You can’t turn on the news, read the paper, or even go to a dinner party these days without hearing the real estate lament: The housing market is falling! The housing market is falling! What was once a booming trade of homes, spawning a whole generation of “flippers,” is now seemingly a slippery slope leading directly into the pits.
The good news is that Dallas is fairing much better in terms of real estate prices and sales than the rest of the country. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be affected by the housing decline.
“Don’t discount the ‘fear value,’” warns Jeff Strong, owner of residential real estate renovation company Urban Strong. “The negative leanings of the national market will affect Dallas even if our market is a little more robust than the rest of the country’s.”
So what should we do now that the market is down? Jeff Strong supplies some answers.
First, he says, think twice about putting your house up for sale now. “This is not the best time to try taking advantage of high prices,” Strong advises. “Chances are you won’t get that big payoff you’re hoping for, so wait, if you can.”
Next, take this opportunity to put some value back into your house, and some dollars back into your wallet.
“Now’s the time to focus on the bones of your home rather than the pretty stuff,” Strong states. “You can add market value by beefing up the internal elements of your house, with the added bonus of saving a little cash each month.”
How? Start with the basics, says Strong.
Insulate the Attic
Since a lot of the homes in the area are older, many of them have little to no insulation. That leads to higher heating and air costs, a problem that Strong says is relatively easy to fix. Taking the time to fix the problem now will pay for itself quickly, and will add value to your home whenever you do decide to sell.
Strong says there are two options: baseline attic insulation and roofline insulation. Basic attic insulation involves rolling foam or blowing paper in a layer on your attic floor, trapping the warm or cool air in the rooms of your home, where you want them. Roofline insulation is more expensive than the floor type, but it lines your whole roof so that no outside air can get out. . . or in.
“Both insulation options will add value to your sales price,” Strong promises, “and you won’t believe how quickly they will lower your utility bills. A one-time insulation investment can make a huge difference in your monthly costs. It really does pay for itself.”
Air in and out of your home can cause big jumps in winter and summer utility costs. Strong recommends inspecting your home for locations of air leaks. “They’re everywhere,” Strong says, “and they’re easy to fix.”
Start with an inspection of your windows and doors. In older homes, window sills and door arches have often shifted significantly over time, and have small to gaping holes. Simple caulk or basic weatherstripping can eliminate airflow into and out of your home. And don’t forget to seal outlets and light switches too.
“Sealing all the possible air leaks in your home can be time-consuming,” Strong admits, “but it is not difficult, and it will greatly increase the tight seal you want between your home and the elements.”
Clean Your Filters
Seasonal cleaning can make as big a difference for your heating and air units as it can for your closets. Take advantage of the milder weather, Strong says, and make sure your filters are new and your air conditioning unit is clean.
“You’d be amazed at how dirty your air conditioning unit can get,” Strong says. “But over the seasons, leaves, dirt and grass can accumulate in large enough quantities to affect the performance of the unit.” A simple cleaning can take the strain off your air conditioner, causing it to work less hard and less often when it cools your house. That leads to a direct savings on your utility bill.
“Call your air conditioning company or a handyman to clean out your unit,” Strong says. “You can even do it yourself, although it’s a big job. Use a high-pressure hose and plan to work for several hours, but you can definitely avoid hiring someone if you want to.”
So, next time you hear news of the falling housing market, take heart. You can use this time to beef up the support systems in your home, and save a little dough along the way.
Learn more about Jeff Strong at www.urbanstrong.com.