pound box of baking soda costs $1.50.  I can usually find a bag of 12 lemons for $3-4 but for stains you just need a few drops of lemon juice . The EPA lists household cleaners among the products that contribute to Indoor Air Quality problems. They can exacerbate allergies and asthma in adults and children who are susceptible to these health risks.

Watch This Video

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty            703-6251-358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle


How Many Light Bulbs Will It Take To Change The World

While we wait for the government to make up its mind about carbon credits and/or carbon and gas taxes, the easiest and fastest thing we can do to cut our personal carbon emissions and save money is to change every single light bulb we use to CFLs.  I’m sure there’s no one reading this blog hasn’t already heard this.  I’m going to attempt to debunk some of the excuses I’ve heard for why people aren’t changing their bulbs.

But before I do that,  I’d like to note that since buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy used in the U.S and 70 percent of all the electricity, it is imperative that those of us who daily contribute to this astonishing number take some responsibility for reducing it.  The first place that we all have control of is our homes.  Another astonishing number that I would like to sear into your brain is that the 300+ million people in the United States consume fully 25 percent of all the energy in the world!

There is no doubt that governnments will have to step in to do the heavy lifting.  Some state governments are taking the lead.  Californians for instance, because of policies put in place by the state, currently produce less than half of the green house emissions of their fellow Americans.  California’s per capita electricity consumption has stayed flat for the last thirty years while the rest of the country has doubled it’s consumption, according to research from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation’s most important environmental advocacy organizations.

So to address the “why I haven’t changed my light bulb” excuses:

1.    They’re too expensive.

CFLs do cost more than incandescent bulbs. But, they last for up to 10,000 hours.  So you’ll replace them every few years, not every few months.  Besides that, prices have come way down especially if you purchase them in the big box stores like Home Depot.  A four pack of  14watt bulbs (the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is only $5.85.

2.   What about the mercury?

“An average CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury. That tiny quantity of mercury — essential for the energy efficiency of CFLs — is about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen and is far less than the mercury inside other common household objects. For example, watch batteries have 5 times the mercury and older thermometers have 500 milligrams, equal to 125 CFLs.” (NRDC website) Home Depot has a recycling program for CFLs .  Also check with your city or county since they may have a recycling program for CFLs as well.

3.   What if I break one?

CFL’s last so long that there’s less chance of breaking one.  Read more about CFLs and what to do if you break one.

4.   I don’t like the light from CFLs.

It’s true the light is different in CFLs .  So you’ll probably have to adjust your expectations.  This isn’t much different than when we change anything  in our lives to something we’re not used to.  Here is an interesting article about one homeowner’s experience as she made the switch from incandescents to CFLs.

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty            703-6251-358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle